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Poplar & Aspen Borers

Sawdust at base, Hole's in tree trunk, unhealthy looking tree

One pest that is causing a lot of grief for those who have poplar trees on their properties is an insect called the Poplar Borer.

It is a native beetle that evolved feeding primarily on native aspens, but has developed a taste for Swedish Columnar aspens that are typically planted in rows along fences for privacy screening. Poplar Borers are rather large, gray beetles with faint, yellow stripes on its body and antennae that are as long as its body.

The problem with these borers is that they not only feed on the green “phloem” that sits just below the bark and moves sugars up and down the tree, but the larva (worms) also tunnel into the wood and leave a labyrinth of trails that weaken the tree, leaving portions of the trunk prone to snapping-off on windy days.

Aspen Borers prefer aspens that have trunks about 10 cm wide or larger and they typically seek trees that are stressed. The adults prefer to lay eggs on the south to southwest side of trees that have lots of exposed bark (extra trunk heat is better for larva growth and development).

The lifecycle of Aspen Borers can take several years to complete in our region, but once they invade trees they are very difficult to control. Given the great benefits of having Swedish Columnar aspens, and the expense of removing these trees, the battle to keep the borers at bay is critical.

Here are some of my observations and a bit of a game plan for Poplar Borer:

  • Aspens growing in landscape fabric with rock around the base are the worst affected, typically
  • Drought stressed aspens growing in poor soil are also preferred by the borers
  • Aspens with branches removed on the south/southwest side of tree are attacked more often

Symptoms of borer attack:

  • Small holes in trunk with brown sap stains on bark
  • Small piles of ‘wood shavings’ at trunk base from borer tunneling

What can be done?

  • Inspect your poplars several times during the growing season and look for any signs of damage
  • Pest control products like ‘Garden Protector’ can be used as a trunk and foliage spray prior to the borers penetrating the wood
  • If the borers enter the wood, control is difficult. A number of gardeners have been quite successful applying Knock Down aerosol insecticidal spray directly into the entry holes on the tree trunks.

Aspen Borers are destructive pests so if you have Swedish Columnar aspens always be vigilant! Being proactive with controlling the beetles is the best strategy!

- Jim



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Big holes in leaves, typically appearing overnight

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Fire Blight on Raspberry Canes

Blackening & decaying of canes/foliage, especially towards the end of the cane

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Hail Damage on Fruit

Clean divots or craters on fruit, with no other signs of deterioration


Coddling Moth

Codling Moth is a serious pest infesting apples. It can be identified by tunnels in apples that lead straight to an infected core. To treat, you must remove all infected apples from your yard to avoid recontamination. In the fall, when all the leaves have fallen from your apple tree, spray with Horticultural Oil available here at Hole's as part of our Fall Dormant Spray Kit.

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Red Leaf on Rhubarb

Whole leaves turn red, crown has rotting smell

Curling Tomato Leaves

Tight spirals or leaves cupping upwards


The passion that gardeners have for their tomatoes never ceases to amaze me.
This week we had over 450 people respond to our Hole’s Happenings Reader’s Choice questionnaire, and the most requested question by far was: “Why are my tomato leaves curling up?”
Well, the good news is that tomato leaf curl is not a serious problem…usually.
These are the 3 main reasons why tomato leaves curl:
First, some tomato varieties naturally have a bit of a twisting or curling growth habit. Typically, once the leaves expand, they tend to flatten and develop a more ‘planar’ growth habit.

Secondly – and most commonly – tomato leaves will often cup upwards due to an imbalance between roots and above ground growth. The cupping is referred to as physiological leaf roll, which is just a fancy term for the fact that the tomato roots cannot supply enough water to all of the leaves, stems and fruit. When tomato leaves sense a deficit of water, they respond by cupping upward to reduce exposure to sunlight which therefore reduces moisture loss.

Anytime the roots are not functioning well due to, say, restricted root space like a small pot, or if the roots are damaged, the leaves often roll. Vigorous hanging basket tomatoes are notorious for leaf roll because the ratio of leaves to roots is often large and the roots simply can’t keep up.

The good news with leaf roll is that it doesn’t cause extensive harm to the plant. And if you do your best to provide a good growing environment for your tomato plants, leaf roll can be kept to a minimum. But, keep in mind that rolled leaves won’t unfurl.

The third major cause of leaf roll is much more serious. It results from the misapplication of certain types of herbicides. The rolling of leaves from herbicide damage is different from physiological leaf roll. Herbicide damage is most prominent in the new growing points resulting in severe cupping, distortion and clumping of flowers and shoots. The source of herbicide contamination is often from misapplication of lawn herbicides or contaminated potting and garden soil mixtures. If you have herbicide damage like this the only solution is to get rid of the affected plants and soil and start over.

Every year, I receive dozens of tomato plants displaying herbicide damage. Often the herbicide damage wasn’t caused through misapplication by the owner of the tomatoes. The problem is, all too often, potting mixtures that have been blended with herbicide contaminated manure.

This is why starting with good quality potting soil is essential. Every bag of Jim Hole's Potting Soil and Sea Soil has been tested for quality-assurance.

And remember to feed your tomato plants too!

If you have a hanging basket tomato don’t forget to feed it! Of all the plants in our greenhouses, hanging basket tomatoes are the heaviest feeders. If you want to keep the feeding simple, add some Plant Prod 16-16-16 Controlled Release Fertilizer to each basket. If you prefer the liquid fertilizers weekly or even daily applications of Talk of Tomato 3-3-4 are a good choice. Find all your tomato plant needs at Hole's.

- Jim Hole




Appearing in lawn, often in circular patterns

It’s funny how many of us find mushrooms such a wonderful addition to our pizzas or omelets, but are horrified when they emerge from our lawns. The first thing to remember about mushrooms that pop up on lawns is that the vast majority of species are beneficial organisms, with only one species being a bit of a pest.

Let’s start with the pest. The Fairy Ring mushroom (Marasmius oreades) is the one species that most lawn aficionados hate. Usually, this fungus first noticed as a ring of mushrooms with dead or dehydrated grass occupying the middle of the ring. The reason the grass dies is due to the high density of waxy mushroom ‘roots’ (properly called hyphae) that shed water away from grass roots and compete for space.

There are no registered chemical controls for Fairy Ring fungi, but the “poke and soak” method can be used to, at least, reduce the severity of the fairy ring.

“Poke and soak” involves using a root feeder (hollow metal stake with reservoir on the top), hooking a garden hose to it, and then stabbing it into the ring and turning on the water. Water that penetrates into the ring not only helps to hydrate the grass roots but it always encourages the growth of microorganisms that compete with the Fairy Ring fungi. Adding some horticultural soap to the reservoir will make the water “wetter,” and allow better water penetration around the hyphal strands.

The “poke and soak” method is not perfect, but it helps.

Non Fairy Ring mushrooms that emerge after thunderstorms are just the fruiting bodiesof fungi that are consuming organic matter in the soil, including bark, compost, dead roots, and more. They are not plant diseases, but instead, are saprophyte which means they are fungi that eat non-living organic matter. Saprophytes are, actually, beneficial for soils in lawns and gardens. Rather than trying to kill these mushrooms, I say, grow to love them…if you can!

Now if you are thinking that you would like to add some of these lawn mushrooms to your pizza, don’t do it unless you can - with absolute certainty - correctly identify which ones are edible and which ones might be poisonous.

There is a great aphorism that I love about mushrooms. It goes like this: "There are old mushroom pickers and there are bold mushroom pickers, but there are no old, bold mushroom pickers!”

- Jim Hole



Big holes in foliage, typically appearing overnight