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We help gardeners by answering questions, contact us at ask@mgmanitoba.com
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Question:

I have attended many workshops on native plants identifying good ones to use in the garden and the benefits. What I find when talking to people is they want to know how to incorporate native plants into an existing garden that has non-natives in the garden already. It takes a certain type of gardener to plant only native plants. What suggestions would you have?

Answer:

Native prairie plants fit very well in a non-native perennial garden. This makes for a very diverse garden. The recommendation would be when a perennial did not survive through the winter, put in a native plant. One can grow annuals, herbs, vegetables, perennials and native plants all together. It is a feast for the birds, bees and butterflies. Keep in mind that in nurtured soil native plants could be bigger than stated. This is because they grow where they can in nature and survive the seasons without help from gardeners. Native plants do not need extra fertilizer and water. That being said it is best to baby the young plants as you do any plant in its first year.
Plant propagation should be considered. Be aware of native plants that grow by rhizones. They have the potential to spread quickly. As native prairie plants can readily spread by seed, simply deadhead them after they flower. If more plants are desired let a few seed heads remain on the plant. If you are growing poppies, sea holly and globe thistle it would be recommended to always deadhead them. Incorporating native plants into your existing perennials beds will attract and give you enjoyment in looking for all the butterflies.

Question:

Last year was my first year planting canna lilies. I have stored them over the winter and I am wondering when I can plant them? Ideally I would like to just put them into the pots they will be in for the summer vs starting in one pot and transplanting.  I have read they can go into the ground at the same time you put in tomatoes. What do you recommend?

Answer:

Canna lilies can be planted directly into the container that they will be growing in all summer and the ideal time would be the May long weekend. The downside of planting them with this method is that it will take them a longer time to grow and provide you with the summer specimen that you expect to see from a canna. The recommendation would be to pre-plant them in a container in mid-April, keeping them inside, and then plant them into the summer container, again at the May long weekend. It is a bit more work but the results are definitely more rewarding. Either way though your canna lilies will grow.
If your decision is to start them indoors, once planted the containers need to be kept at a warm temperature as the tuber needs warmth to initiate growth of the plant. A room temperature of approximately 70f would be ideal. When the soil is too cool the growth would not be as quick and if the soil is cold and wet could cause the tuber to rot. Once the leaves emerge the plant will need high indoor sun exposure. When it is time to plant the canna outside, remember to acclimatize the plant before fully leaving it outside. This means that the plant should be put in the shade only for a couple of hours per day and increasing that time over a one-week period and slowly moving it into a full-sun exposure.

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Question:

I was wondering if it would be too early to transplant a peony now in April. It is a double white peony that previously did very well where it was planted but in the last couple of years it has barely produced any blooms.

Answer:

The recommendation for transplanting peonies is to do so late in the summer after they have finished blooming. The rule is plants that bloom in spring should be transplanted/divided in late summer, and those plants that bloom during the summer and autumn should be transplanted/divided in spring.

It is unusual that a peony that once bloomed very well does not do so anymore. There could be a few factors: is there more shade in the area? Peonies require a minimum of 6 hours of full sunshine. Or has the root been covered more with soil or mulch? Peony roots enjoy being planted close to the top of the soil and not buried too deeply. Possibly over the years soil/mulch has built up around the roots. Or has the area surrounding the peony been fertilized with a high nitrogen fertilizer ie. lawn food? Such a fertilizer would put all the nourishment into the leaves of a peony and into the formation of bloom buds, hence affecting the plant to bloom.

Nonetheless, if none of these factors apply to your Dad’s peony, the plant could be transplanted this spring but not until around mid-May when the ground has warmed. Having the ground warm allows the plant’s roots to have a better chance to acclimatize and survive.

raspberries

Question:

We have grown raspberries on the south side of our home for the past four years. I have read conflicting info online about how to winterize them for our climate, but I am uncertain when to trim and how short to go? I understand they must be trimmed when it is cold since they are prone to an early grow season. I took them down between 5 to 12 inches in the fall and planned to trim them shorter at the end of February.

Answer:

Raspberries are a delicious fruit, but a lot of gardeners miss out on that fresh picked taste because they do not want to bother with the maintenance that raspberries require.
There are two types of raspberries: regular or summer cane and primal cane. The regular cane bear fruit on the previous year’s wood starting about mid-July in Zone 3. One of the most popular varieties is Boyne. Primal cane bear fruit on the present year’s growth and fruit does not ripen until late August. The most popular variety is Red River. Regular cane raspberries can be pruned in early fall because by then the canes which produced the fruit will be drying up and feel brittle. These canes should be removed at ground level. You can wait until spring to do this, but you will have to be more careful because even though the cane is dead the root is not and may be shooting up new growth that will grow and develop into a cane that will produce fruit the following year. The canes that will produce fruit for the present year will be the ones that were growing the previous summer. They will be flexible and will be showing leaf buds in early spring. Waiting until spring will allow you to see which canes are leafing out. If there is any winter kill on the tips of these canes, they can be pruned back to the first strong new leaf. Leaves will appear as soon as the weather warms in the spring and blossoms should appear in June. If you have bees or other pollinators in the garden, you should be enjoying ripe berries in July.
Primal cane raspberries are treated differently and can be cut right down to ground level as long as the new growth has not already started, then you need to prune a little higher. You could leave a few of the strong, healthy canes and they may produce fruit earlier, but allow the new growth to develop strong canes so that you get the crop later in the summer. You could prune down your primal cane raspberries in late fall, but it is good to leave them standing to catch the snow for winter protection.
Applying a slow release balanced fertilizer in spring helps to develop strong canes as well as encourages fruit production. You can apply an organic mulch around your canes, to help conserve moisture, but if there are any problems with diseased leaves or insect pests, you will want to clean up the fallen leaves in the fall.

Question:

Is fall a good time to transplant or divide perennials, specifically Veronica ‘Red Fox’ speedwell and ‘Sunny Border Blue’? My Morden Sunrise rose is not doing well, when would be the best time to move it?

Answer:

The recommendation would be to divide these two specific perennials, your Veronicas, in the spring. The general rule of thumb for dividing perennials is to divide the spring-blooming ones in the fall and the summer-blooming perennials in the spring, ie. Iris and Peonies. It would also be recommended to move your rose in the spring as when replanting it you can add proper amendments and fertilizers to the soil for its summer growing season. One would not want to do this in the fall as the rose should be going into dormancy and you would not want to put it into a growth spurt.

Question:

I am confused as to how one can “companion garden”. Does this mean that you grow certain types of plants beside each other or intermixed with one another? So for example beans and cucumbers, would you mix the seeds up and plant all at once or would you plant a row of beans and then the next row or beside this row, or in the case of a square-foot garden, do you plant them beside each other in their own ‘plot’? I know that this is probably a silly question but in using the most amount of space I hate my corn taking up so much space.

Answer:

Companion gardening means growing certain compatible edible plants beside one another. That is not to say growing them in the same row.
It is a method of growing edibles so that they may benefit from one another and thrive. Some plants simply do not like growing close to one another and by planting them close together will not produce as good a harvest. Some examples of planting vegetables that are in the same family, ie. nightshade family; tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, but potatoes also belong to this family and do not like being with their relatives. A perfect example too, is the “three sisters”, where one plants corn, beans and squash together. The corn offers the “poles” for the beans to climb, the beans offer the nitrogen for the other two plants, and the squash provides a ground cover offering shade to the other plant roots so they do not need to be watered as often. Also, covering the soil so that weed growth is minimized. This would be a good example for you to follow for growing your corn.  Another example is cucumber, they do not like being close to potatoes but do fine by peas, beans and nasturtiums. In square-foot gardening one would plant one square of tomatoes and the next square of peppers, but not potatoes.

Question:

This year we discovered an asparagus plant hiding under an overgrown area of the garden in our new home. We cleared the area, and it looks beautiful and healthy now. We also planted two more asparagus roots this spring. Now we are wondering what is the best way to winterize these asparagus plants.

Answer:

As asparagus is hardy to our Manitoba climate little is needed in the way of winterizing your old plant. Late in the fall the asparagus leafy stalks on all your plants can be cut down to about 6 inches above the ground. For your new plants you could put some leaf mulch over them as a precaution. It is suggested that new asparagus plants not be harvested for 3 years from planting. But you can certainly enjoy harvesting your “old” plant being sure to only pick approximately half the stems. This ensures that it will continue to produce for future years.

Question:

I have built a raised-bed garden – three by nine feet by twenty inches deep. Someone suggested I put some logs in the bottom of each bed to take up space and help drainage. We have a number of balsam trees that have died and I am wondering if it is a good idea to put pieces of these in before filling with soil.

Answer:

As Balsam trees are an evergreen and of the fir family, they would lower the pH of the soil causing the soil to be more acid based. Depending on what you wanted to plant in the garden it might be good to use these logs, for example, for Hydrangeas, which do very well in acid-based soil. But if this garden is to be used for vegetables the recommendation would be to not use the logs as a base as vegetables enjoy neutral pH soil. One can order a four-way mix soil by the yard, delivered, to use in this garden bed. Doing so would be the favourable option and recommendation.

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Question:

I am currently in a friendly competition to grow the most plentiful tomatoes and was wonder what you would recommend for the best potting soil or compost mixture to grow my tomatoes in. I have started the seedlings into miracle grow seed starting mixture and they have all sprouted very well in my indoor greenhouse. Soon they will need to be transplanted into larger pots and want to ensure I have the best soil for their growth. Once the outdoor growing season begins, I plan to grow them in wooden shipping crates in my back yard. I do plan to check ph levels and fertilize as needed. Thanks in advance!

Answer:

There are quite a number of factors to consider when growing tomatoes including good soil. I suggest you check out the ‘How to Video’ on the www.mgmanitoba.com website for ‘How to Plant’ and ‘How to Prune’ tomatoes because to have lots of fruit on your plants, you will have to keep the suckers under control and the video shows that clearly.

Regarding soil: When you transplant your seedlings, use a good quality potting soil and check to make sure it contains some organic material or actual “soil” as in sandy loam. The bag should have some weight to it and look dark not just light brown as in mostly peat moss. Plant your seedlings fairly deep and use a rooting fertilizer such as 10-52-10 to get them started in their new pot you can switch to a balanced fertilizer once they are well rooted and make sure they get lots of light. Reduce your fertilizing routine when you start hardening them off to move outside so that the plants will develop strong main stems.

Since you will be growing them in containers, you could use the bagged soils that are now available that are labelled for “vegetable” or “container” planting. Again check that there is some actual “soil” or “composted material” in this mixture. If there isn’t you should mix in about 1/4 sandy loam into a bagged mixture that contains peat and compost. Adding good quality compost is always beneficial. Tomatoes need a fair amount of calcium and magnesium so that is why having actual soil, which has the mineral content, as part of the growing medium is important. Organic composts such as mushroom compost, well aged poultry manure or bone meal can be added to soil mix, but don’t overdo it. You will want to insure even moisture throughout the growing season, moist but not soggy. Putting some type of organic mulch such as leaf mulch or partially finished compost around the plants helps to keep the soil moisture even during hot summer days. You will need to use some type of fertilizer unless that is not allowed in your friendly competition. If it is, use a balanced fertilizer (20-20-20) to get the plants well established. Once they start to bloom and form tiny tomatoes, be sure to keep pruning out the suckers and the switch to a fertilizer that is specially for tomatoes. Again, use sparingly because you don’t want to have a jungle and no fruit. If you find that you have too much foliage and the fruits aren’t forming as quickly as you would like, you can prune off some of the end stems that have flowers to encourage the plant to put its energy into forming fruits.

I hope this will be helpful and good luck with the competition. Don’t hesitate to contact us again with more questions or to let us know how your tomatoes grew.

Balsam Fir

 

 

Question:
We have a problem with our balsam fir trees, We have removed two in the past year on the advice of a local “tree person”, and now this one in the picture is also turning all brown. Should we remove it or is there some way to save it? We have three other fir trees in our yard, and would prefer not to have to destroy them too.
We live in a small city (Dauphin) on the riverfront but have no houses behind us.

Answer:

The fir has rapidly expanding Cytospora fungal disease as well as some tip blight disease. There is likely some evidence of balsam fir saw fly larvae, but this does not show until June. Both the diseases and the larvae are very common throughout the boreal forest regions of the province. The tree is rapidly declining in health. You may want to think about removing it. Sorry I cannot be more positive.

Hydrangea kyushu

Question:
There is a shrub in front of the St. Vital Library on Fermor Avenue and I need it in my yard; the colour is fantastic. Checked all my books etc. but couldn’t find it. Here is a picture, do you recognize it?

Answer:
This is definitely a panicula-type hydrangea. The variety is ‘kyushu’ because the leaves are not large, plus the ‘kyushu’ has a distinctively narrow, “pointier” type panicle (flower) than ‘quickfire’ which also has an open, lacy-type panicle such as the one depicted in the image. But ‘quickfire’ leaves are more rounded. Also, ‘kyushu’ still has a cream-coloured panicle at this time of year whereas ‘quickfire’ is already pink.
Plus, the image seems to be showing small-type leaves with plenty of venation and nearly smooth margins which are a trait of Hydrangea Kyushu. It has very glossy leaves at the start of the season, but not so much towards the end of the season. The image also shows that this plant is suffering from chlorosis.
Hydrangea Kyushu is a very reliable, older variety that can still be found. One of our members has 3 in her garden of which two are in part shade and one is in mostly sun and does better than the two in the part shade.
Another option might be ‘unique’ Hydrangea which is very similar to ‘kyushu’ but more difficult to find. Plus, the inflorescence would be showing pink tones by this stage. Hence, this one by the library is certain to be Hydrangea Kyushu.

Question:
Is it possible to grow a moss yard/garden in Manitoba?

Answer:
Yes, it is possible to grow a moss garden in Manitoba. Just as there are many species of moss found growing in the wild in Manitoba, they can also be grown in our backyards, given the growing conditions they need, generally damp. My moss garden is north facing and backed by a tall cedar hedge. Nevertheless, it is subject to several hours of late afternoon sun so many evenings I will mist it. I have never planted the moss, it simply grew and spread. Also, because weeding cannot be done with a hoe, hand weeding is required. The surface is so soft, knee pads are not necessary.

Resulting Impatiens plant infected with the disease.

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Question:

I’ve been hearing recommendations not to plant  Impatiens because of an incurable blight that’s become an issue over the past few years.  I certainly saw lots of Impatiens in the garden centres but I’m wondering if we here in Manitoba are also going to need to start looking for alternative plants.

I’d appreciate any insight on this that you can offer!

Answer:

This disease is called Impatiens Downy Mildew (Plasmopara obducens) and is a fungal disease transported through spores.  It was first noticed in England approximately 10 years ago and has since travelled to North America and first noticed in 2004.  The disease was well managed until a severe outbreak in 2011 and then it travelled quickly between states.  From a posted map it has been identified in North and South Dakota.   It has also been identified this year, 2015 in Winnipeg and possibly other Manitoba areas.

The disease infects Impatiens walleriana, which is the common most popular Impatiens sold at greenhouses.  The new Bounce Impatiens, SunPatiens and New Guinea Impatiens is not affected with the disease.  It is suggested that these Impatiens varieties or alternative plants be used such as Browalia, Begonias, Coleus etc. 

Impatiens Downy Mildew is host specific which means that it only attacks one type of plant, in this case Impatiens walleriana and hybrid plants with this parentage.  It travels quickly and within 5 to 14 days the entire plant will be infected.  The plant one buys may be infected already as nurseries receive stock from distant suppliers or it will attack your healthy garden plant through spore dispersal, wind or water splash back.

If the Impatiens one plants is noticed to be attacked early in the season it will have been transmitted through systemic infection (plants received already infected).  This is called early season stunting.  If your healthy plant looks good until late in the season and then is noticed to have the disease it will have been infected through the wind/water situation.  Spores travel very far in wind and may come from the neighbourhood.  Early season symptoms are:  flower drop and bottom leaf curl and yellowing with the leaf underside powdery looking.  Late season symptoms are:  quick leaf/flower drop and green sticks/stems remaining.  This disease thrives in long periods of wet humid environments which were the 2015 summer’s perfect conditions.

All infected plants should be removed immediately and put into the trash not composted.  The spores can survive for a very long time in the soil where the infected plants grew.  Hence, Impatiens walleriana should not be planted in that area again for many years.

Question:

I have a raspberry patch in my backyard which was producing berries for at least 20 years.  Two years ago (after the harvest) all of a sudden the tops of the new shoots started to get black.  First the veins in the leaves, then whole leaves and stems.  Some shoots were affected more, some less.  I thought I might have introduced some fungus bacteria with a manure I applied that year (I have never fertilized the berries before).  I do not know if that was the start of my problems or a pure coincidence.  I did remove and discard all affected parts and waited to see what would occur the following year.

Last year the patch grew in the spring looking quite normal and blossomed too.  Then the berries started to dry up instead of ripening and leaves on the ends shriveled.  I panicked and removed the entire berry-producing stock.  I used a bleach solution for disinfecting etc.  The new growth looked fantastic, so I let it grow.  Just to make sure for proper air circulation, I removed some of the new canes as there seemed to be too many.  This year, before the leaves came out, I treated all of the raspberry canes with a spray of lime sulphur.  However the same thing as last year occurred again.  The raspberries bloomed nicely, were pollinated, but now are all becoming dark and drying up.  New growth again looks very healthy at this point.  I suspect a “fire blight” or some other fungal disease is present. If you indeed know the cause of my problem – is there a way to treat the plants or the soil to get rid of it?  Can fire blight be transferred from a neighbour’s apple tree?  Here is a picture of the plant:

 

raspberry fireblight

Answer:

It does look and sound like fire blight’s symptoms of this disease.   There are not many options to prevent this disease from occurring as it can be carried on the wind or through insects.  Boyne raspberry is one of the few raspberry cultivars that can be infected by the same fire blight strain that infects apple trees.

Some options for preventing anymore fire blight from affecting your bushes is to continue to prune out infections disinfecting pruners after each cut.  This should be done when the plant is dry to prevent further infestation.   Use one part bleach to nine parts water.  A copper-based spray can be used to spray the bushes according to directions.  Before purchase, check the label to be sure that it lists fire blight as one of the diseases it can work on for deterring the spread of the disease.

For additional information refer to these sites:

http://umanitoba.ca/faculties/afs/hort_inquiries/736.html

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/fire_blight_on_raspberries_and_blackberries

 

Question:

We have 3 garden boxes in our yard to grow vegetables.  This year our beets have come up with a blight and they are not thriving.  This is actually the third year we have had this problem, but this year is by far the worst.  And the blight has seemed to travel to another of the boxes where it is affecting our swiss chard and spinach.  In the past we have been plucking out the diseased leaves and spraying with a sulpher solution.  This year it is really getting ahead of us and our efforts seem to be not effective.  Could you please advise what we can do to rid our garden of this problem?  And we would like to reseed but fear it might be too late.

Answer:

One of our members has had the same problem both this year and last and also a friend of hers.  This seems to be a prevalent issue with beets in recent years.  It could be worse this year because of the nighttime/early evening rains and cooler temperatures.

It is recommended that you continue to pluck off the leaves and throw them into the garbage and do not compost.  Also, if the plants are thickly planted thin them out to allow for more air circulation.  Do not work with the plants when they are wet as this will only spread the blight more.  In the autumn be sure to clean up all the plant material and throw in the garbage.  In the spring you should sprinkle some garden sulphur onto the soil before planting.  This product is available at the large nurseries and garden centres.

 

Question:

Could you please show me through pictures the difference between a ladybug and the red lily beetle.

Answer:

The following pictures show the differences between the two red beetles, with their colour being the only similarity.  The ladybug is known for being an excellent beneficial insect.  It devours plant-damaging insects with aphids being their favourite food.  Their eggs are laid on leaves that are infested with aphids.  When the larvae appear their food source is at hand.  The ladybug larvae should not be destroyed even though they may be seen eating plant leaves.  The damage they cause is minimal compared to the benefit of the ladybug to follow.

The red lily beetle devours the leaves, stems, buds and flowers of lilies, fritillaries and all plants in the Liliaceae family.  It has a rectangular body shape 6 to 8 mm. in length.  The orange lily beetle eggs are found on the undersides of the leaves.  The larvae, once hatched from the eggs, look much like small slimy black globs.  In reality the larva covers itself with its own excrement in hopes of not being appetizing to its predators.

The methods to control red lily beetles:  hand pick and destroy each beetle, all the eggs and the larvae.  Always check leaf undersides for the hiding eggs and destroy by rubbing them off.  The adults can be sprayed with any pyrethrum-based insecticide or any other registered pesticide.  Buy a concentrated pyrethrum liquid and mix to 0.5% strength.  Rotenone may also be used and effective.   Use all products safely and with care following instructions.

In the spring and fall clean up any debris (leaves, mulches etc.) under these plants as the red lily beetle likes to hide and overwinter under such materials.    Also, in spring and fall stir up the soil under these plants as the beetle likes to also bury just under the soil surface.

Always  BE  VIGILANT!!   And all summer keep looking as the different stages occur and as the red lily beetle is a strong flyer it may come in from neighbouring locations.

 

 

ladybuglarva 004Ladybug larva.

IMG_5421Lady bug (full grown)

IMG_5629Ladybug larva transforming into a ladybug.

 

IMG_5412Red Lily Beetle (full grown)

IMG_5408Red Lily Beetle Eggs

 

IMG_5635  Larva before excrement.

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Larva with excrement covering.

 

Question:

I recently purchased several Martha Washington geraniums which unbeknownst to me were full of bacteria blight.  Two days after adding them to my window boxes I recognized the problem and discarded each and everyone.  Just wondering what I should do now.  Do I need to discard the other plants in the window box?  What about the soil and the container itself?  I should note that a container nearby also seems to be affected though it includes another species of geraniums from a different nursery.  Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Answer:

Xanthomonas campestris pv. pelargonii attacks only geraniums so if it is the true bacterial blight and the other plants are not of the Pelargonium x domesticum genus then the planters should be fine.  Nonetheless, you should be cautioned to not replant with anything from the Pelargonium x domesticum genus.

There is another disease Verticillium wilt, caused by a fungus, that looks a lot like Xanthomonas campestris pv. pelargonii and causes the same type of symptoms in many types of plants including geraniums.  There is no way (except by lab testing) to tell the difference between them.

Both diseases are soil born (from contaminated plant material).  The disease can be transferred through contaminated tools and/or soil splashback.  This could be the reason that your other container is also infected.  Remove these geraniums/pelargoniums.  The name Pelargoniums refers to all species of the well-known “geraniums”.  So even though the geraniums in the other box are different and had been purchased at a different nursery, if they are showing similar symptoms, they could have been infected through the previously noted way.  True Geraniums are the perennials that are usually grown in one’s garden.  They have small flowers in a variety of colours; whites, pinks and mauves.

The suggestion for this summer would be to remove all the geraniums/pelargoniums in your window boxes and bag them up putting them into the trash with none going into the compost pile.  This type of disease stays within the specific genus, hence not infecting other plants.  Do not plant any other geraniums in these boxes this year.

At the end of this summer the recommendation would be to remove all the soil, bagging it up and putting it into the landfill.  Sterilize the window boxes with a bleach solution and put in new soil.  Your tools should be sterilized too to prevent any further transfer.  By using infected tools in your garden the disease could be transferred into your garden beds.  Be careful to not plant geraniums in any of your garden beds if you have used said tools in them.   This type of disease can remain in the soil for at least a year or two.

Question:
I would love to know how to prevent little worms in my apples, is it too late to treat the apple trees and what should I do?

Answer:
If the buds on your apple tree have not broken, now, April, is the time to spray the entire tree with a Dormant Spray kit. This kit can be purchased at any good gardening centre or greenhouse. It is compulsory to not have the buds broken, and to spray when the temperature is above 0c. The temperature can be 0c overnight but when you are spraying it must be above.
Also, refer to the Answer below for summer treatment.
Question:

I have a very prolific Heyer apple tree which has become infested with apple maggots.  The entire crop over the past few years has been of no use, riddled with brown tunnels, and now the problem has begun to spread to a delicious Goodland apple in my yard.

I kept red sphere balls coated with Tanglefoot on the south side as of June, diligently removed all fallen fruit (25 pails of it) did not compost it, and searched for all shriveled apples remaining on the tree in the spring.  Do you have any other solutions? (non-chemical)

Answer:

You are certainly doing the correct procedures to eliminate the apple maggot problem.  I would suggest you continue doing exactly the same non-chemical solutions.  It will take a bit of time for you to notice a big difference but you should notice it this season.  Put up the red balls as soon as possible and if the Tanglefoot becomes overloaded with the bugs scrap it off and re-apply.

Here is another solution that you might want to experiment with on your tree that has been successfully implemented by a family member.  As in the picture below, he cut away the extra plastic at the top of the bag (since it can interfere with the stem if they are short) and also snipped through the zip-lock seal at the top to provide a space for the stem to go through, rather than just trying to zip the bag closed around it, as it seems to still make for a good seal.
Here is a good link for this method:

http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/1235/#b

 

 

Question:

I started a new garden last year (I ripped out the sod from the front yard and filled with 4-way top soil) and it did not produce well at all.  This spring it has a lot of weeds and grass growing in it already.  I am wondering how best to get rid of the weeds before tilling and then what would be best to add to the garden to make it more fertile.

Answer:

Following are a few ideas for you involving what to do with your new garden.  The suggestions are involving both non-chemical and chemical solutions.

Here are the suggestions:

– depending what weeds they are, the majority could be controlled by tilling.  This would be the case if they are annual weeds.  Quite often when you buy 4-way mix these are annual weeds that are in it.  However the grass may have to be sprayed with Round-up beforehand.  A good solution would be to spray with Round-up for the grass and weeds, then add some well-rotted manure and work it in well with the tiller.  Also a soil test may indicate whether some fertilizer or amendment is required.
– 4-way mix composition is specific to the company from which you purchase the product.  Check back with them for an exact compostion % on all ingredients in the mix they sent to you.  Quite often there is insufficient organic material in it and too much dirty (weed seed infested) top soil.  It should probably have at least 35% well-rotted manure or other manure compost to be a good mix.  It should also include 40% sandy loam and 25% peat moss or partially composted leaf mulch.  To correct the soil this year you could hand dig all weeds first then add your choice of organic material and till.  You could also grow a legume crop to till in after the garden is finished and top dress again with compost or peat moss in the fall.  You may need to fertilize with a balanced 10-10-10 liquid application during the growing season.
– you can make an organic weedkiller using apple cider vinegar, salt and some Dawn (original) dish detergent.  You will probably need 2 applications depending on the weeds.  Then you should amend the soil with a bulk compost (ie. several yards to have about 2 inches on top) such as mushroom compost or bulk worm compost.  Reimer’s soils in Winnipeg sells mushroom compost by the bag or yard while Miracle Ranch on Garven Rd. in Birds Hill sells bulk worm compost.

 

 

Question:

I have a white lilac that I planted in my front yard 7 years ago.  It is about 6 feet tall and this is the first year that it has hardly any blooms.  There are a few on one side, but otherwise nothing.  I trimmed off the flowers after they bloomed last year, someone suggested lawn fertilizer can affect a lilac but I didn’t do that either.

Is there anything I can do so it blooms better next spring?   I admit I do not usually fertilize my established trees/shrubs.

Answer:

These are some suggestions:

– as it was a very harsh cold long winter this could possibly effect the blooms even though lilacs are very hardy to our winters.

– yes, lawn fertilizer could also add to the problem as they commonly have a high nitrogen compound which would put all the nourishment into the leaves on your lilac and not promote flowering; but as you do not apply fertilizer this would not apply.

– your lilac does not have to be fertilized as our soils here in Manitoba are excellent for growing lilacs and especially that it has previously bloomed very well.

– what could be the problem would be how you prune the lilac after it has finished blooming.  It must be pruned as soon as the flowers have faded.  A lilac produces its flower buds for next year on new wood very quickly and hence if you prune the branch end off you would be taking next years blooms off too as they are forming during the summer months.  There is a “How-to-video” on the proper pruning methods for lilacs on our website: www.mgmanitoba.com

As I too have a white lilac approximately 20 years old which blooms profusely every year, it did not have many blooms either this spring.  So I am suspecting this is due to our harsh winter.

 

Question:

What is the best way to deter cats from using my planters and garden box as a litter box?

Answer:

Cats like to use dry areas as their litter boxes so if the soil was kept wetter it would be a deterrent.  Also, people have used trimmings of branches from thorny rose bushes and laid them on top of the soil.  Lee Valley does have little pads with spikes on them that you lay on top of the soil, again to keep cats away.  Or there are cat and dog deterrent pellets at garden centres that you could sprinkle on the soil.


Question:

Can you please suggest a shade hardy bush for our area.  I have a forested area on the west side on my home (in East St. Paul) that has some tall trees (which have been limbed up for some light) and there are 5 evergreens there as well.  In the same area I have astilbes and goatsbeard.

Answer:

My all time favourite for shade are dogwoods.  They come in a variety of leaf and bark colour and both should be considered when buying them.  Either the red or green bark offer wonderful winter interest when we need it.  There are also dogwoods with variegated leaves with either silver or gold variegation.

Weigelas are another shrub for shade.  They come in various sizes and have lovely dark pink late spring trumpet-shaped blooms.  The dark ninebarks can also do well in shade.

 

Question:

My tender succulents have been overwintered indoors.   I would like to know what to do with them for taking them outdoors for the summer.

Answer:

Here is a “How To” video on how to re-introduce your tender succulents to the outdoors for the summer.

 

 

Question:

What is the best way to transplant my seedlings?

Answer:

Here is a “How To” video showing transplanting seedlings and the necessary soil, containers and fertilizer required.

silver buffaloberry

Question:

I would appreciate any help in identifying this berry. Is it edible?

Answer:

This is a picture of the plant commonly known as Silver Buffaloberry or Shepherdia argentea. This plant is native to the Great Plains of North America. European settlers and Native Americans have used it for many years either fresh or dried. They used it in pemmican, pies, preserves, juices, wine etc. This plant in more recent years has been used in the planting of shelterbelts due to its high salt and soil pH tolerance, drought resistance, winter-hardiness and nitrogen-fixing ability.

Question:

I watched 2 of your videos and in both you mentioned a fertilizer that I couldn’t quite catch the name of.  One video was about transplanting seedlings into pots and the other was about planting tomatoes vertically into the garden.  I thought you said vegetable mike but didn’t have any luck when I tried to google that.  I usually am quite casual about my gardening but this year hope to perfect the art of planting the tomato so any help would be appreciated.

Answer:
The product spoken of is Myke and it is not a fertilizer but a produced fungi.  It is added at planting time and has the most benefits when in touch with the roots.  In nature the fungi or mycorrhizae are natural forming but take many years to form a symbiotic relationship with the plant.  This product speeds up that relationship and causes the roots to access the nutrients in the soil much faster giving you a  healthier plant.
I have tested it on my seedlings when the product was first introduced about 9 years ago, with astonishing results.  The plants I used it on were  bigger, healthier and had a larger root system.  Hence, I use it all the time now.
There are different varieties of Myke product depending on what plants you are using it on;  Tree and Shrub, Tomato and Vegetable, and Annuals and Perennials.  These products are available at most of the plant nurseries/garden centres in Manitoba.

Question:

Has anyone had any luck in growing blue poppies in Manitoba?


Answer:
Meconopsis betonicifolia or blue poppies have been grown here in Manitoba although not very successfully that I have known.  One can either start one’s own plant from seed or you can buy the plant at garden centres in the spring.  The problem is that they do not overwinter well and their growing conditions are not what we have here.  They like cool summers with moist/high humidity.  They are spectacularly grown in the Reford Gardens in the Gaspe peninsula close to the St. Lawrence river.  This is the perfect area for these poppies to grow in.  Or they grow spectacularly in the cool damp temperatures of Ireland.


Question:

I’m looking for suggestions for books on gardening in Zone 3 – perennials, shrubs, trees and annuals.  A good reference book featuring gardening tips, hardiness etc.  A starter book for new gardeners in my family.  If you have a favourite, please share the title.

Answer:

There are quite a number of very good books on the market.  Here are some of the suggestions:

  • Creating the Prairie Xeriscape (revised and updated) by Sara Williams
  • Gardening Naturally
  • Best Groundcovers and Vines for the Prairies
  • Best Trees and Shrubs for the Prairies–the previous 3 books are by Hugh Skinner & Sara Williams
  • Lois Hole has numerous good books on the topics that you mentioned you would like
  • The Prairie Garden–which is published here in Winnipeg with the articles written by experienced prairie gardeners

Question:

I am leaving my in-ground garden fallow this year to deal with the weeds.  They’ve just become too much to deal with in the time I have available, so my plan is to summer fallow the garden much as we did with crops on the farm when I was a kid.    In addition to that I am expanding the garden by putting in some raised beds, so we won’t be completely gardenless.  I’ve got a garden tractor and some implements, so as long as there is no crop there, I can keep it tilled up.  I’ve got questions though.

I know summer fallowing is hard on the soil.  I plan to keep adding leaves and compost as usual to keep as many nutrients as possible.  It disturbs the worms and leads to erosion and all of that, but I don’t want to use chemicals and can’t keep up by hand weeding.  Should I use a rototiller or a spring-tine cultivator?  Should I alternate between the two?  Should I keep watering with compost tea to keep the soil as active as possible?  I do want as many weed seeds as possible to germinate so I can till them up, but would a monthly shot of compost tea make a difference?  Would it be too much?

Should I add compost (leaf mold and manure) and top soil (4 way-mix) over the whole summer or just at the end of the year?    Does it matter? The soil needs rejuvenation, and it’s easier for me to do a little at a time.

Answer:

Add a 6 to 8 inch layer of leaf mould and manure over the whole garden, not 4-way mix as this could contain weed seeds.  Then cover the whole area with black plastic and leave it for the summer.  Any active weeks would be killed by the heat generated under the black plastic and the worms that are in the soil would start to break down the manure and leaf mould.

In the fall remove the plastic and till the whole lot under using a rototiller.  Then add another layer of manure and leaf mould and leave this on over the winter.  The following spring till this in then plant.

Compost tea is only really needed to provide extra nutrients for the plants that are growing.

For your raised beds you could make your own soil mixture following the Square-foot gardening method but first put landscape fabric under the beds to prevent the weeds coming through.  Some 4-way mix is good and some contains a lot of weeds.

You could also put down a layer of wet newspaper (6 to 8 inches thick sprinkled with water to make them quite wet).  Put the leaf mould and/or manure on top and still cover with black plastic.  No point adding compost tea as it would feed the weeds.

Raised bed soil depends on how deep you want to make them. It is suggested to use three-way mix as four-way would settle too much. Keep any weeds down by putting down grass clippings between the rows and planting quite close together.

Square-foot gardening soil mix is blended compost, coarse vermiculite and peat moss.

The blended compost to use is sheep manure, cow/steer manure, worm castings, mushroom compost and generic-bagged black earth.  You mix all of these together and then add the same amount of coarse vermiculite and peat moss by volume.

No weeds in this soil mix and it has all the nutrients , structure and water retention that plants need.

 

Viburnum rafinesquianum

Question:

I discovered this plant at my cottage along the road.  Could you please tell me what it is.

Answer:

It is Viburnum rafinesquianum or commonly known as Downy Arrowwood.   It is a lovely shrub which grows to approximately 5 feet and is a Zone 3 plant  which enjoys partial shade to shade.  It grows well in clay, sand or loam soils and is drought tolerant blooming in May to June with showy flowers bearing purple fruit in August/September with good autumn leaf colour.  This plant attracts birds, bees, butterflies and squirrels.  It grows in the boreal shield and mixed wood plain in woodlands, forest edges and riparian areas.

Question:

How would I winterize or mulch tender perennials in a Zone 3 garden.

Answer:

Here is a “How To” video on winterizing tender perennials.

Question:

I would like to winterize or mulch my tender roses for the winter.  How would I do so?

Answer:

This is a “How To” video to show you some methods to winterize your tender roses for your Zone 3 garden.

Question:

This question is about my garlic.  I harvested my garlic over two weeks ago, because the tops were very yellow already.   I left them outside for the last couple of weeks, sometime in direct sunlight,  which I now know is not good.   However, now I want to put them into storage but I realize that many of the stems are still quite green inside.  What should I do?

Answer:

There are two types of garlic, soft neck and hard neck.  The hard neck has stiff stems and they can be left on, just remove the loose leaves and any soil.  The garlic can be stored in a dry, dark place, laying down loosely spaced, and eventually the hard stem will twist off.  This type of garlic has a much better shelf life.

If it is the soft neck garlic which has the stems that fall over like onions, any loose leaves and soil should be removed and you could try braiding a number of cloves together and hanging the braid or just attach the stems/leaves to a string and hang them in an airy dry place until the stems dry up.  The cloves can then be removed and stored.  Terra cotta garlic keepers are very good for storing some cloves right on the kitchen counter so that they are handy for cooking.

Question:

How would I prune my tomato plants so my fruit will have a better chance to have a better yield and ripeness?

Answer:

This “How To” video will show you how to prune your tomato plants which will help give you the results you require.

Question:

I was looking for a place to buy different succulents in big quantity in Winnipeg and area.  I was also wondering if there are any kind of workshops on how to care for succulents and maybe do arrangements with succulents.  Can you please reply if you have any ideas for me.

Answer:

Thank you for your excellent questions.  This is a topic that is very dear to me as I grow numerous succulents tin containers and have done so for many years.

The succulents I grow are not hardy for our Zone 3 climate and hence I winter them over indoors.  You did not mention which kind of succulents you were interested in growing….hardy or non-hrdy.  If you are wanting to grow the hardy varieties these are very easy to find and most of our big nurseries here in Winnipeg (ie. Shelmerdine’s, Jensen’s, La Coste, St. Mary’s and Schriemer’s) would have them.  Although at this time of year, late August, their varieties may be limited.  Spring is the best time to buy for selection and successful growing throughout our summer season.  Spring is also the best time to purchase non-hardy varieties and some of our city nurseries do have but only limited amounts and selections.  The best selection that one can ever hope to find in our area is at Our Farm greenhouses which is close to Portage la Prairie.  It is more that well worth the drive with over 200 varieties.

For the care of succulents there is a video on our website www.mgmanitoba.com   which show you how to prepare non-hardy succulents for wintering over.  For arrangements and other care of succulents, there are workshops/demonstrations at garden clubs and at Gardening Saturday which takes place in the spring.  Watch our website for the 2014 date.  You could watch for such classes/workshops on our website in the Garden Club News area.  The garden club’s new schedules will be posted in the new year.

Question:

Can Mayer bees be kept in Manitoba?

Answer:

The bees you are referring to are Maya or Mayan bees.  These bees live in tropical countries, are stingless and produce only small amounts of honey,  less than a half cup per hive.  This is why their honey is considered so valuable by the Aztec/Maya people in Mexico.  These species of bees in tropical countries are of some interest to the Indigenous people of those countries.

Question:

I bought 16 iris rhizomes and planted them last summer.  This spring they looked like they came through the winter fine but they developed a rot and more than half of them died.  I’m getting some more this year and would like some advice as to how to prevent rot.

 Answer:

Iris rot can be caused by a variety of reasons and there is generally no quick fix for it.  It is caused by a bacteria (Erwinia
carotovora) that affects a wide variety of horticultural and agricultural crops.  The iris rhizome becomes susceptible usually due to an injury to the rhizome whether caused by cultivation, bugs or anything that may have damaged the rhizome and allows the bacteria to enter.

Basically, good garden hygiene can reduce the chance of bacterial soft rot.  If you have experienced the problem before, remove the affected soil and replace it with fresh soil before planting iris in that spot again.  The bacteria is in the soil and using the same dirt is like inviting it in.  Do not use mulch on top of the rhizomes.  Around the plant is fine but not on top.

Plant your rhizomes in sunny areas with good drainage.  Make sure the plants are not overcrowded since the bacteria are susceptible to drying and sunlight.  Ensure the rhizomes are not planted too deeply, just at or just below the soil surface is ideal.  Make sure the base of the fans have not sunk in the soil.  Check your plants in the spring; the freezing and thawing may have pushed dirt up around the fans – if so, just pull it away from the leaves.  If the rhizome itself has heaved, gently reset it in the ground.  I use a small rock appropriate to the size of the rhizome to anchor it in place until the roots have once again anchored it in the ground.  You can then remove the rock.

The use of fresh manure or excess nitrogen coupled with poor drainage has been shown to contribute to soft rot development.  It has also been determined that the application of superphosphate fertilizers increased the incidence and virulence of the bacteria.  It is best to use composted manure and/or gentler slow feeding fertilizers like Osmocote on your irises.

If your drainage is poor, raise your beds, or at least plant your irises on elevated hills and add one-third sharp sand to your soil.

When you remove spent bloom stalks from your plants, cut them at an angle close to the ground, don’t break them off at ground level.  If they don’t break perfectly you risk creating wounds the bacteria can use to enter the rhizome.  Use scissors for removal of diseased or injured leaves; do not tear them near the soil.  Lastly, remove and dispose of your dead iris leaves and plant debris in the fall and spring to reduce pest and disease populations and improve air circulation around the rhizomes.  Do not put iris debris in the compost.

Question:

I would like to prune my lilac shrub’s dead flower heads so that it will bloom well next year.  What is the correct method?

Answer:

Here is a How To video showing the correct method for pruning your lilacs.

Question:

My tomato plants got frost. The stems still seem strong. They have lost a lot of branches, mostly lower ones.  There were some small tomatoes and they have continued getting bigger.  Will I get any amount of yield or should I pull them up and get new ones?

Answer:

Thank you for this question and concern that you have with your tomatoes.  If they still have quite a few leaves and with the strong stem, I would not pull them out.  You say that the fruits are getting bigger and this means the plant is definitely growing and feeding it in its entirety.  If you have not fed your plants I would recommend that you do so.  Feed them with a specific fertilizer for tomatoes.  The box will say ‘Tomato Fertilizer’.  Such a fertilizer has the needed major and micro nutrients that tomato plants require.  This food will aid the plant in relieving any stress that it has from its loss of leaves from the frost.

 

Question:

I was inspecting my gooseberry bush and noticed that a number of berries looked like the attached picture.  It looks like end rot on tomatoes.  If you are able to help, give advice or hints, please let me know. The bush has produced many berries in the past 3 years and I would love to keep it happy.

Answer:

This could be an insect problem (currant fruit fly).  There is an occasional problem with these “maggots” in the fruit and the fruit gets these dark spots.   The fruit should be checked inside especially the ones that are beginning to have this type of dark spot.   It is important to clean up fallen fruit and leaves and throw them into the trash, not composting them.  Your crop would require careful picking as the worms are already in the berries.
Or you could take a sample berry to the Manitoba Agriculture, Food & Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) crop diagnostic lab to identify your problem.  It is located at Rm. 204-545 University Crescent in the MAFRI Ag Services Complex (southwest corner of the University of Manitoba).

gooseberry

Question:

I am a Master Gardener in Training, having completed all my courses.  All that is left is for me to complete the 40 hours and write the final exam.  I would like to become a member of your organization.  Am I correct in understanding that becoming a member of the organization, would help me find the opportunities for volunteering that I need?

The information indicates that volunteer opportunities are posted under ‘Member Login’.  Is this correct?  Finding volunteer opportunities seems to be the biggest challenge.  Any help in that area would be appreciated.

I am also unable to download the Release of Information Form that I need to send to you.  Do you need this along with my membership payment?

Answer:

Yes, there are many volunteer opportunities posted on www.mgmanitoba.com under the Member Login area.  Belonging to the association aids you in volunteering not only through these postings but also in talking to members, sharing ideas and receiving our newsletter.  As a member and once you have your designation and to keep it, you will need to send your yearly Green Sheet of 20 volunteer hours into the MMGA.

The only thing I can tell you about downloading the Release Form is to try again.  Click once on the download Release Form and then when the window opens, click once on Open.  It may take a few seconds to open but then you can fill it out, print it and send it along with your Membership fees to:  MMGA – Membership,    51 Greene Ave., Wpg., MB   R2K 0L2

Question:

I have two oaks side by side in my backyard and my patio underneath.  However, the beard droppings are extra plentiful this year.  I can sweep my patio but some are in my garden.  Will they plant seeds? Or will they just compost?  And, if so should I rake them up as much as possible?

Answer:

These are the male parts of the oak tree called catkins.  They hold the pollen to fertilize the female flowers growing elsewhere on the oak tree.  They can be composted without any concern.  I leave mine in all my flower/shrub beds to compost naturally and if you compost in a bin you can add your patio sweepings to it.

Question:

What is a good method of planting my tomato plants into the garden?

Answer:

Planting your tomatoes vertically into the garden works very well and is featured in this video.


Question: 

How do I transplant my seedling tomatoes into larger containers in preparation for their final garden planting.

Answer:

This is a video showing you what and how to transplant your seedling tomatoes.

 

Question:

I have a Morden rose bush that has been a challenge.  Last summer it grew very tall, 4 to 5 feet, but did not produce a single bud.  Are you able to tell what type of food is best?  I have been using all purpose Miracle Gro.  Also, should I cut the bush down to just above ground level each spring, or should I leave it full grown and only prune dead branches?

I make compost tea – should I limit how much I add to my annual/perennial garden?  Should I pour it at the base of each plant or just spread it around the garden?

Answer:

The first question in regard to your rose bush to be addressed is if it is receiving sufficient light.  Roses do require 6 hours of full sunshine.  Another factor for your having no blooms is that too much nitrogen is being applied promoting lots of green growth.  It is always recommended to use fertilizer specifically formulated for roses.  If you like to use the Miracle Gro product, they do have a specific one as mentioned that has a high middle number, phosphorus which promotes bloom.  These are the numbers to look for, 18-24-16.  Also included in the product are specific micronutrients required for roses.  Rose fertilizer should be applied every 4 weeks beginning in early spring and ending at the end of July.

For the rose bush pruning:  only the dead branches should be pruned down to just above ground level.   If there are very long whip like branches in the autumn they should be pruned in half so that they would not be prone to being broken in the winter winds.

Compost Tea:  One would use compost tea the same way any liquid fertilizer would be used in the yard/garden.  Absorption through the foliage is the best way for the plant to receive this type of fertilizer.  Compost tea can be used regularly throughout the growing season from seedling through to die off.  Vegetables, perennials, annuals and perennial vegetables and fruits (asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries) can be fertilized every week without harm.  They will thrive on this treatment.  Compost tea may also be used as a liquid fertilizer for the lawn.   The ‘tea’ should be diluted to be a weak amber colour and be used within 6 hours of it being made.  The compost that was used to make it should go back onto the compost pile.

 

Question:

I live in Manitoba and would like to know how to winter over my non-hardy succulents that are in containers.

Answer:

Here is a video describing what to do with your succulents.

 

QUESTION:

I’m new to gardening.  I just planted my first ever vegetable plants this year.  I live in an apartment, so I planted most of my plants in my parent’s backyard, but I did pot one small cherry tomato plant to grow on my porch/balcony.

My porch/balcony acts like a greenhouse and up until now, I thought the plant had been doing very well.   It is green and bushy (but not TOO bushy), and had many flowers blooming.   It even has two small tomatoes.   However, the rest of the blossoms are withering and dropping without setting any fruit.   I googled this and realized it is “blossom drop” and I suspect the cause in my case is lack of pollination. There are no insects in my porch, rarely any wind and I haven’t been shaking them or doing anything to assist pollination. As a new gardener, I did not realize this was necessary especially when the plant looked so healthy otherwise.

 So now that I know this is what is happening, how do I fix it?   Will new flowers bloom again after the blossoms drop off?   Do I take the withered blossoms off myself?   Just the blossoms, or do I have to trim them off at the stem?   And what is the best way to help them pollinate?   A friend of mine suggested poking the flowers gently with a Q-Tip, which I would have to try with future flowers as the current flowers are already withered.

ANSWER:
The growing conditions that you describe could be part of the cause for the “blossom drop”.  It sounds like your porch/balcony is very protected and with the hot humid weather recently could have become too hot for the tomato plant.  If there were a lot of blossoms as well as lots of foliage, the plant would have gone into survival mode and dropped its blossoms.  If the plant is quite bushy, you should trim off some of the foliage especially any growth that is growing from the joint between two main branches as well as some of the lowest branches.  Also remove the withered blossoms and the small stem if all the attached blossoms are withered.  Leave the stem if some look like they are forming fruit.  Make sure that you water well and deeply, until water runs out the bottom of your pot.  Is your container big enough?  Have you provided any fertilizer that is specifically for tomatoes (low first number and higher third number)?  Tomatoes are big feeders especially when grown in containers and require fertilizer a few times during the period when the fruit is forming.   Once you have done this, the plant should produce some new growth and new blossoms.  If the weather continues to be very hot, try to provide some screening or air circulation so that the porch does not become extremely hot.  You should not have to resort to Q-tips, but gently shaking or even turning and moving the pot could provide enough movement to get the pollen moving.  If this plant still does not provide much fruit, you may consider planting a different variety next summer that is specifically suited to grow as a container plant.

 

QUESTION:

Last week, I attended an introductory talk on vegetable gardening given by Jeanette Adams and put on by Dig In Manitoba and Food Matters Manitoba.  She mentioned bone and blood meal.  Is this a product that is commonly carried at most gardening centres?  Or is there somewhere specific I need to go to purchase this?  Is there a gardening centre that you recommend for soil, composts and fertilizers?

ANSWER:

Bone and blood meal is available as a combined product in some of the garden centres or it is often sold separately.  Blood Meal, which is high in nitrogen and also suggested  as a method of keeping rabbits away from plants,  is beccoming more diffiuclt to find by itself.  Bone Meal, which is high in phosphorous and used to boost root development, can be found at most big box garden centres as well as the bigger greenhouse nurseries.  Soil, fertilizers and composts or manures are available in bags from most of the hardware store garden centres and greenhouse nurseries too.  The nurseries/greenhouses are more likely to carry the organic products such as the seaweed, fish or worm castings fertilizers.  Call or check their websites for their product list.  The MMGA does not promote or recommend any specific supplier of such products.

QUESTION:

I have noticed that some of my plants have turned yellow and don’t seem to be growing well, but are not dying.  What is the problem?

ANSWER:

Yellow leaves are a sign of a nutrient deficiency which is a result of the plant not being able to draw nitrogen from the soil.  It is often caused by too much moisture.  There are a number of ways to remedy this problem.  The first is to loosen the soil around the plant to reduce any excess moisture.  Some granular fertilizer with a fairly high nitrogen level can then be added.   Adding some acidic organic matter such as peat moss or garden sulfur  (follow recommended amounts) will lower the pH level in clay soils and make nutrients more readily available to the plants.  If the problem persists, you can add chelated iron to the soil.  Follow the directions as to the amount, and apply the solution to the soil only and not on the foliage as it occasionally damages plant leaves  .Be careful when mixing the solution as it can stain pavement stones and concrete.

QUESTION:

I have noticed evidence of chewing on some of my flowers/plants.  It is not rabbits or slugs.  What could be causing these irregular holes?

ANSWER:

This damage could be caused by the type of cutworm.  There are several species of cutworms on the prairies.  We are most familiar by the ones that cut off our bedding plants or young seedlings at ground level.  These do most of their damage in May or early June.  The climbing cutworm comes later and climbs up the plant at night and feeds on the foliage.  Along with chewed leaves being a sign of their presence, black grains of excrement are often found on the plant’s leaves.  All cutworms can be found just under the soil near the damaged plants.  They are usually dull grey and curl up into a ‘C’ when disturbed.  You may occasionally find the climbing ones on the foliage.  The quickest way to eradicate them is to find them and destroy them.  Other methods include putting barriers into the ground around newly planted specimens or spreading a coarse material such as crushed eggshells or diatomaceous earth around susceptible plants.  Become familiar with the pupae and adult stages of the cutworm so that you can control them in those stages.  Also use preventative methods such as digging up the soil in fall and/or spring to expose the pupae or larva.

 

Climbing cutwormUncurled climbing cutworm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUESTION:

When can I start seeding my vegetables and flowers outside? With this warm weather, I am eager to start planting.

Answer:

Most seeds need warm soil temperature in order to germinate. In spite of the warm temperatures that we have experienced, the soil is still too cold and also there is still a good chance of cold snaps. It is best to wait until at least late April or early May before planting seeds in ground plots. If you have raised beds or a sheltered sunny spot you could start by late April, but be prepared to cover if temperatures or cold winds should occur. Begin by planting cool weather crops such radishes, spinach. lettuce, carrots, peas and pansies. For more tender plants and bedding plants, it is best to wait until mid May.

 

QUESTION:

I have had trouble getting bedding plants or container plants to transplant successfully. What is the best way to plant these plants without losing some of them?

Answer:

When buying bedding or individual starter plants, make sure that they are healthy to start. Look for strong stems, no yellow or black spotted leaves and the soil should be moist, but not soggy. Once you get the plants home, they should be hardened off by gradually leaving them outside, first in sheltered shade and then moving them into the environment where you intend to plant them. If the plants have already been exposed to outdoor conditions this is less necessary. If possible choose a cloudy, calm day to do your transplanting. Be sure to prepare the soil where you intend to plant so you have a loose loam soil. Water your plants a few hours before you intend to plant, then remove from their containers and check the roots. Quite often container grown plants are root bound so you need to loosen or “tease” the roots. Plant in the prepared spot, but do not bury deeper than where the ground level was on the stem in its pot. Press the soil firmly enough so that there is good contact, but not packed and water thoroughly. You could add a transplanting fertilizer (higher middle number) to your water. If you are planting flowering plants that are already blooming, pinch off the flowers. This is important even if it sounds cruel. You want the plant to put its efforts into settling into its new home and not try to maintain its flowers. Be sure to check on your transplants daily to make sure the soil is moist and that there hasn’t been any damage from wind, insects or other creatures. After a week or two they should be established and starting to show signs of new growth. Water, fertilize and enjoy.

 

QUESTION:

I have recently moved into a new home in Winnipeg and would like to start a vegetable garden.   The area I would like to use is on the east side of the house.  It is an area 15 feet wide and receives 3 to 4 hours of sun per day.   Can I grow a successful vegetable garden in this area?   Also, is this a good area for rhubarb?

Answer:

To grow garden vegetables successfully they need to have between 6 and 8 hours of sunshine per day.   The only vegetables that could do well are the lettuces as they do like cool soil for germination and some shade when they are growing and mature.   Some successful lettuce crops in part shade are mesclun mixes, Arugula and the new ‘kid on the block’, Mậche.   Mậche is excellent as it is still planted in the spring but matures in mid to late August with a long lasting harvest even after removing from the garden and keeping in one’s refrigerator.  Multiplier onions will grow successfully in this area too.  One could try peas as they too like a cool soil germination and cooler temperatures although they would be less productive as they still need good sun for flowering.

This area would not be a good one for rhubarb as this plant requires a minimum of 6 hours of sun for a good product.  You could contemplate planting your rhubarb in a sunny mixed planting bed.  It could be the large- leaved exclamation mark in your yard.   Mixed plantings of vegetables and ornamentals have been popular for centuries in Europe.  One has to only look at the pộtagers of Chậteau de Villandry in France.  If other parts of your yard have the required amount of sunshine, consider using this method.

QUESTION:

I have been told that I need to harden off” my plants.  What does this mean?

Answer:

“Hardening off” is the term used to describe the process of preparing bedding plants that have been grown indoors or in a greenhouse for outdoor conditions.  Bedding plants grown indoors have been growing in comfortable conditions and can go into shock if planted outdoors without having a chance to get acclimatized.  This process involves at least a week of gradual exposure to outdoor conditions.  Start by putting the plants in a shaded, sheltered location for 2 to 3 hours the first day and gradually increase the number of hours and the amount of sunlight by one to two hours over the next five two seven days.  Bring them back into the house or preferable a shed or garage until they can be left outside overnight for a couple of days.  Be prepared to bring them in if there is a risk of frost.  Reduce water and don’t fertilize during this “hardening off” period.  Once the plants have toughened up and the risk of frost is past, they can be planted out.  Choose a calm, partly cloudy day if possible, make sure to water the plants and the planting hole and move the plants into their summer spot.  You can water them in using a transplanting fertilizer solution to give them a good start.