We have three generations’ worth of experience in landscaping in Calgary at Mirage, and every year we see the same few basic problems with pests at the city’s business properties and homes that we service. There are actually a ton of different types of insects, bacteria and fungi that can harm your trees and plants, and so if you notice something very unusual it’s best to contact a professional. Contact us for a free, no obligation quote to see we can do for your situation. In the meantime, however, we offer these general tips on stopping some of the most common garden pests we see in Calgary each season.
Landscaping in Calgary means not only having to combat the weather…but also garden pests. So when we see something attacking our plants, we take it personally! City landscapers are getting nearly as crafty as our gardening competition, which ranges from the yucky to the cute.
Aphids are very are tiny green insects that are a bit tricky to spot initially. They love the underside of low, broad leaves – usually on shrubs such as a snowball or a honeysuckle, or a perennial such as a hosta. You will be able to tell if you have an aphid infestation if the leaves on your plants start to shrivel and curl up. They may also turn yellow. If you spot a substance that looks like it’s made up of tiny black beads on the underside of the leaves, then you can be pretty sure you are now hosting a colony. The blackish substance is actually a secretion called honeydew that aphids produce while they munch on your plants. Ants love it. In fact, they love it so much they act as protectors for the aphids and will even move them around to new plants.
Past practice to deal with pest insect species was the indiscriminate application of non-targeted pesticides, many of which proved to be unsafe to human and animal health. Today, with the increased awareness of the dangers of pesticides, most organic and semi-organic gardeners have turned to the introduction of beneficial species of insects, such as the ladybug. Ladybugs are great hunters, and aphids are their prime targets. You can purchase ladybugs at any gardening store, but make sure you have somewhere for them to live before releasing them in your yard. Plant some sunflowers or marigolds, or herbs such as dill and chives to keep them comfortable. They’ll then establish egg clutches for future larvae.
You can also try blasting the undersides of your plants’ leaves regularly with a hard stream of water, and spray with soapy water afterwards. A small amount of dish soap and water can act as a good repellent. Or try pruning away the affected areas and throw out the refuse immediately.
Flying Pest Insects
By far, the most annoying flying pest found in Calgary is the mosquito. Mankind has been in a constant battle with these creatures for most of recorded history. The first step in controlling mosquitoes is pretty much the same as it is for controlling wasps and other unwanted flying species—eliminate their habitat possibilities near your garden. Though the City does help to control mosquitoes around Calgary, we all have a role to play. Eliminate stagnant water anywhere it collects. If you have a pond, consider stocking it with fish.
However, to enhance the local control of mosquitoes on your property, you can also consider recruiting some aerial friends of your own. Adult mosquitoes are the prey of damselflies, dragonflies, and phantom gnats. All of the bat species found in Alberta are insectivores. If you have some property to build one away from your home, Alberta ESRD has plans for building artificial bat habitats to attract these mosquito killers to your backyard.
Unfortunately, birds do as they will. Species such as magpies and crows are more of a nuisance than a threat to your flower garden, but given the chance, these birds will damage a ripening vegetable garden. In town, there isn’t much that can be done save for a scarecrow type of tactic. Hawk decoys are always worth a try for deterring unwanted birds. If you live in the countryside, you can also try a propane cannon to frighten them away.
Cats, Hares and Other Mammals
Speaking of animals that do as they will, cats are the embodiment of the free range house pet. Cats don’t care if your prized flowers are decorating their litter boxes. Cats don’t worry about how well built your fence is. Whether it is your cat or the neighbour’s, there’s no keeping an outdoor cat exclusive to its home area. Time tested ways of making your garden resistible to cats are to plant herbs like the anti-catnip, ruta gravolens, commonly called rue. Other plants cats don’t like include citronella, eucalyptus, and lemongrass. If most of the neighbourhood skulking seems to happen at night, time your sprinklers to go off about the time the cats seem to show up. Everyone knows cats hate to get wet!
The most cost effective way to prevent cats digging in your flowerbeds is to lay chicken wire cut to fit the space you wish to protect. Then lightly cover the wire with whatever material you choose to obscure it. A cat that cannot move adequate material to cover its scat will discontinue the use of a site.
Wild hares are another common sight around Calgary. Sometimes, the local hares reach the size of small dogs, and are especially voracious in fall and early spring, when food is scarce. About the only reliable way to combat hares is with the liberal use of a repellent such as SKOOT that makes plants inedible. Repellents should be applied to the plants the hares seem to like the most in the late fall when the leaves have fallen and your plants have dried out. Since most people want to eat their vegetables, repellents are not an option for food gardens. Vegetables should be protected by a wire fence buried 10-12cm into the soil while remaining too high to leap. Be warned that our hares around Calgary can leap nearly two meters, especially from a running start.
Other gardeners have tried placing bits of strong-smelling bar soap such as Irish Spring near the bottom of their plants to deter hares. More methods used to deter both deer and hares include spreading around mothballs, fabric softener sheets, garlic, hair and spraying with soapy water.
Mirage Landscaping has vast experience consulting with both commercial and residential property owners in the Calgary area about taking care of all of their landscaping needs.