Social distancing in the garden

Beckie Fox

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While we are all keeping our social distance from one another, the insects in our gardens are not. I find bees clustered around open crocus and hellebore blooms, whooping it up, taunting me with their cozy, friendly gatherings. I’m glad they’re having a good time.

On the other hand, community garden members are sadly realizing that social distancing requirements may mean their plots are off-limits. Earlier this week, the premier of Ontario closed all communal outdoor recreational amenities in the province, including community gardens. 

Crocus blooms waiting for early pollinators to visit.

What’s that bug?

Then there are those other, less welcome, gatherings in the insect world we’re beginning to notice in the garden as the weather warms. Is that overwintering Eastern spruce gall? Are those the egg masses of viburnum leaf beetle over there?

Identification is key to using insect pest management (IPM) methods, so I’ve recently downloaded the BugFinder app to my mobile phone to help me be more accurate this year. It’s a free app developed by David Cheung of the University of Guelph and Jen Llewellyn, a landscape and nursery specialist in Ontario. The app is searchable by host or by pest, and includes more than 800 images of 82 species of insect and mite pests.

Time is nigh for horticultural oil

As spring temperatures become more consistent, it will be time to apply horticultural oil to help control the nymphs of scale insects and eggs of mites. “Be prepared” by Ontario Nursery Crops answers some common questions.  “Dos and don’ts of dormant oils” also provides guidance.

Build it and they will come

It started with humble bee houses; now, it’s multi-storey pollinator palaces. Tara Nolan, of Savvy Gardening, describes how she was inspired to create her own palace after seeing one at the Chelsea Flower Show a few years ago. She made hers by stacking vintage metal milk crates and filling them with moss, dried flowers, pine cones, sticks and other materials to welcome solitary bees. It has become quite the conversation piece in her garden.

Don’t toss old seeds

If you come across seed packets left over from last year — or maybe even earlier — don’t assume they’re all unusable. “How to test for seed viability” tells you how to determine whether they have a good rate of germination.

A botanist’s tale from Hawaii

Here’s an encouraging story of a botanist’s journey of joys and disappointments as he discovers in 1991 what he thinks is a lobelioid species that had become extinct in 1957. But then bad news: it’s not the extinct species. Then, good news: it’s an entirely new species. Alas, by 2003 this new species becomes extinct, too (common in Hawaii because of natural and unnatural causes). Then, 14 years later, on another trip to the same area, the botanist discovers ….well, you’ll find a happy ending here.

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1 thought on “Social distancing in the garden”

  1. Hello Beckie: Thank you for your news letters. I always look forward to receiving them and now when there is so much bad news, they are especially welcome and remind me that I can always look forward to getting into the garden.
    I hope you are well.


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