garden update 4/09

Soo many people haven’t asked for a garden update – so here it is.

Aside from the particular crops that change with the season, the attack critters change as well. While not yet in full aggressive mode, they’re making their presence known and I’m ready for the countermeasures. I’m not yet breaking out the traditional heavy chemicals – malathion, Seven dust, and the like – but rather trying more eco friendly approaches. Some examples:

Yellow sticky strips. These are bright yellow 5” x 7” vinyl strips that are coated with some super sticky material. I can say for sure they are incredibly sticky and you don’t, don’t, don’t want to get them on your hands or clothes. It works on the fly paper theory that the insects are attracted to the bright yellow and get caught in the glue. I bought 2 sets which comes with 3 metal stands and 10 sticky strips. I think in the future I’ll be able to make my own using something called tacky foot and wide strips of plastic that come come sherbet containers painted yellow. I’m going to build a couple and put them up against the store bought version and see if I have the trick. I might also try some other colors – maybe red will capture some tomato lovers.

Cut worm collars. When you transplant young plants to the garden there’s evil creatures lurking beneath the soil that come out at night and bite a ring around the base of the transplants. They love tomatoes in particular. So you do the transplant and come out the next day and see the playing laying over dead with the leave end cut away from the root end right at ground level. If the plant makes it a week or so, chances are it’s home free. My approach has been to grow spares and play a replant game. This year I’m putting collars around the plant at ground level. I’m trying two different collar approaches. I have a roll of velcro about 3/4” wide so I cut off a piece about 4” long and wrap it around the base of the plant. Nancy has some quilting material that looks to me like mylar which she uses to make patterns. She made me a dozen or so collars from that. So far I haven’t lost anything in two days using either collar.

Oil spray. I picked up something called Pyola oil which is a mixture of plant oils that must be really bad tasting. I actually tried it last year to no avail but I got it late in the season and perhaps it works best on small plants or earlier in the season. The manufacturer has written such a great brochure that I feel compelled to try it one more time.

Radishes. I read that if you plant radishes around cucumbers, the cucumber beetles will leave the area. My cucumber plants are a few inches tall so I totally surrounded them with radish seeds. I also sprayed them with oil.

We’ll see.

The transition from winter to spring crops is going well. We’re still picking snow peas, lettuce and celery. And plenty of swiss chard which has been incredibly productive all winter and shows no signs of crashing. Within the next two weeks we should be picking the first of the yellow squash, green peppers, and onions. A couple of weeks after that the green beans, more varieties of squash, and the cucumbers will start. The corn is up about 10” and looking pretty good. I am trying a new award winning acorn squash called Honey Bear and have been amazed at the progress. Within 3 weeks there are actually baby squash and blossoms. Another new try is something called New Zealand spinach. It’s not new, just new to me. I think it’s not a true spinach but supposedly a direct replacement that can tolerate lots of heat and humidity. My track record with spinach in this garden is spotty – poor to fair at best. Last year I tried a vining spinach called Malabar that did really well but which people either loved or hated. It tasty pretty good to me but the leaves were thick and leathery and a little slippery inside. Nancy was not wild about it. Also trying a melon I had good luck with in Utah. Last year we tried watermelon and cantaloupes and it was a disaster. Very few melons but they took over the garden. These new melons are shorter vined and produce a miniature melon similar to cantaloupe. They’re called Minnesota Midgets. So except for a small patch that I’ll plant in beans in a couple of weeks, I’m 100% planted out and in full protect mode.

And I learned another “don’t”. When you thin out Elephant Ears, don’t throw them in the compost pile, even if you run them thru a chipper. Turns out that any piece that’s still alive, no matter how chopped up, will regenerate into a new plant. So I’m now digging out elephant ear plants as they emerge in the garden. They work hard at developing roots before they put out any green above ground. When one pooches out the ground, it’s very tiny but the root can be down 8-10” and already forming a big bulb. I have a feeling this is going to be a problem all summer long.

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