Monday, October 23, 2017

Nippon Daisy - Spotted Cucumber Beetle

Usually our Nippon Daisy has glorious large flowers which last forever.  The warm autumn we are experiencing in Southern Ontario has made our Nippon Daisies a huge attraction to bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Photo taken in 2013

But when you see leaf petals and flower centres begin to look like this...

This flower is about a week old. They usually last about 3 weeks, with vibrant white petals. So sad....

...well - something's up.

I tried looking for signs early in the morning, thinking slugs or some beetle, but didn't see any.  Then Saturday, I waited until the sun was shining bright.  Ah, ha!  Do you see the beetle?

Grrr....  It's the spotted Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi Barber). 

Feeding off both the petals and the central disk of florets.  

Every single flower had at least one.

The worst part:  when they feel you are about to approach them, they quickly hide to the underside of the flower.  To make sure I collected each one, I grabbed the base of the flower and tapped/shook the flower over my hand.   In hindsight, I would recommend that you use a bucket or something to catch them, as several flew out of my hand before I could squish them.

Here are several pictures to see their 12 spots up close. Six black dots flanked on either side.

Like the Scarlett Lily Beetle, they too can "act" dead and roll over.  But, don't be tempted to dispose of them looking like this, within seconds they flip back. Best to squish.

Since it's October, I believe this is the 2nd or 3rd generation of beetle.  Neighbours two doors down from us grow zucchinis. I suspect these beetles have come over to our garden and are partaking in one of their last meals before they hibernate in leafy debris.

Do the best you can to remove as many of these adults.  They overwinter in organic leafy bits at the base of plants.  Here is a great article on the beetle's life cycle.

If they eat Nippon Daisies, I wouldn't be surprised if they eat Chrysanthemums or other late flowering plants. Keep a look out.

After picking 4 different times during weekend, I managed to find over 21 beetles. Hopefully ridding them from our plants. Let's hope we significantly reduced numbers for next year.

One note:  Take a look at the base of this Nippon Daisy:

This past spring I was tempted to divide and re-situate.  I regret not doing that. It needs dividing desperately.  Probably one of the reasons the beetles were on the attack.  Weakened plants attract pests. Lesson learned.  

In the next week or so, a good autumn clean up and another check of the flowers when it's sunny out, should reduce the numbers of beetles. Let's hope we have a really good cold spell this winter - to help kill overwintering insect pests like these.

Next year, we'll divide the plant and re-establish with some amendment.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Foraging: Shaggy Mane Mushrooms

I have fond memories of my Aunt (Tante) teaching me how to make hunter sauce with mushrooms (Jager Pilzsoße). She used fresh Chanterelles, but what I gleaned at the time, was the beauty behind foraging for mushrooms and the gift of learning how to cook them!

One in particular that I find quite often this time of year are:  Shaggy Mane (Corprinus comatus) also known as a Shaggy Ink Cap. One of my colleagues pointed them out to me many years ago and I am very thankful for that introduction.

This is the best way to forage. Garnering knowledge and true ID of the mushrooms before picking them.  There have been so many cases of folks eating wild mushrooms and becoming very ill. So I too will warn you - make sure your first go at identifying mushrooms is done with someone who can positively inspect them. You need vast knowledge of IDing the specimens before you ever consume them. 

I'm blessed to have a job where sometimes I just have to look down to find mushrooms. They truly "pop-up" out of no-where.  Foraging for them can come quite easily.

The best time to find Shaggy Mane's are in autumn. Especially after a wet bought and during a cool weather change.

These were in a grassy area, surrounded by trees. I usually find them in groupings. The odd one, here and there, but generally - when you see one, you see a bunch.

They stand straight up and range in sizes.

One of their identifiable features is white to brown flakey skin - eyelash flakes that curl upwards.

Another way to determine that they are the edible kind, is finding older mushrooms that bear the blackening "ink"staining at the base of the cap.  Shaggy Mane's almost look as though they are melting into tar.

Below, I have taken a sequence of photos showing the progression of inking that takes place.
 Here the cap is nearly separated from the stipe (stem). Think of an umbrella about to open.
Then the base starts to blacken at the very bottom of the cap.

The appearance of melting takes place, as the mushroom starts to deteriorate.

Oozing black ink begins to almost drip.

Shaggy Mane's have no shelf life. It's best to eat them as soon as you pick them. They don't store well.  When foraging, gently place them in a container lined with paper towel and cook within a few hours.

Plenty - just enough for a dinner is all I need.

Because these are from an urban environment, I wash them. Yes, I know, I too have read many cook books that state washing mushrooms is a no no. But these were not in the wild. I'm not going to take any risks when collecting from an urban landscape.  The key is: as soon as they are clean I dry them with paper towel. Mushrooms must be completely dry to fry well.

I prefer simple sautéing with butter and garlic.  One trick: my Tante taught me that if you want fried mushrooms with a crispy edge....NEVER let them touch each other.  Give them space in the frying pan.


Well worth the effort.

Please Note:  as you forage, DON'T take all the mushrooms. Leave several behind to start the life cycle over. Leaving some behind will allow spores to spread and inoculate the ground for next year. Mushrooms are the earth's life-giving force of decay and renewal. Depleting them for the frying pan doesn't help one bit. You deplete the natural ecosystem process and prevent ever getting a second chance to forage again.

For better ID info on Shaggy Mane mushrooms:  Mushroom Collecting Website

Hope you find some!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Why I Collect Slugs In Autumn

I always try to find alternative methods of insect control. This wet spring and early summer made for a wonderful breeding ground for slugs.  But alas, we still have way too many slug holes.

I've been having wonderful success in reducing slugs in the spring in my little garden, by collecting them in the autumn. Reducing their numbers in the fall will help reduce numbers in the spring.

As the days get shorter and the daytime temps are cooler, I found slugs congregate under stones that absorb the heat during the sunny parts of the day. I prefer using stones to orange or grapefruit peels, or even beer traps, as these can attract unwanted raccoons.

In my boyfriend's garden, I strategically placed larger stones/rocks close to plant material that slugs love.  Within hours the slugs gather beneath and even stick to the base of the stones. One other trick is to water the rocks in the evening and place some organic matter beneath. Make the stones wet enough to keep the slugs moist.

We placed some more rocks last night and today, within 5 minutes of lifting 4 stones, I found a big handful of slugs.

Great treat for the Koi who devour them feverishly.

If you don't have Koi, just place the slugs on the driveway and wait until the birds come to feed. Or just put them into a hot pail of soapy water and dispose.

Less slugs overwintering, means less eggs and less damage come spring time.

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