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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #342 - Asparagus beetles are pretty but unwelcome visitors
June 14, 2019

I’m off this afternoon to help with the Oshawa Peony Festival because Peonies are lovely but everybody knows that Iris are my true love. This vase contains some of my entries in the local Iris show. The deep purple one in the front did a fine job of retaining my best of show trophy. Not that I’m competitive about my Iris. I think I’ve found a few blank spots in the Asparagus beds to fit some more Iris so I will be perusing the online Iris nurseries before the end of July. All of the Iris and Peonies are blooming almost 2 weeks later than usual this year because of the cold damp weather. I’m often asked which is my favourite Iris and that’s an impossible question because each morning I wander the garden and another variety has opened and it immediately becomes the favourite. That vase of blooms also fills the house with the delicate sweet scent that accompanies many of the Iris varieties.

This delightful little Kohl Rabi will grace our dinner table tonight. It has been an uphill battle to produce these this year. They were one of the first things planted and were not protected from the rapacious rabbits until they were mowed down, letting me know, that even in the elevated Earthboxes they were not safe. You can see a bit of the chicken wire enclosures in the background. We have made a fitted enclosure for each of the boxes adding yet another chore in the ongoing battle to keep some of our vegetables for ourselves. They did regrow sufficient leaves to allow the delicious little bulb to develop at the base of the plant. Sliced and coated with a bit of breadcrumb and grated Parmesan they will spend a few minutes in the frying pan before pampering our palate.

What a lovely mass of tall flowers on top of the berm. Unfortunately I have to make sure I cut them down as soon as the blooming slows because Dame’s Rocket Hesperis matronalis is considered an invasive species and it will spread its huge seed crop over the entire yard if I don’t control it. It is a member of the Brassica or mustard family and the seeds contain a large quantity of edible oil and that’s why it was originally imported to N. America. I try to maintain a balance of a few plants in the wilder corners of the garden while keeping them from spreading to the more cultivated areas. They are often confused with Phlox but a quick count of its four petals will help you distinguish it from the five petalled Phlox.

Yes! That is a blue recycle bin and it is one of the best containers for growing Potatoes. It has sufficient holes for good drainage and it is quite deep. You can see the small Potato plants started in the bottom. As they grow, more soil will be added always leaving 2 or 3 sets of leaves above that soil to turn the sun’s energy into food for the plant. We cover the stems of Potato plants to encourage side shoots under the soil as that’s what produces the edible tubers. The depth of the blue bin allows us to cover a significant amount of stem so that we get as many Potatoes as possible from a limited growing space. We are always looking for ways to produce as much food as possible in our limited space.

Beauty can be deceiving. These little creatures with the bright orange background and the attractive black dots seem to be quite pretty. The only real advantage to this lovely coloration is, it makes them easy to spot and attack. Asparagus Beetles come in two varieties Crioceris duodecimpunctata is the unpronounceable name for this Spotted Asparagus Beetle which will also have a taste for your Cucumbers if there’s not enough Asparagus. The Common Asparagus Beetle Crioceris asparagi is darker in colour with a red striped pattern and he is the much more voracious consumer of Asparagus. Spraying them with insecticidal soap can be effective as can hand picking. Just hold a can of soapy water underneath and knock them into it. They can fly and will do so if given the chance. Apparently approaching them from above is the most successful method. They can produce several generations in a season and they pupate and emerge underground and that makes them susceptible to attack from some species of beneficial nematodes. Their larva can strip an Asparagus fern clean in a few days, leaving it quite brown and dead. Gardening, a never ending contest between we gardeners and Mother Nature's little friends.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. To ask a question just “reply” to this ezine. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Arlene Asks? Was wondering if you should use Epsom salts on Hostas and Ferns? Dry or liquid?

Ken Answers! Epsom salts are a source of magnesium which is not usually in short supply and not heavily required by hostas or ferns so it's application is probably not worth the effort.

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