Slugs and Scales and Disgusting Tales

snail and scale

Magnolia covered in scale

The title didn’t scare you off?

You thought we were safely passed Halloween and all things creepy?

What’s creepy about this photo isn’t the snail but the scale…all over my struggling Magnolia.  Two seasons of effort to remove it and it’s back, bigger and badder then ever.  Gross.

scale infestation

Scale infestation

Last year, when the tree was dormant, I spent an hour literally scraping all the visible scale from the tree. I went back over the branches with warm water, wiping down any residue. I went back two days later, removing what I missed.

The tree bloomed, but the scale came right back. Over the spring and summer, it spread to the entire tree, dripping sticky honeydew all over the shrubs below.

I hate giving up on this tree, but if I don’t remedy the problem, the scale will kill the tree.

I placed a call today to a certified arborist for a professional consultation. Ian Geddes has been a great help over the years, thinning and pruning tall trees, removing tree stumps and consulting on the health of our trees. I appreciate their expert advice.

snail in Magnolia

Just passing through

Now to get your mind off these creepy pictures, I’ll leave you with this: Dylan looking adorable on our hike earlier this week.

Dylan

Dylan

Addendum:

After I hit the publish button, WordPress told me this was my 500th post on Gardening Nirvana.  Instead of celebrating with flowers and fruit, I give you scale.

So it goes when you blog about a slice of life.  Please don’t hold it against me.  Alys

Aren’t You Glad I Said Arachnid?

nocturnal spider

Nocturnal spider

The itsy, bitsy spider went…

Who am I kidding!  This baby is huge!  Spider, arachnid, eight-legged wonder.  You can call it what you like, but these super-sized spiders make my hair stand on end.

I was enjoying a warm evening on deck with my hub,  when he pointed out this nocturnal spider. The spider’s web stretched from the house to the Magnolia tree, across the ramp leading to the deck.  By day, this arachnid must pack away her web, but once the sun sets, she’s open for business.

I say ‘she’ because my friend once suggested that I think of all spiders as female or as someone’s
mom making them appear less creepy.  I’m not sure it helped.

Spiders are great for the garden.  I’m delighted they’re here and appreciate the good work they do, reducing the non-beneficial bug population.  It’s just that I prefer they do it when I’m not looking.

spider in web

Waiting for dinner

Ladybugs vs. Aphids: Last One Standing

ladybug on Allium

Last bug standing?

I mentioned last week that I would be heading to the garden center for another batch of living ladybugs.  My lovely, onion-scented Allium is dripping in aphids and soot.  Ick, yuck and blech!

The first batch of ladybugs made some progress, but now all but one or two are gone.  They didn’t even leave a note to say why.

Where did they go?  The tasty aphid smorgasbord remains.   What’s an organic gardener to do?

Then I read this from OurWaterOurWorld.org:

Tolerate low to moderate numbers of aphids as long as they aren’t causing noticeable plant damage. There is a reason for this: aphids have many natural enemies such as spiders, ladybugs, lacewings and minute parasitoids (tiny non-stinging wasps) that often keep aphid numbers below damaging levels. These beneficial insects rarely appear on the scene until after aphids have begun attacking plants. This “lag-time” can be a day or two or as long as several weeks. As the season progresses, aphid control by these natural enemies improves because more natural enemies are attracted to your garden and more stay to breed.

So…I’m taking the wait and see approach as I keep a close eye on the plant.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to identify a different set of insects on my beloved pumpkins.  Stop by later this week for a look-see.  I bet you can hardly wait. 😉

It’s a Bug’s Life

Confession time.

Are you ready?

I’ve got some mad skills but they have little to do with gardening. I excel at raising insects and bugs.  Not to toot my own horn, but I think I might qualify for ‘Top Incubator of Garden Pests.’

Don’t believe me?  Come take a look:

After chatting you up about my gorgeous coleus, and my plans to take cuttings for next year, I found this:

Spider Mites or Whitefly?

Spider Mites or Whitefly?

I’m not sure if I have whiteflies or spider mites or both, but boy are they prolific. While watering the plant this evening, I removed a large, partially eaten leaf. When I turned it over, I could see that a small family had moved in. In just a week’s time, they spread to half of the plant’s leaves and part of the soil. Damn I’m good!

Next up, aphids.  Why settle for a hundred aphids when a gazillion will do?  The more the merrier, I always say.  I noticed a bit of ‘black soot’ on the stems of my soon to bloom Allium, but I just walked right on by.  Might as well let the aphids settle in first.

aphids

Aphids

By the time I made it to the garden center for a batch of ladybugs, the party was well under way.  The ladybugs arrive in a container saying pre-fed.  Huh? I guess all that good aphid food will just go to waste.

DSC_0017

Aphids, and the ladybugs that love them

Saving the best for last, will you take a look at that Scale?  I diligently removed all traces of scale earlier in the year while the tree was dormant.  I manually scraped the scale into a bucket, then went back over the young branches with warm soap and water.  I run a tight ship here. I cleaned those branches top to bottom to get the tree ready for the new residents.  They moved in early this summer, and show no signs of leaving.  In fact, it looks like they’ve invited a few guests.

scale on magnolia

Scale

In case you’re interested:

Snails and Scale: A Winning Combination?

No!

Scale and Snail

Scale to the left, snail to the right,

No, I’m pretty sure it’s not a winning combination.  For now, however, it’s what we’ve got.  Ugh.

We had a major infestation last summer, with little to do for it while the tree was blooming. I pruned close to 30% of the branches, removing the worst of the infestation. Then, we waited.

Early this year, while the tree was dormant, I worked at removing all traces of the pest.  Once I’d scraped away the hard scale, I took a bucket of warm soapy water, and wiped down every single branch, removing the black, sooty scale as well.  I checked the tree the following day, removing what I’d missed.

Scale Removal

They’re back!  The infestation isn’t *as* bad, but it’s back nonetheless.

The interesting turn of events is the snails.  I counted six or seven of them as I inspected the tree.  I was momentarily hopeful.  Could it be that this garden pest would actually snack on the scale?

Snail on a Tulip Magnolia

That was a long climb to slime a flower

Scale encrusted branch

Scale encrusted branch

Snail on a branch

Snail making tracks

Snail at apex of tree

Y do you ask?

DSC_0063

Nope!  My research tells me they eat fruit, leaves, even paper, but not scale.  Boo!

If you’re looking for pet snails, these are free for the asking. Time to move on to plan C.

Magnolia Scale: It’s Not For Wimps

My house is super clean which can only mean one thing. I’m procrastinating.

The decorations are down and the house is back in order. The sun is shining. I’m all out of excuses.  It’s time to tackle the Magnolia Scale. Blech!!!

Adult Scale

Adult Scale (Red)

Last summer we discovered a severe scale infestation on our Tulip Magnolia.  It was everywhere!  I removed numerous branches, perhaps close to a third, since the infestation was so bad.  We ordered beneficial lacewing eggs, hoping they would finish off the rest.

Now that the tree is dormant, it’s easy to see what remains.  Though not nearly as bad as last year, dozens of red scales (the adult female) along with the immature male and female nymphs, cling to the young branches.

Scale Removal

Scale Removal

Today, with my bucket and gloves in hand, I spent an hour scraping off scale.  They’re easy to see (bright red) against the trunk, but I had to stand on a step stool to reach all of them.  After tossing them into a bucket, I went back with a warm, wet rag and wiped off the nymphs.

The overwintering nymphs are all over the tree!  There is no way I could get all of them, but I sure gave it a try.

Scale Nymphs

Scale Nymphs

After giving the tree one last look, I sealed the scale in a plastic bag for disposable, and soaked the bucket, rag and gloves in hot, soapy water.

Scale in a Bag

Scale in a Bag

I’ll check on the tree again tomorrow, and if the weather warms up, I might take a hose to the underside of the branches to remove some more.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • When purchasing a young Magnolia tree, check the inner branches first for infestation.  Apparently many of the trees have scale before you bring them home.
  • Prune judiciously.  Magnolias, especially mature ones, don’t handle heavy pruning.
  • Time your pruning appropriately.  I’ve read the best time to prune is late winter, early fall, after flowering and before new buds set.  Given those parameters, you really need to stay vigilant.

Resources:

A Little of This and That

Guess what?

I was out on the deck taking pictures when a bright yellow flower caught me eye. There aren’t any yellow flowers growing this time of year, so it really took me by surprise.  Then I realized little visitors stopped by the fairy garden.  What a nice surprise.

If you are reading this post and you know who the fairies are, please be sure to extend my thanks.  It was such a treat to find those flowers.  I spotted a tiny mum tucked in as well and a few greens.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!!!

Flower Surprise

Flower Surprise

Pumpkin Countdown

Last summer we grew several pumpkins.  Four of them were over 40 pounds.  My husband carved one, but they were really thick and not well-suited for ‘Jacks.  We lined the wall of our garden pathway with the remaining pumpkins, and they’ve weathered the months beautifully.  Twice in recent weeks, someone came to the door and asked if they could take one for cooking.  We happily obliged, with a warning to please lift carefully.  We now have one large pumpkin sitting on the wall, with a smaller, autographed one nearby.  That one is just now starting to soften and will probably be headed to the compost bin in another week.  We’ll be down to one ‘little’ pumpkin, sitting on a wall.  🙂

two little pumpkins

Two ‘little’ pumpkins, sitting on a wall

Avoiding the Scale

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s January and I can’t hide from the scale forever.  Time to put away the treats and face the music.  All true.

I’m avoiding the scale that remains on the now-dormant Magnolia.  Honestly, it creeps me out.  We had quite the infestation last summer.  We did a bit of research and got down to business. I ordered beneficial insect larvae. While waiting for them to arrive, I heavily pruned the tree. The inner crown was far worse, so I removed as many of those branches as I could. Left unchecked, scale can kill a tree.

Scale

Magnolia infested with scale

Now that the Magnolia is dormant, it’s easy to see what remains. I need to scrape the scale into a bucket, before it takes hold again.

To think I thought putting away the chocolate was hard.