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Monthly Archives: April 2018

About Controlling Spider Mites

Spider mites can be found in most species of spruce but are predominately found on Colorado or White spruce. Spruce spider mites are tiny and very difficult to see. They are approximately .5 millimeters and are a dark green to dark brown in colouration. The best method to find out if your spruce tree may have mites is to place a white piece of paper under a branch and shake it repeatedly. Fold the paper in half, if red smears appear after opening the paper, chances are you have spider mites living in your trees. Ensure you check your trees on a regular basis as mite populations can grow quite rapidly.

By using their sucking mouth- parts the spider mites pierce the needle and extract sap from within. This feeding causes the needles to take on a bleached look to them. If the population is large enough the feeding can cause the needles to become a yellow to brownish colour. These needles eventually dry out and fall off. Spider mites begin feeding on the lower branches of the tree, feeding from the inner needles outward. They use a silk webbing throughout the area they are feeding on. Most trees are able to withstand an infestation, but a newly planted tree or one that is under stress from other factors is more likely to be injured by this pest.

As with many tree pests’ weather such as wind rain and temperature are a great help in controlling an infestation. You may also be able to achieve acceptable control by using your garden hose to spray down any trees that may be under attack. Looks for the silk webbing the mites create which is found on the underside of the lower branches. If you are using a chemical control it is advisable to hire a reputable tree service to perform this task. The reason for this is that any insecticides used must be applied at high pressure to ensure the chemical reaches the inner branches of the tree. Most garden hoses will not achieve the type of pressure needed to achieve good control.

Must Know about Transplanting Trees

Many times a homeowner will be tempted to use a lower priced tree or shrub. Often these plants will have an underdeveloped root structure that is unable to support the plant. The root structure may be overgrown from being in a container too long. It may have broken branches or damaged bark. Ensure the plant is suited for the hardiness zone you live in. Check with a local nursery if you are unsure of which zone you live in. If you choose a tree or shrub that will outgrow the location you have chosen, move it to another location. Try to imagine what the plant will look like in 15-20 years, this will aid in your selection of location. By doing this you will cut down on the need for excessive pruning in later years. Generally trees and shrubs of poorer quality will be slow to establish themselves, they will exhibit signs of reduced vigor, die-back, and poor growth.

Characteristics of a location will also contribute to transplant problems. Almost all trees and shrubs need a well-drained soil that is moist. Many areas within an urban environment are poorly drained. The soil pH level may be unsuitable for the tree or shrub you have selected. Most trees and shrubs also require a specific sun and shade schedule. A poorly chosen site will affect a tree or shrub in many ways. Poor growth, and or poor colour will occur. Generally speaking trees and shrubs in poor locations will also not respond favourably to a good fertilizer program or good cultural practices.

By planting incorrectly you dramatically increase the chance of your new tree or shrub failing. Several things that can go wrong are as follows. Many times the homeowner will plant too deep or too shallow. By planting too deep you have a good chance of suffocating the roots. This is caused by oxygen deprivation. Planting too shallow can cause exposure of the root structure. This will cause drying out of the root system and kill the plant. Watering improperly is another problem encountered by the homeowner.

By watering too much you run the risk of root decay or you have the potential to drown the roots. By watering too little the plant becomes stressed and could eventually die. Leaving wire, string, rope, or burlap on the plant can encourage girdling which can eventually kill the plant in later years. Improper staking can cause the plant to be blown over in severe weather. If you leave the staking material on too long you once again run the risk of girdling.

When you are planting your new tree or shrub ensure you correct as many of these problems as possible. Do not purchase plants with poorly developed root structures. Ensure the plant is compatible with the zone in which you live. Solve any drainage and pH problems before you transplant your new addition. Remove all burlap, wire, string, or rope that has the potential to cause girdling in later years. Make sure you plant at the proper depth. Generally you do this so the top roots are just covered by soil. Water deeply and infrequently. This will encourage your new plant to develop deep roots that will aid in stability in the years to come. Water slowly as this will enable more moisture to be taken in by the plant. Watering quickly causes run-off and is just wasting your time and money. Stake your plant if it is in an exposed area to wind.

Spring Foraging

  • Identify the plant correctly. Always be 100% sure of the plant’s identification before you harvest and consume. Many plants have poisonous look-alikes so it is imperative you can ID with certainty. Pay attention to the old adage “when in doubt, throw it out”. There are a number of great plant ID books on the market that cover most geographical areas. You may also find foraging classes in your area which can be a fun way to learn about local plants.
  • Practice sustainable harvesting for any plants you harvest. Never take more than you need and be sure to leave enough for the plants to survive and prosper. Keep in mind that unless you are eradicating an invasive species, foraging should never negatively impact the survival of the plant population. Take time to learn what plants are invasive in your area and also what plants are endangered and should never be harvested.
  • Forage in areas you know are clean and have not been treated with chemicals. Be wary of foraging along roadsides and under power lines.
  • Harvest underground storage organs; bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, etc. with additional consideration as harvesting can kill the plant. Early spring and late fall are the best times to harvest underground storage organs as the plant’s energy is conserved below ground. In late spring and summer, the plant will redirect energy to above ground growth and production of flowers and seed. A few examples of bountiful roots to forage in spring are chicory, dandelion, and burdock.
  • Seek out leafy greens as they are the stars of spring foraging. This fresh food is available long before our gardens start producing. In most areas, there are quite a few leafy greens to choose from. Dandelion, chickweed, lamb’s quarter, garlic mustard, and violet are all commonly foraged greens. Do some research to find which greens are best eaten raw and which taste best steamed or sautéed.

Deal With Cucumber Bitterness

If you are harvesting bitter Cucumbers, the most likely explanation is that you are growing them incorrectly.

On no account let your Cucumber become stressed (lack of water, for example), they tend to bitter up.

If you grow the right kind of Cucumber, and keep the plant free from anything that might check their growth then you will have perfectly nutritious cucumbers that are crisp, refreshing pick-me-ups on a hot summers day.

However, if you want to be on the safe side, there is a trick for removing bitterness. This bitterness is almost all concentrated in the leaves, stems and skin of the Cucumber. If you remove one inch of the cucumber’s stem end and peel the skin back to a thin layer of flesh directly beneath the skin.

I have also found that scoring cucumbers with a fork makes the difference between faintly bitter and palatable cucumbers. You can try this out yourself. Peel a Cucumber. Take two center section. Score one and leave the other alone. Cut a slice from each and taste. You will find that the slice that has been scored is less bitter.

All this is aimed at making the cucumber less bitter, however you may well like bitter ones, in which case grow old varieties.

In the main there are three types of cucumber: field or standard ones, which grow quite large with a bright green color; smaller pickling ones with a more yellowish tone to the skin; and greenhouse forced varieties, which are bred to grow fruit in somewhat lower temperatures like the UK. I find in a good summer here in Oxford I can grow all three. In cool summers the outside ones do not do so well.

You can sow cucumber seeds straight into the ground, however I prefer to start my off in seed-trays and them pot them on until they are big enough to be planted out in the open or glasshouse.

I could list varieties here, but the best is to see what your neighbors are growing or which plants are for sale in your local shop.

Cucumbers are very heavy feeders so grow them in enriched soil with well-rotted manure or compost. Watch out for the usual pest and deal with them.