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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #190 --- The delphastus are wonderfully hungry.
October 03, 2014

Now that’s a bit of a weird picture but it’s a closeup of some of the exciting bugs that I saw this week. I spent a few days at a Garden Writer’s meeting in Victoria, B.C. and on one of those days we went touring. We saw no pretty gardens but we certainly saw some interesting stuff and one of the most exciting were those tiny black dots in the picture. Delphastus catalinae are a relative of our common ladybug but about 1/10 the size and as you can see from the pictue they are solid black in colour. Their big feature is their diet. They eat Whitefly, a very common pest of many greenhouse and a few field crops. Those of us who bring our Hibiscus inside for the winter become very familiar with Whitefly by the middle of winter. These guys are voracious and can consume an amazing number of Whitefly. The people at Applied Bionomics have several other good bugs that they produce to control a variety of plant pests. They do have some trouble finding a way to provide them to home gardeners but they are working on it and some of their distributors do sell some retail quantities. We could have spent much more time their but you can only spend so long in greenhouses filled with clouds of flying Whitefly before you have a sudden urge to go home and shower.

Back home the Assistant gardener is busy keeping the new Geranium and Coleus cuttings growing in the propagation bed and watering all the containers. Our extended period of warm weather has kept most of the containers blooming and growing well past their normal finishing time. An interesting thing happened to the Tuberous Begonias. In mid summer that started to be attacked by the powdery mildew as they are every year. I sprayed them a few times with the milk and water solution and then got lazy. All but one of those Begonias stopped developing the mildew. It has been several weeks since I last sprayed them and there is no sign of the mildew infestation. The plants look sort of beat up from the wind and long growing season but the mildew never returned. I thought I would have to continue spraying for as long as they were growing. I was not as diligent at spraying the Melons and Cucumbers and they have now totally succumbed to the mildew infestation. I expect that enough frost to take the tops off the Begonias will occur in the next week or so and then we will start the cleanup and winter storage of their tubers. Even as this happens the Colchicum continue to put up more blooms and in various places in the garden. It is fascinating how the same bulbs appear a week or two apart depending on where they are in the garden. I must continue researching what makes them decide to bloom.

Some years I start Sweet Peas indoors so that they bloom through the summer. This year I was a bit lazy and so the Sweet Peas were direct seeded along with the Sugar Snap Peas. They emerged very slowly. The rabbits ate most of the Sugar Snaps but didn’t touch the Sweet Peas planted with them. The few edibles that survived are long gone but the Sweet Peas have overcome their slow start and are capably demonstrating their love of cool weather. The pea fence is 1.8 M (6ft) tall and you can see that the mass of Sweet Pea blooms are well above that. They will continue to bloom until a very hard frost knocks then down. Until then I will continue to pick small bouquets for the table because Sweet Peas have the most delightful fragrance. Sometimes laziness or procrastination actually has some great rewards.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Carol Asks? What is this vine? A weed? If so, how does one get rid of it?

Ken Answers! It’s always difficult to answer these questions when the rest of you cannot see the picture that was sent. It was a long vine with small prickly fruit all over it. It appears to be wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata.) It can be quite rampant but it is an annual so you can just watch for the seedlings in the spring and weed them out. Collect all the vines and pods before they drop seeds, you may be a little late this year.

Shirley Asks? Where do you buy your Dragon Wing Begonia seeds and when do you plant them indoors?

Ken Answers! They are listed in Burpees, Harris and Stokes catalogues and those catalogues will give you a good idea of when to plant them. I would normally do it here around mid - late January.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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