|Since I used pictures of Victoria’s famous The Butchart Gardens last week, this week I’ll use two shots from my own garden: Above, Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Tiger Stripes’ and what I think is a delightful little scene on the edge of our small pond, right adjacent to my office/studio. Below, two shots of an unusual happening here: a barge being towed north on the Strait of Georgia with three new houses aboard--one looking close to falling off the end. Author photos. |
It is back to questions this week, two of them from Vancouver Island, as it happens and one from Prince Edward Island. Chris Stefas, for example, wrote with a difficult-to-answer query: “I am trying to grow cucumber plants, but have been unsuccessful. The plants started out very healthy, but once the flowers started, they would die. I planted them in potting soil and steer manure and gave plenty of water, they are also being grown on a patio in plant pots. Can you inform me where I would be able to get a soil analysis done, or to have the soil checked out for parasites, or what parasites I would look for? I have noticed that there are small flies, possible fruit flies in the soil. I pulled the plant out of the soil and it came out with no effort. Any help would be greatly appreciated.”
Before attempting to answer this question, I did ask Chris for further information; e.g. was it just the flowers that died, or entire plants; is she growing anything else in the same containers/same soil mix; and is the problem continuing. Unfortunately I did not hear back in time for this column. Assuming it is the plants themselves that are dieing, and not just the flowers (of course, the flowers should die off prior to the fruits forming); it would seem that the steer manure used may have been too fresh (strong). I doubt that soil parasites (negative ones) are the cause, and the ‘fruit flies’ coming from the soil are not uncommon with composted manures and soils. While they are a nuisance, seldom if ever are they a negative to the growing plants.
The fact that when one plant was pulled out “it came out with no effort” makes me think that there could be some soil-borne insects such as grubs or wireworms that are eating the roots, which would explain the plants coming out so easily. It would also explain the plants dieing. Most important, what to do. First, if it is possible to dig through at least one container from which a dieing plant has been removed I would be conducting a detailed search for tiny grubs and/or worms. If any are found, well, if Chris has some Diazinon left over, or a friend does, I would recommend watering that into the soil. Failing that, Nu-Gro Wilson’s GrubOut is still available and you could use that.
Without knowing more, I cannot offer other suggestions.
Then Victoria Whitfield wrote: “I bought a passion fruit vine from Coombs Country Market this spring and it is doing remarkably well in a pot on the south side of my house. It has already outgrown its trellis. I would like to try and keep the plant, can you tell me how I would over-winter it please?”
Since passion vines are right at the limit of their hardiness here with us, I wrote her back asking from whence she was writing, to which she responded: “Qualicum Beach, almost Dashwood on the old highway. Can see the ocean but we are high up.”
The key point in that is she says they are high up. Here is the theory. In areas such as Parksville, near the water such as we are virtually at the edge of the Strait of Georgia, we have a microclimate wherein Passion vines should live over the winter almost every year. But even here, there will be periods of up to a week or ten days when cold temperatures persist and plants such as Passion vines may succumb. Now, if Victoria doesn’t want to chance it since she is at a higher (colder) altitude, she needs to find a location in her house such as a cold basement room with just a little light (a 48 inch two-tube fluorescent fixture on for about 14 hours daily) should suffice. The cooler the room is the better. Obviously she would need to trim the plant back severely but that should not be a problem because the large root system and application of something like BioTLC’s Liquid Growth Plant Starter formula (4-12-9) will cause strong growth when the plant is placed back outside some time in March.
Finally this week, Thelma Hancock wrote from Charlottetown Prince Edward Island: “I have two 30 – 40 ft. lindens in my front yard. Unfortunately the power lines run through them, and our electric company came last week and cut the tops and many higher limbs out. One seems to be recovering OK, but the other does not.
Do you have any hints that might help us keep this beautiful tree around for many more years? They provide us with a beautiful shady front yard. Should we fertilize them, and if so, when? Thank you for any help you can give us.”
Utility company tree pruning can sometimes be very ruthless; other times well done. It certainly will not hurt to fertilize both trees, but I would not suggest it be carried out now. In theory you might encourage a significant amount of new growth that could be killed back during a hard winter. The one type of fertilizing that could be considered in about six to eight weeks time would be application of a high nitrogen long-lasting turf fertilizer. Whatever you able to find the nitrogen should be 75% from a long lasting source such as urea-formaldehyde (not urea), IBDU or a similar organic source. If such a product is placed into 10–15-cm-deep holes drilled around the outside branch spread of the trees, most of it will remain and be available to the trees as soon as the ground warms up next spring.
If you decide to leave the feeding to next spring, try to obtain some type of hose-end wand sprayer you with which you could spray a liquid (any analysis, but BioTLC’s Liquid Growth Garden Growth formula [6-12-6] would be excellent). If you cannot reach the top of the trees from the ground, you will be able to get a good part of them at least by standing on and spraying with the wand sprayer from a ladder.