Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sharing a Peaceful Moment...Merry Christmas

Friday, December 7, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC

Now here's one garden that shines during the winter! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dr. Andy Davis' Irrigation System for the Triangle Garden

The Powell River Garden Club's Treasurer was pleased to present a cheque for $303.78 to The Townsite Heritage Society.  The cheque  represented donations made by our members towards Dr. Andy Davis’ fundraising effort to have an irrigation system installed at the Triangle Gardens.

For further reading, please click here.

What a terrific idea...

...a leaf exchange and community chipping!

Linda Gilkeson's November 22nd Newsletter advised Salt Spring Island gardeners of a free leaf exchange happening on Saturday, November 24th at Rainbow Road Park from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.   As well, participants are welcome to bring tree prunings and branches suitable for chipping ($5 suggested donation for a pickup load to cover the cost of chipping). 

Why didn't we think of that!

Fallen leaves scattered around
Cenotaph in Powell River's Townsite

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Do You Have Gardening Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Just wanted to share a fun video from Donna, of Donna's Garden on Youtube.
Recognize anyone you know?!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Winter Lecture Series - Using plants for the ecological restoration of contaminated sites


Presented by: Vancouver Island University, Powell River Campus

Speaker: Dr. Valentin Schaefer, Ph.D., R.P.Bio.

Using plants for the ecological restoration of contaminated sites

Adjacent to our beautiful Powell River Willingdon Beach Park, there is a parcel of land (approximately 10 hectares) previously used as a municipal incinerator site. This land was given to our community for park purposes by the province in 1966; but in 1972 a garbage incinerator was built on the site. This incinerator (pit burner) handled household garbage and commercial waste from the region and, for several years, it also accepted large quantities of paper from the local mill. It operated until the early 90s when the Ministry of Environment ordered it to be shut down due to failure to meet its permit requirements.

Because this site is known to be contaminated with heavy metals, the local Municipality and/or Regional District is obliged to submit a clean-up and remediation plan to the B.C. Ministry of Environment by the end of 2013. A detailed assessment to identify all sources and types of contamination will be part of that plan.

Powell River Botanic Garden Society has recently been formed, and the Society's objective is to have this parcel of land identified as a botanic garden as its future intended use. Most importantly, they see the development of the garden as an opportunity to research how plants may be used to remove contaminants, potentially at considerably less cost than other remediation methods (e.g., transporting the contaminated soils to a secure landfill) while at the same time creating an attractive public space. If successful, Powell River Botanic Garden Society believes this approach would gain the attention of many other public and private interests faced with having to clean up contaminated properties.

Dr. Valentin Schaefer, Ph.D., R.P.Bio., is a biologist and ecologist by training who has developed unique expertise in the emerging field of Urban Ecology. Dr. Schaefer has been the Faculty Coordinator of the Restoration of Natural Systems Program that is offered jointly by the School of Environmental Studies and the Division of Continuing Studies at the University of Victoria, BC, since 2005. He and his graduate students undertake research projects in ecological restoration, the most recent of which is Restoring Urban Nature (RUN). They also provide policy support to the BC Ministry of the Environment and the District of Saanich. Dr. Schaefer is a leading proponent of urban ecology and urban biodiversity who has written extensively and presented internationally on these topics.

The Vancouver Island University together with the Powell River Botanic Society invite all interested parties to attend what promises to be a highly informative and important lecture.

  • Date: Mon Nov 19, 2012
  • Time: 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
  • Campus/site: Powell River
  • Building or Location: Main Campus, 100 - 7085 Nootka Street
  • Room: 134
  • Cost: $5.00
  • Contact:    Xochitl Hernandez   604-485-2878 
  • Contact:    Diana Wood   604-2860 (no calls after 9:00 pm)

The Garden Club and Mr. Des Kennedy

The Garden Club and the Kumquat Campaign, a novel by Des Kennedy

"In this warm and humorous novel, narrator Joseph Jones leads us into the world of Upshot Island, an imaginary place off the coast of British Columbia. Joseph's life takes an interesting turn when members of the local garden club decide to take part in the effort to save the Kumquat Sound rain forest. What starts out as a peaceful pilgrimage turns into an outrageous adventure. Along the way, readers will meet the strange characters who inhabit Upshot Island, such as Elvira Stone who believes her missing husband was abducted by a UFO and Waddy Watts, a cantankerous old-timer who predicts the next rainfall by the sound of the frogs. Award-winning garden writer Des Kennedy's descriptions of coastal plants create a perfect natural environment for the story. His intriguing narrative delves into realms of mystery, death, and love.
...The Garden Club is a must-have for all lovers of the outdoors."**
**Book description found at 49th Shelf

A copy of The Garden Club, short-listed for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, is available for loan from our wonderful Powell River Public Library

Other Des Kennedy titles available for loan from the library are: 
  • The Way of a Gardener:  A Life's Journey
  • Climbing Patrick's Mountain
  • An Ecology of Enchantment:  A Year in the Life of a Garden
  • Living Things We Love to Hate
  • The Passionate Gardener
Des Kennedy

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jabuticaba...Fascinating Tree, Wouldn't You Agree?

Jabuticaba Tree
Native to South America
  • The Jabuticaba Tree, otherwise known as the Brazilian Grape Tree, is native to South America, notably Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil   
  • The purple fruit can be plucked and eaten straight from the tree
  • The Jabuticaba tree prefers moist and slightly acid soils but will even grow well in alkaline soil
  • The flowers, found along the trunk and branches appear on the tree twice a year.  The habit of flowers doing this makes them cauliflorous. Instead of growing new shoots, these plants flower direct from the woody trunk or stem.
  • The tree has evolved in this manner so that animals that cannot climb very high can reach it, eat it and then expel the seeds away from the parent tree to further propagate the species.
  • If the tree is well irrigated it will flower and fruit all the year round. The fruit itself is about four centimeters in diameter and has up to four large seeds.    
  • As well as being used as food, the skins can be dried out and used to treat asthma and diarrhea.
  • If your tonsils are swollen you can also use it to alleviate the inflammation. It is also hoped that the tree will be useful in the fight against cancer, as several anti-cancer compounds have been found in the fruit
  • It is a popular ingredient in jellies, can be juiced to make a refreshing summer drink, and it can be fermented and made into wine and strong liquor. It is interesting to note that after three days off the tree, fermentation begins

Jabuticaba Tree in flower
Ripe fruit on Jabuticaba Tree

Article shared by PRGC member, Lexie 

Permacultu​re Powell River Informatio​n Night

What's all the buzz about permaculture in Powell River these days? Join us for a lively information session introducing you to the powerful possibilities of permaculture for our region. Find out more about the second year of our community-based permaculture design certificate program (PDC) starting in January 2013 and the public permaculture garden now underway in Townsite. Film, music, conversation and just plain fun!

Wednesday, November 21 7:30 -8:30 pm
Townsite Anglican Church, 6310 Sycamore Street
Admission by donation (all proceeds go to our program scholarship fund)

For more information: 
contact Erin Innes (604-483-4050
or Ron Berezan (604-223-4800
or visit 

Hope to see you there!

Submitted by Ron Berezan and Erin Innes

Monday, November 12, 2012

PRGC Calendar

A Little Gem about 'The Life History of the Onion'

The Life History of The Onion (1943) from British Council Film on Vimeo.

Friday, November 9, 2012

News from The Bulletin November/December 2012

As members of the BC Council of Garden Clubs (BCCGC) the Powell River Garden Club receives The Bulletin bi-monthly throughout the year. The Bulletin contains news and information from the Council as well as informative and interesting articles submitted by Club members.

Below, please find many of the articles published in The Bulletin, November/December 2012. A printed copy of The Bulletin is available at Club meetings.

Article #1  The Summer That Almost Wasn't...Keith Harris
Article #2  Fraser Valley Orchid Show Report...Janice Jenkins
Article #3  Lithops aka Living Stones...
Article #4  Dr. Willard's Catalyst Altered Water...Chris Crapper
Article #5  Invasive Plant Species - Giant Hogweed
Article #6  Which is the Best Mulch for You? by Phil Nauta
Article #7  Mealybugs...Various Sites
Article #8  Itoh Peonies...Various Magazines and Sites
Article #9  The Dirty Dozen...Pesticide Residue in Food

Article #1  The Summer That Almost Wasn't...Keith Harris
I'm certain that we’re all familiar with the headlines relating to "Global Warming." Yet, when referenced to our weather during the early months of this year, one can only wonder what meaning one gets from that statement ... Global Warming, indeed!

At the start of this year, tending to my garden began as it had during each of my 45 plus years of working my garden in Burnaby. In mid-January I emptied my compost bin, to spread the 4 cubic yards of nature's black gold, generated during the previous season, across the 1,000 square feet of my vegetable bed, to allow natural forces to work the nutrients into the soil. In early March I laid out my 8-foot long cedar planks onto the soil in a grid pattern, to establish the paths on which I walk among my vegetables during the season. I use a basic increment of 4-ft by 8-ft for most of my beds, with multiples of this dimension for vegetables requiring additional space.

In late March I pull the soil up away from the plank-paths, to form a ‘raised bed’ between the wooded paths between them. This allows the soil to warm up quickly and to drain easily. In March I also visit my local garden store to buy the vegetable seeds that I plan to plant for the year.

During past years, I’ve put my vegetable seeds into the ground in late April / early May, as the occasion presents itself. I followed this practice again this year. Who can forget our experience this year, a decidedly wetter and cooler than normal April and May. During the next ‘couple of weeks’, with nothing showing above the ground I reseeded my vegetables in mid-May, and again in June. It was a truly frustrating experience.

Starting in May of each year, the professional gardener who services our neighbourhood gardens begins delivering to my garden the grass clippings from local properties, along with pruned plant material, as fodder for my compost bins. In anticipation of the hot sun that is a ‘normal’ expectation in June, I began to mulch my beds with the fresh grass clippings, although my seedlings were not yet all showing their heads above ground.

My perseverance paid off in July, when the sun finally arrived. In the short space of about 10 days we had moved from winter through spring and into the heat of summer. The mulch I placed between the rows of vegetables paid off. I found I needed to water my vegetables no more than at ten-day intervals.

My harvest for this season has been poor, certainly less yield than harvested in regular years, and nowhere near the harvest of a vintage year.  However, my regular winter crop vegetables, the beets, leeks, parsnips, kohlrabi and Swiss chard have all flourished in the long hours of sunlight we’ve enjoyed since July, and I expect to continue to have a good yield through the winter months.

The BC Weather reports state that late July through to September have been the driest months since weather records were first compiled in the late 1800’s. On review, perhaps there is some truth to ‘Global Warming.’ Next year will be better …?

Article #2  Fraser Valley Orchid Show Report...Janice Jenkins
Fraser Valley Orchid Society’s Annual Show and Sale were held on October 20 and 21, 2012 at the George Preston Recreation Centre. This was their third annual orchid floral arts presentation. The theme this year was: "At Home With Orchids".
The classes were:

Family Buffet - Design suitable for the buffet table
Rhapsody in Blue - Design suitable for the dinner table
Engagement Party - Abstract design suitable for the table
Romantic Dinner - Design of your choice

The published information on the impact of CAW on plant health, growth and yield is available in the following sources:

The purpose for the show theme was to present to the public a number of ways orchids can be used in the home.  In addition to having lovely orchid plants to grace their homes, the floral art section was created to encourage the public to use orchid flowers in floral designs.

On Saturday afternoon Radina Jevdevic, who also organized the floral arts section of the show, gave a demonstration on how to design a centerpiece and also a corsage.

The show preview, plant sale and dinner were held on Friday evening for members and exhibitors.

We wish to thank the presiding floral art judge, Marilyn O’Neill, who encouragingly gave many constructive tips to exhibitors on how to improve their designs.

Cindy Tataryn was the winner of Best in Show award for her arrangement in the "Engagement Party" class.

See you at the 2013 Fraser Valley Orchid Society Show.

Article #3  Lithops aka Living Stones...
Lithops aka Living Stones are succulent plants from the ice plant family, Aizoaceae. These are native to the hot, dry areas of southern Africa. Nearly a thousand individual populations are documented, each covering just a small area of dry grassland, veld, or bare rocky ground. Different Lithops species are preferentially found in particular environments, usually restricted to a particular type of rock. Lithops have not naturalized outside this region.

Individual lithops plants consist of one or more pairs of bulbous, almost fused leaves opposite to each other. The slit between the leaves contains the meristem and produces flowers and new leaves. During winter a new leaf pair grows inside the existing fused leaf pair. In spring the old leaf pair parts to reveal the new leaves, then the old leaves will dry up. Lithops leaves may shrink and disappear below ground level during drought. In habitat they almost never have more than one leaf pair per head as the environment is just too arid to support this.

In their third year of growth, yellow or white flowers emerge from the fissure between the leaves after the new leaf pair has fully matured. This is usually in autumn but in some varieties such as L. pseudotruncatella can be before the summer equinox and in L. optica after the winter equinox. Two different plants are required for pollination and seeds take approximately 9 months to mature. Seeds are easy to germinate but the seedlings are small and vulnerable for the first few years.

Lithops are one of the greatest of the camouflage plants as the leaves are not green but are various shades of cream, grey and brown, patterned with darker windowed areas, dots and red lines. This helps to disguise the plant in their surroundings keeping it safe from animals and insects looking for a food or water source.

Lithops require pollination from a separate plant. Lithops fruit is a dry capsule that opens when it becomes wet; some seeds may be ejected by falling raindrops and the capsule recloses when it dries out.

Rainfall in habitats ranges from approximately 700mm per year to nearly zero. Temperatures are usually hot in summer and cool to cold in winter, but one species is found right at the coast with very moderate temperatures year round.

In recent years Lithops have become popular as houseplants and many specialize succulent growers maintain collections. Seeds are widely available in stores and over the web. They are easy to grow if given sufficient sun and a suitable well drained soil.

Normal treatment in temperate climates is to keep them completely dry during winter, watering only when the old leaves have dried up. Watering should continue through autumn when the flowers emerge and then stopped for winter.

Treatment for hotter climates includes summer dormancy when they should be kept mostly dry and given some water in winter. In tropical climates, Lithops can be grown primarily in winter with a long, summer dormancy. In all conditions, Lithops will be most active and need most water during autumn and each species will flower at approximately the same time.

Lithops thrive best in a coarse, well-drained substrate. Any soil that retains too much water will cause the plants to burst their skins as they over-expand. Plants grown in strong light will develop hard strongly coloured skins which are resistant to damage and rot, although persistent overwatering will still be fatal. Excessive heat will kill potted plants as they cannot cool themselves by transpiration.History:

The first scientific description of a Lithops was made by William John Burchell, explorer of South Africa, botanist and artist, although he called it Mesembryanthemum turbiniforme. In 1811 he accidentally found a specimen when he picked up a curiously shaped pebble.

In the 1950s, Desmond and Naureen Cole began to study Lithops. They eventually visited nearly all habitat populations and collected samples from approximately 400, identifying them with the Cole numbers which have been used ever since and distributing Cole numbered seed around the world. They studied and revised the genus, in 1988 publishing a definitive book (Lithops: Flowering Stones) describing the species, subspecies, and varieties which have been accepted ever since.

New species continue to be discovered steadily in remote regions of Namibia and South Africa, most recently L. coleo-rum in 1994, L. hermetica in 2000, and L. amicorum in 2006.  

Lithops optica var Rubra

Lithops terricolor ex.
Photo:  Kara Nursery
Article #4  Dr. Willard’s Catalyst Altered Water … Chris Crapper
Even if you're an avid gardener there is a very good chance you've never used or even heard of Catalyst Altered Water (CAW), even though its been used to support plant health, growth and yield since about 1975. 

What is it?

Catalyst Altered Water is a non-carbonated mineral water containing small amounts of sodium meta silicate, calcium chloride, magnesium sulfate, sulfated castor oil and powdered lignite.  It has a pH of 12.34 and is approximately 99.99% organic.  The addition of a trace amount (approximately .001%) of sodium meta silicate has prevented full organic certification in the US where CAW was invented and it formulated.   CAW attracted public interest in 1980 when the CBS program '60 Minutes' broadcast interviews with people using it in a variety of applications (e.g., drinking; spraying on burns; agriculture, etc; see . Two agricultural applications in that broadcast (squash and wheat crops) suggested CAW could improve plant growth and yield even in stressful growing conditions (e.g., drought).

How does CAW work?
Dr. John Willard, PhD, inventor of Catalyst Altered Water, claimed his product contains a colloidal particle called a micelle. He suggested the micelle’s strong negative charge attracts water molecules and rearranges their structure. Dr. Willard claimed this rearranged structure makes ‘ordinary’ water (tap water; well water; purified water) more reactive and thus more effective as a water and nutrient transport medium in plants.

How and when to use CAW
You’ve heard the expression ‘just add water’. That pretty much sums up how to use CAW. Just add 60ml (approximately 2 ounces) of CAW to your watering can or reservoir if you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse or a hydroponic garden. You can safely mix CAW with purified water, tap water, well water, distilled water, etc. It is fairly well known in the nutrition industry as a drinking water additive so don’t worry about hurting your favourite plants. It is non-toxic.

You can use CAW any time you water your plants and at any stage in plant growth. You can also use it to support seed germination as it attracts moisture. CAW is an alkaline water (pH = 12.34) that has been shown to raise the pH of any water it is mixed with by up to 2 points. That enhanced alkalinity has potential benefits as a foliar spray. Just add 60mL of CAW to one gallon of any type of water and apply that mixture as part of your normal seed germination or foliar spray routine.

How does it affect plant health, growth and yield?
Catalyst Altered Water is certainly not a magical elixir and research clearly shows that it does not always enhance plant health, growth or yield in every application. The fact this product has been around since the mid seventies however suggests it has some popularity and benefits, as people suggested in the '60 Minutes' program.  

Perhaps the most interesting experiments on CAW have been conducted in commercial greenhouses in Canada and the US where both test and control groups of plants have been used. That testing has involved over 100,000 plants including clematis, impatiens, micro and potted spathiphyllum, hydrangea, weigela florida and spiraea japonica. These tests found the following benefits:

Larger and/or greener plants
More blooms or plants blooming earlier
Sturdier stocks or more extensive root systems
Greater resilience in stressful growing environments (eg., drought).  More yield per plant, larger fruit/flowers and enhanced flavour and aroma

The published information of the impact of CAW on plant health, growth and yeild is available in the following sources: 
Acqua Vitae, Roy Jacobsen, 1992
Catalyst Altered Water, Beth Ley, 1990
"Dr Willard’s Catalyst Altered Water", article by C G Crapper, Maximum Yield, May/June 1999

Editor’s Note: Text in green was revised by the author, October 24, 2012, based on manufacturer’s info re actual organic content.

Article #5  Invasive Plant Species - Giant Hogweed
Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), also known as "Giant Cow Parsnip," is a perennial and currently distributed in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Gulf Islands, and central to southern Vancouver Island.

Giant hogweed has numerous small white flowers clusters in an umbrella-shaped head, with stout, hollow green stems covered in purple spots. Dark green leaves are coarsely toothed in 3 large segments with stiff underside hairs, and lower leaves can exceed 2.5 metres in length. Giant hogweed can grow up to 5 metres in height at maturity.

Giant hogweed is a highly competitive plant due to vigorous early-season growth, tolerance of full shade and seasonal flooding, as well as its ability to coexist with other aggressive invasive plant species. Each plant can produce up to 100,000 winged seeds (typically 50,000) that remain viable in the soil for up to 15 years. Plants generally die after flowering.

Warning: Giant hogweed stem hairs and leaves contain a clear, highly toxic sap that, when in contact with the skin, can cause burns, blisters and scarring. WorkSafe BC has issued a Toxic Plant Warning for Giant hogweed that requires work-ers to wear heavy, water-resistant gloves and water-resistant coveralls that completely covers skin while handling the plants. Eye protection is also recommended.

The Invasive Species Council of British Columbia is a registered charity working collaboratively to build cooperation and coordination of invasive species management in BC. Workshops, activities, and events educate the public and professionals about invasive species and their potential risks.

The ISCBC has grown rapidly since its inception in 2004, and is recognized across the country for its leadership in building collaboration on the challenging and growing problem of invasive species.

To report an invasive plant, or for more information, contact the Invasive Species Council of BC (ISCBC) at

Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed

Article #6  Which is the Best Mulch for You? …by Phil Nauta
There are many mulch types available for your organic garden, but which is the best mulch for you? This article explores some of the most popular types of mulch and ultimately comes to a conclusion with what you should use. What is mulch? It's really anything that we put on the soil surface to cover the ground. 

Landscaping Fabric - Not the Best Mulch
Landscaping fabric is considered part of our mulch because it is often placed on the soil under various types of mulch in order to help control weeds. The cheap stuff doesn’t work very well, but thicker fabric can work for awhile before weeds start to find their way through the cracks or just start on top of the mulch.

Unfortunately, that thick landscaping fabric can also stop water from getting down to the soil, especially on a slope where the water just slides down the fabric to the bottom. It doesn’t take long for the landscape to show signs of suffering in this case.

But the biggest problem with this fabric is that it doesn’t allow organic matter to recycle into the soil. When you put landscaping fabric on, it means your soil doesn’t get to eat anymore. This is definitely not the best mulch for organic gardening purposes. Soil needs to be consistently replenished with organic matter, so any of the mulch types we choose have to be composed of organic matter.

Soil is replenished in nature and in our gardens when leaves fall in autumn, and since many of our gardens are low in organic matter anyway, it also happens when we intentionally bring in more leaves, straw, compost and other organic matter to improve the soil.

Putting landscaping fabric in the garden stops all of this and slowly kills the fertility and structure of the soil, and everything living in it. The only potential use is on pathways, since we are compacting them anyway and not trying to increase the organic matter. But we need to look elsewhere for the best mulch.

Why Organic Matter is One of the Better Types of Mulch
When it comes to choosing a good mulch, we need to think, what is mulch for?


A continuous thick, dense layer of 2" to 4" of one of the best mulch types is one of my favourite ways to control weeds because not only does it smother most of them out, it makes the ones that do find their way through so much easier to pull, especially if you have been clever enough to regularly hit the garden (and the mulch) with some water.

Weed seeds will always be floating in, but a thick mulch will stop them.

We have other organic gardening chores to do, so eliminating most of the weeds is a good goal. It may be necessary to kill some taprooted or perennial weeds before placing the mulch on top of them. In addition, maintaining a dense, multi-layer plant cover on your soil consisting of a groundcover below and flowers, shrubs and trees above will stop most weeds from growing.

But the reason organic matter is the best mulch is that it pro-vides a huge number of benefits to your garden. In fact, it is one of the most important things you can do. If you use an appropriate kind of mulch (we'll get to what is "appropriate" soon), here are the other main benefits:

Soil Health
The best mulch types are persistently and continuously working to improve the health of the soil. They are being broken down by microbes and increasing the organic matter content of the soil.

Organic matter is an incredibly important part of the soil. It improves soil structure, and as it is broken down, its nutrients are releasing into the soil, making it one of the only types of mulch that improves fertility. It prevents compaction from us walking in the garden and erosion from the wind or gravity on steep slopes. It also moderates the soil temperature, which is good for anything (plant, animal and microbe) living there.

Organic matter is the best mulch because it is broken down into humus, which has an incredible ability to hold onto lots of water. But even before it is broken down, mulch holds a lot of water on its own and allows it to more slowly infiltrate into the soil.

It also reduces compaction (and leaching of nutrients) caused by a heavy rain, and erosion that happens when a lot of rain falls and there is runoff. Conversely, when the sun is shining, it also prevents evaporation from the soil surface.

So the best mulch actually improves the biodiversity of your entire soil ecosystem by giving all manner of critters a place to live, food to eat and water to drink. It even looks good in the organic garden if one of the right types of mulch is used.

So what is the best mulch? Well, it has to satisfy all of the conditions in the above article, so we can probably figure it out by a process of elimination. Let's start with mulches that satisfy very few of our conditions and get rid of them right away:

1. Stones or gravel provide some of the benefits in that they protect the soil from erosion and decrease evaporation, but they do not breakdown and so do not do much to improve soil health. They are not one of the best mulch types.

2. Bark mulch and wood chips are no good even though they are some of the most commonly used mulching materials in the garden. You may have seen them in bags or in bulk at the garden center, or you may have used them in your organic gardening before. They do most of the above things well, but unfortunately, they have a couple of big problems making it one of the types of mulch I never use.  Bark mulch and wood chips are not the best mulch types.
The first is that they are very high in carbon and very low in nitrogen. This means that the beneficial microbes can pull all of the available nitrogen from the surrounding area, which often ends up causing a nitrogen deficiency in your plants.
And bark in particular is very low in nutrients (so it doesn't improve soil fertility) and often high in toxins (it’s a tree’s first line of defence against pests), so it causes toxicity problems in the soil. It even contains oils that repel water, rather than more appropriate mulch materials that will hold onto water.

3. Straw and Hay are not the most aesthetically pleasing, but they are fairly good types of mulch. They are used in organic gardening, but the main issue for most people will be that it is not always easy to find and it breaks down so quickly that it has to be applied multiple times a year.

You may not want to use straw or hay from ryegrass as it has toxins in it, and definitely not from grass that has been sprayed with pesticides such as Roundup, which is common in many countries. The difference between straw and hay is that hay has seeds, so it will often actually produce weeds.

4. Grass clippings are not the best mulch to use in organic gardening because they get so tightly packed together that they inhibit air circulation. Besides, they are far too important for the soil of your lawn to bring into the garden. They do not contribute to thatch or any other lawn problems, but they pro-vide many benefits so they must be left there.

5. We're getting closer to my favourite of all mulch types, but not yet. With all this talk about organic matter, why not just use compost? A little bit of thought tells us why. It does a lot of things right, but fails to stop the weeds! The same goes with manure, and manure needs to be composted before applied to soil anyway. We should use compost and manure, but they are not really the best mulch. I cover compost in detail in the Smiling Gardener Academy along with cover crops because they are both excellent ways to increase the organic matter content of the soil, but here, we're looking for the best mulch.

The Best Mulch Types

What is mulch, I mean the best mulch - what is it? It's organic matter and it's provided by nature. In a well-designed organic garden, this is one of the only types of mulch that magically appears in our beds in autumn, protecting the soil over winter, and breaking down throughout the following spring and summer until a new batch magically appears in autumn.

Number 1
Of all the mulch types, by far the best for organic gardening is: leaves! They do absolutely everything right. That's why when we're designing our gardens we want to make sure to use plants that make a lot of leaves - not just evergreens - and we want to design the beds to catch all of these leaves.

Leaves are by far the best mulch type
Those that fall on the lawn and non-garden surfaces can be raked into the gardens or mulched right on the lawn.

If you don't have enough leaves, your neighbours will usually be happy to give you theirs, since they would otherwise have to rake them up and dispose of them. In many cities, you can rake your leaves to the curb and a big truck will come by to pick them up. But why would you want to give the best mulch ever away unless you have too many?

Ironically, some organic gardeners do this and then buy the leaves back as leaf mould in the spring. Leaf mould is just leaves that have been slightly decomposed. Leaf mould is one of the best mulch types, too, but in most cases, the gardener would have done much better to save the money and keep the leaves in the garden over winter where they can protect the soil.

If you have a thick enough layer of leaves in your garden (2" to 4" is nice), many weeds will be smothered. You will still get some weeds, but they will be so easy to pull that it won't matter. You can just drop them back on top of the leaves to become part of the best mulch ever.
Some people think leaves are not one of the most attractive types of mulch for the garden, but is a forest floor unattractive? Or is the forest floor covered in 2 inches of bark? We’ve been conditioned to think that bark mulch or bare soil is the most aesthetically pleasing, but if you covered your organic garden in a rainbow of autumn leaves, I think you’ll see it differently, especially now that you know all the benefits they provide. When we remove the leaves, we are breaking nature's cycle and creating more work for ourselves.

So leaves are the number one best mulch.

Number 2
There is one other organic gardening material that doesn't take the place of leaves as the ultimate of all the types of mulch, but it is beneficial to have as well. It's called a living mulch, i.e. plants. A living mulch is a dense plant cover on the soil, especially low growing "cover" crops.

These can be annual crops (also known as green manures) that we plant in our vegetable gardens to protect the soil during certain times of year and to provide organic matter to the soil, or perennial plants (also known as groundcovers) that live permanently in our ornamental gardens underneath our flowers, shrubs and trees.

A good goal is to make sure all of your soil is consistently covered with plants, and cover crops help achieve this goal. Plants send out hormones in the vicinity of their roots that tell weed seeds not to grow.

As long as your organic garden is dense with plants and leaves (the best mulch ever), and your lawn is dense with healthy grass, those weed seeds will mostly stay dormant and you have a whole list of other benefits to which you can look forward.

Mulching All Your Leaves - There Are Exceptions
It is possible to have too many leaves if you have a lot of big trees or if your beds are already covered in groundcovers and you don't want to totally smother them. In that case, you may just have to compost them or give some away, to a friend or to the city, although I have mulched 12 inches of leaves into some lawns with great success.

Actually, when I was a kid, I recall my dad would pile a bunch of leaves in the back of the pickup truck (we lived in the country), head down the street to where there were no houses, drop the tailgate, and hit the gas. It was so much fun watching the leaves get caught by the wind and cover the sky like a thousand red and yellow butterflies. In hindsight, I have no idea why we did this, but it was fun at the time.

I know someone reading this is wondering about oak leaves. I've never had a problem with the fact that oak leaves don't break down quickly. I've always enjoyed that about them because it just means my mulch stays around longer. And nope, they don't acidify the soil. But again, if you have too many, don't force it.  

Editor’s Note: Phil Nauta is an organic gardener on the East Coast. His website is extremely informative. Should you wish to avail yourself of this incredible resource, here is the link.  

Article #7 Mealybugs...Various Sites
Mealybugs are soft bodied insects in the family Pseudococcidae, They have a white powdery substance over their bodies and white, waxy filaments projecting from the rear of their bodies. They are unarmored but have a rubbery outer coating that cannot be detached. They are considered pests as they feed on plant juices of greenhouse plants, house plants and subtropical trees and also acts as a vector for several plant diseases.

Mealybugs sexes have distinct morphological differences. Females are nymphal, exhibit reduced morphology, and are wingless, though unlike many female scale insects, they often retain legs and can move. The females do not change completely and are likely to exhibit nymphal characteristics. Males are winged and do change completely during their lives. Since mealybugs are hemimetabolous insects, they do not undergo complete metamorphosis in the true sense of the word, i.e. there are no clear larval, pupal and adult stages, and the wings do not develop internally. However, male mealybugs do exhibit a radical change during their life cycle, changing from wingless, ovoid nymphs to "wasp-like" flying adults. 

Mealybug females feed on plant sap, normally in roots or other crevices. They attach themselves to the plant and secrete a powdery wax layer used for protec-tion while they suck the plant juices. The males on the other hand, are short-lived as they do not feed at all as adults and only live to fertilize the females.  

Most species lay batches of eggs in masses of waxy strands, called ovisacs. However, there are some mealybug females that are ovoviviparous (giving live birth to first instar nymphs) and/or parthenogenic. The first instar nymphs are often called crawlers, but the second instar nymphs are also motile. In bisexual species of mealybugs, male nymphs undergo an extra instar that is called the "pupa" which has external wing pads and is a non-feeding sessile stage. These pupae give rise to winged males, but these males are unique in that they only have one pair of wings. The hind pair of wings have been lost. If the mealybug is a female, the second instar simply molts into another nymph-like form but this stage is sexually mature.

The long-tailed mealybug is slightly different in that females give birth to living young. The complete life cycle can take six weeks to two months depending on the species and the environmental conditions. Breeding and development, however, is year-round in the greenhouse.

The most serious pests are mealybugs that feed on citrus. Mealybugs also infest some species of carnivorous plant such as Sarracenia (pitcher plants), in such cases it is difficult to eradicate them without repeated applications of insecticide such as diazinon. Small infestations may not inflict significant damage. In larger amounts though, they can induce leaf drop. Mealybugs can be controlled using the biocontrol agent Verticillium lecanii

Article #8   Itoh Peonies...Various Magazines and Sites
'Itoh' peonies have a long and remarkable story.  Dr. Toichi Itoh, an extremely determined and dedicated man, spent twenty years trying to accomplish what others said couldn’t be done, he managed to make an intersectional cross between tree peonies (Moutan) and herbaceous peonies (Paeon). He started in the early 1900’s and made 20,000 crossings before he finally succeeded in 1948. The first ever cross between P. x lemoinei (a hybrid yellow tree peony) with P. lacti-flora ‘Kakoden’, a white flowered herbaceous peony which was used as the seed parent. He had 36 seedlings with this successful cross, some of which had the dominant characteristics of the tree peony and these became the first ‘inter-sectional’ hybrids.

In 1964 Dr. Itoh’s first crosses came into bloom but unfortunately Dr. Itoh passed away in 1956, eight years before the first blooms appeared and he never saw the results of his successful crosses. Of the thirty-six, six were considered outstanding and these became the first herbaceous peonies to have deep yellow, double flowers.

Early propagation of these peonies were unsuccessful because plants were repeatedly lost to fungal pathogens. However in the late 1960’s an American horticulturist, Louis Smir-now, purchased four selections from Dr. Itoh’s widow and imported them into the United States. He patented these hybrids as: ‘Yellow Emperor’, ‘Yellow Crown’, ‘Yellow Heaven’ and Yellow Dream’. These first hybrids were inferior, from a horticultural point of view, to the Itohs now available, but these first crosses inspired a number of American breeders to attempt similar crosses, in particular Roger Anderson, Don Hollingsworth and Don Smith.

The first introductions were sold for between $200 to $1,000 each which only allowed wealthy collectors to pur-chase them. Anderson is now the best-known breeder of intersectional peonies. He has raised about 400 cultivars, including ‘Cora Louise’, ‘Copper Kettle’ and in 1986 ‘Bartzella’. Divisions of ‘Bartzella’, a highly desirable cultivar, were sold for $1,000 U.S. each. One of his latest hybrids, ‘Sequestered Sunshine’, is selling well as a florist's flower. Don Hollingsworth, of Missouri, produced ‘Garden Treasure’.

In the 1970s, the American Peony Soci-ety looked at the new hybrids and named them after Itoh. Many breeders still prefer to call them "intersectional hybrids."

High prices and lack of availability have made these varieties particularly attractive for micropropagation.

Enter Planteck a Canadian based company. In 2004, Planteck hit on a new technique using tissue culture in a laboratory to achieve a high rate of success. Planteck is now the only company in the world that can produce Itoh peonies in mass numbers.

Growth Habits:

Peonies have a determinant herbaceous growth habit, mea-ning that next season’s growth is determined by bud and storage root development in the fall. On herbaceous peonies, buds are located at the crown of the plant and protected by the soil. On tree peonies, the buds are located on lignified branches above soil and often not protected by snow, there-fore they are not as winter har-dy as herbaceous peonies. Itohs have an intermediate growth habit with most buds at the crown, but often some on the lower part of the stem as well.  

This determinant growth habit makes peonies recalcitrant to in vitro propagation. Despite this, Planteck has developed an economically feasible method for the micropropagation of peonies. Planteck’s micropropagation program has been successful with all three major groups of peonies: herbaceous, tree and Itohs. Genotype still has an important role to play and some cultivars from each of these groups respond better than others.

The tree peonies generally multiply very well, but rooting is more difficult. This is only natural given that tree peonies are usually grafted onto herbaceous nurse-roots until their own roots are strong enough to take over. The advantage of micropropagated tree peonies is that they are immediately growing on their own roots.

Advantageous features of Itoh peonies:

  • Stronger stems that hold the flower upright even after wind and rain
  • Vigorous growth and extreme win-ter hardiness (equivalent to herbaceous peonies)
  • Flower colors previously only found in tree peonies (yellow, orange, flares)
  • Large, showy, double flowers
  • Compact and bushy.
  • Floriferous when mature (up to 50 flowers on one plant!) with flowers carried above the foliage
  • Healthy and attractive foliage right through fall
  • Healthy and attractive foliage right through fall
  • Symmetric, bushy shaped plant that is cut back in the fall like herbaceous peonies
  • Less attractive to ants than herbecaous peonies
Itoh Peony Morning Lilac
Photo:  Walter's Gardens

Itoh Peony Cooper Kettle

    Article #9  The Dirty Dozen… Pesticide Residue in Food
    There are reputable groups that issue annual lists with regards to the fruits and vegetables we purchase and their chemical residue content.

    Please note that all fruit and vegetables were prepared, as though you were planning to eat them. That means if you peel a banana or wash an apple before eating, so do they before testing.

    Here are the culprits called ‘The Dirty Dozen’ by the EWG (Environmental Working Group) with the No.1 spot having the most residue and the No.12 spot the least.

    At #1 Apples: 98% of 700 different samples showed pesticide residue. 40 different pesticides were noted. (#3 last year).
    #2 Celery: was No.1 last year. 57 different pesticides were noted. Purchase organic celery or grow your own.
    #3 Sweet Bell Peppers -15 different pesticides on a single sample.
    #4 Peaches - 60 pesticides in fresh fruit but a little fewer in canned peaches.
    #5 Strawberries - 54 residues were found on strawberries. 14 different pesticide residues were detected in one strawberry sample. 697 of 741 strawberries tested positive for residues.
    #6 Nectarines, imported - 33 pesticides on nectarines.
    #7 Grapes - 30 pesticides found on grapes with raisins testing the same. Not mentioned was wine.
    #8 Spinach - 50 pesticides whether in fresh of frozen. Canned spinach has a little less.
    #9 Lettuce - more than 50 pesticides have been identified on lettuce. Grow your own is the best advice.
    #10 Cucumbers - 40 pesticides found on cucumbers.
    #11 Blueberries, domestic - more than 50 pesticides found on blueberries. Frozen blueberries have proven to be somewhat less contaminated. 14 of the 50 pesticides residues found on blueberries are neurotoxins, which can harm brain development and contribute to falling IQs.
    #12 Potatoes - 35 pesticides found on potatoes.

    Wednesday, October 31, 2012

    Happy Halloween


    Friday, October 19, 2012

    Sow Simple: 100+ Green and Easy Projects to Make Your Garden Awesome"

    That's one long book title...but it says it all! 

    The Roberts Creek authors, Christina Symons and John Gillespie, will be guest speakers at PRGC's upcoming meeting on October 23rd.    "Everyday Eden: 100+ Fun, Green Projects for the Whole Family to Enjoy" and "Sow Simple:  100+ Green and Easy Projects to Make Your Garden Awesome" are available for loan from the Powell River Library but you may just want copies of your own!
    Check out their blog, Everyday Eden.  The October 19th entry is a recipe for "The Easiest Apple Crisp" and it certainly is the season for hot apple crisp!  Maybe breakfast tomorrow.....

    Interesting article about Invasive Species, Japanese Knotweed

    At the recent executive meeting, Carla McKamey, Committee Director of PRGC and local realtor, brought to our attention an interesting article about the invasive species, Knotweed.  (Click on link to read)

    Here is a heart-breaking story of how a young British couple's life has been impacted by this invasive plant.

    For further information on Knotweeds   (Invasive Plant Council of BC website)

    If you see Knotweed, report it!

    Thursday, October 18, 2012


    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    News from The Bulletin September/October 2012

    As members of the BC Council of Garden Clubs (BCCGC) the Powell River Garden Club receives The Bulletin bi-monthly throughout the year. The Bulletin contains news and information from the Council as well as informative and interesting articles submitted by Club members.

    Below, please find many of the articles published in The Bulletin, September/October 2012. A printed copy of The Bulletin is available at Club meetings. 

    Article #1     Lens aka Lentils
    Article #2     Blue Weed (Echium Vulgare) from Invasive Species
                         Council of BC
    Article #3     Chrysanthemum
    Article #4     Cladium difformis, aka Bristly Roseslug...Various sites
    Article #5     Plants and Wilting
    Article #6     Mycorrhiza Primer (excerpt) Ted St. John, Ph.D

    Article #1     Lens aka Lentils

    The genus Lens of the legume family Fabaceae contains four species of small, erect or climbing herbs with pinnate leaves and small inconspicuous white flowers and small flattened pods. The edible seeds of Lens species are referred to as lentils; the lentil most commonly eaten is the seed of Lens culinaris. Other countries refer to lentils as pulse or pigeon pea. Origin and geographic distribution:  Lentil is one of the oldest pulse crops and of ancient cultivation in western Asia, Egypt and southern Europe. It probably originated in western Asia, from where it spread into the Mediterranean region, Asia, Africa and Europe.  Lentil was a common part of the diet of the ancient Greeks, Jews and Romans and was the mainstay of the poor, especially in Egypt.

    It was associated with many legends, tales and customs, and it is the first pulse crop mentioned in the Bible. The oldest archaeological remains of lentil are from Greece, dated 11,000 BC, and Syria, dated 8500–7500 BC. However, it is uncertain whether they were from cultivated plants or from wild ones. It is from the 5th millennium BC that unequivocally domesticated lentil seeds have been found.  Lentil has been introduced into the Americas, New Zealand and Australia. It is now widely cultivated in temperate and subtropical regions, and in the tropics at higher elevations and in cool seasons. In tropical Africa it is grown in Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia (mainly in the northern, central and eastern Highlands), Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Réunion and Mauritius. It is also cultivated in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and South Africa.

    Description:  Lentils grow as an erect, pale green annual up to 60(–75) cm tall with a square stem and a taproot. Leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, with 5–16 leaflets. Flowers are bisexual, narrowly 5-lobed, tubular with a corolla that is pale blue, white or pink. When pollinated, seeds are lens-shaped and are grey, green, brownish green, pale red speckled with black, or black.

    Propagation and plantingLentil is propagated by seed which remain viable for more than 5 years under cool and dry storage conditions. A dormancy period of 4–6 weeks is common. The minimum temperature for germination is 15ºC and the optimum temperature 18–21ºC; temperatures above 27ºC are harmful. A firm, smooth seedbed is best for lentil. The seed is broadcast, or planted in rows 20–90 cm apart with 5–25 cm between plants within the row. The sowing depth is 1–6 cm depending on seed size and moisture availability. Lentil is usually grown as a main crop, but sometimes mixed with other crops, eg., in India with barley, mustard or castor.  

    Management:  Lentil is a poor competitor with weeds, especially when young. It should be sown in a clean field and weeding should generally be done within 3 weeks after sowing. Lentil normally responds well to fertilizers high in phosphorus. Effectively nodulated lentil seldom responds to application of high Nitrogen fertilizers.

    Top Five Lentil Producers:

    Canada – 1,510,200 tonnes
    India – 950,000 tonnes
    Turkey – 302,181 tonnes
    United States – 265,760 tonnes
    Australia – 143,000 tonnes

    Lentil colors range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black.  


  • Brown/Spanish pardina
  • French green/puy lentils (dark speckled blue green)
  • Green
  • Black/beluga
  • Yellow/tan lentils (red inside)
  • Red Chief (decorticated yellow lentils
  • Eston green (small green)
  • Richlea (medium green)
  • Laird (large green)
  • Petite golden (decorticated lentils)
  • Masoor (brown-skinned lentils, which are orange inside)
  • Petite crimson/red (decorticated masoor lentils)
  • Macachiados (big Mexican yellow lentils)
  • The seeds require a cooking time of 10 to 40 minutes, depending on the variety — shorter for small varieties with the husk removed, such as the common red lentil — and have a distinctive, earthy flavor.

    Lentils are used throughout South Asia, the Mediterranean regions and West Asia. They are frequently combined with rice, which has a similar cooking time. Lentils are used to prepare an inexpensive and nutritious soup all over Europe and North and South America, s
    sometimes combined with some form of chicken or pork.

    Dried lentils can also be sprouted by soaking in water for one day and keeping moist for several days, which changes their nutrition profile. Lentils with husk remain whole with moderate cooking; lentils without husk tend to disintegrate into a thick purée, which leads to quite different dishes.

    Nutritional value and health benefits: With about 30% of their calories from protein, lentils have the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any legume or nut, after soybeans and hemp. Proteins include the essential amino acids isoleucine and lysine, and lentils are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world which have large vegetarian populations. Lentils are deficient in two essential amino acids, methionine and cysteine. However, sprouted lentils contain sufficient levels of all essential amino acids.

    Lentils also contain dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. Red (or pink) lentils contain a lower concentration of fiber than green lentils (11% rather than 31%). Health magazine has selected lentils as one of the five healthiest foods. Lentils are often mixed with grains, such as rice, which results in a complete protein dish.

    About a quarter of the worldwide production of lentils is from India, most of which is consumed in the domestic market. Canada is the largest export producer of lentils in the world, and Saskatchewan is the most important producing region in Canada. Statistics Canada estimates that Canadian lentil production for the 2009/10 year is a record 1.5 million metric tonnes.

    In culture Lentils are mentioned many times in the Hebrew Bible, the first time recounting the incident in which Jacob purchases the birthright from Esau with stewed lentils (a "mess of pottage"). In Jewish mourning tradition, they are considered as food for mourners, together with boiled eggs, because their round shape symbolizes the life cycle from birth to death.

    In Italy, eating lentils on New Year's Eve traditionally symbolizes the hope for a prosperous new year, most likely because of their round, coin-like form.

    In "Cinderella", one of Grimm's Fairy Tales, Cinderella's stepmother assigns Cinderella the task of fishing lentils out of ash. If she succeeds, she may go to the ball.

    Harvesting: Lentil is harvested when the pods turn yellow-brown and the lower ones are still firm. Further delay may lead to shattering. In many areas the plant is cut down manually to ground level and left to dry for about 10 days, before being threshed and winnowed.

    Article #2     Blue Weed from Invasive Species Council of BC

    From a gardener’s perspective, flowering plants that attract bees, butterflies, and birds while deterring deer from a daily nibble are a welcome addition to the yard. One such plant, blueweed (Echium vulgare), has pretty blue blossoms and makes for an attractive center piece in any garden bed, but comes with a surprising price tag to our ecosystems and economy as a highly invasive plant.

    Invasive plants grow rapidly and spread quickly, causing damage to the environment, economy and our health. They are also the second greatest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
    Introduced from Europe, blueweed is a biennial to short-lived perennial, and considered regionally noxious under the BC Weed Control Act. Blueweed is commonly found on road-sides, drainage ditches, rights-of-way, fence lines, pastures, rangeland, and other disturbed areas. It is a concern in the Cariboo, Central Kootenay, Columbia-Shuswap, East Kootenay, Okanagan-Silmilkameen, and Thompson-Nicola Regional Districts.

    Commonly called "viper's bugloss`because of its resemblance to a viper`s head, blueweed has bright blue blossoms found on the upper side of short, rough stems, and grows 30-80 centimetres in height.  Hairy stems are painful to the touch, and hairs often have swollen deark bases that form noticeable flecks.  Leaves become progressively smaller as they approach the top of the plant. 

    Although large infestations make a pretty photography, this plant can spread quickly by producing healthy seeds that are easily distributed.  A single plant can produce up to 2800 seeds that generally drop in the immediate vicinity of the parent plant, but can be distributed further by people and animals as the rough seeds stick to clothing, hair and feathers. 
    Blueweed is occasionally found in nurseries as a gardening plant since it attracts butterflies and not deer or rabbits.  Deer, as well as most grazing animals on pastures and rangelands, will avoid blueweed since it is unpalatable; therefore, a small infestation will spread quickly, reducing the area available for food and forage crops and increasing overgrazing on pastures.  As a result, infestations are associated with economic losses and rising managements costs on agricultural lands. 

    Help your community protect local resources by preventing and managing invasive plants.  There are hundreds of beautiful native plants and non-invasive exotic alternatives available to replace this invasive in your backyard. 

    Blueweed (echium vulgare)

    Article #3 Chrysanthemum
    picture from
    Chrysanthemum oil contains a chemical called pyrethrum, which repels and kills insects, especially aphids. Unfortunately, it can also kill insects that are beneficial to plants, so care should be used when spraying insect repelling products with pyrethrum in gardens. Insect repellents for humans and pets also often contain pyrethrum.
    You can also make your own insect repellent by mixing chrysanthemum oil with other fragrant essential oils like rosemary, sage and thyme. However, allergies to chrysanthemum are common, so individuals should always test natural oil products before using on skin or internally.

    Chrysanthemums plants have been shown to reduce indoor air pollution by the NASA Clean Air Study.

    Article #4 Cladium difformis, aka Bristly Roseslug...Various sites
    At this time of the year, our roses are sometimes plagued with tiny little green creatures that resemble miniature caterpillars. These little creatures can totally defoliate your roses in less than a week. The creatures are called Cladium difformis or more commonly Bristly Roseslug. They are not slugs, they do not behave like slugs and are not related to them. There are three main species of roseslug, the bristly roseslug, the curled roseslug, and the European roseslug. The one we have locally is the bristly roseslug which is actually a sawfly larvae. Sawflies are a plant-feeding wasp. They are yellowish-green in colour, velvety and less than half an inch long. They are tapered and have a slimy appearance when you look closely, thus their moniker of ‘slug’. Sawfly larvae have jointed legs and a bead-like head that is usually a different colour than their bodies. These larvae look much like butterfly or moth caterpillars, but can be identified by the number of fleshy legs (prolegs) that follow the front three pairs of legs. Sawflies have five or more pair of prolegs, while caterpillars have less than five.

    Bristly Roseslug

    Adult Male

    Bristly roseslug have six generations per year. The fully-grown larvae drop from the plants and burrow into the soil where they will remain dormant underground until the following spring when the adults emerge and lay eggs on the new rose foliage to begin the cycle over again.

    The adult sawfly are small, dark, non-stinging wasps. Their young larvae feed on rose, raspberry and strawberry leaves, skeletonizing and eating all the leaf tissue but leaving the
    veins. They do this by eating the soft part of the leaves, leaving behind the network of veins and one epidermis layer. The exposed epidermis quickly turns brown and crisp.

    As the larvae ages they chew holes in the tissue of the leaves rather than skeletonizing them. This causes us to think we have more than one type of insect invading our roses, raspberrries and strawberries.

    Sawflies are best controlled when they are young. If you have a small infestation, simply pick them off, dislodge them with something or spray them off with a stream of water. If you use water, do so early in the day so the leaves can dry before sunset to dissuade fungal development.

    If you have a large infestation you may need to resort to other controls. Any contact or systemic insecticide labelled for use on roses will kill roseslugs. The key is to spray thoroughly to make sure the spray covers the upper and lower leaf surfaces. Spray the soil under the rose bushes as the larvae pupate in the soil prior to over wintering.

    Horticultural oil, insecticidal soap and azadiractin (neem) are low-toxicity biorational insecticides for young sawflies. Azadiractins are slower act-ing. Bacillus thuringienses (Bt) is effective on young lepidoptera caterpillars but NOT on larval sawflies. Conventional insecticides include acephate (Orthene), carbaryl (Sevin), malathion and diazinon. Avoid spraying the rose flowers as many conventional insecticides are highly toxic to bees. 
    Article #5 Plants and Wilting
    Moisture stress occurs when the water in a plant's cells is reduced to less than normal levels. This can occur because of a lack of water in the plant's root zone, higher rates of transpiration than the rate of moisture uptake by the roots, i.e. loss of roots due to transplanting.

    Permanent wilting point (PWP) or wilting point (WP) is defined as the minimal point of soil moisture the plant requires not to wilt. If moisture decreases to this or any lower point a plant wilts and can no longer recover its turgidity when placed in a saturated atmosphere for 12 hours.
    About Wilting through lack of water
    Plants have a vascular system which enables water and nutrients to be taken from the environment through a complex root system. The continual flow of water and nutrients ensures that the vascular system remains firm, and that the plant continues to grow in a healthy way. Lack of water results in a loss of firmness which causes the symptoms of wilting.
    Plants respond to lack of water by closing down areas of the vascular system, which consequently results in leaf, flower and fruit loss.
    Plants can usually recover from short, occasional periods of lack of water, but sustained periods or frequent wilting often results in death.

    Design a watering schedule for plants based on their individual needs.
    • As a general guide, pots need watering once a day.
    • Hanging baskets should be watered twice a day.
    • New plants in the border need careful monitoring in their first year and will probably need watering two or three times a week. 
    • Established border plants will have deeper roots and will benefit most from one long drink each week rather than a daily dose.
    There are several causes of leaf scorch, one being not enough water in the soil for root absorption which occurs during drought periods.
    Water may be lost faster than it can be replaced. During summer, sunny, hot, and windy weather causes such rapid transpiration that roots cannot physically keep up with the water loss and if the plants are not being hydrated regularly, this could cause death.
    Article #6 Mycorrhiza Primer (excerpt) Ted St. John, Ph.D

    Most plant species form a symbiosis (mutually advantageous living arrangement) with beneficial fungi. The roots are colonized by the fungus, which also ramifies through the soil. The combination of root and fungus is called mycorrhiza. Mycorrhiza is considered such a fundamental part of the plant that most species could not survive in nature without it. The few plants that do not need mycorrhiza (mostly weeds) are considered to be departures from the normal state of the plant kingdom.

    Mycorrhizas are fundamental to the ecosystem function: the sum of energy flow and mineral cycling processes that characterize a natural community and allocate the resources that maintain it. It hardly states the case to say that mycorrhizas are important to the ecosystem function. It is much more accurate to say that mycorrhizas are ecosystem function.

    It is important to understand what mycorrhizal fungi are not. These are not the organisms that fix nitrogen (make atmospheric nitrogen available to plants) in association with legumes (those are bacteria of the genus Rhizobium). Mycorrhizal fungi do not fix nitrogen at all; in most cases what they do for the individual plant is aid in the uptake of phosphorous.

    Native mycorrhizal fungi are present in healthy ecosystems, but are often destroyed by disturbance. They are always missing from freshly graded sites.

    Ectomycorrhizal fungi enter the roots, where the hyphae (fungal filaments) pass between root cells. They do not enter the root cells, as do endomycorrhizal fungi. There is often a mantle (covering) of inter-woven fungal mycelium (mass of fungal filaments) on the surface of the finest roots, and an internal network, the Hartig net, that weaves between the cells in the root. The mantle is often visible to the unaided eye or by use of a hand lens. Ectomycorrhiza is found on many dominant forest trees and involves a ‘higher’ (often mushroom-forming) fungus. The term is abbreviated ECM or EM.
    Endomycorrhiza is not really a natural group; it simply refers to the fact that fungal hyphae enter the root cells. Under this name are the very dissimilar mycorrhizas of orchids, Ericaeae and relatives, and the largest group, the arbuscular (AM), or vesicular-arbuscular (VAM) type of mycorrhiza. This last group is so dominant in the plant kingdom that we might simplify the whole discussion by giving AM primary rights to the tern endomycorrhiza. The less common types would then go by their own separate names.
    Growth response: The best known mycorrhizal effect is that mycorrhizal plants take up more soil phosphorus and grow faster than corresponding non-mycorrhizal control plants.
    Soil with little inoculum selects against most natives and fa-vors the plant species that do not need to become mycorrhizal early in life – these plants are better known as
    Why Not Just Fertilize Instead of Inoculate?
    • Fertilization can produce large plants, but it often suppresses mycorrhiza formation.
    • Fertilization lacks or even suppresses the other important benefits of mycorrhiza.
    • Fertilization cannot increase plant species diversity; it tends to favour large individuals of the few most vigorous species.
    • Fertilization cannot improve plant survival, but rather tends to favor a few large plants rather than many smaller ones.
    • Fertilization does not make the site unfit for weeds, but instead gives them a nearly insurmountable competitive edge against native plants.
    • Fertilization does nothing to decrease root disease, favor beneficial bacteria, or improve soil structure, perhaps the most important effects of mycorrhiza in natural systems.
    Determine Whether Your Plants Need to Be Mycorrhizal
    Most plant species – probably 70% to 80% - are normally mycorrhizal in nature, and most of those are AM rather than some other kind. If in doubt, assume that your plants need to be AM. If your plant list contains few AM hosts, you should in most cases add some to the species list to be sure you gain the benefits of soil structure and favorable microbiology.

    Consider a Mixture of Mycorrhizal Fungi
    Several scientific studies have concluded that growth responses were improved with mixtures of fungi rather than single species. However, none of these studies has included a "wonder fungus" of the type sometimes isolated in large-scale screening projects. G. intraradices has turned up as a "wonder fungus" in several surveys, and field experience so far has shown it to be equal or superior to mixtures of other fungi. There is a concern that less effective fungi could dilute the propagules of the fungus that works best, perhaps decreasing its effectiveness. Even so, many researchers believe that mixtures of fungal species are preferrable. 
    Specificity to soil:  Mycorrhizal fungi are in general more specific to soil type than to host plant. Soil pH is the biggest selective factor, but soil texture and organic matter may also influence the suitability of the soil for particular fungi. The fungi commonly available as commercial inocula tend to have wide tolerance ranges. Glomus intraradices, the most widely available species, is suitable for soils from about pH 6 to 9. Another widely available fungus, G. etunicatum, is at its best in the acid range. Plant diversity depends to some extent upon fungal species diversity. There may be a benefit to some rare plant species of having particular fungi that grow at the right time of the year or produce some other specific effect. Until we know exactly how the effects are produced, the only way to include such fungi would be in quality topsoil from the native habitat of the rare plant species. What is very clear, from every study that has done the tests, is that inoculation is greatly superior to no inoculation, with differences between fungal species forming a secondary effect.
    Use Mycorrhizal Inoculum Correctly
    Root zone: One of the most important points is that endomycorrhizal inoculum must be placed in the soil, where new roots will grow through it. Colonization will succeed only if the fungi are properly placed and if the roots are healthy and growing. ECM spores are better able to penetrate the soil due to their small size; even so surface application is not the best use even of ECM inoculum.
    As a living material, mycorrhizal inoculum is susceptible to environmental stress. It is important not to allow the inoculum to sit in the sun or expose it to freezing temperatures. The life span of mycorrhizal spores, as given in the scientific literature, is in the neighborhood of 6 months to a year. Certain kinds of carriers appear to provide protection, and in good storage conditions, with the original production vessel kept intact, inoculum in calcined clay (the same material often used for cat litter) has retained its viability for two or more years.
    If the inoculum is laid down in lines, the lines should be about a foot apart. When growing from root to root, the fungi spread between ½ and 1 meter per year. Soil animals may move it somewhat faster.
    Container plants may be inoculated at the time of planting, either by adding a small amount of bulk inoculum to the root zone or by dropping in a biodegradable ‘teabag’ package.

    Mycorrhiza is a natural part of the soil and a part of plant nutrient uptake. The fungi are the dominant soil microorganisms, and soil biology depends heavily upon the presence, density, and types of mycorrhizal fungi. However, mycorrhizal fungi cannot make it rain, cannot decompact a fill slope, cannot compensate for planting out of season, and cannot make up for gardening methods that are otherwise very poor. Here are some of the claims that should raise a red flag:
    • Plants show dramatic growth increases within a few days:   Mycorrhizal growth responses are slow to develop; a rapid response would have come from fertilizer in the inoculum.
    • Growth response in spinach, broccoli, or other non-host:  plants known to be non-hosts are good tests of fertilizer or other.
    • Very low propagule counts:   propagule and spore counts vary from as low as two to several hundred per cubic centimeter of inoculum. Be aware that the cost of the material should reflect the propagule density. Make sure labels clearly state density. non-mycorrhizalo factor in the inoculum.