Bugs. Why’d it have to be bugs? Those of you who loved Indiana Jones movies will understand that reference. Yes, I feel about bugs just like good old Indy felt about snakes. And guess what? Last week we had to deal with ‘em and deal with ‘em we did. But let me start at the beginning…
After CVG activities were cancelled the previous week due to the weather, everyone showed up eager to see how their gardens were progressing. We started out by weeding and cleaning up the beds and walkways, and inspecting our plants. In the process of doing so, everyone noticed (cue Jaws music)…the bugs. The cabbage/kale/broccoli area of the beds still had a few stubborn cabbage loopers, and a whole LOT of harlequin bugs. These guys:
And look at the damage they and the cabbage loopers have done:
So, we picked and squished (gloves help a lot) or stomped the bugs. For the most part, our broccoli heads had been harvested, so any of the plants that were heavily infested with harlequin bugs in our area were cut off at ground level and carefully disposed of in plastic trash bags. We also found some interesting insect eggs on the underside of some of the leaves…these are a cluster of squash bug eggs:
It’s really worth taking the time to look over your plants and catch bugs in the egg stage, before they hatch and start to do damage. Remember the harlequin bugs? (I know I won’t forget them for a while. J) They were also busy laying eggs, which are black and white. See how small they are?
I much prefer identifying insect eggs to hatched bugs because they don’t move around and are easier to squish once you know what they are. J By the way, a really good book for identifying bugs is Texas Bugs: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly by Garrett and Beck.
In order to better control our unwelcome visitors–in addition to the pick-and-smoosh technique–we treated the plants with liquid spinosad (diluted per the instructions on the bottle) right before we went home. Spinosad is most effective when eaten by insects (adult or larvae) as they eat the leaves which were sprayed, but can also kill eggs if they are directly contacted by the liquid.
OK, you can stop scratching and feeling buggy because I’m done talking about bugs for now. (Believe me, I’m glad too.) In addition to dealing with the bugs, we also hilled up our potatoes again. This week we added 3-4 inches of compost to both sides of the stems, and leveled off the mound between the two rows of plants so it formed a flat plateau between the two hills of plants. Not only is it better for the plants, giving our potatoes more space to grow in, but also it keeps the potatoes from flopping over into the walkways. Hilling up the plants is best as a two-person job: one to gently hold the plants up while the other person adds the soil. See the before, during, and after pics:
Yes, the ‘Provider’ bush green beans were still in the walkway but we went on to them next! We put 3 bamboo stakes spaced out along each side of the bean area, and ran a string around the six stakes. A good way to do this is to tie the string to your starting stake, then loop it around each of the other stakes, tying it again when you get back to your original stake. This helps keep a good tension and keeps the string from sliding down. If you notice, the bamboo stakes are not very tall so if you buy tall ones you can cut them in half.
Doesn’t this look much neater?
Our ‘Diva’ cucumbers are flowering, and we made sure that their tendrils were latching onto the trellis.
See how good the yellow squash look! If you remember, we originally planted three seeds, spaced apart into a triangle shape. Some of the beds were a little slower to germinate their three seeds, so to be safe we planted extra ones, and now in some we have more than three plants. In those beds, we thinned it out to the three healthiest plants. Why not leave them all? Several reasons. They would compete with each other for nutrients. More plants means more leaves, so air circulation would be reduced, and fungal diseases like powdery mildew—which squash are susceptible to-would be more likely. Also, overcrowding limits the sunlight that reaches the leaves too (remember photosynthesis?) and the water that reaches the ground (and roots).
Look! Our first blush of color on the ‘BHN 968’ cherry tomatoes!!!! I was pretty excited to see this, as well as how healthy the tomato plants are. The Tycoon tomatoes (on the right) are also doing very well; since they are larger tomatoes, they are still green and growing.
Here’s one of our gardeners standing in front of her ‘BHN 968’ tomato plant…the plants are huge and full of cherry tomatoes!
Fertilizing, as usual, is a very important part of a successful vegetable garden, and we did feed our onions with 2 cups of organic granulated fertilizer. Each of our tomatoes got half a cup of organic fertilizer placed around the outside edge of the large tomato cages surrounding them. Remember to water in the granulated fertilizer, as well as watering any of the other plants that needed it.
Wow! This was a long post, but there was a lot I wanted to tell you about. I did want to talk a little about our children’s vegetable garden compost but I’ll do that in a separate post. For now, let me sign off with a pic of our Children’s Vegetable Garden as we left:
Bexar County Master Gardeners
P.S. Isn’t this a lovely head of cabbage?