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Gardening Tips


Gardening Tips began in September 2020 as a weekly collaboration with OnRichmondHill.com. Email recommendations for future gardening tips to GardeningTipsRHGHS@gmail.com. 

 

Society members may click Add Comment following any article, and post comments such as adding more retrospective, agreeing with the contributor, or even suggesting a correction. 


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  • September 10, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Enjoy But Care for Public Parks

    Article by Doreen Coyne, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.


    Just before COVID hit in March 2020 my younger son started taking a daily walk to Patterson Parkette when getting my mail and to enjoy the area.  But as time went on, he was disappointed by the lack of respect some people have for the park.  One time, a group must have held a late-night party there and the area was strewn with debris and empty bottles.  The next week, it appeared as if someone had driven an ATV into the area running over some plants and smashing a retaining wall. Both times, he came home upset but with pictures of the damage which he reported to the city.  Richmond Hill staff diligently came out and repaired the site.


    “Why won’t people take care of the beauty around them” became my son’s theme.  If they carried bottles to the beach, why won’t they carry the empties home – or at least to the garbage container at the street where their cars are parked?


    His own home happens to be across the road from a path to the lakefront of Lake Ontario and he takes a daily walk on that beach as well.  Again, he noted the garbage strewn about.  After contacting the city, he found them less receptive to his reports making him declare Richmond Hill to be an eco-friendlier community.  The beach also had the remains of late-night “campfires” which IMHO presents another problem and a bigger potential risk. The good news – the lack of response and action by city staff spurred him to change his daily walk routine. 

    Since then, his lake front walk includes gathering and bagging the garbage and leaving the bag at the street where the garbage trucks go by on their weekly run.  He doesn't mind doing this as he wants to enjoy the beauty of “his” beach.



    But he wishes that people who bring bottles and bags to the beach would take them home in the same containers they brought them in. I suggested he place a sign which worked for a while, but it doesn’t appear to be a long-term answer.  And now, a year and a half later the beach debris is getting worse.  Ideas welcomed.  Regardless, he continues to enjoy walking along “his” beach and to Patterson Parkette.


    We all enjoy nature. But please help care for it as well.


    Photos of Pattison Park by Chris Robart. Lakefront photos by A. Coyne

  • August 27, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    More Veggies to Freeze

    Article by Doreen Coyne, Photo by Jennifer Pyke, members of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.


    Your hard work of planting, weeding, watering has yielded lots of vegetables. Perhaps more than you can eat or give away! So, freeze the rest and have healthy inexpensive veggies year-round.

    In the old days, my mom with my sister’s and my help, canned tons of stuff from the garden and as we got older we got a freezer for our cold room in the basement. Then we started to freeze produce.  Of course, canning, making jams and jellies and pickling were some of the other things we were called upon to do each summer and fall.


    In a previous article, you’ve read about my freezing techniques with zucchini. For most of the vegetables mentioned in this article, you will need to parboil the raw vegetables to help you freeze them.


    What’s parboiling?

    Boil water, add the veggies and let them boil for up to 5 minutes. Then remove them from the boiling water and place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Dry them off and freeze them. If you bag the vegetables for freezing so you eat all of the vegetables you want each meal, they simply put them in freezer bags of the size that will hold one meal’s worth and place them in the freezer.  For many vegetables, I like to freeze the “pieces” separately (aka the piece method). You do that by placing the veggies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet(s) – don’t let the pieces touch- and putting those in the freezer. The next morning, take them out and quickly put them into 1 large freezer bag because now they’ll stay separately just as if you bought them frozen from the grocery store.


    So, what other veggies can you freeze?


    Green Beans

    I like to pick my yellow and green beans then freeze them. You need to wash them, take off the ends and the choice is yours as to whether you cut them in short lengths or cook them full length. I think they taste better for freezing if left full length.  Now parboil them and freeze. You could also do this with other bean-like vegetables such as snow peas.  For snow peas, be sure to remove the coarse thread that runs down one side of the pod.


    Peas

    For peas, just shuck the peas from the shells, parboil the actual peas for a minute and freeze.


    Acorn Squash

    I tend to bake this vegetable by cutting it in half with the cut side down in the oven. When done – about 45 minutes for acorn squash – you take them out, let them cool and then scoop out the squash and put it into an appropriate-sized bag for freezing. One of my friends simply freezes each halved squashed using the overnight freezing method for “pieces” 


    Butternut Squash

    I tend to peel those first and then cut them into large cubes. To do that you can peel it with a potato peeler. Then cut each in half, and then start making cubes. No need to parboil these. Just place the cubes on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake them in the oven for some 30 minutes. freeze them overnight. Then all of them can go in one big bag the next morning.


    Carrots

    Later in the fall, I will do a similar thing with my carrots, slicing and freezing some as circles (1/4” thick), and others as medium-sized cubes. How does one make these cubes? Make large carrot sticks then cut the carrot lengthways at least twice so it is quartered. Then hold the quarters together to chop them into pieces, aka cubes.  For carrots, you will need to parboil for 3 (for pieces) to 5 (for circles) minutes. Some of these will be added to soup when it is made. And some will become carrots as a side dish for dinner.  Only need a few at a time? Use the piece method to freeze them!

     

    Corn

    Cook corn on the cob as you normally would. Let it cool. Then slice off the kernels.  Bag the kernels in smaller “per meal” bags and freeze them.

     

    Tomatoes

    If I have too many tomatoes, I do parboil them; but, just for 1 to 2 minutes. You aren’t cooking them; you just want the skin to loosen.  You puncture the skin with a knife and the skin will very easily peel off. Add some little bit of salt and package enough in each small bag for freezing for a family meal. Cherry tomatoes can simply be washed, dried, and frozen in bags using the piece method.


     

    I don’t freeze onions, peppers, or celery.  But you can grill peppers, take off the skin and freeze them with added oil and spices. Or if you only have a few, then jar then with oil and spices. The jars can be good in the fridge for a few weeks. Bananas - as they begin to get too mature, mash them up, mix in a squirt of lemon juice and freeze them to make banana loaves in the winter!  Fruits like raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries – wash them a couple of times, gently pat them dry with a paper towel, then freeze them using the piece method. Other fruits, like apples, plums, apricots, bananas, etc. – consider drying them for snacks.  Kale – most folks I talk with say they tend to cook them up as a part of a soup - such as Potato and Leek soup. Check that out with other ideas at this link.


    There are lots of ways to preserve your summer yield of vegetables and fruit for healthier, low-cost food that is available directly from your freezer!


  • August 20, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Too Many Vegetables from Your Garden?

    Article and photos by Doreen Coyne, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.


    You planted the seeds and seedlings.  You nurtured them. They grew and now are producing the fruits of your labour. Actually, the “Vegetables” of your labour.  And there’s a lot of them! It may seem they are bigger than normal!  I “blame” that on the great Worm Casting Compost that our Society sold in May and June which was spread throughout my veggie gardens and sprinkled across my flower beds.  It worked very well.

     

    But what to do with all the vegetables? I can’t eat them all, especially the zucchini!  And I’ve already given some away to family and friends.  What’s left to do with them?  Freeze them!  It is an excellent way to preserve the colour, taste and texture of your harvested vegetables.  I have a lot of Zucchini right now. Here’s what I’ve done with it.

     


    Soup and pasta starter kits.
    In July the zucchini started to really grow! I spent time one Friday afternoon cooking up 3 rather large zucchini with onions.  I started by adding some olive oil to the pan, and added a large diced onion, cooking it on medium high for a short time. Then I added the larger diced zucchini pieces. I did this in 3 batches – one per zucchini.  I could have done them all at once in a stewing pot but I find it easier to handle them one at a time. I find I get less moisture in the mix which needs to “cooked out” to ensure my mixture is thicker. After I added the zucchini I added seasoning – oregano, pepper, and “Tex Mex” (It can found in most grocery stores). After stirring in the spices, I turned the stove element down to “2” (low).  After about 15 to 20 minutes, it was done. Then I placed the mixture in small containers – each enough for one soup or pasta dinner - and put them in the freezer overnight.  The next morning, I easily took those out of their containers and placed the “chunks” all in one large freezer bag.  Now I have 8 "chunks" of soup and pasta sauce as starter kits for winter meals.

     

    Above is a photo of the zucchini, onion mix with 2 of them out of the bag so you see them better. For beef barley soup, I cook with chopped carrot pieces and browned hamburger then add the defrosted starter mixture.  After that the only thing to add to make the soup is rinsed barley, a can of tomato pieces with some tomato paste or puree, and some additional spices such as garlic, pepper, oregano, about a half litre of water and/or beef broth, and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes and you have enough soup for several lunches.

     

    Zucchini/Tomato Side dish

    In August, I make the starter kits but now I add the newly ripened tomatoes. These make a zucchini, tomato, and onion mix for usage as a side dish for winter meals. Or you can use these for spaghetti sauce. The process is similar to the last one except after onions and zucchini start to soften, I add the tomato pieces from the larger tomatoes or the plum tomatoes (less acid) growing in my garden.  Stir them all together with some seasonings; turn them down with the lid slightly off to help this mixture reduce. It will need to cook longer to get rid of the moisture content. Below is a photo of the zucchini, tomato, onion mix which were put into individual bags just to show you another way to freeze these. This is great over mashed or baked potatoes for a very filling meal or side dish. But it is equally good on its own as a side dish.  My brother adds eggplant to his for a ratatouille-like dish which when ready to eat he tops with bread crumbs and some mozzarella.


    BBQed zucchini

    Sounds delicious, doesn't it?  And it is. I picked 2 more zucchinis, washed their outsides then cut them in half down the length of the vegetable. I took out the seeds (a personal choice not a necessity), and barbecued them with a bit of olive oil on the cut sides! Turn these a few times when grilling.  You could do thick zucchini rounds or semi-circles by cutting the zucchini across its length and discarding the very top and bottom pieces. If you are going to eat them right away cook until tender. If freezing them, cool them off before putting them on parchment for the freezing process described previously.  When you go to use them, put as many as you need on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Place in the oven to heat up. Cook them long enough to thaw them and get their internal temperature right and then top with tomato sauce and cheese and melt that in. Given you are cooking from frozen, these should take about 20 to 40 minutes in the oven – depending on the thickness of your slices or if you bake complete halves. This makes yet another very tasty side dish.

     

    Of course, you could always make zucchini bread or chocolate zucchini loaves! Yum. Yum.  Or use them as my daughter does by spiralizing zucchini to replace lasagna noodles!


      

  • August 13, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Carrot Tops

    Submitted by Lyne Webb, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

                           

    I just harvested some carrots and wondered about uses for their leafy tops. Here’s what I learned.

     

    Root-to-stem eating is the logical extension of the nose-to-tail movement, where vegetable trimmings that would normally end up in the bin, end up on the plate. The movement rethinks how we cook and prepare vegetables.  Reminds me of the adage “Waste not, want not!”

     

    I looked for a use for carrot tops other than the logical soup pot and came up with Chimichurri Sauce.  Chimichurri is an uncooked sauce used both as an ingredient in cooking and as a table condiment for grilled meat. It is found in Argentinian and Uruguayan cuisines.  I had never tried it before but found a recipe that substituted carrot fronds for the usual cilantro and parsley ingredients in the original sauce.  I made it myself and found it to be delicious on BBQ steak.  You may want to give it a try now that carrots are ready for harvesting.

    Here’s the Recipe:


    Ingredients

    • 1 cup carrot top leaves
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

    How to Make

    Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  You can add cumin to taste, if desired.  ENJOY!  
    This freshly made sauce lasts 2 to 3 weeks when refrigerated.


    Reminder: All of our Tips may also be seen online at this link.

  • August 06, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Trapping Earwigs

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

     

    You know those crawly critters with the pinchers on their tail end. Named because they do like to hide in dark, narrow places in the garden, Earwigs are a common garden inhabitant and it seems like everything in the garden may have a few hiding in it or under the leaves. Especially vegetables.


    As seen in the photo below, the male earwig has curved pinchers while the female’s pinchers are straighter. Males tend to use theirs to challenge other males during the mating season according to a recent speaker I heard. Female earwigs are very maternal and will protect their young for about a month! Who would have guessed? So, earwigs do have some good qualities!

    How do you know if it is earwigs that are causing issues in your garden?


    Earwigs don’t leave tell-tale droppings such as those left by scavenging caterpillars. Slugs leave a slime trail as they move over your plants. Earwigs eat holes in your plants and plant leaves.  On the plus side, earwigs can be beneficial in the garden as they are known to eat aphids and insect larvae although they feed mostly on decaying plant matter.  But holes in the leaves of your flowers and vegetables can be annoying so let’s find out how to get earwigs out of your garden.


    After much research, it turns out the best trap is one that contains any fishy-smelling oil - tuna, salmon, or sardines. Some people use a vegetable oil but add a small amount of Soya sauce to it. I'd think some Chinese Fish sauce would be a better addition than Soya sauce.  Either way the "smelly" oil attracts the bugs in what is commonly called an “oil trap”.  


    For a container, I’ve used a more rigid tin one that came with Italian take-out.  But really any aluminum tray that isn’t very tall is good. You might one you get  from take-out food or a dollar store. If the tray is about 2” tall, it should work well. Perhaps a used plastic margarine container could be used given they are very easy to find.


    I have read that some people bait the trap with canola oil and others add bacon grease or hamburger fat as the smell of grease and oil attract the earwigs. But I’d fear that smell of food would attract raccoons and other animals that you don’t want to invite to your backyard.


    A recent “Gardening Know How” article suggested testing the usage of a lid with entry holes over the container. The idea was that it allowed the container to be emptied of bugs and refilled with fish oils periodically allowing you to catch earwigs over an extended period of time or if your move the trap, it could be used in several different spots within your garden.


  • July 30, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Slinky and the Squirrel

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

     

    Are squirrels eating all the food you place in your birdfeeder?  My late husband would put out birdfeed and had many a squirrel as well as raccoons emptying the feeder regularly.  But he continued to fill the feeder given the joy he got from watching both the wide variety of birds in our backyard and from feeding several “friendly” squirrels by hand at the back porch.  We both enjoyed watching the variety of finches, woodpeckers, bluebirds, and cardinals.  I still hang suet in the trees in winter so I can enjoy the birds.

     

    If your bird feeders hang from tall poles, this gardening tip will certainly be of interest to you. It is very simple to implement. Simply hook one end of a metal or heavy plastic slinky to the top of your pole.  Let the slinky elongate itself down the pole; don’t try to stretch it further. When a squirrel comes to eat, they tend to climb the pole. Once they hook a claw or paw in any part of the slinky, it will further extend down the pole which is frightening for the squirrel.  And thus they don’t tend to come back and try again!  Of course, if your feeders are simply hung from a bracket under the eaves of your house, you could cut short sections of the slinky and coil them on the access arms of the feeder to provide a (small) degree of squirrel defence.

     

    This idea was recently circulating and shared many times on Facebook having come from Debby Keller.  You can watch the video at this link. See the July 6th entry.  I’ve captured the publicly shared images of the pole with slinky for all of you to enjoy.

     

    BTW: This series will publish most weeks for a few months but will miss a few. So watch for it in the OnRichmondHill.com newsletter. And if you don’t subscribe, do so now using this link. It always has great articles on events and news in Richmond Hill. If you have interest in a specific topic for this series of “Gardening Tips”, please send your request using this email.

  • July 23, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Row Covers

    Article and photos submitted by Dinah Gibbs, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

     

    Many people believe that organic gardening is simply growing food and flower gardens without taking measures to promote the growth of your plants or prevent pests and diseases. Organic gardeners will definitely beg to differ with this view!

     

    Gardening in a way that nourishes the soil without synthetic fertilizers while rejecting the use of toxic chemicals to control pests and diseases of crops is possible. This can be cost-effective while protecting the environment, improving soil fertility and plant health. Impressive yields are achieved of chemical-free food by nourishing your soil while avoiding nourishing the wide range of critters that will be eager to enjoy the fruits of your labour!

     

    Crop row covers are an excellent method of protecting against both flying and crawling insect pests. If carefully installed, they are efficient at thwarting rabbits and other rodents too. They are also an effective deterrent to slugs and snails.

     

    Row cover fabric can be purchased at hardware and gardening stores or ordered online. It is a lightweight, white synthetic material, although heavier fabrics are sometimes used where protection against cold temperatures, wind, harsh sunlight is desired. In all cases, the fabric allows light, air and water to enter. 

     

    A floating row cover, which is extremely lightweight (fragile) can be placed directly over a plant without the need for further support. It then should be weighted down with soil, stones or wood. A supporting framework is needed for other plants. This makes it easier to recycle the row covers in subsequent years as the more robust fabric is less likely to become ripped with use.

     

    More delicate plants, benefit from a framework of support. This could be a framework already being used like tomato cages, stakes or trellises. Again, to exclude pests, this needs to be buried at or below ground level. Hoops are generally used commercially; you can purchase these or make your own from materials you have on hand. Hoops must be higher than the mature crop or the fabric must be removed once the plants are bigger and more resistant to pests.



    The row covers are generally able to be removed before harvest, but where pests continue to be problematic, they can remain in place throughout the season. With careful use and storage, row covers and supporting materials can be reused many times as a further benefit to the environment!


  • July 16, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Using Straw in Your Garden

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society


    Last year one of our monthly speakers was a teenager, Emma Biggs, well known for growing tomatoes in downtown Toronto.  She spoke of how to grow them, get the best yield even in a small garden, and how to harvest the seeds to start the next season.  Although it wasn’t a part of her talk, one of her photos showed plants growing from within a bale of straw. This got my interest being raised in the tomato capital of Canada!  And thus, I began my quest for finding out if using straw was common.


    Many gardeners, especially vegetable gardeners are using straw as mulch. The benefits are many:

    • It covers the ground to effectively stop weeds from growing. The reasoning is that the straw blocks out the sun, preventing most weeds from germinating and growing. BTW: That also means do not put straw on top of newly plants seeds until the plants have grown to a fair size and then keep it about 2” from the stocks with only a light amount around the plants.
    • Straw composts slowly enriching the soil. For tomatoes, when soil moisture stays even calcium can be transferred from the soil to tomatoes more easily, preventing disease.
    • It keeps the soil moist so plants don’t dry out as quickly and thus need less watering. This also keeps the soil moist and workable.
    • It releases its nutrients including nitrogen so they can be easily absorbed into your plants and the soil beneath the straw. Thus. less fertilizer is needed.
    • Additionally, it can serve as the growing media keeping fruit and vegetables off the ground to avoid root rot. This works well for strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and squash.
    • And I’m sure you can see that these benefits will also save you time.


    What exactly is straw and could you use hay instead?
    Straw
     is an agricultural by-product consisting of the dry stalks of cereal plants after the grain and chaff have been removed. Straw is dried and baled when harvested and therefore less likely to mold or attract moisture. Straw is less expensive. Farmers might use it in nesting material for hens, or ground cover in chicken coops. Hay is grass, legumes, or other herbaceous plants that have been cut and dried to be stored for use as animal fodder (food). That may mean that hay also has been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. Another thing to note about hay is that it typically contains seeds, often weeds.  The last thing you want to do is add a source of weeds to your garden.  So please use straw.


    Straw around plants. My son made a vegetable garden in my backyard last summer. It grew a lot of good vegetables but also grew weeds. This year I suggested laying straw around the base of the plants and in the rows between plants once the seedlings were a reasonable size.  No weeds!  And they need less watering. We did NOT put straw in my radish, carrot, nor green onion beds as they are grown from seed and shouldn’t be covered.


    Spots to encourage grass seed to grow.  We thought about repairing a few bald spots in the lawn left when two trees died. We prepped the soil, added seeds and some topsoil then a very light covering of straw to keep the ground moist in the hot days we had this past spring.  A few weeks later the new grass had taken hold and was growing well. We then removed the straw so as not to choke out the new grass.  Straw goes a long way; we still have half a bale in the garage! It was purchased at a local nursery for $12. When I googled to find some, several big box stores and nurseries were selling it.


    Growing potatoes in straw. A friend who uses it for growing potatoes told me she uses a foot or two of straw atop the potato bed to grow clean potatoes that can be easily harvested.  Because potato roots are shallow, tubers form in the straw and she reports that her crops are always bigger when she uses straw as both mulch and soil media. Maybe I’ll try that next year. Another simply puts straw on the ground under her pepper and tomato plants so that the ripened fruits and vegetables won’t get blemished. The same works for zucchini, squash, melons, and pumpkins.


    So back to the beginning. Why did Emma Biggs have some of her plants growing in bales of straw?  Remember this was not a part of her presentation but something that caught my eye. I believe they were used as ready-made planters. Simply place them on the ground (you could even put some cardboard under them to stop weeds from coming from the ground below) then add good-sized seedlings. No need for soil. A wise use of space and time. Nutrients come as the bales compost. Moisture is retained for less watering. Few weeds can germinate and grow. And the straw will decompose!  


    Planting directly in a straw bale. Plant seedlings by creating a hole in the bale deep and wide enough to accommodate the roots, and insert the root ball directly into the cavity. add a little soilless mix to protect them if needed. If you are sowing small seeds, you can plant them into a bale by laying down a thin layer of sterile soilless mix over the top of the bale and covering the seeds with a light dusting of the mix. Larger seeds (peas, beans, and squash) can be inserted directly into the bale to a depth of around the second knuckle on your finger.


    Turns out that straw is the new vegetable grower’s mulch!


  • July 09, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Garlic Mustard…. Oh Oh….

    Submitted by Monica Ahrens, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

     

    Writing about the invasive Garlic Mustard was to be a simple, therapeutic way to share my daunting experience of discovering and attempting to eradicate this aggressive plant. I had noticed it with increasing frequency on my mother’s country property a few years ago, and now in my small urban garden, which backs onto woodland. Beware, my friends, it likely lurks in your favourite green spaces as well.


    As I undertook further research on this green beast, I recognized that writing about it was not to be simple at all. Its threat to our biodiversity is astounding, and its management quite complex. There is much that I discovered about the invasive Garlic Mustard. I will offer some notables, as well as some suggested links for additional information.


    Garlic Mustard is a biennial (2-year life cycle) herbaceous plant in the mustard family, native to Europe. It was apparently introduced to North America as a food source and used as herbal medicine by settlers in the late 1800s. It, unfortunately, escaped cultivation to become a serious invader in Ontario.


    Make the time to recognize this plant. It will look different in each of year one and year two.  For more details, Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program1 offers excellent resources, including photographs, a fact sheet, and management practices.


    First-year plants are low-growing rosettes with rounded, kidney-shaped leaves, scalloped on the edges. On mature plants, the upper leaves
    are more triangular, becoming smaller toward the top of the plant. The leaves have noticeable veins and deeply toothed edges. At the top of the plant will be one stem that flowers with a cluster of small white flowers, when blooming in the spring. Depending on when you find the garlic mustard, it may also have lots of thin seedpods. The giveaway for Garlic Mustard is the smell. The stems, leaves, and flowers smell like garlic, especially when crushed. The flowers attract pollinators, which is why, sadly, some have suggested introducing this plant to your garden…. oh oh, and oh no!



    First-year plants are low-growing rosettes with rounded, kidney-shaped leaves, scalloped on the edges. On mature plants, the upper leaves
    are more triangular, becoming smaller toward the top of the plant. The leaves have noticeable veins and deeply toothed edges. At the top of the plant will be one stem that flowers with a cluster of small white flowers, when blooming in the spring. Depending on when you find the garlic mustard, it may also have lots of thin seedpods. The giveaway for Garlic Mustard is the smell. The stems, leaves, and flowers smell like garlic, especially when crushed. The flowers attract pollinators, which is why, sadly, some have suggested introducing this plant to your garden…. oh oh, and oh no!


    Garlic Mustard is hugely damaging to our environment:

    • It commonly grows in urban gardens and woodlands and carries diseases like mosaic viruses which may affect other garden plants
    • It is a nuisance for dairy farmers because when eaten by livestock, the garlic flavour can be tasted in the milk, making it unusable.
    • It releases chemicals that change soil chemistry and prevent the growth of other plants.
    • It can establish itself and become the dominant plant in a forest understory within 5-7 years. It displaces native woodland plants and wildflowers, many of which are now listed as species at risk, through competition and/or through changes to the soil and leaf litter.

    How do we control this green beast?  I felt quite proud that I must have eradicated at least 3000 of these plants over the last few weeks.  However, work is still ahead for me. These plants are so adaptable, they anticipate how we want to deal with them!


    My first thought was to take the weed wacker to them! Oh oh! This is called basal cutting. Basal cutting involves cutting 2nd-year plants at the base of the stem. The best time to do basal cutting is just after the plant's flower, and before they produce seeds. Garlic Mustard plants can flower at different times but typically from March to May, so it will need to be repeated more than once in a season. Plants that have been mowed can still send up flowering stalks, but continuous mowing throughout the growing season can prevent seed production. Basal cutting is preferable to hand pulling because it reduces soil disturbance.


    Hand pulling is a practical strategy for small populations. However, pulling Garlic Mustard by hand creates soil disturbance, which stimulates the germination of seeds. Seeds can stay dormant over winter and remain viable in the soil for up to five years!  If you elect to pull, do so from the base, to remove the entire root.  If Garlic Mustard roots are damaged but not removed, small buds on the roots will sprout additional stems. They are then able to produce replacement flowers, as late as July and August. Once they go to seed, plants can produce up to 150 seed pods, with up to 22 seeds per pod! Oh oh! Hand pulling must be repeated more than once. So, here I go again…


    Control measures must be continued for at least 5 years to ensure that the seed bank is depleted. It is important to remove both stages, 1st and 2nd-year plants, as removal of only the tall flowering plants may reduce competition to the basal rosettes, increasing their chances of survival and flowering in the next year. It ain’t over until it’s over! If an area is cleared of Garlic Mustard plants, it should be re-planted immediately with other plants or covered with leaves or mulch at least 5cm thick to reduce its seed germination success.


    Back to the initial food source reference, many rave about garlic mustard pesto. I make the traditional basil pesto but have never tried to make the garlic mustard pesto which is likely because my feelings about this green plant aren’t so flavourful. There are many recipes out there.


    Garlic Mustard is invasive and hard to get rid of once it enters your garden. That makes it something to be concerned about.  Whether you choose to chop it, clip it, pull it or puree it, we all appreciate your vigilance in controlling this green beast and protecting our environment.


    References:

    1. Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program
    2. Ontario Invasive Plant Council 
    3. King County. Garlic mustard identification and control. Alliaria Petiolata
    4. Morning GA Clips. Managing Garlic Mustard 
    5. Friends of the Mississippi River (Twitter). How to Identify Garlic Mustard  
  • July 02, 2021 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Fungus Gnats!

    Article by Cathy Kavassalis, Halton Master Gardener. Used with the author’s written permission.


    ISSUE:  Help! I repotted two tropicals with some potting soil that appears to be saturated with little fruit fly-looking beasties! I added a sticky fly tape and it is covered with them. I’ve sprayed both plants with soapy water to no effect! Any ideas on how to stop this would be appreciated. I’m finding them everywhere.


    SOLUTION: The good news is that fungus gnats are relatively benign. Adults do not bite and do not harm plants. However, the larvae can do root damage in that volume. Typically, larvae feed on algae, fungi and decaying plant material in soil, but can also feed on root hairs.


    So, what to do? First you need to change your cultural practices. You need to let your soil/media dry out. This will kill off the larvae and reduce their food source. Sticky tapes as you are doing can be used to collect the adults so they don’t continue to breed and spread.


    Generally, pesticides are not recommended. Mostly because they are not particularly effective at dealing with the larvae. Anything from soaps to pyrethrins (pesticides found naturally in some chrysanthemum flowers) can kill off adults, but these give temporary results as they do not persist long. There are more long lasting synthetic pyrethroids products like Schultz fungus gnat spray (containing Resmethrin) that require less repetition; but honestly, I think you will be able to manage it with cultural changes.


    Researchers have found that Bounce® fabric softener dryer sheets (Outdoor Fresh Scent) repel fungus gnat adults and greenhouse producers insert dryer sheets into growing medium. There are ongoing experiments with things like lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Mill.), marjoram (Origanum vulgare L.), and basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) which contain linalool (3,7-dimethyl-1,6-octadien-3-ol) to see it they have the same effect. You might try sprinkling some oregano on the soil surface as an experiment. Sliced potatoes pressed on the surface of the soil are great for drawing the larvae to the surface. They are good for monitoring levels and the surfacing larvae can be discarded to remove some of the problem.


    More Reading:

    •  Colorado State University Extension. Fungus Gnats as Houseplant and Indoor Pests #5.584
    • University of California Agricultural & Natural Resources. Integrated Pest Management Program Fungus Gnats Management Guidelines
    ResearchGate.net Journal of Agricultural and Urban Entomology Jan. 2003, Effect of monitoring technique in determining the presence of fungus gnat Authors: Ana R. Cabrera, Raymond A Cloyd, and Edmond R Zaborski


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