Pests and diseases aplenty

Posted: Wednesday 19 September 2012
by Pippa Greenwood

I had a wonderful time diagnosing plant problems. It was my idea of heaven – a long queue of people armed with bags containing all manner of sickly plants.

A close-up of woolly aphid

What a brilliant day I’ve just had at the annual Gardeners’ Question Time (GQT) Summer Garden Party at Ness Botanic Gardens, South Wirral. 

To celebrate the programme’s 65th birthday (not mine, please note!), GQT is recording in several of the locations where the first few programmes were recorded 65 years ago.  

The annual GQT Summer Garden Party at Ness was the start, and what a way to begin. It was my first visit to these lovely botanic gardens and we received a warm welcome. Almost the entire GQT team was there and along with the garden staff we gave talks and demonstrations on a range of gardening topics. I talked veg growing and had a really great audience.

I also had a wonderful time diagnosing plant problems in an old potting shed. It was my idea of heaven – a long queue of people armed with plastic bags containing all manner or sickly plants. If I’m not to be given plants, flowers or chocolate, the next best option is a bag of festering plants. 

This peculiar year has certainly led to a fascinating diversity of problems, many of which were brought to me at Ness. I wasn’t surprised to see lots of powdery mildew, as this fungal disease thrives when the air is muggy. I also encountered magnesium deficiency aplenty, usually in the form of yellowing leaves, as all the wet weather this summer washed magnesium out of the soil. 

There were lots of reports of potato and tomato blight, along with apple trees that failed to crop (you see, I said you weren’t alone!). I also came across capsid bug damage on a tremendously wide range of plants. Then, to really make my day, I was shown possibly the best example of woolly aphid on an apple tree that I’ve ever seen (or the worst, I guess, if you’re its owner). 

We also recorded a couple of GQT programmes for broadcast on BBC Radio 4. At the end of the day I made my weary way home, with that lovely warm feeling gained from meeting a friendly gaggle of gardeners in a gorgeous location.

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