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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #346 - The Clematis climbs the crab apple after several years of false s
August 06, 2019

Why do some things seem so obvious afterwards. The garage wall planters are looking wonderful with two new All America winners; Begonia Viking Red on Chocolate and Petunia Wave Carmine Velour. Why did I put the trailing Petunias on top so that they would hang over and obscure the upright Begonias underneath. Now I’m trimming the Petunias so that we can see the Begonias. I’m sure I had some sort of reason back in the spring when I planted them but it obviously doesn’t make sense by mid-summer. Anyway they are both performing beautifully and I easily grew them both from seed. They came as pelleted seed which makes handling these tiny seeds so much easier to do. They were started a bit late but they have certainly caught up and are putting on a great show. Both should be readily available as seeds and even transplants next spring.

Why are they called Japanese Beetles. Apparently they are native to Japan and were accidentally imported here about 1939. I’m amazed at how friendly they are with each other. This poor little Rose bud had about a dozen of them sharing their lunch with each other. The upside of this crowding is the ability to drop that whole group into my bucket of soapy water with a single shake. I use a double attack method. I spray them with insecticidal soap so that they are less capable of flying away and then I shake or knock them into that bucket. Apparently I should then empty that bucket into one of my garden waste bags because they do like each other and even leaving them dying in the bucket will allow them to attract their friends and relatives to the feast I have just removed them from.

Now this is a long term success story. I planted this Clematis at the base of this Crab apple few years ago planning to have it grow up and through its branches and fill the Crab with purple flowers in mid-summer. Success finally! It’s not quite as showy as I had hoped but since it has died back, failed to climb, and generally not performed as hoped for several years I’m seeing this modest display as a great success. Of course, this is the year when my semi functional right arm has made me totally ignore it or the weeds and Crab Apple suckers surrounding it and therefore Mother Nature has once again pointed out that my activities in the garden might actually be counter productive. That’s a tough lesson for a gardener to accept.

Yes! Another Japanese Beetle segment. I was most disturbed this year to find them munching on my Asparagus. It’s not enough to have to deal with the two species of Asparagus beetle now I have to look for these nasties. At least they are bigger and easier to spot but much less fun to crush between your fingers. It’s hard to get the catching bucket in among the Asparagus fern but I do manage most of the time to spray them with the soap. The problem is the frequency with which I pass the Asparagus bed. I can’t carry the soap spray all of the time and the beetles are so big and obvious on the delicate foliage that I readily spot them and I can’t ignore them so the thumb and forefinger method gets called into action. It doesn’t really hurt and you quickly get over the yuck factor if it means saving the Asparagus.

Now this is one of my great successes. The Assistant Gardener loves Cauliflower and I have had a great crop this year. This amazing head will feed us for several days. I put in on a standard 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper so that you could appreciate just how magnificent it was. It will get wrapped in some aluminum foil with a pile of Garlic and butter and placed on the grill for 20 minutes or it will get boiled and drenched with a tasty cheese sauce or on a lazy night just butter. It can even got broken up into little pieces and become part of the vegetable stir fry. For a more exotic look we even have Cauliflower Graffiti which produces a rich purple head that retains most of its colour when it is cooked but stands out on a raw veggie tray.

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.

Mary Asks? What causes powdery mildew on honeysuckle and or Veronica? I heard yellow iris are invasive, and not native... should I reduce/ eliminate them?

Ken Answers! Powdery Mildew is a fungus disease whose spores blow in on the wind and there is little you can do to prevent that. My cure for it is simple. A mixture of 9 parts water and 1 part milk sprayed onto the affected leaves will stop its growth for quite some time. Yes, Iris pseudacorus, the yellow water Iris, is considered an invasive species and its use as an ornamental is discouraged. It can spread by its rhizomes or seeds so even growing it in your isolated pond can produce seeds that may escape to other wetlands. I really should get rid of the clump in my ponds.

Jon Asks? I’ve got an infestation of the tiny white flies - first on my hibiscuses which I fought with repeated soap and water sprays + cutting lots of leaves off, but then they moved onto my tomato plants ! No visible damage so far but clouds of white fly around my 8ft plants. Any suggestions?

Ken Answers! Are your plants in some type of indoor space. I have rarely seen white fly become a problem on garden tomatoes. As strange as it may seem it often helps to simply vacuum the plant or the air around it as they all fly off. They don't like to fly at night so if you can sneak up on them in the dark and spray the underside of the leaves you will have some success if you don't trip over something in the dark:-)

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