The red noodle bean plant looks spectacular, grows rapidly, and provides a bountiful harvest.
A dear friend gifted me with a packet of red noodle bean seeds a while back. As they were a type of pole bean, I planted the seeds around things they could climb and watered them regularly. At first, nothing seemed to happen, as is normal in the world of gardening. Then I went away for a few weeks. When I returned, I was delighted to find my red noodle beans had completely lived up to their reputation. [Thank you, Carol!]
The red noodle bean story
Red noodle beans originated in Africa but are more commonly considered to be from China. Rather than being related to the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), such as kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans, red noodle beans are more closely related to cowpeas and yard long beans (Vigna unguiculata).
Red noodle bean description
These climbing beans start out looking much like other pole beans. Heart-shaped leaflets appear in groups of three as tendrils take hold wherever they can, pulling the vine upward. Lovely small white, pink, or lavender flowers appear along the way, but are easily overlooked. The real surprise comes when the pods appear. Pairs of striking scarlet pods can reach over a foot-and-a-half in length.
How to grow red noodle beans
Red noodle bean seeds should be planted 3/4-1” deep and 4” apart. Like other legumes, red noodle beans have delicate root systems that do not recover well from transplanting. These plants need heat to grow, so be sure to install them in a sunny location after the soil has warmed from its winter nap. In fact, where other legumes succumb to scorching summers and drought, red noodle beans thrive.
Vines need a sturdy support as they can reach 8’ in length or more. Trellises, cattle panels, fences, tuteurs, old ladders and pergolas can all be used as supports. Plants will need a thorough watering every 7-10 days to develop deep roots. Because red noodle beans are legumes, they do not need nitrogen fertilizer. In fact, they generally don’t need fertilizer at all, assuming your soil is healthy. You will need a soil test to know if that is the case in your garden.
Being native to tropical rainy areas, red noodle beans need a fair bit of irrigation, just be sure to allow the soil to dry out between waterings to avoid many of the diseases common to legumes.
Red noodle bean pests and diseases
Red noodle bean pests include birds, gophers, rabbits, rats and squirrels, along with ants, mites, and aphids. Those aphids may also bring mosaic viruses to your red noodle bean crop, so monitor closely for those insidious pests.
Harvesting red noodle beans
Plants start producing pods within 80 days. By harvesting pods as they appear, you will stimulate the vines to continue producing. In other words, the more you take, the more they make.
Pods can be harvested when pencil thin to be used whole in stir-fry, or you can allow them to reach full size to harvest what will dry into small, red beans. Keep in mind that allowing the beans to dry on the vine will slow or halt pod production. When harvesting, be sure to leave the buds above the pods in place. These buds can produce multiple sets of pods over time.
You can also succession plant red noodle beans to make full use of your local growing season.
Give red noodle beans a try! You are going to love how they look (and taste)!
Black beans are sweet, meaty beans that are native to the Americas and often used in South American, Cajun, and Creole recipes. Black beans are delicious, easy to grow, and dried beans can be stored for 2 years before they start losing their flavor.
Black bean plants
Black beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are legumes. This means they have nodules on and in their roots that allow them to fix atmospheric nitrogen into a form that they and neighboring plants can use. This nitrogen is only available until legumes begin flowering and producing pods. At that point, they keep the nitrogen for themselves.
The large, familiar seeds of black beans split in half, which tells us that they are eudicots. This means that the vascular bundle forms a ring within the stem, plants have a taproot, and flowers generally have petals that appear in multiples of four or five.
Black beans get their black color from flavonoids called anthocyanins. These are the same water-soluble pigments that give purple cauliflower and blueberries their color.
Black bean varieties
Black beans come in both bush and pole varieties. Pole varieties will climb trellises, cattle panels, and other vertical surfaces, and they tend to be indeterminate, which means they will continue producing pods. Bush varieties tend to be determinate and will produce all of their pods within a two-week time frame. Pole beans produce more pods than bush beans, but bush varieties are best if you are planning on doing any canning.
Whichever variety you should, beans should be harvested as soon as they have plumped up. Leaving them on the plant for too long makes them tough.
How to grow black beans
Beans are generally planted directly in the soil in spring and early summer. If planted too soon or too late in the season, the seeds will simply rot in the ground. You can start black bean seeds in smaller pots, but they have delicate roots and do not transplant well. You can also grow them in containers. Just keep in mind that bean root systems need 16-24” deep pots to thrive.
NOTE: As tempting as it may be to use an inexpensive bag of dried black beans from your local grocery store as your seeds, don't do it. Grocery store items are safe to eat. That does not means that they are safe to grow. Many grocery store plants can carry pests and diseases that may take years to be rid of. Instead, invest in certified disease-free seeds and transplants. Your garden is worth it.
Black beans prefer warm temperatures (above 70°F) and need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. They prefer loose soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. Because they can fix atmospheric nitrogen, there is no need to feed bean plants with nitrogen. If a soil test indicates a nutrient deficiency, you can top dress around plants for the best yield.
Seeds should be planted 1-2” deep and 6-8” apart. Water enough to keep the soil moist (but not soggy) until germination occurs. This should take 8-14 days. After that, water deeply every few days, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. For a continuous harvest of black beans, you can start new seeds every week or two throughout the growing season. This is called succession planting.
Hand-weed around bean plants by cutting weeds off at soil level. This avoids disturbing bean roots while eliminating competition for water, nutrients, and sunlight. This practice also leaves valuable soil microorganisms in place, where they can benefit the bean plants.
Black beans take 80-140 days to mature, depending on environmental conditions and variety.
Black bean pests and diseases
Disease that tend to affect beans include bean rust, curly top, damping off, Fusarium root rot, mosaic viruses, powdery mildew, and white mold. Most of these diseases can be prevented by avoiding overhead watering and allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
The real battle, when growing any type of bean, is the army of pests that may go after your crop. These pests include aphids, armyworms, bean weevils, corn earworms, cucumber beetles, cutworms, darkling beetles, earwigs, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, leaf miners, loopers, Lycaenid pod borers, Lygus bugs, nematodes, salt marsh caterpillars, seed corn maggots, slugs and snails, spider mites, stink bugs, thrips, whiteflies, and wireworms, but don’t let that stop you from trying your hand at these productive, delicious, easy to store beans. Three-year crop rotations can help prevent or break the disease triangle for many of these problems.
Beans are easy to work with, they improve your soil, and are a satisfying crop to harvest.
Cherry, apple, peach and plum trees are all susceptible to a fungal disease called Cytospora canker.
Cytospora canker is a collection of symptoms caused by several species of Cytospora fungi. This disease is also seen in ash, birch, cottonwood, elm, maple, willow, spruce and other conifers. Some Cytospora fungi are host-specific, while others can infect several different tree species. Sadly, Cytospora canker can be fatal.
Cytospora canker lifecycle
Cytospora canker fungi infect trees and shrubs that are stressed or weakened by injury, frost damage, drought, or pests. Spores are carried by wind and rain. Infection can occur at any time of year, but is more likely during dormant periods, when trees are less able to defend themselves. Fungal spores enter through tiny wounds in the roots or bark and begin growing in the xylem and phloem. Eventually, the branch is girdled, blocking the flow of water and nutrients, and the branch dies. If infection occurs in the trunk of the tree, the tree will die.
Cytospora canker symptoms
The first sign of Cytospora canker is often the random die off or flagging of tree or shrub branches. Closer inspection reveals cankers on stems and branches. These cankers tend to be long and narrow and may or may not be sunken or discolored. These fungi grow so rapidly that discoloration and sunken areas do not always have time to form, but the bark may split along the edge of the cankers as the tree tries to defend itself. These cracks allow for the formation of a callus that blocks the fungi from entering. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In some cases, girdling occurs without any visible cankers. Gumming may also occur. Gumming is when stems and fruit ooze out a sticky sap. This is another form of tree defense.
If you cut into a diseased stem, you may notice discoloration and a funky smell. If you see tiny black spots, you are looking at fruiting bodies of the fungi.
Cytospora canker prevention and control
The easiest way to prevent Cytospora canker is to keep your trees and shrubs healthy in the first place. Healthy plants are less likely to become stressed enough to be vulnerable to infection by fungal spores in the first place.
Since drought and flooding are the most common conditions that make trees susceptible to Cytospora canker, regular irrigation during summer and proper drainage in wetter months can prevent infection. These other tips can help prevent Cytospora canker:
Once infection occurs, remove any affected stems and branches by cutting close to, but not damaging, the branch collar. Be sure to disinfect your cutting tools with bathroom cleaner or ethyl alcohol between each cut. Then apply a fungicide to each cut. Do not use any other wound dressing, as these treatments can trap spores and moisture where you least want them.
There are no known chemical controls for Cytospora canker, so keeping those trees and shrubs healthy is your best bet.
Common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) may be edible, but you probably don’t want it anywhere near your garden.
California goosefoot (Blitum californicum) is also known as lambsquarters, but is a close cousin to spinach and the subject of another post, another day.
Lambsquarters grows pretty much everywhere without any help from any of us. Sadly, this tenacious weed also plays host to several diseases.
Diseases of lambsquarters
These weeds are susceptible to a large number of plant diseases. The list of diseases commonly found on lambsquarter, and the crops they infect, include:
The green peach aphid, a serious disease-carrier, seems to prefer lambsquarters, which gives us yet another reason for pulling these weeds out as soon as they are seen.
Lambsquarters start out with tiny dull bluish oblong leaves. You may see a reddish purple on the underside. As leaves mature, they take on more of a toothed, lance shape. Leaves are covered with a white, powdery coating, especially when new. Stems are sometimes tinged red or purple. Flower clusters form much like the seed heads of millet and quinoa.
Pull them out. Dig them out. Don’t let them go to seed.
While it is okra pods that we normally think of eating, okra leaves and flowers are also edible. Cousin to hollyhocks, cocoa, cotton, hibiscus, and mallow, okra is a simple addition to your garden.
Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is an attractive plant. Large flowers tend to be white or yellow with red or purple spots at the base. These are big, impressive plants, similar to artichokes. They can reach 5’ in height and 2 or 3 feet wide.
How to grow okra
Okra prefers hot, sunny weather and warm soil (at least 75°F). It will tolerate clay soil but grows best in soil with lots of organic material. Okra can be planted in large containers.
The roots of okra seedlings are very delicate and easy to damage. Seedlings can be difficult to find, depending on where you live. Okra can be started from seeds, but it is a slow growing plant. Seeds should be sowed 3/4” deep in mounds.
Okra is a heavy feeder, so top dressing with some aged compost when plants are 8” tall and again when pods set and when plants are 4’ tall. This will ensure they have all the nutrients they need. [Of course, it is always a good idea to get a soil test, so you know what your plants are growing in.] Over-fertilization of okra creates huge, beautiful leaves and zero pods.
Once pod-formation begins, be sure to harvest pods every other day, while they are less that 4” long. Larger pods are tough and inedible. If pods are allowed to ripen on the plant, pod production will stop.
Okra pests and diseases
Okra is frequently attacked by aphids, cutworms, earwigs, flea beetles, and whiteflies. You can protect young okra plants from earwigs and cutworms by using brassica collars.
Being susceptible to Fusarium wilt and Verticillium wilt, okra should not be planted where tomatoes or peppers have been grown recently.
Okra is a drought-tolerant plant, but it grows best with regular irrigation. Some people are sensitive to okra leaves, so you might want to wear gloves. Just in case.
Nurse cropping is a form of companion planting in that specific plants are installed to provide one type of protection or another for young crops as they become established.
Nurse crops protect young perennials
In commercial agriculture, nurse crops are fast-growing annuals that are planted along with perennials, such as alfalfa, to help those perennials become established. This gives the long term crop protection from pests as it is getting started.
Nurse crops as trap crops
Trap crops are installed around or near desirable crops because of the way they attract or repel specific pests. In some cases, trap crops interfere with a pest’s lifecycle or kill it outright. In other cases, the trap crop is “harvested” after pests have appeared to remove them from the garden.
Nurse crops are frequently used as traps crops. For example, wireworms are a big problem for strawberries. In one study, strawberries planted alone had a 43% mortality rate, while strawberries planted two weeks before wheat was added had a 27% mortality rate. When wheat was planted 8 days before the strawberries, that mortality rate dropped to 5%. That’s a significant savings in strawberry starts, just by broadcasting a handful of wheat berries a week ahead of time!
Pros and cons of nurse cropping
Like every other plan of action, nurse cropping has pros and cons. The benefits of nurse cropping include reduced weeds, wind and erosion. Also, perennial seedlings are protected from excessive sun in their first weeks of growth. Oats and other cereals are common nurse crops. As such, another benefit is that the nurse crop can be a harvestable edible in its own right.
The potential problems associated with nurse cropping is that the nurse crop does use up water and nutrients. It may also become a type of weed itself.
You can use nurse cropping in your garden by starting cereal grains in a bed a week or so before planting something else. If you don’t harvest it, the local birds and other wildlife will appreciate the buffet and more tender plants will benefit, as well.
Lily leaf beetles prefer lilies over everything else, but you may find them damaging your potatoes and hollyhocks, as well.
The lily leaf beetle (Lilioceris lilii) earns its name by devouring lilies of every shape and size. Native to Europe, this pest made its way to Canada in 1945 and reached the U.S. in 1992. While they may not yet be in your neighborhood, they might. So it’s a good idea to know what they look like and how to control them - just in case.
Lily leaf beetle description
The bright reddish-orange wing cover of lily leaf beetles makes them easy to spot. Black legs, head, and antennae stand out in clear contrast against green leaves. Adults average 1/2” long.
Eggs are irregularly shaped and laid in rows. At first they are tan colored. Just before they hatch, they turn bright red. Larvae look like tiny brown, orange, yellow, or even greenish slugs with black heads.
Lily leaf beetle lifecycle
Eggs are laid on host plants, usually on the underside of leaves. After hatching, larvae feed for 2 - 3 weeks before dropping to the ground to pupate in the soil. Adults overwinter in sheltered areas that may not necessarily be near host plants. In spring, they emerge and mate. Each female might lay 250-450 eggs.
Damage caused by lily leaf beetles
Both adults and larvae feed on buds and leaves. Very often, nothing is left but stems. Lily leaf beetle larvae have a nasty habit of collecting their own excrement on their backs. This is believed to be a defense mechanism. I’ll bet it works, too!
Lily leaf beetle control
Hand-picking is the best control method. Severe infestations may warrant neem oil or spinosad application.
All parts of the kohlrabi plant are edible. Sweeter and more mild than either cabbage or turnips, kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea) is a highly nutritious vegetable, with plenty of fiber and vitamins.
The swollen bulb-shaped portion of kohlrabi is actually a modified stem. The outer skin can be pale green or purple, depending on the cultivar. The blue-green leaves look striking. This biennial plant makes an attractive addition to your garden, as well as your dinner table.
How to grow kohlrabi
Kohlrabi is generally a cool season crop. It needs full sun and good drainage. Kohlrabi plants prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8. If your soil is more alkaline than that, acidification may be a good idea.
Here in San Jose, California, kohlrabi plants can be started in February and March, and then again in September and October. These are heavy feeders, so top dressing with aged compost can ensure they have access to all the nutrients they need. Mulching around plants is also helpful. Regular irrigation will prevent your kohlrabi from becoming woody textured.
If you are starting with seedlings, put them in the ground so that the first set of leaves is just above the soil line. If growing seeds, cover seeds with 1/4” of soil and space plants 9-12” apart. It takes 45 to 60 days for kohlrabi to reach maturity.
Kohlrabi pests and diseases
Cabbage loopers, cutworms, and imported cabbageworms are the most common pests of kohlrabi. These plants are susceptible to cabbage yellows, clubroot, and downy mildews.
Give kohlrabi a try and see how productive these plants can be!
When I was a child, some kids would play with what looked like giant monster bugs, We called them potato bugs, but they were really Jerusalem crickets.
There is debate over how they got their name, being neither crickets nor from Jerusalem. Whatever you call them, Jerusalem crickets give me the creeps (unlike most insects), even though they are mostly beneficial.
You will generally only see them in the evening or after a heavy rain. Leaving the sprinklers on too long can also coax them out of hiding.
Jerusalem cricket description
Native the the western United States and Mexico, there are several different species of Jerusalem cricket. Most of them appear waxy, with brown and yellow bands. These nocturnal flightless insects are large. They average 2” long with a big head. While they cannot sting, Jerusalem crickets can inflict a painful bite, as well as discharge a nasty smell, but only if provoked.
During their mating season, most Jerusalem crickets create a drumming sound by rubbing their abdomen on the ground, while some create sound by rubbing their hind legs against the abdomen.
Jerusalem cricket diet
These insects generally feed on dead plant matter and other insects. Sometimes, but only rarely, they burrow into the soil and feed on your potatoes and other tubers.
For the most part, these benign opportunists pose no threat to your garden. Instead, they are more likely to feed on insect pests and help process dead plant material into nutrients that your growing plants can use.
They still give me the creeps.
One question that comes up when gardening is whether you should use organic fertilizer or inorganic fertilizer.
Whatever their source, certain nutrients are needed for plants to grow and thrive. In many cases, those nutrients are present in the soil. Some times they are not. Without a soil test, you simply cannot know for sure. If a soil test shows there are nutrient deficiencies, you will need to add fertilizer. Should you use organic or inorganic fertilizer?
“Better living through chemistry” has been the victory cry against countless diseases, inconveniences, and poor crop yields. There is no denying that the introduction of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides was a boon to farmers around the world. Of course, we now recognize that everything comes at a price and that it is important to weigh the pros and cons of every situation.
The downside of chemical pest killers is that the pests evolve faster than we do and the point is reached, sooner or later, where the pests can handle the poisons but we can't. Inorganic fertilizers, however, are a different story.
One advantage of inorganic gardening is that you know exactly which nutrients are present and at what concentration. The same cannot be said for composted chicken bedding. Also, inorganic fertilizer is generally in a form easiest to use by plants.
There are also synthetic fertilizers, such as ammonium sulfate, that start out as naturally occurring minerals, which are then processed. These modified minerals are considered acceptable for use in organic gardens.
Organic fertilizers come from manure, compost, bone meal, feather meal, and blood meal. Each of these amendments comes from a plant or animal source. Surprisingly, many of these nutrients must be acted upon by microorganisms to convert them into inorganic forms that plants can use. If it is too hot or too cold for microbes to be active, that organic fertilizer may not be as helpful as we might wish.
That being said, organic fertilizers tend to contain a wider variety of nutrients and microorganisms, which may or may not be advantageous for our plants. Believe it or not, there is still a lot we don’t know about plants.
A rose is a rose
As far as your plants are concerned, it doesn’t matter. To a plant, a molecule of nitrogen looks the same, whether it came from a factory or buffalo urine. It really doesn’t matter. The same is true of all plant nutrients. To a plant, the source of the molecule is meaningless. So why do we care one way or the other?
In both cases, too much fertilizer can burn plants, excessive application can lead to run-off and pollution, and their proper use can improve plant health and production. For me, I lean toward the organic side of the fence simply because it makes me feel good. I like the idea of it. Even though I know that, at the molecular level, it doesn’t really matter.
Did you know that the real difference between organic and inorganic is simply the presence (or lack thereof) of a carbon molecule? Nearly all inorganic compounds lack carbon.
Now you know.
The way veins are arranged on a plant leaf can tell you a lot about that plant. That pattern of arrangement is called venation or veination.
There are complex classification systems for leaf venation, but all you really need to know is that there are four basic patterns: pinnate, palmate, parallel, or dichotomous.
Pinnate venation looks like a feather, with the primary vein emerging from the center of the base of the leaf and smaller veins, called veinlets, occurring at intervals and pointed outward at an angle. Pinnate venation is seen on citrus, walnut, and pistachio.
Palmate venation looks more like a hand with three or more veins radiating from the base. Grape, pumpkin, rhubarb, and sunflower are all examples of the palmate venation seen in most dicots and eudicots.
Two or more equal veins start and end together at the leaf ends while running parallel to each other through the middle. Parallel venation is common to monocots, such as millet and other grasses.
Dichotomous venation is seen as repeated forking or Y-branching, as seen in Ginkgo biloba leaves.
Other venation patterns
You may also run into a few other leaf vein arrangements that don’t conveniently fall into one of those four groups. For example:
When you are trying to identify an unknown plant, venation can help solve the mystery!
Grape mealybug description
Grape mealybugs (Pseudococcus maritimus) are small, white, flat-bodied plant suckers that appear to have a fringed skirt.
Grape mealybug lifecycle
These pests have two generations each year. Eggs and crawlers overwinter under bark and in crevices. In spring, they emerge and begin converging on young shoots, where they start to feed. Those early risers then return to the safety of the bark, where they lay more eggs.
Damage caused by grape mealybugs
Clustered grape mealybugs can open Pandora’s box to fruit rot and other diseases.
How to manage grape mealybugs
Natural predators, such as the predaceous gall midge (Dicrodiplosis californica) and the little brown mealybug destroyer (Scymnobius sordidus) can keep these pests under control, so avoid broad spectrum pesticides. If chemical treatments are absolutely necessary, Applaud has been found effective.
Native to North America west of the Rocky Mountains, Western conifer seed bugs (Leptoglossus occidentalis) have recently expanded their range to the East Coast and are occasionally found in Europe.
Western conifer seed bug description
These narrow, shield-shaped insects are brown and average 3/4 to 1” in length. They have the classic tags seen on the rear legs of all leaf-footed bugs and their antennae tend to stick out on either side. Eggs are brown. Nymphs have light-colored legs and look much like assassin bigs, until they start filling out.
Conifer seed bug damage
These pests generally feed on the sap of developing conifer cones, causing the seeds within to distort and wither. Favored trees include lodgepole pine, white spruce, and Douglas-firs, though red pine, mountain pine, European black pine, Scots pine, and even pistachios are sometimes chosen. They can also vomit up digestive juices that soften hard seeds. I just hope they never find my stone pine!
Even worse, conifer seed bugs have been found to use their piercing mouthparts to damage PEX tubing. PEX tubing is similar to PVC and is used to insulate high voltage electrical wires, and to transport offshore oil and natural gas, sewage, and chemicals.
Conifer seed bug lifecycle
Adult female conifer seed bugs lay 200 eggs in rows, usually along needles, leaf midribs, or stems of host plants. In spring, the eggs hatch and nymphs go through five developmental stages, or instars, before reaching adulthood. In North America, there is only one generation a year, but two or more generations have been seen in Mexico and southern Europe.
Insecticides are not recommended, though they can be used as a last resort against heavy nymph infestations. It is better to avoid using broad spectrum insecticides. Provide pollen and water for natural predators. Some tachinid flies have been known to parasitize conifer seed bug eggs. Spiders, assassin bugs, and birds also feed on conifer seed bugs.
Ferns look lovely in a stumpery, but there is surprisingly more to ferns that you might expect
These plants have been around for over 350 million years, long before flowering plants, or angiosperms, made their appearance. Or dinosaurs, for that matter! Ferns are vascular plants that do not produce flowers or seeds. Instead, they reproduce using spores, similar to mushrooms and other fungi.
There are over 10,000 known fern species of fern [so far] and some species can live for 100 years. While some ferns are nearly microscopic, others can reach 80 feet in height.
There is a group of ferns (Azolla) found predominantly in water and they do not look like any ferns you might see on land. One in particular, the mosquito fern, is able to fix atmospheric nitrogen the same way land-dwelling legumes do before going to seed.
Ferns have three basic parts: rhizome, fronds, and sporangia. Fern rhizomes come in three forms: erect, lateral, and vertical. Erect rhizomes provide the solid base from which leafy fronds unfurl. Laterally growing, creeping rhizomes move above and below ground and may even climb trees. Vertical rhizomes often look more like the trunk of a tree.
Fronds are a fern’s leaves. The leaf stem, called a petiole when referring to other types of plants, is called a fern’s stipe. The flat blade of the frond is called a lamina. The lamina is often segmented into pinnae by short stems called rachides. When a frond first appears, it is tightly curled and called a fiddlehead or koru. Fronds perform photosynthesis and they provide support for a fern’s reproductive sporangia.
Black, brown, or orange sporangia are the reproductive structures of ferns. If there are no sporangia present, the fern is sterile. Normally found on the underside of the fronds, spores are formed in the sporangia. A cluster of sporangia is called a sorus. In some cases, a flap of tissue, called the indusium, may cover the sori until the spores are mature.
Ferns are unique in their method of reproduction and they are the only plants with two distinct living stages. As each spore matures, it becomes a sporophyte. Sporophytes that land in hospitable environments grow into very tiny, short-lived plants called gametophytes. Gametophytes have two sets of reproductive organs: a female archegonia and a male antheridia. Fertilization can take place within the same plant or between two neighboring plants. This fertilization produces a new sporophyte that grows into an adult fern.
While most ferns are not considered edible, they also tend to not be poisonous. There are some varieties of fern that are edible, such as:
As always, do not eat anything you are not sure to be safe.
Fern pests and diseases
Ferns are naturally resistant to most plant-eating insects. One edible fern in particular, Tectaria macrodonta, has a gene that was transferred to cotton plants, providing resistance against whiteflies! Foliar nematodes (Aphelenchoides fragariae) and soil borne nematodes (Pratylenchus) can sometimes be a problem.
Ferns are susceptible to diseases such as bacterial blight (Pseudomonas cichorii or P. gladioli), Pythium root rot, and Rhizoctonia blight. Infected plants should be discarded. Environmental problems, such as drought, which causes greying, and over-fertilization, which results in frond lobing and leaf tip burn, can be avoided with good cultural practices. This means investing in disease-free plants, using only as much fertilizer as recommended for each fern species, and avoiding overhead watering.
If you have a moist, shady crevice in your garden, ferns might be just what you've been looking for!
The fungi responsible for take all disease, Gaeumannomyces graminis, is found in the soil. It enters young plant roots and can often be seen as dying patches in a lawn or field.
Take all disease symptoms
The fungus enters the xylem and blocks the flow of water, causing stunting, yellowing, and reduced tillering. Tillering refers to the way lateral shoots emerge from the base of the stem, a common growth style of cereals. Infected plants mature faster than normal and have bleached seed heads and blackened roots and crowns.
Preventing take all disease
There are no effective chemical treatments against take all disease available to gardeners. There is a seed treatment that shows promise, so be sure to get certified disease-free seeds from reputable suppliers. Excessive liming and nutrient imbalances exacerbate this disease. If take all disease appears in your lawn, there isn’t much you can do besides improving drainage. If it appears in your barley, corn, millet, rice, sorghum, triticale, or wheat, the best thing you can do is rotate crops. Oats and rye, while cereal grains, are not susceptible to take all disease.
Take all disease can build up in the soil, particularly in monoculture crops that are grown in the same place year after year.
There is one soil amoeba that feeds on the take all disease fungi. This unique protozoa is a type of vampyrellid. Vampyrellids are affectionately known as soil vampires because of the way they leave puncture marks in their victims.
Streaked avocado skins may indicate a disease known as sunblotch. And we are not talking about freckles!
Cause of sunblotch
Until recently, sunblotch was thought to be a genetic disease. We now know that it is caused by a viroid. Viroids are the smallest known infectious pathogens and they only attack plants. Unlike viruses, which contain both DNA and RNA, viroids only contain RNA. This particular viroid attacks many tropical and subtropical plants, but it is seen most often in avocados.
Once a tree is infected with sunblotch, it must be removed and destroyed. This means that prevention is your only real course of action. Sunblotch can be transmitted through infected pollen, seeds, and budwood. You can’t do anything about infected pollen if the source is on someone else’s property, but you can invest in disease-free bare root trees. You can also make sure that any grafting projects you take on involve only healthy trees. And be sure to sanitize your garden tools after working on potentially infected trees with bathroom cleaner or a 9:1 ratio of water to bleach.
European fruit lecanium scale might be a long name, but these garden pests can make short work of your pomegranates, citrus, and olives.
European fruit lecanium scale description
European fruit lecanium scale is a soft scale insect. This means the shiny brown convex cover is not as hard as armored scale covers. You can identify European fruit lecanium scales because the brown cover has several ridges on it, while other soft scale insects do not.
European fruit lecanium scale lifecycle
European fruit lecanium scale larvae are normally found on twigs and small branches. As temperatures begin to rise in spring, they develop the telltale dome-shaped cover. Adult females fill the space under their cover with eggs and then they die. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs, or crawlers, come out from underneath the scale covers and hide out on the underside of leaves. By late July or August, these pests migrate to fruit. There can be two generations each year and most of the insects present will be in the same life stage.
Damage caused by European fruit lecanium scale
When European fruit lecanium scale larvae feed, they attach themselves to the outside of twigs and fruit and pierce the surface. This causes cosmetic damage as well as providing points of entry for other pests and diseases. Also, European fruit lecanium scale feeding results in the excretion of honeydew (sugary bug poop), which sooty mold fungi find delightful. The only exception is that scale feeding on pomegranates does not result in honeydew deposits. Instead, tiny piles of sugar are seen. These sugar piles are easily brushed off of twigs and fruit.
European fruit lecanium scale controls
Natural enemies are the best controls for European fruit lecanium scale. Twicestabbed lady beetles, steel blue lady beetles, and lacewings will all help fight soft scales. You can also wrap tree trunks with sticky barriers to remove the protection (and disease-carrying potential) provided by ants.
Finally, prune trees for good air flow and structure to keep trees healthy.
Adult cigarette beetles only live for 2 to 6 weeks and they do not eat. They can fly, however. And cigarette beetle larvae are surprisingly destructive.
Cigarette beetles (Lasioderma serricorne) favor tobacco, but they can also damage your cereal grains, and oilseeds, such as olive, peanut, soybean, and sunflower. Cigarette beetles will also feed on dried fruit, herbs and spices, such as paprika, cumin, and sage, flour, pet food, and your favorite books, given the chance.
Cigarette beetle description
These tiny brown beetles look almost identical to drugstore beetles and furniture beetles, with a more humpbacked profile. If you look very closely, using a hand lens, you can see that cigarette beetles have a distinctive club at the end of their antennae.
Cigarette beetles are tiny. Eight of them could stand, end-to-end, across a dime. But don’t let their diminutive size fool you.
Cigarette beetle lifecycle
Adult female cigarette beetles lay 30 to 100 eggs in and around preferred foods. As soon as the larvae hatch, they start feeding and moving around. After feeding and pooping, larvae enter a pupal stage in cocoons made from the foods they infested, making them difficult to see.
While insecticides are effective against cigarette beetles, you are better off tossing out infested materials. Vacuuming and pheromone traps can also help control these tiny pests.
Mottled, stunted cilantro plants may have apium virus Y disease.
Apium virus Y disease is carried by aphids. This viral disease is also found on celery, carrot, dill, and poison hemlock. It can infect parsley, as well, but no visible symptoms occur.
Apium virus Y disease symptoms
Leaf mottling or mosaic patterns, stunting, cleared veins, and leaf distortions are all symptoms of apium virus Y disease. Older leaves may have yellow blotches, brown lesions, and yellow or brown line patterns. Younger leaves show only faint mottling. Lesions may form on petioles (leaf stems).
How to prevent apium virus Y disease
Since this disease is predominantly carried by aphids, you can help prevent this disease by controlling aphid populations (as much as is possible, of course). The virus can also be carried on clothing and tools, so be sure to sanitize your tools regularly and avoid walking through areas known to be infected. The virus does not remain vital for very long once it is inside an aphid. Creating physical barriers and increasing the distance between potential carriers can reduce the likelihood of this disease.
Crop rotation and the CAREFUL removal of poison hemlock can also help control this disease. There are no effective chemical treatments for apium virus Y disease.
Heartwood is the dead center of a tree. It is usually a different color from the living wood and it provides the support needed to hold up a tree that might weigh several tons
Tree trunks are made up of several layers of tubes, surrounded by an outer layer of bark. These tubes are the vascular bundles that carry water and nutrients to the rest of the tree. One type of tube, called the xylem (or sapwood), pulls water and nutrients up from the roots. The majority of the trunk is made up of xylem cells. Another type of tube, called the phloem (or inner bark) carries the sugars made by the leaves through photosynthesis down into the rest of the tree. [I remember these two by saying, “Food flows down the phloem, while water and food rise in the xylem.”]
Just between the xylem and the phloem is the cambium layer. This is where the actual tree growth occurs. At the very center of the tree is the pith, surrounded by layers of xylem cells. As these xylem cells age, they eventually go through chemical changes that make them solid, losing their ability to transport water and nutrients. There is debate about whether or not these cells are still alive. This is the heartwood.
Characteristics of heartwood
Heartwood is very strong. The amount of heartwood present depends on the species. Some trees, such as ash, maple, and pine, have very thick heartwood. Other species have only a little heartwood. This group includes chestnut, mulberry and sassafras trees. Some tree species have no heartwood at all.
Heartwood gets larger over time. Young trees have very little heartwood, whereas older trees have significantly more.
Heartwood is resistant to decay, but wood that looks like heartwood might also be infected with disease or dealing with an insect invasion. Louisiana homes built over 100 years ago out of of bald cypress heartwood appear to be as good as new because of the decay resistance of heartwood.
The next time you need to remove a large branch or tree trunk, take a closer look at the layers and see if heartwood is present.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!