It's Still Just Dirt

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Angela Lassam - Tillsonburg Horticultural Society

Now our gardens have started growing well and looking good, around come all the pests (a term I use very loosely).

Some are beneficial and others not so. Insects are the main pests but there are others that come to mind including rodents and wild animals.

Insects are our biggest nuisance, we think, but it is not necessarily so. We do not realize that nature has its own way of solving our “munchers.” Aphids (plant lice) are probably the one that most people think of first and one of our worst bad insects. They come in various colours but mostly we see the bright green ones on the roses. They can be both winged and wingless and work in large groups. Some secrete a sticky substance called honeydew which in turn attracts their natural enemies – ants, bees, flies and wasps. Soap spray under the leaves as soon as you see them and keep it up especially after rain. Ladybugs (ladybirds to some of us) like aphids especially, but will eat any soft-bodied insect. The Asian ladybug which varies from mustard yellow to dark red has taken over the Canadian species as it withstands colder winters, so hibernates well. Interesting reading can be found on Canadian Wildlife Federation: Ladybug 101 website.

Spiders work in our gardens (good insects!) weaving webs to catch their food. They work at night then scurry back to the dark spots amongst tall plants and wait for any flying insect to get caught. Mosquitoes are a human nuisance for our health but not for our garden. The same can be said for the tick.

Ants are common but do not seem to do harm. In the garden they run tiny tunnels so naturally aerate the soil. Peonies when in bud attract ants, which crawl around on the flowers, feasting on the sticky sugars they secrete. Once the flower opens fully, and the sucrose has been consumed, the ants depart, whether they are outside or on someone’s dining room table. Those who have had ants leave their centerpiece and march across their dining table tend to take a dim view of peonies as cut flowers. There is a simple solution for the ant problem, and it’s one that every commercial peony grower practices. Cut the peonies when they are in bud, before the petals unfurl. If there are ants on the buds, wipe them or shake them off. Then put the peonies in water, and let them bloom inside. It is said ants are good for peonies where they appear in large numbers when the flower is in bud.

Frogs and toads are not liked by everyone but are beneficial to gardeners. Toads should be cared for in our gardens as they will eat over a hundred insects in one night. Their diet includes grubs, slugs, worms, caterpillars, cucumber beetles to name a few. They will hide in any dark damp spot. Their eggs are usually laid in any nearby water in long jelly-like strings becoming tadpoles and eventually toads and migrate to land. They have a dark, crusty skin unlike the frog who has a green often striped skin and white underside. Frogs stay in the pond where they were hatched unlike toads keeping the pond clean. Their calls herald spring in the early evening hours, a great sign for gardeners.

Tillsonburg Horticultural Society members enjoyed a great day touring gardens in Toronto’s Kingsway area. Toronto Botanical Gardens organized the garden tour 'Through the Garden Gate.' The area was built in the 1900s with the Tudor architecture and English style gardens and mature tree-lined streets stretching along a ravine section of the Humber River.

Many garden tours can be found in your own vicinity - both Lions and Lioness clubs usually run them so go enjoy a pleasant day. The annual Tillsonburg Lioness Garden and Art Tour is Saturday, June 25, 12-4:30 p.m., with seven local gardens and five artists. $10 tickets available at Station Arts Centre, Coward PharmChoice and Tillsonburg Garden Gate.

The Horticultural Society will return to its monthly meeting on Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Senior Centre Wing at the Tillsonburg Community Centre. Also for members, please check the website for the Photo and Flower Competitions for details. Enjoy the summer!

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