Tips on getting rid of Botrytis cinerea (gray mold on strawberries)
Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, offers tips on getting rid of Botrytis cinerea (gray mold) on strawberries; growing Bletilla striata (Chinese ground orchid) and dealing with the lily leaf beetle.
Special to The Seattle Times
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Botrytis cinerea (gray mold) is a problem on strawberries this year thanks to the rainy weather this spring.
The fungus causes infected blossoms to turn brown and dry up. Infected fruit develops a soft brown rot that usually shows up as the fruit is ripening. Rotted fruit and other infected plant parts left in the garden get covered with gray spores. Strawberries produced from infected flowers almost always develop the disease, but fruit from uninfected flowers is also susceptible.
Chemical treatments aren't always effective and have health concerns. Fortunately, there are other ways to help prevent your strawberries from contracting the disease.
Botrytis spreads from infected plant parts, so in winter, prune off the old foliage. In spring and summer, remove dead and dying leaves and infected buds and flowers whenever they appear.
Air circulation is critical. Allow adequate space between plants and avoid overfertilizing to lessen excessive, dense foliage. Mulch with plastic or straw to prevent the berries from touching the ground, and pick ripe berries frequently. If the problem is serious and recurring, consider moving your strawberry patch to a sunny, well-drained, windy location where leaves will dry faster.
One of the easiest ground orchids to grow is Bletilla striata (Chinese ground orchid). With numerous pink orchid flowers atop arching 12-15 inch stems, it makes a lovely addition to the bright woodland shade garden.
For years, the standard pink was the only Bletilla available, but interesting new varieties are beginning to show up at local nurseries.
Bletilla striata "Albostriata" features white-edged leaves and pinkish-purple flowers, while Bletilla striata "Alba" features snow-white flowers.
My new favorite, which I recently scored at Gray Barn Nursery in Redmond, is Bletilla ochracea (Chinese Butterfly). Each stem carries three to five small, creamy yellow flowers, highlighted with a purple-speckled lip.
Most Bletillas need only moist rich soil and morning sun or bright shade to thrive, but the yellow Chinese Butterfly is evidently a bit more demanding and sometimes dies if conditions aren't just right. Don't worry about it: This beauty blooms brilliantly for a two-month period, so it's worth trying, even if it ends up an annual.
Watch out for serious lily pests
The lily leaf beetle, which has decimated lilies in New England since it showed up there in 1992, was recently discovered in a Bellevue garden.
The adult beetles are beautiful: scarlet on top, black on the bottom and just over a half-inch long, but the damage they cause is anything but pretty. Each adult can lay up to 450 eggs and the larvae, which hatch almost all at once, are eating machines that devour leaves, buds and flowers at a record rate.
If you see damage on your lilies (they also attack hollyhock, hosta, potatoes, fritillarias and lily of the valley) look to see if bright red adults, red or brown egg masses, or the larvae covered with a soft brown gooey substance are present.
El kabatski pest control doesn't work well to control this menace. The adults are fast and drop from the plant at the slightest threat, the eggs are hard and difficult to crush, and the larvae cover themselves with their own excrement, making them too slippery (and disgusting) to squish.
Two environmentally friendly sprays can help control the problem. Neem oil, a well-known spray for roses, and spinosad, a natural bacterium, can be effective, but only if they are applied at the first sign of damage and reapplied every 5 to 7 days as long as needed.
Ciscoe Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org; "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.
About In the Garden
Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.