Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lessons from 2011 Gardening - Part 2

Pest Control
As with any year it’s important to record your pests and how you handled them. This year we had 2 main kinds 1)Japanese beetles and 2) yellow jackets.

Japanese Beetles – Last year we had beetles bad and almost lost all my fruit trees so I didn’t bother to research or plan for beetles this year since I heard they are an every OTHER year pest. Not true at all. We had more beetles this year than any other year. Turns out we will need to treat our yard to kill the babies as worms. Beetles LOVE grapes, raspberries, blackberries, peppers and okra all of which I grow. After half of a summer looking we have a nice little home remedy for the darned beetles. Pots of chives and cat nip/mint placed threw out my garden. We had tried multiple natural sprays involving pepper which would work for a day or 2 but not much more. Storms, water, dew all of that knocks the sprays off the plant. When you grow as much fruit as I do that’s a lot of spraying and a lot of hours. I bet I did 1hr a day for a week before I gave up for solution #2.

Now some might ask why not use chemicals? Good question. Most fruit have delicate skin and crevices like raspberries and blackberries. You cannot get chemicals out of those areas. The delicate skin will absorb the chemicals and become part of the fruit you eat. I will never advocate putting chemicals on any fruit. Better to lose the crop and find a natural solution than to put chemicals into what will become your body.

We did find out that we caused a portion of the beetle infestation. We plant marigolds to prevent deer and aphids out of our garden and they got out of control. Almost EVERY box has a perimeter of marigolds. Now 80% of garden pests HATE that smell but there’s 1 bug that it’s their favorite scent and that’s beetles. With all the rain we had this summer our marigolds grew as tall as some plants which turned out to be a bad thing. They brought in the beetles and our pest #2 yellow jackets.

Yellow jackets might not seem like a pest but they are. They are extremely territorial and nested in one of my beds beside my cantaloupe and the overgrown marigolds. They had their main 2 food sources there and weren’t leaving. I managed to save one cantaloupe but they devoured the others and chased anyone that came near the bed. That meant I lost 32ft of great planting soil. I had no choice but to wait it out and start pulling marigolds. Once the cantaloupe season was over they left on their own and took my cantaloupe with them.

The only other pests we had this year were birds that ate ALL of my grapes. Right before Hurricane Irene the grapes were nice but not quite ready; they needed about another week or two before they were finished. The very weekend after Irene the grapes were all gone. Lesson learned: net the grapes prior to them getting ripe. We really didn’t think our crop that was in it’s 2nd year was big enough to worry about birds but we were wrong.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lessons from 2011 Garden - Part 1

At the end of each gardening season it’s a good idea to write notes as to what worked, what didn’t and what changes you would make for the following year. This year we tried several new crops of which some worked and some didn’t.
Two of our new crops were onions and garlic. Both plants start out as a bulb that you plant into the ground but not too deep. Our onions did amazing. I had more onions than I knew what to do with but our garlic bombed.

The thing to remember about onions is to not plant them too deep. The ones that were more on the shallow side did better.

You can tell an onion is ready when it starts to rise up out of the ground. But they also last in the ground where you can only pull up what is needed for dinner. Try to pull up every other bulb allowing those that remain in the ground more growing space. By pulling every other onion the ones on either side expand in size and keep growing. I left my onions in the ground for 2 months only pulling what I needed for that night’s meal. Finally I took a day and harvested the rest.
If you are freezing onions all you need to do is cut them in half and freeze in a freezer safe container.

Our garlic didn’t do so well this year. We planted garlic in a bed where we were going to put our peppers later in the season but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Shortly after we put in the garlic we began to see green leaf lettuce sprouts everywhere. The lettuce ended up covering all 32ft of the bed equaling hundreds of salads and choking out all garlic.

Another new addition to our garden was peanuts. I’ve wanted to grow peanuts for about 2 years but since I don’t know anyone who has done it I have chickened out. Not this year. Turns out peanuts are very easy and bountiful. Peanuts can’t be harvested until October but what I have right now will equal a lot. The peanut plant itself looks like a regular plant with beautiful yellow blooms. The plant will shoot up and out producing pegs (small strands) which attaches to the ground and grows a peanut pod in the soil. Once I harvest them I’ll need to let them dry out. We can’t decide if we will roast them and eat them or make peanut butter. I have a feeling the kids want to eat and not wait for peanut butter.

The last new crop/fruit we took on is a fig tree. Finally I got my fig tree I’ve wanted for year. Our tree started in a nursery so we’ve ended up with 2 rounds of figs but not enough to make fig preserves or fig cookies/newtons. Still if you buy shortbread and eat the figs together you’d think they were fig newtons.