Keep your garden free of fungus, pests and disease

Insects and diseases can destroy a garden, but usually they are just annoying. Knowing what to expect and dealing with the problem quickly can minimize damage.

Insects and diseases can destroy a garden, but usually they are just annoying. Knowing what to expect and dealing with the problem quickly can minimize damage.

A few spittlebugs in the garden are a common site in June.

The insects overwinter on dead leaves of old plants and hatch about the time the plant begins to flower.

Most often the first sign of the insect is a frothy liquid surrounding a stem that looks like someone spat on it.

The wet bubble material protects the insects as they suck nutrients from the stems. Large stems might become misshapen and thinner ones will collapse.

Spittlebugs can be controlled by either hand picking, squishing or by blasting the foam with a strong spray. When left alone, they do minimal damage.

Black knot fungus is much more serious as it is spreading rapidly, destroying a large number of shade and specimen trees throughout Alberta.

Host plants are trees and shrubs in that bear stone fruit in the prunus family, including mayday, plums, cherries, apricots and flowering almonds.

At first, infected areas swell and turn an olive green. It takes the growth two or three years to mature to the rough black mass that is easier to detect. Once it reaches this stage, it will crack and spores will fall out, infecting other plants.

The only cure is to remove all diseased wood. Alberta Agriculture recommends that all infected branches be removed six to eight inches (15 to 20 cm) below the knot. Always cut back to another branch or main trunk. Leaving stumps is unsightly and those stumps are entry places for diseases, viruses and rot.

In the case of an infection in the main trunk, cut out all diseased wood, going at least a half-inch (one cm) beyond the diseased wood.

All diseased wood must be disposed of immediately. It can be burned, double bagged and sent to the landfill or buried. Materials that are left can and will give off more spores, infecting more plants. For more information go to: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/faq7622?opendocument

Ever turn over a tomato and see the centre of the fruit sunken and black? With squash, the fruit starts to grow but rots from the blossom back towards the stem.

Both of these problems are called blossom end rot and are the result of the fruit being short of calcium.

Fruit that starts to rot needs to be discarded but this doesn’t mean that all fruit will be affected. Care needs to be taken to make sure that the plant has enough moisture to absorb calcium and transfer it throughout the plant.

The stronger and larger the plants roots, the more calcium can and will absorb from the soil.

To encourage roots to reach out into surrounding soil, water away from the base of the plant, encouraging the roots to grow outwards.

Allowing the soil to dry between watering when the plants are just set out will also encourage more root growth.

After the first few weeks, keep the soil uniformly moist, making it easier for the plants to absorb calcium and transfer it to the developing fruit.

A common mistake it to over fertilize the plants. If in doubt about the nutrient level, have the soil tested.

When fertilizing, apply as liquid and follow the instructions on the package. Do not over fertilize as high levels of nitrogen can interfere with the uptake of calcium.

There has been some success with squash by hand-picking dead blossoms before they can rot.

A few changes in how plants are watered and fertilized can make a big difference in the fruits produced.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com

Just Posted

Sunny weather improves farmers’ prospects

A harvester kicking up dust. It’s a picture that will bring a… Continue reading

Rural transit pilot project being considered

Penhold, Innisfail and Red Deer County councils to decide whether to go ahead with project

Red Deer fire station up for sale

Home sweet home at Fire Station 4

Most surveyed Innisfail residents give urban chickens the thumbs up

Town of Innisfail will discuss whether to allow backyard chickens on Monday

‘Mom I’m in trouble:’ Canadian, Brit face 10 years in jail for alleged graffiti

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — The mother of a Canadian who was arrested… Continue reading

Coyote on the prowl near Penhold

This coyote was out on the prowl in a field just west… Continue reading

Sky’s the limit as Calgary opens testing area for drones and new technologies

CALGARY — The sky’s the limit as the city of Calgary opens… Continue reading

Hi Mickey, ‘Bye Mickey: 6 Disney parks on 2 coasts in 1 day

ORLANDO, Fla. — Heather and Clark Ensminger breathed sighs of relief when… Continue reading

Court weighs ‘Apprentice’ hopeful’s suit versus Trump

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s lawyers hope to persuade an appeals… Continue reading

StarKist admits fixing tuna prices, faces $100 million fine

SAN FRANCISCO — StarKist Co. agreed to plead guilty to a felony… Continue reading

Annual pace of inflation slows to 2.2 per cent in September: Statistics Canada

OTTAWA — The annual pace of inflation slowed more than expected in… Continue reading

Jury finds Calgary couple guilty in 2013 death of toddler son

CALGARY — A jury has convicted a Calgary couple in the death… Continue reading

Most Read