Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spiders de-light

Lights attract insects, insects attract spiders.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spider, spider, can you tell

For the most part spiders are desired in the garden. 
According to Dr. Linda S. Rayor, Assistant Professor of Entomology, Cornell University, "Spiders are beneficial inhabitants of any garden, ecosystem, or home because of their important contributions to biological control of pest insects. Spiders are considered to be the most important terrestrial predators, eating tons of pest insects or other small arthropods every year.  Spiders are generalist predators that are willing to eat almost any insect they can catch.  They are abundant and found in most habitats.  They only need to be left alone!"

Spiders can be a problem if they spin their webs near our window, doorways, around our lamps and other places where their presence is unaesthetic.

Sometimes they can be more of a problem at home near water. I suspect this is because there are more insects near the water and therefore more spiders set up shop there. I say that because spiders also seem to be more of a problem near outdoor lights and lamps. Here again, it's likely that the spiders congregate where the food sources are the best.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Weed Free or Free Weeds?

Many people are looking for a weed free lawn. How many are searching for a free weed lawn?

Stopped to pick up some fresh Ontario strawberries, the first of the season - at least for me. Always prefer local berries. And especially when someone else has picked them for me. I am not a "pick your own" strawberry person.

Noticed this sign. I need one for our yard. Maybe in conjunction with the article I posted from Lancaster online.

We have a good selection of weeds for your foraging pleasure.

Forage! … Your lawn could be your dinner!

By DAINA SAVAGE, Correspondent
Media Center

In the span of 10 minutes, with a stroll around the Environmental Center at Lancaster County Central Park, naturalist Lisa Sanchez had the key ingredients for the day's meals.
The morning's harvest included a mess of dandelion greens and other lawn "weeds" for a salad; a bushel of nettles to make soup; and the invasive garlic mustard to use as a savory alternative to lettuce on sandwiches and a marinade for chicken. For additional flavor, Sanchez dug deep to get the pungent bulbs of wild onion and wild garlic, rather than just the sprigs.
As she collected the prolific greens, she couldn't help sampling along the way, offering tastes of minty ground ivy, sweet and lemony wood sorrel, and the difficult-to-place flavor of chickweed.
"I think it tastes the way the tassels on corn smell," she said, pegging it exactly.
The scariest sample: the tender raw tips of new nettles. Those who have accidentally brushed against this plant and experienced the sting from the formic acid-laden prickles can understand the hesitation.
But grasped at the tip and placed on the middle of the tongue before chewing, yields an exquisite fresh green taste that practically shouts springtime, leaving a lingering sensation that feels like your mouth is more awake and alive.
Sanchez savors the surprise of first-timers, knowing she's converted new foragers.
Everything old is new again
Spring foraging is nothing new. Those with Pennsylvania Dutch roots here know the delights of the first dandelions and fiddleheads of the season. But for many, the knowledge of how to pick and harvest the first greens of springtime hasn't been passed down through the generations.
"When I give talks at senior centers, the residents all love to remember how they would go out and collect these plants to eat and use for medicine," Sanchez said. "What I wonder is why did we stop doing this, why didn't we pass this knowledge on? Why did we consider this something that only poor people did when the food is so rich and abundant?"
When tomatoes and berries are available year-round in the supermarket, there is no anticipation for an emerging fresh harvest after a long winter.
A confluence of the locavore movement and economic necessity has rendered wild food foraging part of a hip resurgent movement.
"It's the ultimate 'Buy Fresh, Buy Local,' " Sanchez said. "It doesn't get any fresher or more local than your own backyard."
Foodies with sophisticated palates are demanding more unusual tastes, and wild foods deliver.
Plus the experience of a little hunting and gathering appeals to a primitive need.
"For me, the adventure of getting outside to get dinner instead of driving to the grocery store is why I do it," Sanchez said. "I get food picked at its peak flavor and I know it's safer than something that's been shipped in and touched and sneezed on by who knows how many other people."
The recent E. coli outbreak in lettuce just punctuates her point.
"It's just safer to eat salads out of my yard," she said.
Free food
In tough economic times, foraging for fresh food becomes more appealing.
"Gathering wild food, getting something wonderful for nothing, is one of life's greatest pleasures," writes Katie Letcher Lyle in "The Foraging Gourmet."
For those who love a great score at a yard sale or public auction, the thrill, and perhaps necessity, of gathering a basketful of greens for nothing makes the meal even sweeter.
"The last couple of years we've seen a lot more interest in learning self-sufficiency skills," Sanchez said. "Our classes that teach primitive skills like how to start a fire or how to build a shelter or how to survive in the woods are very popular."
For children raised on plastic-wrapped vegetables and fruit-flavored processed foods, the sense of wonder that the woods provide something edible never ceases to amaze Sanchez.
"They can't believe they can eat these plants," she said. "It gives them, and their parents, a new appreciation for what is growing in their own lawns."
Sanchez recalled an adult participant in one of her presentations fawning over the clump of flowering wild onions near the environmental center.
"She loved them and wanted to know where to buy them to plant in her own yard," Sanchez said. "I told her to stop mowing her lawn and she'd see she already had them."
Master forager Euell Gibbons, author of the seminal "Stalking the Wild Asparagus," promoted a movement of lawn eaters more than 40 years ago, advocating the abundance of nutrition just underfoot.
In his essay, "Just How Good Are Wild Foods," he wrote: "We spend millions on herbicides to kill the dandelions in our lawns, while we pay millions more for diet supplements to give ourselves the vitamins and minerals that dandelion could easily furnish."
Spring cleansing tonics?
For Sanchez, it's the health benefits that make foraging the most appealing.
"They're better for you than the vegetables in the grocery store," she said.
"Plants like dandelions also are great tonics, flushing the toxins out of your system while allowing your body to hold onto the potassium and vitamin A." Nettles are especially rich in iron and young ranunculus plants are a good source of vitamin C, she said.
Everything's better with batter
Our county fall fairs are famous for their abundance of fried vegetables. But in the springtime, the place to get a batter-dipped fix is at the county park. Sanchez's school group programs often have dandelion head poppers and chickweed funnel cakes on the menu.
"I like my greens just-picked-fresh from the woods, but coating them in batter really appeals to the kids," she said.
Baking spring greens in quiches and frittatas is an elegant option to share the harvest on brunch menus. Simply fry up some wild garlic and wild onion bulbs and then steam nettles or dandelion greens, substituting these wild foods for spinach or kale in a favorite recipe.
Forage responsibly
Before heading out to your yard or the woods to pick, do your homework. If you can't positively identify a plant, forage with someone who can.
"Please use a field guide," Sanchez said. "There are many look-alike plants that are not edible. If there's any question, don't try it."
Sanchez said naturalists at the park periodically offer programs to help novices gain confidence.
She also suggests all foragers start off the season slowly, tasting small amounts until the body is acclimated to the new food.
"As with all spring tonics that flush out the system, you may want to be prepared the first time you eat them and know where the bathrooms are," she said.
All foraged food should also be washed well before using.
Some plants, such as pokeweed, need special preparation like salt water soakings and boiling in two changes of water to be edible. Otherwise, the plant can be poisonous. (Pokeweed is not a plant for novice foragers.)
When foraging, be aware of your surroundings. Plants grown along the side of a road, next to a paint-peeling structure, or near a polluted stream should be avoided. And if you're foraging on public lands, ensure that the groundskeepers haven't treated the area with pesticides or herbicides.
To ensure a continuing harvest, leave plenty of plants to reproduce. "Except garlic mustard," Sanchez said. laughing. "Take all of that you want, and dig out the root too."
Edible wild greens to try
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chicory (Cichorium)
Curly dock (Rumex crispus)
Dandelion (Taraxacum)
Fiddleheads (various fern species)
Lamb's quarters (Chenopdium)
Nettle (Urtica)
Pigweed (Amaranthus)
Plantain (Plantago)
Pokeweed (Phytolacca)
Purslane (Portulaca)
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)
Wild mustard (Brassica)
Wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta)
Wild greens recipes
Steamed Nettles
Dandelion Fritters
Weedy Lawn Salad
Cream of Sorrel Soup

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fiesta on creeping charlie

here is the creeping charlie a day later before treatment.

Fiesta dandelion

here the damage a day later. The dandelion has turned black

another dandelion bites the dust with Fiesta weed killer

Fiesta on clover

here it is a day later.

Wisteria blooming

Best bloom in the twelve years since planting
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thatch core

Thatch is that part of the lawn between the soil and the grass blades. See the lawn library on Thatch and Aeration.
This core shows too much thatch. Core aeration is the best way to combat excessive thatch.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Still time to seed

It's not to late to seed your lawn. In fact, it's a great time to fill in the bare spots, thin areas and parts that may have suffered damage from insects, winter kill or old age.

Turf King will gladly leave a small bag of our premium grass seed mix to our clients who are on a seasonal program. 

For more seeding information go to our Lawn Library.

Still time 2 seed
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Customer lawns

Heritage Green Nursing Home, Senior Apartments, and Retirement Home, Stoney Creek
Fertilized with our Turf King fertilizer April 28th

Heavy frost on lawn

A cool May for the last 2 nights. Sensitive annuals may be damaged by these temperatures.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sarritor Dandelion Weed Killer

Got weeds? Organic weed treatment is now available retail.  I was in a retail garden centre yesterday, saw some Sarritor dandelion weed killer by the checkout stand. It was in a refrigerated display. A small 300 gram dispenser/package sells for $38.99. The pamphlet says that should control 750 dandelions.

They recommend that the product be used within one week of purchase.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

De-formed dandelion flower stalks?

Found more than several dandelions this morning with what appear to be 8-12 flower stalks fused together. Could't think why this would happen. Then realized this was all in a part of the lawn where I used one of those new dandelion weeders.

My theory is that those types of weeders don't always get the whole dandelion root (which can be 15-18 inches long-see a post from last year.)

Multiple shoots arise from a severed root. Then because there are so many shoots in a small area, the flower stalks somehow fuse together in an abnormal fashion.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Fiesta weed control

New weed control for Ontario, Fiesta by Neudorff has been posted on the Environmental Registry as of April 22, 2010.
According to the Registry:
"FeHEDTA meets the criteria for Class 11 pesticides which are allowed for controlling pests in lawns and gardens.  Class 11 pesticides include biopesticides and certain lower risk pesticides.  The biopesticides are those designated by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).  Lower risk pesticides have characteristics such as low toxicity to humans, minimal impact to the environment and act in a non-toxic way in controlling intended pests."

Comment from someone who tried a similar product in Northern Illinois
Jon W. Says: 

Five days ago, I applied ferric HEDTA (aka Iron-X when bought from Gardens Alive) to a small area of my lawn. I bought one 16oz bottle of the concentrate and used 2/3 of it to make 2 gallons of solution per the product instructions. I applied this to about 300 square feet (28 square meters) of a northern Illinois lawn which hasn’t has a bit of fertilizer or herbicide applied to it in 27 years. Very few parts of the lawn are >50% grass and a few are almost 100% broadleaf weeds and clover. (I don’t consider clover a weed.) I intentionally applied the product at varying rates from about 0.5 to 1.5 gal/100 sq ft to judge its effectiveness. It was applied immediately after mowing and three days before a 1.4 inch (36mm) rain.
Even at lower application rates, it did a good job of knocking down dandelions, which seems to be the species most affected by this product. It only killed plantain at the higher end of its application rate. Ground ivy (creeping charlie), thistle, violets, catnip and garlic mustard seemed to be moderately affected by it. It killed the few garlic mustard plants I sprayed, but those were along a fence and may have received a higher dose. White clover seemed to be least affected by it. I couldn’t discern any damage to grass. Flowering and seed release in surviving dandelions was noticeably lower than in the rest of the lawn.
Even though the product didn’t completely eliminate weeds, it reduced them enough to make me decide to treat the entire lawn with it.

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