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In early September 2007 Fuchsia Gall mite (Aculops fuchsiae Keifer) was found for the first time on the mainland of the United Kingdom and there have been many more cases since, all in the south of England.
What are Fuchsia Gall Mites?
The Fuchsia Gall Mite is a microscopic sap-sucking pest that is specific to fuchsias.
Fuchsia Gall Mites are small between 0.20 and 0.25mm long, The mites feed by puncturing individual plant cells with their needle-like mouthparts and sucking out the cell contents. The feeding activities of the mites cause the plants cells to grow abnormally and proliferate, causing swelling (galling) and disfigurement of the growing tips, leaves and flowers. The mite has four life-cycle stages, egg; larva; nymph and adult. Female mites lay up to 50 eggs at a time and these take 4-7 days to hatch. The life-cycle takes 21 days to complete and so populations' build-up very rapidly. All the stages are able to over winter within the bud scales of the host.
How to identify Fuchsia Gall Mite Damage
The mites infest new growth at the shoot tips where they suck sap and secrete chemicals that prevent the normal development of growing tips, leaves and flowers. As the infestation increases the foliage becomes increasingly distorted and there is often a swelling along with the distortion. Infected areas can look hairy, or more hairy than normal. This continues until the plants can no longer produce normal leaves or flower buds. The growth at the shoot tips consists of a mass of distorted tissue instead of leaves or flower buds. Some fuchsias are more resistant than others, so the severity of symptoms can vary. Fuchsia Gall Mite is no longer a notifiable pest.
Why are Gall Mites such a concern?
Once established this pest breeds rapidly, with one female mite giving rise to a potential population of over 125, 000 mites in only three generations! It also spreads readily between plants and once present it is very difficult to control. The mites overwinter under bud scales but may remain active during the winter on glasshouse fuchsias. The mite seems able to survive outside in sheltered conditions, which seems to explain its proliferation in some areas.
How can Gall Mites be spread?
In North America, man accidentally introduced Fuchsia Gall Mite over twenty years ago and it is believed to have been spread further by Humming birds and bees, but wind and human activities seem to be the main means of dispersal. We may not have Humming birds but we do have the other agents.
Without question, the main culprit for transferring this pest is likely to be ourselves, this is because Gall Mites are so small, and hard to detect, especially when present at low levels that they are easily overlooked and can be inadvertently transferred between growers on plants and cuttings, and from plant to plant on clothing etc. If dealing with a plant that has Fuchsia Gall Mite then think carefully about your next move - and clean tools etc if you are cutting back the plants. Contaminating more fuchsias should be avoided with care being taken.
So what can we do?
At present it would appear that there are no chemicals that will effectively control this pest, so we need to adopt other tactics.
• Be careful about where you get your fuchsias from and be on the lookout for plants bearing the symptoms described above.
• Don't take cuttings of fuchsias from the wild or in public areas. If offered a cutting think twice and have a look around at all their plants for any signs of damage.
• Only buy from sources that you can be sure of.
• If buying from a nursery - look around and check for GALL MITE damage before purchasing any plants.
• Only buy from mail order sources you can be sure of.
• Remember that Fuchsia Gall Mite has been found in many cases in Brittany, the Channel Islands and along the South Coast - so if you are thinking of bringing plants or cuttings back from these places DON'T! (Unless purchased from a nursery).
• Check your plants weekly during the growing season.
Without intruding, keep an eye on fuchsias in neighbouring gardens and hedgerows and wherever you go. If this seems wrong, just remember if a neighbour gets it and you do nothing, then you will get it too and so will all your friends.
If you suspect the presence of Fuchsia Gall Mite
At present this pest remains uncommon in most of the UK and we would suggest some possible ways of tackling the problem.
Firstly - cutting off the infested shoot tips will remove many mites but regrowth can become infested and so a weekly or regular check of your plants and then prune away any growth that is showing early symptoms. This has proved to be an efficient way of keeping Fuchsia Gall mite damage under control in the USA.
A severe autumn pruning of Fuchsias in the garden should also help - particularly in areas where the pest is known. Cutting back the plants to ground level and destroying the old season's growth will mean that there are fewer places for the pest to overwinter.
Secondly - a more drastic solution which is the destruction of the plant/s. The original advice issued by FERA was that plants that show the damage should be dug up and the plants destroyed either by burning or by sealing in plastic bags and leaving in the sun until they are crisp. It is a method that is not always practical but we leave the choice to you.
Thirdly - Chemical control - it would appear that Gall Mites in general are relatively tolerant of pesticides and most home garden products will be ineffective. However we are advised that the use of products recommended for combating mites i.e. acaricides may have an effect in disrupting the life cycle if sprayed every 3 or 4 days over a period of 14 days.
Some Quick Facts Common name - Fuchsia Gall Mite.
Plants affected - Garden and Greenhouse Fuchsias.
Main symptoms - Growth at the shoot tips is swollen and grossly distorted. Flowers are also deformed or fail to develop.
Most active - May to September.
For Further Details Contact - The British Fuchsia Society At www.thebfs.org.uk and follow the link.
If you need any help with your garden call Dave Coates on 01454 238479.
Hazel Bleaken has well rotted manure for collection. You have to bag it yourself but she has
bags and a pitchfork available.
has a large quantity of has stable manure for collection. This manure is
woodchip based and would be suitable more as a mulch rather than as a compost.
Wendy would prefer for the load to be taken by trailer.
Don’t Go Down In The Woods Today.
An interesting article by Ken Thompson from The Telegraph Gardening section on Saturday 10th December 2011
If an acre of rainforest cannot support a single orang-utan, says Ken Thompson, what chance have humans of living without traditional farming?
Sorry, but it's no good. I don't get permaculture. And the more I read, the less I get it. According to an article in the RHS magazine The Garden, permaculture is "a state of mind or a way of thinking", and involves "using the energies of the environment, rather than fighting them".
So far, so meaningless. What actually is it? Examples of permaculture mentioned in the article include growing ornamentals and edible plants together, composting, collecting rainwater and buffering your greenhouse against extreme temperatures by putting a few large containers of water in it. These are all well and good, but surely just examples of ordinary good gardening?
On the website of the Permaculture Association, I quickly learn that permaculture will make the world a better place (and me a better person, likely as not), but still nothing about what it is. Back to The Garden, which tells me that a primary feature of many permaculture gardens is the "forest garden", and that I can learn about that from the Agroforestry Research Trust in Devon. From their website I learn that agroforestry is an agronomic system based on trees, shrubs and perennial plants, which fits with the derivation of "permaculture" from "permanent agriculture", i.e. gardening based on not digging things up.
Now we're getting somewhere, but before we go any further, some essential background. At a global scale, the pattern of plant productivity depends on temperature and water, so a world map of productivity reflects that; productive where it's warm and wet, unproductive where it's cold and/or dry. At a smaller scale, soil fertility is crucial: plants grow fast on deep and fertile soils, but slowly on shallow, infertile soils.
So throughout history, farmers (or anyone trying to grow food) have done two things. First, they've tried to alleviate whatever is limiting local productivity, usually by irrigation or adding fertilisers. But raw productivity itself is little use. If the seedlings I keep pulling up are any guide, if I left my veg plot for a few years it would become an ash wood with an understorey of holly and yew.
Certainly very productive in terms of biomass per annum, but not particularly edible - at least not by me. Even if I could live on ash keys and holly berries, I think the novelty would wear off pretty quickly. Which brings me to the second thing farmers strive to do, which is to divert as much productivity as possible into forms we like to eat - essentially roots, tubers, seeds, fruit and leaves. This boils down to not only growing the right plants, but also constantly selecting the best and tastiest of these.
Back to agroforestry.co.uk, which describes a typical forest garden, in terms of the sorts of plants you might grow in all the different layers, from the ground up to the tree canopy. Startlingly, very little of this is actually edible, but maybe I shouldn't be surprised. The forest garden is supposed to provide "fruits, nuts, edible leaves, spices, medicinal plant products, poles, fibres for tying, basketry materials, honey, fuelwood, fodder, mulches, game, sap products".
The trouble is that the average modern gardener has little use for basketry materials, fodder, game or sap products. Nor are some of the other, more useful products exactly abundant. The only nut mentioned is chestnut, which is a non-starter where I live. Hazel isn't mentioned, but it wouldn't matter if it were, since where I live hazelnuts are just another way of feeding the squirrels. The only edible leaves mentioned are campanula and lime (Tilia). In blind tests, both would come a distant second to lettuce or spinach. In fact, when you get down to it, forest gardening is all about fruit - 24 of the 34 woody plants listed are fruit bushes or trees. So maybe growing your own toilet paper should be a priority as well.
Realistic sources of starch are virtually absent, presumably since all the candidates contravene the principles of permaculture (i.e. they require cultivation), so somebody, somewhere still needs to be growing potatoes and cereals, unless you never want another chip butty.
How does forest gardening stack up in terms of actually keeping body and soul together? In an entertaining YouTube video, Martin Crawford takes us on a tour of the forest garden at Dartington, in Devon. At one point he says an acre of forest garden should feed four to five people. Maybe, but he also says if our near relative the orang-utan can live on forest leaves and fruits, why can't we? Good question, but the highest density of orang-utans ever recorded (in a very productive rainforest in Sumatra) was 7-10 per square kilometre. To save you the trouble I'll do the maths: that's 0.04 orang-utans per acre.
Forest gardens can be beautiful, and great for wildlife, and they can do lots of wonderful things like store carbon, reduce nutrient losses, purify water and regulate local climate. But the orang-utans are telling us something important about how many human beings could be supported by a world without conventional agriculture.
Ken Thompson is a plant biologist with a keen interest in the science of gardening. He has written several books, the latest being Do We Need Pandas? The Uncomfortable Truth About Biodiversity, which is published by Green Books
Habitats for hibernators
Logpiles can be rich habitats for wood-boring insects and fungi that feed on dead wood. They also provide cool, dark cavities between the logs where larger animals can find places to hibernate during winter. The best place to site a logpile is in a shaded, out-of the-way part of a garden, where temperature fluctuations will be less marked. Although it is tempting to see what is using your logpile, keep disturbance of hibernating animals to a minimum.
Frogs, toads and newts
Operation Bumblebee is a campaign managed by Syngenta Crop Protection, which aims to boost bumblebee numbers in arable farmland. Based on the experience gained from the Buzz Project a practical scientific assessment of the environmental benefits delivered by a number of available habitats Operation Bumblebee is working with growers to establish clover rich field margins, providing the vital food resource, pollen and nectar of the bumblebee, in many key locations across the whole of the UK.
Bumblebees have been disappearing at an alarming rate in Britain, due to loss of vital pollen and nectar habitat, and scientists are warning their number could decline even further within just a few years. Three of the 22 UK species are already close to extinction and a further nine are on the critically endangered list. Scientists say that if the bumblebee were to disappear from our countryside, not only would it be a tragedy but an environmental disaster since they are major pollinators of trees and wild flowers. The future of a whole host of crops from oil seed rape, field beans, strawberries, raspberries and apples as well as many wild flowers could depend on the plight of the bumblebee.
Whilst Operation Bumblebee aims to make a difference on a landscape scale, it is equally important that we, as individual gardeners in the community, do our own bit to attract bumblebees to our gardens by growing the sort of trees, shrubs and flowers that attract this sort of garden wildlife.
To see what you should grow and how you can help to attract bumblebees to your garden, go to
Meanwhile here is a section of an article by Ron Liddle from the Spectator - 31st October 2009 that tends to shed a different light on the above report.
'There was an article in the academic imprint Current Biology a couple of weeks ago, summarised and made intelligible for the lay reader in New Scientist last week. It's by two pollination experts, Lawrence D. Harder from the department of biology at the University of Calgary and Marcelo Aizen from Buenos Aires. They set about pinning down a couple of myths.
First, it is not true that there has been a mysterious worldwide collapse in honey bee populations. In fact managed hives (which contain the bees which do the vast majority of our pollinating) have increased by a remarkable 45 per cent over the last five years. This is largely down to more managed hives in South America, Africa and Asia — it is perfectly true that there has been a reduction in the US and Western Europe. This may be partly due to outsourcing to the Third World, where production costs are cheaper, and some reductions in the West may have been the consequence of viruses or colony collapse disorder. But these latter are merely short-term blips. The bee disaster scenario is dependent upon data which is far too regional to take seriously and 'not representative of global trends'. The truth is that there are more bees in the world than ever.
Second, as Harder and Aizen put it: 'It is a myth that humanity would starve without bees.' While some 70 per cent of our most productive crops are animal-pollinated (by bees, hoverflies and the like), very few indeed rely on animal pollination completely. Furthermore, most staple foods — wheat, rice and corn — do not depend on animal pollination at all. They are wind-pollinated, or self-pollinating. If all the bees in the world dropped dead tomorrow afternoon, it would reduce our food production by only between 4 and 6 per cent.
And further still, the average yield of animal-pollinated crops has increased quite dramatically over the last decade or so, which you would not expect to see if Armageddon was just around the corner. Harder and Aizen have a warning that luxury foods might be hit by a pollination crisis in the future, because demand for them is outstripping the pollinating capacities of even the increased numbers of bees. But they say: 'Overall we must conclude that claims of a global crisis in agricultural production are untrue.'
Their paper does not yet seem to have been picked up by the mainstream press, still less the campaigners, the politicians or the distributors of the film The Vanishing of the Bees.'
Wouldn't it be nice if the various sides got together to correlate their 'facts' once in a while?
Gardeners and nature lovers are being asked for their help in recording the country's population of earthworms. The aim is to find out more about a garden creature that is essential to the health of our soils, yet largely remains a mystery. The survey is the first of a series of such projects run by Opal, a three-year initiative supported by more than a dozen organisations including the Natural History Museum, Imperial College London and the Environment Agency. It enlists ordinary people to carry out research into subjects, such as soil, air, biodiversity and climate change.
There are 26 species of earthworms in Britain, of which about 15 are common, but virtually nothing is known about where they live and the types of soils they prefer. There has been little research into their habits since Charles Darwin first identified their vital importance to soil function 130 years ago.
Those who take part in the earthworm survey will receive full instructions including a free identification chart and a sachet of mustard - essential equipment for getting worms to come to the surface. "It brings up worms that are deep burrowers, which l you wouldn't see any other way," says Natural History Museum entomologist Steve Brooks. "It does irritate them but it doesn't do them any harm." Other ways to look at earthworms include digging a pit and sifting through the removed soil and also looking in compost heaps, among leaves and under fallen branches. You can enter results straight onto the survey website, where they will be added to an interactive map showing population distributions and soil types.
"We're expecting tens of thousands of responses from all over Britain," says Steve. "It will be the first time we've had an idea of the general distribution across the country - which worms are local to certain areas and soil types."
The survey starts in March 2009, but you can register for a survey pack now by visiting the website at www.opalexplorenature.org
The RHS is adding a new grow your own fruit section to its
Grow Your Own
This year, we'd also like you to help us build up a picture of what produce you already grow and how you see the recession impacting on your gardening and produce shopping habits. If you can spare five minutes and have access to a computer, we'd be very grateful if you can fill in our short, online survey. What's more, those taking part will have the chance to win one of ten copies of Grow Your Own Fruit (published by Mitchell Beazley, January 2009).
To take part, just visit www.rhs.org.uk/vegetables and click on the survey link
The European Union has abolished rules which imposed strict controls on what fruit and vegetables sold in shops should look like.' Gardeners who grow their own eat forked carrots or lumpy tomatoes as a matter of course. But, for the last 20 years, anyone selling such imperfect vegetables could be prosecuted. The rules have long been derided for forcing farmers to reject 20 percent of otherwise edible produce before it reaches shops. Of the 26 crops covered by the rules, 16 can be sold in any shape or size once the rule change comes into force in July. The remaining 10 – including tomatoes and apples - can be sold as long as they are labelled 'for processing'.
Britain's best-known cooking apple, 'Bramley's Seedling', is 200 years old this year, and celebrations are taking place around the country.
The bicentenary sets off with the annual Bramley Apple Week (1-8 Feb), encouraging people to grow and cook Bramleys. In March, a stained-glass window dedicated to the apple will be unveiled at Southwell Minster, in the Nottinghamshire town where the first 'Bramley's Seedling' tree is still fruiting.
There will be a competition to find the best new young chef, and the launch of the 'Brammys', rewarding the best Bramley-apple products. In October, Bramley Apple Pie Week will take place to coincide with the harvest.
The first Bramley apple tree was grown from a pip by schoolgirl Mary Ann Brailsford in 1809. However, the apple is named after Matthew Bramley, who bought the cottage, and its 37-year-old apple tree, in 1846. It was local nurseryman Henry Merryweather who spotted its potential and began commercial propagation in 1856.
Read Joan Morgan's 'Bramley's Seedling' and other cooking apples article in The Garden, next month.
Impatiens Downy Mildew
Infected leaves will appear paler green than normal, with a white, downy growth developing on lower surfaces. Impatiens downy mildew is a new disease that is becoming very common on Busy Lizzies.
Discovered in 2003/4 The disease has become rampant this year due to mild, wet weather.
Although commercial growers havebeen developing protocols for its control, slow sales at the start of the
bedding plant season meant that sale plants became crowded and lanky and, combined with overhead watering, meant that it is possible that
infected plants were sold to the public. There is no remedy for gardeners for the disease, so plants will have to be destroyed, and replaced by winter bedding for example.
As downy mildew spores can lurk in the soil, impatiens should not be grown in the same position in the following year. Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has advised commercial growers to do the following:
Infected leaves will appear paler green than normal, with a white, downy growth developing on lower surfaces.
Impatiens downy mildew is a new disease that is becoming very common on Busy Lizzies. Discovered in 2003/4 The disease has become rampant this year due to mild, wet weather. Although commercial growers havebeen developing protocols for its control, slow sales at the start of the bedding plant season meant that sale plants became crowded and lanky and, combined with overhead watering, meant that it is possible that infected plants were sold to the public.
There is no remedy for gardeners for the disease, so plants will have to be destroyed, and replaced by winter bedding for example. As downy mildew spores can lurk in the soil, impatiens should not be grown in the same position in the following year.
Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has advised commercial growers to do the following:
are now affiliated members of the Royal Horticultural Society.
RHS Affiliated Society no: 18638477.
Advantages of Affiliated RHS Membership are:-
One free annual visit for up to 55 people to a RHS garden.
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