Archive for July, 2012

Black locust trees damaged by the locust leafminer

It happens every year at about this time. Every single black locust tree on our road turns brown. This occurs gradually over about a 2-3 week period.

The feeding of locust leafminers causes whole trees to turn brown.

The feeding of locust leafminers causes whole trees to turn brown.

I first notice it when the leaves begin to turn a dull green. Slowly a light brown cast spreads over the trees and by late July, the foliage is completely brown. The damaged trees really stand out against the dark green oaks, cedars, and pines that make up the majority of the tree species along the road. It is especially obvious because the black locusts are among the tallest of the trees.

You can also see quite a few of these crispy black locust trees as you drive along many of the highways in Virginia. It looks like the trees have all died, but not so. The damage is caused by a small beetle called the locust leafminer (Odontota dorsalis).

As the larvae feed, the mines eventually run together turning the whole leaf brown.

As the larvae feed, the mines eventually run together turning the whole leaf brown.


Most of the noticeable browning is caused by the larvae of these beetles which tunnel through the leaves feeding on the tissue between the upper and lower leaf surfaces. It is the “mines” left by their feeding that causes the leaves to dry out and turn the rusty brown color. The larvae pupate in the mines and when the adult beetles emerge in midsummer, they feed on the underside of the leaves leaving them skeletonized. It’s a double whammy! Quite often the trees eventually lose all their leaves.

The adult beetles skeletonize the leaf when they feed.

The adult beetles skeletonize the leaf
when they feed on the leaf tissue.

Despite this seemingly major damage and defoliation, these trees are normally not adversely affected and are able to recover often putting out a second set of leaves (which are sometimes attacked by a second generation of the leafminers). However, if a tree is stressed for any reason, including stress from drought or lack of adequate nutrition, repeated defoliation due to these pests may further weaken the tree and result in its death.

In our area, locust leafminer infestations have been occurring year after year with little or no long-term effects on the trees. For the most part, they seem to be able to withstand the damage from these pests.

I sort of wish the leafminers would kill off a few of our black locusts, though! I’m not at all a big fan of these trees. We consider them a weed tree that pops up all over the place – mostly where we don’t want them. This is because new shoots (which eventually grow into new trees) develop along the extensive root system. Through these root sprouts, a single locust tree can give rise to an entire grove of trees. We find them popping up everywhere – in our vegetable garden, in our flower beds, in our orchard … They’re very annoying. If you cut them down, it just seems to encourage the development of new sprouts. Hmmm, pretty good survival tactic!

The tree does have beautiful flowers in the spring.

Despite its negative qualities, the tree has beautiful flowers in the spring.

Normally, black locust is not grown as an ornamental tree so control of the locust leafminer is rarely necessary. However, if these trees are in your landscape, the browning of the foliage can be quite unattractive! If desired, you can protect your trees from leafminer damage by applying Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect & Feed II at the base of the tree according to the label directions. This will give systemic protection against these destructive pests. Always read and follow the label directions. This product may not be available in all states.

Until next time – Happy Gardening

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Daylilies bloom across from the festival site.

It’s time for the 2012 Daylily Festival at Viette’s!

This is always such an exciting time of the year at the nursery and this year’s festival promises to be even better than ever.

Tasting wine from Peaks of Otter Winery

Tasting wine from Peaks of Otter Winery

In its 16th year, the Daylily and Wine Festival has a new partner and a new name! The Viettes have partnered with The Virginia Farm Bureau and Lewis Media Partners to present The Daylily Food and Wine Festival. This wonderful two day event held Saturday, July 21st and Sunday, July 22nd on the beautiful grounds of the Andre Viette Farm & Nursery has become one of the largest and most popular summer festivals in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. There are all kinds of wonderful activities going on at the festival from wine tasting and great food to gardening seminars, crafts, and beautiful music. Visit the Daylily Food and Wine Festival website for details.

Daylily Aunt Emma

The Viettes consider daylilies to be the “Perfect Perennial”

The Viettes are excited to be working with Virginia Farm Bureau to continue this unique festival that so many have enjoyed over the last 15 years. This year’s 16th annual event will provide something for everyone, including increasing our awareness of how horticulture and agriculture enhance our daily lives. In keeping with this expanded focus on agriculture, this year’s Daylily Food & Wine Festival will benefit The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. We are excited about this program and Andre has been very involved as a member of the board of directors for several years. The mission of Agriculture in the Classroom is to educate Virginia’s children about the importance of agriculture.
AITC helps teachers integrate the study of Virginia agriculture and natural resources into their curriculum. Great stuff for our kids!

Miniature landscapes

Learn to create miniature landscapes

This year, the Virginia Farm Bureau has helped to heighten the event offerings by enhancing the Virginia foods, wines, and gardening education available at the festival. We have several unique seminars lined up for the weekend from growing hops to growing grapes to growing daylilies. There’s even a seminar on gardening for chickens and one on creating miniature landscapes!

Very interesting topics this year!

Lots of things to see and do at the festival.

Lots of things to see and do at the festival.

An exciting new addition to the festival is an extensive farmer’s market where local farmers will offer fresh, locally grown foods for attendees to purchase and take home. We’ve always wanted to expand on the agricultural/Virginia foods aspect of the festival and this year with the help of the Virginia Farm Bureau we’ve been able to do just that – and this is just the beginning. We hope to expand on this in the future and make the Daylily Food & Wine Festival even better and more exciting.

So if you’re in the area this coming weekend come out and enjoy our Daylily Food and Wine Festival. Better yet, plan to make a weekend of it! Visit the official Daylily Food and Wine Festival website for information and to purchase discounted advanced tickets that you can print out on your own printer and bring with you! Easy …

Oh and the weather? It’s supposed to be in the upper 70’s to low 80’s and sunny – glorious! Don’t forget your sunscreen!

I’ll be here – I hope to see you!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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The tops of many of the bush beans had been eaten.

Okay – so I ended my last post with … “until my next garden drama”…

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for a new crisis to take place in my vegetable garden! This time it came in the form of a furry beast.

Woodchucks or groundhogs can ruin a vegetable garden in no time!

Woodchucks (or groundhogs) can ruin a vegetable garden in no time!

The other day when I went down to the garden, I happened to see some movement and a patch of brown in amongst my bush beans. As I got closer, I saw a brown head pop up with a mouthful of green bean leaves. A woodchuck – a.k.a. a groundhog! When he saw me coming, he took off like a shot with a big bean leaf still hanging out of his mouth! He made a beeline for the fence and scooted right under it. Oh man was I mad. We’ve never had a problem with woodchucks in the garden before. One year we had one that dug a burrow in our front yard but he moved away eventually and never got into the garden.

I ran over to where he had ducked under the fence and found that there was an opening where Eric had joined the fence around the Three Sisters Garden with the fence that goes around the main vegetable garden. That was easy to fix but I wondered if there were other places he might be able to get in now that he knows there are delicacies to be had on the other side of the fence!

A few days after the woodchuck chewed the tops off, new leaves have begun to grow on these bush beans.

A few days after the woodchuck chewed the tops off, new leaves have begun to grow on these bush beans.

For added insurance, I sprinkled Bonide Repels All granules around the fence where he got in and along other sections of the fence where I thought he might be able to get under. I’m hoping that will deter him from trying to get in again. There are a few places where the fence around the Three Sisters Garden doesn’t quite touch the ground so I will use some landscaping pins to fix that – just in case.

After sealing up the hole in the fence, I went over to survey the damage to my bean crop. Well –that rascal had chewed the tops right off many of my bean plants! Good thing I happened to go down to the garden when I did or I’m sure they all would have been mowed down. Thank goodness for small favors.

This variety of sweet potato must have been particularly tasty - at least he left a few leaves!

This variety of sweet potato must have been particularly tasty – at least he left a few leaves!

Upon further inspection, it appears that before he began chowing down on my beans, he had a little feast in the sweet potatoes. The tops of some of these plants were also chewed off. Eric had ordered a collection of 6 different sweet potato varieties this year and apparently some were tastier than others. That silly woodchuck had selectively browsed the leaves of only 2 of the 6 varieties. Again, thank goodness for small favors!

He also enjoyed some of the pole beans and even chewed off three of my melon plants.

So far between repairing the hole in the fence and sprinkling the Repels All around, I think I have kept him at bay for the time being. The bush beans are recovering and are putting out new foliage but unfortunately have been set back quite a bit. I’m a little worried about the pole beans – they haven’t bounced back as well yet.

I sure hope our garden survives long enough to bear some veggies this season! It just seems to be one crisis after another! Between the torrential rain, then the lack of rain, then the powerful winds, and now this woodchuck, I’m beginning to wonder if the garden will ever have a chance to grow! We’re hoping for the best. I’ll know more when I visit the garden tomorrow morning!

Until next time – Good Luck Gardening!

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The domino effect caused by the wind

Our vegetable garden is getting off to a rough start this year. We’ve gone from too much water, to no water at all, to NOW too much wind!

The tops of several trees and many fallen branches surround my car.

The tops of several trees and many fallen branches surround my car.

Boy was that a wild storm we had on Friday night. I’m working from home today because the nursery (like so many other businesses and homes in the area) has no power and no phones. We are very lucky in that sense. With temperatures forecast to be in the mid to upper 90’s all week, we are extremely fortunate to have power and water at our house.

The storm that hit our immediate area came with damaging wind and a little lightning but no rain which was very surprising. The wind came all at once, like someone turned on a switch; first it was calm and the next moment there was this tremendous roar of wind and stuff outside started flying around and hitting the windows of the house. It was very scary. I was sure that something was going to come crashing through the big picture window in the breakfast room where we had just sat down to dinner.  We quickly moved to a safer location! I was watching our wind gauge on the weather station and the wind speed was a steady 15-25mph with a peak gust at 49mph – and our wind gauge is sort of protected by the house! I’m sure there were gusts much stronger than that. The constant heavy winds kept up for quite a while but gradually subsided around 11pm.

This big oak tree broke off about 20 feet up.

The oak tree broke off where the hollow was. I’ll miss seeing the squirrels popping in and out of the hole.

Saturday morning, there were branches down everywhere – BIG branches which, upon closer inspection, turned out not to be branches at all but the tops of 3 of our huge oaks in front of the house. How they managed to miss my car, our shed, and our house is beyond me. Many people in the area weren’t so lucky. In addition, one of our favorite oaks right along the driveway broke right off about 20 feet up. This tree was a favorite because right about where it broke (and probably why it broke) was a hole that was the home to many gray squirrels over the years. Hopefully no one was home at the time! This too fell in the only direction that wasn’t lined up with a car, shed or house!

The wind storm has definitely reduced the canopy cover for our shade garden in front of the house but plants are adaptable and most of them will eventually adjust to the increased amount of sunlight they will now receive.

Only one tomato was broken off. It should recover.

Only one tomato was broken off. It should form a new leader.

I was kind of afraid to wander down to the vegetable garden. I was a little worried about how the trellises had fared but thought they would probably be okay because they are pretty open and don’t have much wind resistance but you never know.

Well … I forgot about the cucumber trellises. The new ones Eric made last year had welded wire fencing for the cucumbers to climb on. These apparently caught the wind and caused a domino effect in the garden! Three were flattened and two were leaning over. Oh my!

At first I thought all the tomatoes were going to be broken up and destroyed but again we lucked out. Only one of the 39 I planted was broken off, the others were simply bent over but not broken. I guess that is one benefit of getting our garden in so late this year. Most of the tomatoes weren’t very tall and therefore hadn’t been tied to the trellises yet. The wooden trellises just straddled the tomato plants and even the pepper plants that were planted on the other side. Phew!

Now they can't blow over - I hope!

Now they can’t blow over – I hope!

Eric reset the trellises and anchored them securely with some short fence posts so they can’t blow over again. We’ll have to remember to do this every year from now on – just in case. I tied the tomatoes so they were upright again and we were back in business. The rest of the garden was fine – luckily the pole beans were still short!

Now we just need some rain – slow and steady!

Until my next garden drama – Happy Gardening!

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