September 17, 2012
Growing carrots? If so, carrot sawfly may have found your garden. While these flying insects can be great pollinators for your cilantro, their larvae can destroy emerging carrot, fennel, dill, parsley & cilantro crops, and they can do some serious damage to your carrot root crops as well. And, yep we’ve got’m in one bed – dammit!
This pest insect is a hard one to keep off your crops. The adults — tiny flying wasp insects that look more like black ants than true flies — love to feed on everything in the carrot family. And, they look a lot like many other tiny, black wasps. I’m no entomologist, so I won’t even begin to try to tell you exactly what they look like. But, I do know what their larvae’s damage looks like, and in one bed, my carrots had it, so we’ve pulled them and won’t be planting them or their cousins plants in that area again anytime soon. (Actually, we’re planning a big renovation for this area, so stay tuned for updates on that in the months ahead.)
Oh, and yes, we have practiced crop rotation here, but when even one tiny wasp makes its way to the crop, the larvae may thrive. And those wasps are small and sneaky little buggers! (more…)
August 07, 2012
My friend and garden coaching client Brad recently shared this great method for fruit fly control. Brad’s an inspiring guy to work with. He raises chickens in his back yard and has urban honeybees at home and in several other locations around town. (Be on the lookout for the ‘Honey Hole’ brand of urban honey soon!) He grew Loofah in Seattle, which was a new one on me. (Brad, can I have one?) He even roasts his own coffee, and it’s delicious. Too, Brad’s paper goods company, Guided Products, manufactures American-made, unique, recycled paper products. Really, Brad’s an innovator, and I’m glad to learn from him! And, did I mention he’s hilarious too?
Brad recommends: “Grab a glass or jar, piece of clear cling wrap, rubber band and piece of ripe fruit. Drop fruit in jar. Tightly pull down clear wrap around the top of vessel. Wrap rubber band around rim of vessel. With a pen, poke several small holes through the top of the cling wrap that the fly can barely get in. Leave in your fruit fly area. They will get in but have trouble getting out. When I see several in there, I put in the freezer to kill them and set it back out again.”
I just chopped up a peach to go with my homemade yogurt for breakfast. I realized that a bit of fruit stayed stuck to the pit. That would be the perfect piece of fruit to use for this job — otherwise, it’s headed straight for the compost heap. Fortunately, I don’t have fruit flies this season — yet. The time will come, I’m sure.
Want other ideas to control fruit flies? There’s always the option of setting out a small dish of vinegar to attract them & drown them. Or, consider these ideas too:
May 31, 2012
The pesky cabbage butterfly is invading all over gardens everywhere right now. Last week, I was 3000 miles away from my own garden, but I saw these butterflies (not moths) in action. When I got home, there they were flying through my garden too.
Fortunately, my brassica crops (cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc…) are well protected from them. Plastic-sheeted hoop houses keep out the egg-laying adult butterflies. Though, it is time for me to exchange the plastic for floating row cover, which is more ideal in warmer temperatures. But that’s another post for another day.
For now, take a close look at these adult butterflies I found at Tricycle Gardens in Richmond, Virginia. And, if you’ve seen these flying around in your garden, be sure to read more in our earlier post that shows photos of their caterpillar phase and the damage those green, wormy creatures do so very fast in a brassica patch. And, yes, we’ve shared tips for keeping them out of your crops without a drop of ‘cide!
April 25, 2012
I’m reminded once again that even if you practice crop rotation, there’s no guarantee a garden pests won’t find their way into your garden.
Recently, I began noticing notching on the leaves of some of my peas. At first, I chalked this damage up to birds that like to sit on pea trellises and peck at the edges of pea leaves doing quite a bit of damage. But then I realized the damage was far too uniform to be the result of random bird pecking. And, I began to notice similar notching on the edges of fava beans growing in another bed that birds couldn’t access.
So, I knew it was time to look a the problem a little more closely.
I wasn’t able to find any pests around the peas, so I took my investigation to the favas. Inside the favas, along the stems, I observed tiny ants. They weren’t farming aphids, which they’re known to do on aphid-attracting favas. But, they weren’t cutting leaf edges either. Instead, they were sipping nectar, which the fava excretes from a spot near the base of each leaf. (More on that available here.)
So, the mystery of the notched leaves continued. I did some reading on the internet, which left me confused. Was the damage due to bean weevils or pea weevils? Both are discussed in detail all over the web, but the names are often used interchangably, leaving me with even more questions. (Hopefully, this post will help folks ID pea weevil more easily than I was able.)
So, I took those questions to WSU Entomologist Sharon Collman who teaches an on-going extension course in pests and disease called ‘Bugs & Blights‘. After exchanging just a few emails with Sharon, we had the mystery solved and an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) plan in place. When I asked Sharon if I could share this information with gardenhelp.org readers, her response was fantastic: “My goal is to teach people and the more people that pass on information the more people learn.” That’s a statement after my own heart. So here’s how we drilled down on the problem together: (more…)
April 20, 2012
One of my favorite Pacific Northwest native plants has to be Ribes sanguineum. In mid-April they’re in full glory, so now’s the time to sing their praises!
This medium size shrub reaches about ten feet tall at maturity. And although it doesn’t get large, it also doesn’t take it long to grow to size in the garden. (Hint: that means you can buy a small one and only have a couple of years to wait until it gets big.) (more…)
April 09, 2012
One of the worst pests on our property has struck again. No, it’s not the cabbage worms or the root weevils or leaf miners. They’ll show up later. For now, it’s all happening indoors & my spray bottle is at the ready.
Okay, so I know you’re freaking out because I’m saying “spray”.
How unlike me, right? I’m never an advocate for spraying much of anything other than some compost tea or fish fertilizer now & again. So, why am I pulling out a spray bottle now?
Well, when the damn house cat starts downing my seedlings, that’s when the water sprayer comes out!
Twinky-the-cat is at it again.
We’ve been starting any number of warm season crops indoors. Tomatoes, Hibiscus tea, peppers, Okra and more. In the beginning, when the seeds are first inserted into the sterile soil mix, they’re placed on a rack, under lights with a clear, plastic protective cover over the top. The plastic top helps hold heat and moisture in, and it helps intensify the light that shines down on the emerging seeds.
But, once those young seedlings emerge from the soil, if the lids aren’t lifted to allow for airflow — aka ventilate the trays — then damping off can begin. That’s essentially a fungal issue that will kill an entire tray of new seedlings within a day or so.
So, once the young plants pop through the soil, I begin opening the lids. I leave them over the young plants with a few inches of airflow space between lid and tray. (Find a timeline of seeding events illustrated here.) I keep the lids on in hopes of keeping the cat from chewing on the young plants. It also deters him from climbing on top to take a nap under the sunny lights.
Unfortunately, I left the rack just a bit too close to the window sill where Twink naps. So, one afternoon, he leaned his adorable fuzzy head over into my tomatoes and Hibiscus and began chewing. Apparently, the Hibiscus tasted good because he left nothing of this behind. But he’s never found tomatoes tasty. So, he took a bit of a few and spit them out — soil and all — onto the floor below.
Yeah, very cat-like right? He knows how to really piss me off.
How do I know it was Twink? Take a look at the photos. Notice the clean bite mark. Notice the long, white cat hair strewn among the defoliated stems he left behind.
So, how to manage this pest? Well, spray of course!
No, don’t spray the crops (unless you’re watering them that way.)
Instead, keep a water-filled spray bottle nearby. And, if you can catch puss in action, and spray him with a jet of water to scare him off.
Also — note to self — move the racks another few inches away from his nap window, so he isn’t tempted to snack while he sleeps.
And, of course, plant more seeds if you’ve got’m. Fortunately, I’ve got more tomato seedlings to pot up than I’ll ever have room to grow on. And, I’ve got two more rounds of Renee’s Garden Seed Hibiscus Tea seeds germinating!
And, let’s be clear, spraying anything other than water at a bad cat is never my first line of defense against any kind of pest. Spray bottles are a rarity around here. If you’re ever going to pull one out, be sure you’ve tried everything else first, you know what you’re using, why you’re using it, how to safely use it, and that it is actually something appropriate to use on the pest you’ve fully identified.