Collected Wisdom
gardener-to-gardener tips ... short bites to help solve some pest problems ... favourite plants, books or sites ... some tried-'n-true garden folklore
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Short tips on this 'n that to scroll through - from keeping your soil healthy to garden design ideas or pest / disease control tips.     For more in-depth information, go to the "Articles & Tips" pages.    
     Cheers!  Evelyn

Links to just a few of the tips -
slug control  ~  on Lily Beetleplants for Autumn  ~   weed early!  ~  forcing branches  ~  worms  ~ 

Experiment with some of the many of the different  Euphorbias in your planting design.  (This one is E. amygdaloides Purpurea) Euphorbia amygdaloides purpureaThere's nothing like them for rich foliage colour and a perfectly neat plant shape to contrast other frilly or upright forms. Their early spring chrome yellow flowers are just a welcome bonus!   The most common one, E. polychroma (a.k.a. cushion spurge), has plain green-ish grey foliage but Euphorbia polychroma's fall red colour, and Euphorbia myrsinites.with fabulous fall colour.  Evelyn

A good combo for colour in  the Autumn Garden. 
A new favourite plant I use a lot now for it's contribution to the fall garden is Amsonia hubrechtii.  Fine green feathery foliage for most of the season that contributes strongly contrasting texture to any group of plants, but in Autumn turns a stunning gold and really shines! 
Amsonia hubrechtii's gorgeous gold fall colour.  Garden Possibilities Partner it together with a Euphorbia that turns red in fall for a fabulous  contrast of all the design feature elements - shape, texture and colour.   When positioning any new perennial, think first about it's non-flower attributes to find it's ideal partner for all season interest.

 Worms. The essential ingredient for good soil.  
Worms pulling leaves underground. Garden PossibilitiesLook closely at the ground in early spring where last year's leaves fell.  Are there any pieces half in and half out of the ground?  That's  worms at work, pulling down organic debris into the soil ecosystem where there's a whole other living world ticking away!  Don't rake away all this "mess" - leave it right where it is for the worms to feed on and thereby enrich your soil.  A lot easier and cheaper than buying compost or other raw material each year!  Clean away the most unsightly stuff, but leave as much as you can on the soil surface. 

SLUGS are a huge problem in shady gardens where most of us grow Hosta.  Here's a tip that appears to work.  Mix a solution no stronger than 10 parts water to 1 part household ammonia.  In spring when Hostas are putting up their noses but not unfurled yet, drench crowns and a few inches around them with this solution.  Ammonia's high alkalinity "burns" the adult slugs that overwintered and the young babies hatching, to keep your slug population under control.  (I was worried that this treatment would damage soil pH though, so I called the CBC phone-in show last year to ask!  Ed Lawrence said it wouldn't ... that it's just too small an area being treated to make a difference.)    A word of caution though - it appears to also harm your garden's best friends - worms.  Don't go overboard and treat a larger area with a "more is better" attitude.  Stick to just the crown area of their favourite plants where most of them likely are.

Here's my very best tip ever!  Tune in each Monday at 12:30 to CBC Radio's gardening phone-in show with Ed Lawrence.  He's a wealth of sound, sane, friendly, knowledgeable, experienced, and most importantly - unbiased, advice.   So much of the info on the web, TV, or radio, reflect the needs of show sponsors to sell one product or the other, it's good to hear from someone who's only goal is to inform correctly!   (he's not connected to any retail operation.)  I've learned a ton of things over the years from just tuning in each week.  His explanations are always as thorough as time allows and he doesn't dummy down the information, making it possible for further research.  (That's where I picked up many of these bits of "Collected Wisdom" here on this page).   Evelyn

  

Lily Beetle  - Yikes!   Red Lily leaf beetles, mating. Garden Possibilities (full article below). 
Lily Beetle, left unchecked, will disfigure, seriously weaken, and eventually kill members of the Liliacae family  - Oriental Lilies and Fritillary being the most popular.    Both their larvae and adults munch through leaves so fast, that the plant ends up with very little foliage to feed on the sun's rays. 
first year Red Lily Beetles damage.  Garden Possibilities Lily beetle feeds pretty much only on plants in this genus, so you can focus on monitoring these plants only with the following controlLily Beetle damage after a few years of being left unchecked.  Garden Possibilities measures.   (note: Daylily is the common name for Hemerocallis - nothing at all to do with true lilies other than the resemblance of their flowers.).
I've been experimenting with a homemade NEEM OIL spray with some success, but running after pest problems with sprays and potions is never a good answer to a garden pest problem since it's bound to affect other insects in your garden - most of which are beneficial.
 Not an easy garden pest to control if you grow Oriental Lilies.
 
Here's your battle plan! 
This devastating garden pest ... (READ full article...)

Reap Bloomin' Rewards from Winter Pruning!   Forcing spring shrubs into early blooming indoors.  
I love spending February in the garden pruning.  I could do it in March, but it's hard to wait that long before getting up close and personal with my plants again!
soaking branches in bathtub to wake them up.February pruning not only breaks the winter blahs, but it's also the time when you can really see the structural framework of your trees or shrubs and prune for repair and improvement. (see pruning advise on "Our services" page).  With a few exceptions, this is the best time for general maintenance pruning.   
If the plants you're pruning are spring bloomers, there's a bonus to be had!  Early blooming indoors.  Putting the cut branches through a simple treatment to trick them into blooming early indoors is another wonderful way to get a gardening fix in winter.  
Here's what to do  -
Forsythia, Magnolia, Cherry, Crab apple, Lilac, Pussywillow, Witch Hazel, Dogwood, Apple, etc. - any tree or shrub whose natural flowering time is early to late spring is a candidate for forcing.  It's a pretty straightforward procedure ... READ full to-do details 

Start weeding as soon as the snow melts!  The very definition of a"weed" is a plant that knows how to outwit more well-behaved plants in one way or the other.   Many annual weeds germinate seed in the very cool temps of early spring, and some perennial weeds zoom into flower and drop seed before being bullied out by main season plants.  We haven't even had a chance to dust off gardening tools for the new season yet before chickweed, for example, is blooming and dropping seed!  (Chickweed is often already in bloom amid the last bits of snow melting in early April).
As soon as you can after snow melt in spring, get out there and dig up all the evergreen weeds you probably didn't even notice were there last fall, and hunt down even the smallest new seedling before it has a chance to get going and flower.  These cool season weeds are easy to find in very early spring- they're often the only thing in a garden that's green!  In just a couple of weeks though they'll go unnoticed among your perennials that start to emerge.  Get them before they drop seed which may only be just a week or two away.  ... again - chickweed as an example needs just a week after flowering to drop a few dozen seeds that will ALL germinate later in the season. 
Just one day's effort in the VERY early spring before this early seed drop time will save you at least a week's or more work later in the season.

 

 



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 Red Lily Beetle? Yikes!  Here's your battle plan.
  Red Lily leaf beetles, mating.Lily Beetle, left unchecked, will disfigure, seriously weaken, and eventually kill members of the Liliacae family  - Oriental Lilies and Fritillary being the most popular.    Both their larvae and adults munch through leaves so fast, that the plant ends up with very little foliage left to feed on the sun's rays. 
 
They are bright orangey red, 1/4" long beetle, that can destroy your Oriental Lily bulbs over a short period of time.
Lily beetle feeds pretty much only on plants in this genus, so you can focus on monitoring these plants only with the following control measures.   (note: Daylilies are the common name for the Hemerocallis family - nothing at all to do with true lilies other than the resemblance of their flowers).

The first signs that Red Lily Beetles have moved into your garden.I've been experimenting with a homemade NEEM OIL spray with some success, but running after pest problems with sprays and potions is never a good answer to a garden pest problem since it's bound to affect the other insects in your garden - most of which are beneficial. (NOTE: whether "natural" or "chemical", pesticides kill insects, and up to 90% of the insects you encounter in your garden are beneficial insects. Pesticides of any type should only be used to help you get an outbreak under control, then manual vigilance can keep things in control.).
   

Not an easy pest to control if you grow Oriental Lilies.  Here's your battle plan! 
This devastating garden pest attacks and lays its eggs on, Lilium species mainly- the stunning bulb Lily family of plants.   Lily Beetle (Liloceris lilii) was first discovered in North America in 1992.  Most likely they hitch-hiked in a shipment of bulbs from overseas.  It has since spread throughout the northeast to the complete demise of gorgeous Lily beds everywhere.  For years collectors tried product after product for control, but the Lily Beetle's tenacity was no match.
 
Lily beetle eggs - watch for these on leaf undersides soon after the plants leaf out in spring.Unlike most other native garden pests, Lily Beetle has no natural predator on this continent, which is how they've been so successful in their aggressive march through Lily beds here.  They are strong fliers so can seek out their target, but their eggs are also moved around on host plants - i.e. your new Lily bulb purchase!  Eggs can be tucked in under the bulb scales, and just one hitch-hiking youngster brought home from the garden center can start a life cycle in your garden. 

Identification:  Adult Beetles are easy to spot - bright orangey-red, square-ish, and about 1/4" long.Lily Beetle larvae, chewing on a leaf.     Their larvae are mushy black slug-like things, with swollen bodies and black heads that look just like a little slimy mass of poop.  The fecal matter analogy isn't so off-base either!  Larvae cover themselves with their own fecal matter to deter and disguise themselves from predators.  (That'll work!)
 
Life Cycle:   Adults over-winter in the soil's surface layer, emerge in spring (in sync with the emerging lily foliage), and immediately mate.  Early to mid May you'll find adults tucked into the leaf joints, often in pairs, busily mating.   Soon after mating, females lay brownish-orange eggs on the undersides of foliage that hatch within 4-8 days.  (Mid to late May, routinely check the undersides of leaves for an orange line of clustered tiny eggs).  This more or less brings us to early June here in the northeast, when you'll see the young larvae initially feeding on the undersides of the foliage, but later on the upper surfaces, stems, and buds. (If you where vigilant about getting the adults and crushing the eggs, you shouldn't end up with too many larvae.)
 
The larval feeding phase of their life cycle is the most destructive.  They voraciously munch holes in leaves to Lily Beetle damage after a few years of being left unchecked. the point of leaving nothing behind, and this feeding frenzy lasts for 16-24 days.  The happily fattened larvae then drop to the soil to pupate and become adults.  New adults emerge 16-22 days later (which brings us to more or less early August) and the new adults feed on your Lilies for the rest of the season. These are the ones that will tuck into the soil over winter and begin the cycle again next spring. 
 
Each female beetle produces 250-450 eggs.  That's a lot of lily beetles!  Left unchecked they'll overrun and demolish any host plants in the vicinity within just a year or two.
 
Management:  If you focus on the Lily Beetle's life cycle, it's easy to see when you can be Lily Beetle adult and eggseffective in controlling this devastating pest.  Cultivate the soil surface around your Lilies in late fall, searching for new adults bedding down for winter.  In early spring, just as lily foliage is emerging, the beetles will too! Be vigilant for a couple of weeks and hunt down the emerging adults that can be found hiding in nooks all over the plant, before they have a chance to mate.  (Trickier than it sounds since they have the uncanny ability to seemingly sense your thoughts and drop to the ground just a fraction of a second before your thumb and forefinger closes around them!).  A week or so later, start search and destroy missions each day, this time looking for eggs and newly hatched larvae.  In early August watch for new adults. 
 
Avoiding the Problem:  If you've grown Lilies successfully in the past without meeting this nasty pest, don't be too smug!  With just one new un-inspected purchase the situation can change quickly.  When purchasing new lily bulbs, or accepting a gift from a gardening neighbour, dunk them in a weak bleach solution  for a minute and rinse them thoroughly, before they even get near your garden.  ...and make sure the rinse water goes down a drain and not outside beside the garden hose!  Remember, you're looking for bright red adults or slug-like larvae in the soil - not eggs, so they should easily rinse away if present.  Inspect them thoroughly! 
 
In the case of potted bulbs already growing, dunk and rinse them nevertheless.  The growing plants will be weakened, and may punish you by not blooming well the first year - but they won't die.  Wash away all soil that's in among the roots using room temperature water, and also inspect stems and foliage thoroughly for eggs or young larvae - any adults likely dropped off the plant already.  Even just one beetle that makes it into your garden can begin the ravaging cycle, so don't let your eagerness to get your new plants into the ground deter you from a thorough de-bugging first.  
 
Even with vigilance, once you have Lily Beetle in your garden beds you've likely got them for good.  Control is the best you can hope for.  Focus on its life cycle so you know what to watch for, when.  With a watchful eye, a battle plan calendar, and a gloved hand, you'll be able to keep their population down to a manageable level and continue enjoying your beautiful Oriental Lilies.  

                Good luck, and keep your gloved hand ready to pounce!   Evelyn 
 
   ¬©Evelyn Wolf, 2019.  All rights reserved.  contact for permission to use. 
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