Monday, June 21, 2010

Update on the Garden

Yesterday I finally got the trellising finished! Hooray! Now the pole beans have an option for getting away from the slugs.

Meanwhile, the peas have started to bloom. I thought I'd share some of their portraits with you, just so you can see that peas can be quite lovely.

Golden Sweet - edible yellow pods - very rare

And here's a wee pod already forming!

Schweitzer Reisen - another rare one.

Green Arrow - neither rare nor exotic, but still lovely.

I think this was a Blue-podded.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


They are back. Again. The Rose Chafers.

Here they are, devouring the buds on my ninebark. I mixed up a batch of pyrethrin-based insecticide and attacked. They were skeletonizing all the leaves on the hawthorns, and were rampant on the dogwoods, chokecherries, and other ninebarks. There were some on the grapes and hops. They were on the alpine current. The viburnums are both dead this year, so they are leaving them alone.

I sprayed. Went out a couple hours later, and sprayed again. The next day, I sprayed again, and filled a jar with soapy water and flicked the breeding SOBs into it to meet a watery death.

But they just kept coming.

I finally bit the bullet and bought a bottle of Sevin, a toxic insecticide. Swore I'd never use the stuff, but I've reached the end of my rope with these guys.

Too late.

I went out after the rain and sprayed everything. And then it rained again. I haven't been out since. The sun is out this afternoon - perhaps I'll check again when I get home.

Meanwhile, there's not a flower or bud left on any of the ninebarks. :(

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The By-products of Rain

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Minerva Community Garden

I was early for an appointment yesterday, so I took some time to wander around the Minerva Community Garden. The photos are not great - it was overcast and raining - but you can see the wonderful layout they have.

Just about all the beds are raised and have boxes built around them. Several have integrated head- and footboards from various beds. What a novel way to build a trellis!
All the beds are very tidy.

I've never seen such tidy beds in a veg garden.

Lots of brassica family plants. Someone's going to have a lot of broccoli, or cauliflower, or cabbages. The bed in the back has corn - already over a foot tall!

Either they have a serious ant problem, or these are potato hills.

Last year they had tomatoes hanging from pergolas, but this year all the tomatoes I could see were in buckets. I wonder what they'll put on the pergolas this year.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Frost and Rain

We've had nearly three inches of rain since last week - it's been wonderful. Overnight my manure beds went from brown to green as the buckwheat sprouted forth with leaves galore. (Photos coming soon.)

But now we are in the throes of a cold snap. It was in the mid-30s last night, and I dutifully covered the newly planted tomatoes and the newly sprouted squashes. Tonight, frost is in the forecast. The row covers will remain in place until things warm up again.

Meanwhile, the pole beans are up and running (underneath their row covers). I picked up posts and stakes over the weekend and now must make more trellises. I may have to get more bailing twine.

I came home from work yesterday to find a package waiting for me: the folks who made my drip irrigation timer sent me a replacement timer! When I went to install mine this season, I found it wasn't working. Installation of a new battery (twice) didn't help. I took the infernal contraption apart only to find the entire inside corroded. Many phone calls later I finally got a hold of a helpful gent at the correct company, and since I was within my 3 year warranty (I've had it just under 2 years), he said to send it to them and they'd take a look. Looks like they replaced the whole thing!

So, now I will wait for some sunnier, drier weather and install it. It's time to see if the dripper system is still functional.

Lethal Beauty

Toby and I had just started on our walk yesterday evening and were not too far from the house. We were at a standstill while he checked out the roadside grafitti, so I was playing with the tree leaves. There on the leaves of a mountain ash was a beautiful beetle.

I dragged the dog back to the house to get the camera, then back again to get the camera battery. When I got back to the approximate location, it took a bit of searching, but the insect was still there. I snapped a few frames and we finished our walk.

This morning I looked it up. It's a beetle, I knew that much. Turns out, its a round-headed appletree borer, Saperda candida. This didn't sound good, so I did a little research.

As attractive as this striped, blue-legged beetle is, its presence does not bode well for my apple trees. The striking adults are nocturnal, feeding on leaves and sometimes fruit. That's not a problem. It's when they set about reproducing that they become "dangerous," for they seek out apple trees (crab and regular) in which to lay their eggs. They make a slit in the bark at the base of the trunk and lay the eggs there (June is peak egg laying time). Soon the eggs hatch and for about a year the young larvae feed just under the bark.

When winter comes, the larvae go dormant. Summer #2 rolls around, and the larvae start to bore into the tree. Here they will tunnel and feed for the next 1-3 years, each winter going dormant. Afterwards they emerge as adults, mate, and the cycle begins again.

Trees that are weak are usually the target. While apples are preferred, mountain ash, hawthorn, service berry, cottoneaster, Saskatoon are also hosts.

What is an apple grower to do?!? The base of trees can be painted with a schmezz made from white latex paint and water. This apparently discourages the adults from laying eggs, and makes the sawdust-like frass from the larvae more apparent if they are present. Shallow larvae can be cut out with a knife, while those that are already tunnelling can be chased with a stiff whire shoved up their tunnels.

An important factor in avoiding these insects is to keep your trees healthy. When they are newly planted, be sure to keep them well-watered to promote good root growth. This means for 2-3 years, not just a week or so after planting.

Because I have an apple tree that is in poor health, I'm going to have to do an inspection when I get home. Check out the base of all my trees for suspicious activity. If I see anything, steps will have to be taken.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I know that many a holiday reveller this weekend gladly rejoiced in the lack of rain, but I, the gardener, whose winter supply of veg depends on the success (or failure) of my garden, was thrilled when the darkened sky and rumbling thunder actually produced some rain last night and this morning.

It is so easy to just go to the store and purchase what we need/want. Well, for most of us here in the US it is easy. Some of us have to plan a bit further in advance, since the store is many miles away. But still, when we produce our own food, we appreciate it all the more. And we appreciate what goes into making it happen.

Too often I hear people moan about the cost of food. But let's look at the real cost - the cost that may not be reflected in your 50 cents/pound peas, or your $1/pound beef. Is your food subsidized by the government? Does it come from half way around the world? Was it picked by migrant workers who get little pay and no benefits? Was its production detrimental to the soil in which it grew (eg: potatoes that are grown in soil that is first completely sterilized - poisoned - by herb- and pesticides)? Were the animals raised and slaughtered humanely, including fed food that is appropriate for their digestive systems (eg: did you know that factory farmed cattle are often fed on ground up parts of their fellow cattle? This is one reason why they are pumped full of antibiotics, because they are so sick from having to eat "meat" with a digestive system designed only to consume plant material.)?

Yes, I pay $50/month for 10 pounds of meat - but it is raised locally and humanely. Grassfed. Hormone free. And only travels a couple hours to reach me.

Yes, I buy my eggs locally. My egg lady is wonderful - $2/dozen for terrific eggs. Most other egg folks sell their homegrown eggs for at least $3/doz. - I've even seen them go for over $4! Sure, $2 is still more than the grocery store eggs, but my eggs are from happy roaming chickens and have a flavor you can't find in any store-bought carton.

And yes, I grow my own veg as much as possible. It is the right thing to do. I know what goes into my produce and I know that the greatest distance it travelled was from my yard to my kitchen (unless you count the seeds, which in truth did travel some distance to get here).

There is a growing movement to eat more local food, and I fully agree with and support this notion. I also think everyone should grow his/her own veg. And not just a couple tomatoes in a window box. We would be a healthier nation as a whole if we all put a little more effort into the basics of life.