|Above, a nice specimen of Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez’) courtesy www.BentOakFarmInc.com ; and my 2004 shot of the Emily Carr house in Victoria’s James Bay area; and below, shots of U.K. Growbags, and the trellises used to support plants such as tomatoes grown in them. Latter photos by www.Andysworld.org.uk , and www.gardensmonthly.co.uk . |
There only appears to be one question that “poured in” during the past week, so I’ll deal with that, and then re-print most of an item from Britain’s Horticulture Week trade magazine, that you may find of interest, particularly if you are bothered by slugs, or if you are one who believes in organic/no pesticide gardening and think that trend will be the way of the future! [Maybe not!]
First the question, which was sent to Donna Dawson by a friend of hers, Rebecca Gerein: “Hey Donna, I replaced my Magnolia with a ‘Natchez’ Crape Myrtle. It's a beautiful tree but there's question of it flowering here--might be too cold in James Bay, Victoria. Do you know?”
Good question Rebecca. First, perhaps I should clarify just where James Bay is--and for those of you from Ontario it is not the James Bay that is an adjunct of famous Northern Ontario’s Hudson Bay! James Bay is actually the oldest part of Victoria, and includes at least two sites that most visitors know: The Empress Hotel and the British Columbia Legislature. In the heart of James Bay is the Emily Carr house just a short stroll down Douglas Street from the Legislature.
O.K., what about Crape myrtles? They are actually quite a controversial subject in that the response to “are Crape myrtles hardy here” receives quite a range of answers. For example I know of one gentleman who grows one very well in North Vancouver and others who love them in other parts of greater Vancouver. The secret to their growing success likely is heat units, just as heat units are calculated for corn-growing areas all across North America. Crape myrtles need good heat if they are to bloom well, and the Maritime climate of Victoria is known not to be that hot! Therefore, they usually grow best up against a west- or south-facing wall where the heat can be reflected. So, the answer to your question really depends on how carefully you choose the place it is to be planted.
* * *
Now, to the item I noted in a mid-June edition of Horticulture Week, the trade journal out of the U.K. Here is part of the item:
“Many ascribe the boom in grow-your-own to consumers' desire for wholesome, ‘organically grown’ food. Yet, paradoxically, the trend appears to be fuelling a sharp rise in sales of pesticides and weed-killers. According to analyst GfK Retail & Technology, weed-killer sales are up by 55 per cent this year to date, compared to last year, with pest and disease products up by 17 per cent. GfK analyst Neville Prevett says: ‘The season is still young, but we believe the category has an excellent 2009 to look forward to.’
“And according to an HTA [Horticulture Trade Association] representative: ‘Our members are telling us that sales of garden chemicals are up, and much of that is down to the grow-your-own trend.’ Provisional figures from the HTA show sales of garden chemicals totalled £143.2m last year, up by eight per cent on 2007, despite tough trading conditions. Last year's wet weather favoured weeds over insects, accounting for the sharp rise in weed-killer sales, along with a nine per cent increase in slug-killing products. This year, however, suppliers are reporting a higher demand for pesticides as aphids and creepy crawlies thrive in the warmer, drier weather.
“Garden Organic director of policy Margi Lennartsson is concerned. ‘One of the reasons many people start growing their own is for access to unsprayed food,’ she says. ‘We've had a lot more enquiries from the public this year, though these have been more about what to plant, and where, than about pests. Obviously, we are an organic organisation, so the people who are contacting us will be reluctant to use chemicals.’
“Margi would like to see garden centres serving as sources of information to budding growers. ‘It's perfectly possible to grow a wide range of crops without resorting to chemicals,’ she says. ‘It would be nice to see them provide more basic advice to customers on how to avoid problems in the first place, by growing the right varieties in the right site and with the right methods.’
“Martin Fish, Bayer Garden company representative, argues that consumers can pursue a middle road, whereby they garden responsibly and yet still use chemical products. ‘Britain and Europe have some of the strictest regulations in the world,’ he says. ‘Amateur products such as those containing glyphosate [Roundup] are very low-risk - less powerful than many household chemicals.’ Nor, he says, does ‘natural’ necessarily mean better. ‘Derris is a natural product--it comes from a plant root--but is also lethal. It has been replaced by Provado [active ingredient Imidacloprid, that is only available through contract spraying companies in Canada], which has a higher safety profile and a harvest interval of three days for salad vegetables and 14 days for top fruit.’
“Martin Fish defends the use of slug pellets: ‘I use them around plants that I know will be attacked. But our Slug & Snail Killer contains Bitrex, a foul-tasting additive that deters animals and birds.’ He adds that a three per cent metaldehyde content makes the product too weak to harm birds and hedgehogs. ‘It's less toxic than salt.’
“Bayer has also launched Organic Slug Bait, which contains the active ingredient iron-III phosphate. [Safers and others sell similar products in Canada.] 'It's not toxic to worms and beetles, and there's no harvest period," says Martin Fish. ‘You should keep pets and children away, not because garden chemicals are dangerous, but because they might spread the chemicals around the garden.’
“Westland is another supplier benefiting from the trend. UK sales manager Ken Evans says: ‘We are massively up this year.....sales of our Resolva weed-killer, for example, are over 100 per cent up. Garden retail is a very seasonal, weather-dependent business, but so far the sun's been out and garden centres have concentrated on core gardening.’ The rise of grow-your-own is proving a boost to the company, he says. ‘If you have a grow-bag of tomatoes [grow-bags have never really taken off in Canada, or even in the U.S. but they are immensely popular in the U.K.], you're going to want to buy some tomato feed. If you have greenfly on your runner beans, you're going to want to spray them with pesticide.’ Ken Evans detects little wariness among consumers when it comes to spraying. ‘They may be a bit hesitant, but if the garden centre has the right natural pesticides, they will find something they are happy with.’
“Scotts Miracle-Gro also offers a range of natural controls, says its representative John Clowes. ‘Consumers don't have to use chemicals, and we will help them go in that direction, for example with our Bug Clear for Fruit and Veg. [active ingredient is pyrethrins, available from numerous suppliers in Canada], and natural plant-feed range.’ Conventional chemicals are by no means out of favour, though, he says. ‘We have benefited from the good weather, the later Easter and the interest in grow-your-own. Now we are reaching the peak of demand. If retailers are not sharp enough, they'll find themselves with empty shelves.’ Aphids, for example, can multiply rapidly in warm, dry weather, before descending on fresh green growth, says John Clowes. ‘Some areas have already had shelves emptied of Rose Clear [contains systemic insecticide plus insecticide--no comparable product is available any longer in Canada]. But then if there's a lot of rain, people will need slug pellets.’
“Scotts will spend more than £6m on TV ads this season. John Clowes explains: ‘Advertising consistently year after year supports the brand; it helps retailers to know they will need to stock Roundup, for example, as it is likely to still be the number-one weed-killer.’
Interestingly, John Clowes “is sceptical about whether the grow-your-own boom can continue at its current level, and points out: ‘If the fine weather keeps up, they will find there's a fair amount of work just in watering them.’”
I thought you might be interested in the foregoing comparison of the pesticide situation in the U.K. vs. what we have to deal with here in Canada.
* * *
Another interesting recent happening in Ontario, with some, if only a little influence on the controversial pesticide legislation of the provincial Liberal government, was the defeat of Randy Hillier in his bid to become the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party. Had Mr. Hillier become leader, one of his platforms was the complete repeal of the province’s pesticide legislation. The new leader is Tim Hudak, a native of Fort Erie, and husband of 90s leader Mike Harris’ chief of staff!