Our Back Yard Paradise

We have an ancient crab apple tree in our back yard and a huge old Canadian maple tree in our front yard. Here is a picture of our crab apple on April 27 – in full bloom!

Crab Apple in full bloom!

Crab Apple in full bloom!

Uh, not exactly. The crab apple looked 3/4 dead this year before it even leafed out. Took a branch to the local greenhouse – they diagnosed it with an iron deficiency plus infestation of aphids – (tiny disgusting sap-sucking insects or ‘plant lice’) and then recommended about 60 bucks worth of iron and chemical spray to save the tree. What to do? (We had already done the ‘iron deficiency’ treatment last year.) We didn’t want to spray chemicals all over the tree. Turns out, lady bugs eat aphids, and you could also purchase containers of 500 ladybugs for 10 bucks. Couldn’t we just invest in, say, 3000 lady bugs?

Meanwhile the front maple tree started looking sick. We called an arborist to come look at it.

“Aphids.” he said. (Surprise, surprise.)

“We were thinking of buying lady bugs to eat the aphids.”

“Yeah, well, you let the lady bugs loose and they fly off – you can’t keep them around, and aphids will kill your tree.”

(Darned lady bugs)

“We don’t want to spray chemicals.”

“No problem.” He said. “We can apply a systemic chemical in the grass around your tree that is absorbed through the roots – kills anything that eats the leaves.”

“Do it!’ we said, because that meant we could make the disgusting tree lice go away without doing anything ourselves and we wanted to save the tree (and throwing money at problems somehow makes me feel better).

Meanwhile the crab apple in the back looked so sick we just decided not to worry about the aphids and just hire the arborist to cut it down. (Uh, plus did I mention how much we hate the mess in the fall raking up mounds of rotten crab apples?)


Except, the arborist’s schedule was a month out. That was three weeks ago. We’ve ignored the crab apple tree but now it looks a bit better, albeit, not exactly up to neighborhood standards, but we’re now thinking it could survive the aphid infestation and iron deficiency, or whatever it is, through the summer.

Gluttonous aphids!

We didn’t buy the lady bugs initially for fear they’d die from eating the poisoned aphids on our front maple tree. (Is this situtation getting easier, or more complicated?)

At this juncture I’m thinking of buying the ladybugs anyway, because (1) It couldn’t hurt, since they can devour aphids no matter where they fly off to – but they just might be smart enough to recognize a back yard feast large enough to sustain them through the rest of their lives (2) throwing more money at the problem usually makes me feel better and (3) lady bugs are pretty cute, albeit a bug of any sort terrifies Megan, like the other day, when she about wet her pants, frozen in a panic, while I calmly captured a lady bug off the side of our downstairs bathroom toilet and escorted it out the front door.

So that’s where we’re at. The back yard crab apple tree is still alive and we’ve decided we might not cut it down this year – although it does look pretty ratty:

June 21 - the tree's a 'keeper?'

June 21 – the tree’s a ‘keeper?’

It might just make it through the summer. Especially with the help of a lady bug brigade.

The front maple is doing fine, thank you very much,

Bugless and stunning

Bugless and stunning

and is definitely up to neighborhood standards, even if the leaves are poisonous to insects (is something wrong with this picture?).

Can’t wait for our next battle with grubs. You know. Those critters in larvae form with large front legs for digging and huge jaws that chew on the roots of your grass, killing off entire lawns. I know this because we went through it last year. Our neighbors across the street dashed over here to alert us to the infestation right away. Because the next thing, every lawn on both sides of the street and down the block is infested.

This morning I was out looking at our hollyhocks. Ah, yes….


Rust, I believe it’s called. Puccinia malvacearum.
Yep. Our back yard is a fungus Paradise, as well.

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4 Responses to “Our Back Yard Paradise”

  1. dcaraher Says:

    Have you thought of clipping the wings of the ladybugs? Because it’s fairly boring work, I have found that ladybug wing-clipping parties are great. Fire up the grill, put on a little ambient summer sounds and get a clipping. And, what a plus, the ladybug wings are wonderful in a salad.

    • Jody Caraher Says:

      Of all the problem solving I’ve done to deal with our aphid infestation, I must say, clipping the wings on the lady bugs to keep them from flying away, had not occurred to me. I conferred with your brother on this (as to how such an approach could have entered your imagination) – and I believe during your childhood you may have clipped the wings on one too many chickens. Concerning the wing clipping party, the idea of clipping the lady bugs’ wings while grilling steaks is so mind boggling I’m afeared I mighst grill the lady bugs instead.

      • Lisa Jones Says:

        Since I am no longer working, I could come over and help clip. The only problem is that I shake so bad from my asthma medication that I am afraid I would cut the lady in half. Maybe you could invent an aphid trap. 🙂

  2. Jody Caraher Says:

    The poor ladybugs! Ladybug: cute. Ladybug cut in half: not so cute.

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