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It is not all sweetness and light

To judge by the few blogs I’ve posted about happenings out here in the world of horticulture, one would think that I’m always whistling Zippity-do-dah in the peaceable kingdom. Wonderful as nature is and as much as I love my job, sometimes things do not go as hoped. So here is a review of some of the disagreeable occurrences that occurred in the garden this year, including a warning about what lurks among the plants.

(via IMA Flickr 2004)

Bambi is a browser. This does not mean that deer tend to thumb through magazines at the newsstand instead of making a purchase. No, they browse in the sense of “chew off the buds and tender twigs of trees and shrubs.” Sure, deer eat grass and hostas and other herbaceous plants, but they have a fondness for woody plants enjoying the young stems and sweet buds of fruit trees and shrubs – I need those buds for next spring’s blossoms. And they like to take naps in the flower beds. So, if you see Odocoileus virginianus out in the gardens, please suggest they trot back over to 100 Acres or Crown Hill.

2009 was a great year to be gardening, because there was plenty of rain and it was not too hot. That also made for a great year for plant pathogenic fungi, which spread more readily during damp weather. In particular downy and powdery mildew defoliated my squash. Unless the plant is a cultivar with disease resistance, it is necessary to spray fungicide once or twice per week. That is NOT something I will be doing, so I may opt for newer varieties if I cannot find resistant heirlooms.

Us plant wonks got a little excited when a seldom seen parasitic plant showed up this past year. Dodder (one of several species in the genus Cuscuta ) probably arrived as a contaminant in some clover seed. Dodder is not a fungus, but a true flowering plant whose seed germinates in the soil, but it promptly attaches itself to another plant, in this case clover. The dodder then loses its roots in soil, and lacking chlorophyll of its own, sucks nutrients out of its host. The stem of the plant is thinner than a paperclip, with flowers about the size of this letter “o”.

Due to a lapse on my part, cabbage loopers (the larvae of a moth) wrecked havoc on my Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale. Not much thicker that a pencil lead, they can quickly defoliate cole crops. Fortunately, there is a highly effective organic control, a naturally occurring bacteria called Bascillus thuringiensis (often sold under the brand name Dipel or BT) which only attacks larvae of moths and butterflies (collectively referred to as the order Lepidoptera). Unfortunately, Bt does not work if it is sitting in the bottle on the shelf.

The most diligent pest was the bushy-tailed marauder the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger).

"Dug the Dog"

The cute critters started the season by eating the few apples that “set” on the newly planted trees in the Tanner Orchard. Then they moved on to strawberries. And finished the season munching on sunflowers. Hrrr-rumph.

Sharing sometimes seems over-rated!

Filed under: Horticulture

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