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Webber Moth

This is an odd one. A message came in follwed by an email with three photographs [the first 3 – see below – the rest followed shortly after] of what I was told was the tent caterpillar. Which is correct-ish. But not, because the the [eastern] tent caterpillar moth Malacosoma americanum is from [eastern] North America.

That said we weren’t far off the mark. What we have [because I know Donal Conaty lives in Ireland – because his phone number starts with 087 😀 ], is the webber moth. This comes from varying caterpillars one of which is the Malacosoma neustria. Not that far apart 😯 In short what we have are two Donegans – one is simply my long lost brother. Does that make sense….? [the webber moths also include the euproctis chrysorrhoea/ dichomeris marginella/ Yponomeuta sp.]

So these moths [the caterpillars or ugly butterflies of that is…] can affect any tree or shrub, although they have a particular likening for fruit trees, willow, cotoneaster and crataegus to name a few. What they do is very simple to see from Donals images, they cover the entire area of planting with a web.

The problem for any plant affected by a caterpillar is that the leaves are eaten… Loss in leaf means a reduction in photosynthesis and therefore a loss in production or – more important for any plant is it chances of reproduction. In fruit trees in particular and moreso of importance to me and you – it simply means less fruit. And of course it looks ghastly.

The control is quite simple. Remove the web. Remove the caterpillar. Some say careful pruning but I have seen infestations – like a scene from Wuthering Heights – in my time and a garden rake would be more appropriate in some scenes, to start with. My theory for ‘problems’ such as white fly and caterpillars is always wishy washy liquid and a sponge and in this case by hand first. I may go select pruning if its necessary afterwards. In Donals case I know there are over 100 trees affected and spraying with a pyrethrum based biological control may be the choice.

If you are asking for a name of a product – I haven’t a clue what trade names garden centres have them marketed under and they change regularly enough – just bring them this post and tell them I said call me if they [he says jokingly] need any more information 😉

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March In The Garden

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I haven’t done an ‘In the garden‘ session so far this year. Mainly because, well… I guess the snow, the rain, the cold and in such abundance just got a bit too much for me. Anyhow, that aside, it’s time to get grooving and moving and here is why and what  I will be doing in the garden this month.

The lime trees [image 1] are the greatest sign for me that life for this year is almost there. The burning red new stems and buds are so pretty. Loosen the straps, check the stakes and remove all the dead or diseased wood. This goes for all trees including the fruiting varieties. As you can see from my olive tree [image 2] that simply needs a little tidy and some select pruning but its not until we get to the smaller plants that some real work is required. The large window box which fed me with salad for all of last year [image 3] needs a total clean out. Very simply grub out all the old plants, but don’t throw out all the compost. Simply replenish.

The easy plants are the 3 just above, in order, rhubarb, sorrell and chives. Not a whole lot for me to do here just yet. They come up year after year. I may decide at a later stage to divide the chives and the rhubarb, but for the moment it’s simply a little taster of what nature is going to give me to eat this season.

The greenhouse has been pretty much empty since last year. It’s got a little grubby. The 2 dogs use it as a sun trap type conservatory and its very quickly transformed. Then its to my store of seeds to figure what I wish to grow for this season.

Potting table at the ready… this one above I made myself from an old pallet. It’s really durable and well able to withstand the elements. The window boxes are refilled. I’ve sown some spinach in here direct, which is not my usual way of doing it…. but lets see how they get on. The seed trays [my preferred method] are washed and filled, pre-soaked and in here I have sown coriander and chives.

That’s not all I have sown…. there are also some broad beans in liner pots [image 2 above] and anything else you can think of. There’s probably too much of everything in fact but, I live in a rural farming village so a lot of this will be bartered for bags of potatoes and other veg that I won’t grow 😉 All things in order I just need to keep my eye on the max min thermometer for very low temperatures [early frosts] which may affect. As a by the way, I’m going to give it a little longer before I go and mow that lawn of mine.

Now I’ve got to go and give my chicken run a lick of paint. But that should easily keep you going for the next 3 weeks or so. See how you get on, any problems or queries you know where to come. Of course in gardening, there’s always an alternate 😉

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Cycas Revoluta

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The Cycas or Sago palm, cycadaceae, is a genus of about 15 species. This one, the C. revoluta is better known as the Japaneese sago palm.

These are another batch of plants I spotted in the Cape Garden Centre.

It is generally a very robust plant but with age it tends to begin to lean over, begin suckering and branching out. The leaves can grow to 1.5 metres long. And surprisingly, possibly, this fella only ever grows to a maximum of about 2 metres in height and width…. which kind of explains why I didn’t see any taller versions of it 😉   

The flowers are dioecious [carry both male and female flowering parts seperate]. The male parts [16″ long but up to 32″ long in other varieties] are cone like and pineapple scented whilst the female parts [8″ long but up to 30″ long] can appear as loose clusters of leaves but in C. revoluta appear as yellow fruits.

Personally I love them simply for their foliage.

      

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An Apple…. A Day… ?

Some of my apples are starting to fall [not too far be-dum 😉 ] from the trees. And when that starts happening it literally is apple season.

If you don’t have an apple tree… then maybe now is the time to think about planting one… or some, as they [most] will need a partner for pollination. The beauty about apple trees is that there is literally, all things going according to plan, nothing left to do once planted except to wait for the fruit to grow.

To make life very easy for you…

Apple Day is Sunday 27th September in Sonairte Ecology Centre [a little favourite spot of mine] in Laytown, Co. Meath.

According to Sylvia Thompson of The Irish Times

Visitors can take tours of the fruit orchards, learn about planting an orchard and buy native Irish apple trees. Children can also enter apple peeling competitions, apple quizzes or bob for apples

I popped on over to the Sonairte website however… and personally I’m really looking forward to this one 😉

Apple Archery: William Tell, an expert marksman, famously shot an apple off his son’s head – come along and test your own archery skills (no humans involved!)

Horse Chestnut Tree

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The Aesculus [Hippocastanaceae]  or horse chestnut tree is an absolute all time favourite of mine. I don’t know how many years I spent hanging out of them or trying to harvest the conkers from them… 😉 Love it.

A genus of about 15 species, these are the ultimate in examples of palmate [hand like leaves]. Do be extremely careful if/ when deciding to plant one of these as they grow extremely large. The most common variety for example [that I know] is the Aesculus hippocastanum which can grow to 80 feet tall, its leaflets 12″ long and its flowers [spring – early summer] up to 13″ tall.

Don’t say I haven’t warned you regarding the space. These guys really are in the large but also the ‘greats’ category.

Want to grow some for free… watch out for the conkers [the brown nut like seeds usually found hidden inside those spkiy fruits].  Place them twice the depth of the seed below any type of soil and walk away… 🙂

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