Category Archives: Plant Problems

Pestwatch: Solomon’s Seal Sawfly

If you grow any variety of Polygonatum, common name Solomon’s seal, you may well find a bunch of these little critters hanging around your plants round about now:

Solomon's-seal-sawfly

This black insect is less than a centimetre long and looks fairly innocuous, but its offspring, a whitish-grey grub, can completely defoliate a plant by mid summer leaving it weakened for the following year, not to mention very unsightly in the meantime!

Controlling the adult insects isn’t really an option – I have been known to swat a few if I see them, though! – so the best thing to do is look out for early signs of larval activity (holes being eaten in the leaves) then search the undersides of leaves and remove the offenders.

If control by hand is impractical, plants can be sprayed with chemicals such as Westland Resolva Bug Killer (there are other recommendations on the RHS website).

July updates…at last!

Long time, no blog – been concentrating on house decorating for the last few weeks while the weather is nice enough to have all the windows open! That’s not to say the garden has been left to its own devices, but after all the plastering, sanding and painting has been done, followed by watering, feeding and pest control in the garden, I haven’t had much time or inclination to go round taking photos. Oh well!

So here to kick off with, an evening shot of my biggest hanging basket, planted up in early June and doing pretty well now:

petunia-basket-in-situ-18-july

and a little closer:

hanging-basket-petunia-18-July

It’s a 12″ Easy-fill basket that I planted up at the beginning of June with absolutely no planning whatsoever – I just chucked everything at it, lol! So it has fuchsias from my own cuttings taken last year plus a mix of stuff bought at the end of May from my local garden centre: a couple of verbenas, a large purple petunia, two mini orange petunias and a trailing silver foliage plant I haven’t grown before called Dichondra “Silver Falls”. It’s a right old hotch-potch, but it looks colourful so I’m not complaining! Having said that, it would be nice if that hole in the middle where the basket is showing would close up, but you can’t have everything…

My tuberous begonia cuttings from last year are really kicking on now. Here’s a comparison shot of the better one:

begonia-cutting-june-july-comparison

I am very tempted to cut off the tall leggy bit (out of the top of the photo), but can’t quite bring myself to remove anything with flowers on it, so of course, it stays!

My divided primrose has come on nicely:

primroses-may-to-july-comparison

I now just have to decide where I want to put the new plants. I rather like having them in containers so that they can be moved around, but I’ll think about it.

 

Now on to the veg, starting with my carrots, which have put on a whopping great quantity of top growth since last month:

carrots-june-july-comparison

I’ve been keeping them covered in fine gauge mesh to protect against carrot root fly, but I have to remove it to water and to harvest the occasional spring onion (also growing in this pot), so I hope the pesky little critters aren’t sneaking in during the few moments when the cover is off. I’ve had a little dig around the tops of a couple of the plants and there appear to be carrots forming, but of course I won’t know the extent of them until I decide to pull them up – not that I know when that should be! Probably ought to look it up!

Next is my cut-and-come-again lettuce:

lettuce-20-july

It might look a bit sparse, but that’s because I’m constantly nipping off the oldest leaves for my salads and have been doing so for a couple of weeks now. I was afraid the hot spell we’ve been having for the past week or so might induce them to bolt, but so far it hasn’t. No other real problems to report – I was thinking they’d be awash with aphids by now, but no such thing – although I have succumbed to using organic slug and snail pellets in the pot because the copper tape was no longer deterring attacks from those particular pests. Ah well – I tried! I’m thinking of sowing some more seeds in modules to replace my original plants and keep the succession going since I have no idea how long they actually go on for.

And speaking of seed sowing, I’ve been dotting random radish seeds into gaps here and there:

lettuce-and-radish-20-july

these being amongst my lettuce! I lost a few lettuce seedlings to slug attack, so I thought why not fill the gap with something else? They are supposed to be ready to pull in 4 weeks, so I shouldn’t have long to wait!

On to the spinach:

spinach-june-july-comparison

which doesn’t look massively different to how it was, but there again, I’ve been harvesting the outer leaves as soon as they get big enough. The pot has also acquired a smattering of radish seedlings to fill up the space – I don’t like empty soil if I can avoid it. Slugs, snails and aphids haven’t been a problem, but I am fighting a constant battle with spinach leaf miner. I’m finding eggs on the undersides of pretty much every leaf, every day, and if I didn’t remove them with such frequency I don’t think I’d have a spinach leaf to my name by now!

Here are the eggs in situ:

spinach-leef-miner-eggs

They are laid in clusters and you can see how tiny they are in comparison to my thumb and fingers, but allow them to hatch and the grubs will tunnel through the leaf eating it from the inside and making a horrible mess of it. Add to that the fact that several generations are produced in a single season and you have good reason to be vigilant and rub the eggs off as soon as you see them!

Next we have my dwarf french beans, which have come on a treat:

french-beans-june-july-comparison

(They haven’t actually changed colour, by the way – that’s just my camera not coping with different lighting conditions!)

The beans are forming nicely:

french-beans-close-20-july

Not ready for picking yet, but not far off.

I haven’t had any major pest problems with these – the odd nibbled leaf and cluster of blackfly, but nothing to worry about. Looking forward to a pretty decent crop from just six plants by the looks of things!

Last but not least, my tomatoes:

tomatoes-june-july-comparison

getting a tad on the tall side! The plant nearest the camera (“Sungold”) has had its tip pinched out (they all have, in fact) but I’ve left 7 trusses on it, which is 2 more than I usually try for outdoors. I may be being a bit hopeful attempting to get that many to ripen in an English summer, but you never know.

Close-up of some ripening toms, “Sungold” and “Matina” (the larger one):

matina-and-sungold-20-july

No problems with these thus far: blight hasn’t reared its ugly and inevitable head yet, and I don’t appear to have drowned the plants by over-watering in this recent hot spell, thankfully!

I picked and ate my first ripe Sungold on the 17th July, and my first Matina on the 18th, and lovely they were too!

Fingers crossed for a long and successful cropping period for all of us hard-working gardeners….:)

 

 

Pest watch and other musings…

Much as I love summer, it’s really hard work on the pest front: everywhere you turn, something is trying to chomp the living daylights out of your plants.

Last night when the rain had stopped I went out with a torch to see how many slugs and snails were about. First I looked at my Hosta “Frances Williams” which I grow in a pot rather than a border, pellet regularly (around the base of the pot and in the pot) and which I have heard named as one of the less appealing hostas to slugs and snails because of its thick leaves. So was it mollusc-free? Er, no. Five large snails and a couple of tiddlers were merrily munching away at the hosta that I thought was protected. Hmm.

Then I turned my attention to my Solomon’s Seal, also pelleted and also in a pot, but placed within a border, and that too was hosting several unwelcome slimy diners. I’ve always thought that it was sawfly grubs doing the bulk of the damage every summer, but this year I’ve kept it sawfly-free so now I know that slugs and snails are as much to blame, if not more so!

And in fact, they were all over the place: slithering over the paving, the gravel, the wooden water feature, the soil and, of course, the plants – it’s a wonder that there’s anything left by morning, to be honest!

The only good news is that thus far they are ignoring my copper-taped veg containers, although whether this is because the tape puts them off or because they simply haven’t found them yet I couldn’t say.*

Then there are the rose sawflies. Much of the soft new growth on my favourite roses seems to be sporting the tell-tale scarring left by the egg-laying activities of rose sawflies, so any moment the poor things will be crawling with grubs and, if I do nothing about it, virtually leafless by July. I foresee many happy hours of picking the little wretches off, oh joy!

We’re still patrolling our solitary pot of lilies for scarlet lily beetle, and still finding one or two from time to time, so if you have lilies you need to keep inspecting them regularly through the summer.

There haven’t been overwhelming numbers of aphids yet, so I suppose I should be thankful for that, but sometimes you wonder whether it wouldn’t just be easier to have concrete and astroturf instead! *sigh*

On a brighter note, the “Widecombe Fair” pink cuttings that I took just over 3 weeks ago seem to have rooted: I spied what looks like fresh new growth on them and an experimental tweak of each one tells me that they’re now anchored into the compost, so I’ve taken them out from under their glass cover to harden off before I pot them up individually.

Also, the 3 new primroses that I made from my single plant a few weeks back all seem to be doing well and making new leaves. I suppose I could plant them out any moment but I think I’ll leave them in my shaded coldframe for the time being – they’re probably safer there!

*Breaking News: just nipped out in darkness with my torch and there was a snail in my lettuce pot, so it doesn’t look like the copper tape is going to be much use. Fiddlesticks. Pellets it is, then…

Red alert!

If you haven’t started already, it’s time here in the UK to begin inspecting your lily plants for these:

scarlet-lily-beetle

Scarlet Lily beetle, a modern invader to our shores that has no natural predators here and whose grubs and adults can completely defoliate your lilies in days if left unchecked.

They’re only small – about a centimetre or so long -but their brilliant scarlet colouring makes them pretty easy to spot, although you do need to inspect under the leaves for the adults, their eggs, which are about a millimetre long, orangey-red and laid in small clusters, and any grubs that may have hatched out (they cover themselves in their own excrement – nice!).

Control is either by hand (pick ’em off and squish ’em!) or there are chemicals available, such as Provado Ultimate Bug Killer (I don’t use chemicals if I can avoid them, so I don’t know how effective this is).

One tip if you’re controlling by hand is to have a small pot or bowl at the ready and when you spot one of the little blighters, put the receptacle underneath and knock them into it, because one of their defence mechanisms when attacked is to drop to the ground on their backs so that their black undersides are uppermost, at which point you will have almost no chance of spotting them!

I’ve only caught three thus far this year, but I do only have a single pot of tree lilies to patrol, and I re-pot them every autumn to try to dispose of any over-wintering adults, so I really shouldn’t have a big problem.

Good luck to all lily-lovers out there!

Hemerocallis Gall Midge

Hemerocallis Gall Midge

This year appears to be quite a bad one for hemerocallis gall midge in my garden with several clumps presenting the classically squat, distorted buds.

As there is no chemical control available to gardeners, the only action that can be taken is to remove and destroy the affected buds as soon as they’re identified.

The activity of this particular pest is usually over by mid-July, so any cultivars that flower later than that will generally escape unscathed.

Fortunately, I have possibly a record number of flowering stems on a couple of my hemerocallis, so I shouldn’t be short of blooms!