Yet More Bugs…

Popillia japonica_Japanese Beetle_HudsonGardens-CO_LAH_5585It’s the end of the summer, and what’s a nature photographer to do? Most flowers are languishing in the sultry heat, their leaves brown and crispy as the summer monsoon turns to dry autumn. Gardens look battered from a season of hail storms, insects, and the ravages of sun and wind. The birds have had their families, so the males no longer need to impress the ladies, at least for a while. In many cases, they’ve shed their fancy duds in favor of muted colors that predators won’t notice. This year’s crop of youngsters is also hoping to be overlooked, with tan stripes that blend with the fading grass. Some of the most photogenic birds—tanagers and warblers, for instance, are already wending their way southward.

As I learned on Monday, however, this is a great time of year for bugs.

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Powdery Mildew

powdery-mildew-on-pumpkin-dbg-19sept05-lah-572The huge zucchini leaf looked as if it had been dusted with flour. The man holding it was looking at me expectantly, waiting for my diagnosis. I was volunteering at our county’s Master Gardener helpdesk, providing free gardening advice to the general public. Sometimes we get stumped, but this time I immediately knew exactly what the problem was.

“Your zucchini plants have powdery mildew,” I told the man. “It’s pretty common around here, especially this late in the season.”

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Pestilence

cucumber-diseased-leaves_blkforest-co_lah_6767-1My cucumbers are sick. As far as I can tell (although I’m not 100% certain), they’re suffering from something called Alternaria Leaf Blight. But no matter what the particular fungus is, the leaves have expanding brown spots and are beginning to yellow and die, starting from the roots and working their way upward. New fruit is being aborted. It’s sad—very, very sad.

I don’t often have to contend with diseases in my garden. Good horticultural practices lead to healthy plants, and healthy plants resist disease. However, given our erratic weather and cold nights, I grow my cukes in my little greenhouse. Because options are so limited, I plant them in the same spot year after year. Even though I renew the nutrients in the soil, fungal spores accumulate, and now I’m dealing with the unhappy result.

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