Biological warfare part 2

So my regular ladybugs weren’t working out. They were active, but not as numerous as I’d like, and the aphids keep trying to take over the Sun Gold.

There is a solution to this dilemma. And they’re native ladybugs to boot. Had to store them in the fridge for a while.

My insane employee discount has raised its head again. The procedure for releasing them is kinda involved, but it works.

You have to wait til it’s dusk. Or dawn, but dusk was more acceptable to me.

First things first you have to spray down the plants you’re releasing the ladybugs on. This gives them water to drink.

Oh boy. That’s a lot of bugs. I tipped in some ladybugs into each pot or bed with aphids. Then I sprayed them down with a little more water so they could drink.

In the morning I saw aphids- and their predators circling their prey.

Not all of the ladybugs made it- a few I tipped into the cauliflower were clearly dead, as a few I put on the herbs.

But they’re reproducing like mad, and I await the hungry larvae.

And while I’m sure a few are going to travel to the neighbors- quite a few of the ones flying around are just going to my other plants. So I have that going for me.

This was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done- but hey, fuck aphids.

Seriously.

Fuck aphids.

Cauliflower woes

I had to pull another cauliflower today- and yeah, maggots on the roots. The plant came up really quickly too- like it was barely alive.

And that’s not even the only bug on the plants.

Ah good old cabbage moth. Or cabbage moth caterpillar anyways. They’re hard to see most of the time- this was the first one I managed to kill this year.

It gets worse.

In the folds of the leaves were an absolute mountain of aphids. I smushed what I could- and I’ll spray some horticultural oil in the morning.

Honestly after pulling the weakest one, I thought I’d just pull them all, and just chalk it up, maybe sow some spaghetti squash.

Only… the largest cauliflowers weren’t so weak rooted. A light tug was all it took to uproot the dying ones, but the big boys are firmly rooted.

I’m not stupid, I know there has to be maggots on these roots too- but maybe the neem oil pours I did last week worked in reducing their numbers? One or two maggots don’t hurt the plant- a zillion do. I just pulled a few of the Bok Choy for tonight’s supper and there was one maggot between them. So they’re around but not causing too many problems, except what they did to my turnips and what they’re doing to my cauliflowers.

I’m hoping with all the other cabbage family crops in the garden that this is the worst of it.

But they remaining cauliflowers do look good- if buggy.

Now the problem is… it’s going to rain again. Which might bring out more flies and more maggots.

Ah San Francisco. Growing things here is so tricky sometimes.

Some late additions and potential problems

I finally bit the bullet and grabbed myself a pepper, among other things. I am growing the lipsticks from seed but it’ll be a month til the largest is large enough for the pepper pot. In the meantime this sweet Italian bulls horn should do well.

It’s a little runty so it got a stake. I wish I could be optimistic but after weeks of warm weather San Francisco’s inherent unpredictability has reared it’s head and we’ve now had two days of wet drizzle.

I have no words. Well I have plenty of words but they’re not really fit to print.

I also got a tarragon- again. I’ve had such bad luck with tarragon that I thought it was time to just put it in a pot. Sometimes all your plans for a fancy herb bed run up against reality. Oh well, hopefully it will do better as a pot herb.

This is ginger mint. I am something of a mint fanatic, and I love growing mint from cuttings and giving them away as gifts. The more weird the mint the better. Ginger mint sounds tailor made for tea, but I’ll have to wait a little while before I take cuttings.

Some of my cuttings are taking really well- others are lost causes. But that’s what happens when you try to grow from cuttings, it’s always a gamble.

These are the ones that have taken. A good way of telling if they’re taking is if the plant still looks fresh and not wilted or brown, and to check the bottom for root growth.

Now that’s a successful cutting!

These are my last two plants, some Persian cucumbers for the cucumber patch and a lost little pumpkin. I wish I could say wow I don’t have room for a pumpkin! But unfortunately I most likely will have room for a pumpkin shortly.

That’s the remains of another cauliflower- and two of the back Bok choys went with it. And now that it’s drizzling again, the cabbage flies are going to be even more emboldened. Cabbage flies of course only eat cabbages- so my squashes will be perfectly safe.

The slugs of course, are in hyperdrive. Now you can totally go out at night with a flashlight and just kill all the slugs you see- and that is the most natural way to do it- but it is gross as hell, and I like sleeping at night.

So I took half a container of sluggo and went nuclear. I tossed those pellets around the garden like it was going out of style. Every bed, every green area, every pot.

There’s no kill quite like overkill, and I’m hoping the slugs get the message.

Smushing aphids might be gross but it’s the best way the control their numbers so smush I must. I try not to spray the sun gold with neem oil because the tomato flowers attract bees and the aphids are attracting ladybugs.

At least the local criminal is enjoying the rain and the work I’m doing. If only feral cats could be trained to eat cabbage fly…

A Buggy start to May

Yesterday I was fed up with how runty and withered my two smallest cauliflowers were, so I pulled the weakest. Low and behold, the roots were crawling with cabbage fly maggots. I pulled the other one too- same story. The problem was, as you can see from one of the healthier ones-

The roots actually go fairly deep, the cauliflower had a good chance to grow before it got infested. This meant two things, one at this point whatever grubs are there can’t really be tweezed off, I’d have to uncover so much of the root system I’d harm the plant, and two, I’m going to have to rely on the fact that the root systems are so deep and healthy the larger cauliflowers are probably going to make it. As insurance I uncovered as much of each root as I could a poured neem oil over it. Hopefully that can seep into the soil and maybe kill off any other maggots. For now I just have to be vigilant while checking the other brassicas for fly eggs.

What’s really annoying is that some of those nasty green aphid types have been attacking my seedlings. This is a fairly healthy red stemmed peppermint I’ve been growing from a cutting from the mint thunderdome. Seemingly overnight it got those feeding crusts and eggs under the lower leaves, with the little green aphids feeding up top. Annoying but solvable. For one this is mint. Mint is unkillable. The plant was getting too big for its little transplant pot anyways so I just potted it up in its forever home. Of course I sprayed it down several times with insecticidal soap and hand killed every bug I could see first.

Here it is in its new pot. I’ll just keep coming back to it with the spray and eventually the vigor of mint will solve my problem for me. The real problem is the weeds. They’re a reservoir for the aphids so I’m going to have to use the edger and really knock them down. maybe hand pull whatever’s left. Soon since it’s stopped raining they’ll all die back- but that could take til August and I have to kill the aphid reservoirs now.

While this baby romanesco’s roots seem to be undisturbed as you can see it’s leaves are a tad nibbled. Not much I can do about that except keep checking for caterpillars and lay down more sluggo.

The local pest patrol was out in force this morning which is always a good sign. Maybe this extra wet winter we just had was good for the flies- but it seems to have been good for the ladybugs too.

The five surviving pepper seedlings, including one very runty one, have been put into their own pots. This was largely in response to the fact that as they get bigger I keep finding those damn little green aphids on them, and this will give them a chance to grow big roots and be easier to clean off.

At this point all the beans have this sort of lacy chewing damage which makes me think earwigs. The big potatoes are the same way.

That’s just a mess. I’ve laid down the sluggo but my hope in these older potatoes is not great. Potatoes can totally resprout after their leaves sustain damage though- so maybe with enough care they’ll be ok. This could also be evidence of something much worse than aphids so… eh fingers crossed.

The red aphids meanwhile are almost all gone, with a few stragglers remaining. Biological warfare works!

Here’s a picture of one of my beautiful aphid killers- it’s the same ladybug larvae I photographed earlier in the week, but as you can see the lovely lady is in the process of turning herself into an adult! The green aphids along with some kind of scale insect have been attacking my dill something fierce, which is why I keep finding ladybug eggs on the dill stalks- they know where their bread is buttered.

Now there are a lot of ways to try and prevent bugs from eating your crops- checking roots and stems for eggs and spraying when it’s too late is part of it- but there are a lot of plants that can repel bugs. Marigolds are one of the more famous ones, but allergies prevent me from planting them. One other good bug repeller is anything from the onion family. I want to make sure my baby cucumbers have the best start in life so I’ve taken some of the green onion sets I’ve been growing in seedling town and I’ve put them along the edge of the bed. They won’t grow into the cukes- as they grow straight up- and hopefully that wonderful oniony goodness will repel any bugs that want to make a snack out of my baby cucumber vines.

I leave you all with another lady on patrol, this time taking a tour of my carrot tops. There are always gnats around the carrots but as they don’t damage the roots it’s just the price of doing business. Anyways, it feeds the ladybugs!

🎶It’s the circle of life🎶

Biological warfare

So the reason I temporarily damaged the rose tip on my watering can was that I set it down to pick off the aphids on my sun gold.

Unfortunately they’re still there. I’m squishing them as quick as I can of course, and if needed I’ll spray the plant with some soap- but I had a brilliant idea.

See the dill plant is lousy with ladybugs. Heaving with them for some strange reason. Probably means there’s some scale insects at the roots, which would explain why it’s growing a bit odd.

I searched the roots of the dill until I found my quarry.

See those golden orbs? Ladybug eggs! Soon to hatch into ladybug larvae! And it’s the larvae that are the ultimate aphid eaters.

So I placed my biological weapon at the base of the tomato plant, and now I wait. The sun gold has a thick healthy stem and very bushy leaves, so I’m optimistic that it will be fine during the aphid onslaught.

But still… better safe then sorry, and might as well use nature to your advantage!

Because the sun gold is flowering well, and I want my cherry tomatoes!

Hatch little ladybugs hatch! Go forth and eat!

New plants, new bed, and bad news

So this was a good day, mostly. I got my new fabric bed in the mail a few days ago but I underestimated its size and realized I needed more soil than I actually had.

A trip to the garden center was in order.

I got some blue lake green beans sets along with a replacement for my ailing chervil, a basil gamble and one last squash plant.

First a note on the chervil.

That does not look healthy. It’s the fact that it’s in a bed. This area of the garden, the shade herb bed, is shady in fall and winter. It’s also shadier in spring and summer. But we’ve been having very bright and windy days and that’s just been murder on the chervil. Murder on the parsley too, but that’s solvable.

The thyme doesn’t give a shit it’s huge.

To solve the evaporation problem on the parsley side, the answer is, as always, more mulch.

Just got to lay it on. As for the chervil…

Sometimes you just got to get a new plant. Healthy plant in a pot which will help with water conservation, and on the shade herb table in the shadiest possible spot in the garden. It’s a nice delicate herb chervil, hope this one takes.

In the long shot category, we have basil.

I have completely given up on Italian basil, and if I were to un-give up on it, it would go into a pot. They didn’t have any blue bush basil which is a shame, but they had some very healthy looking Thai basil. Slightly different flavor, but a heartier plant, which as you can see I’ve mulched the absolute heck out of. It’s still a crazy gamble, but it’s been so sunny… well, all gardening is a gamble really.

The squash was fun though.

See I’ve been growing pretty much all plain green zucchini, largely because it’s easier and mom likes them. But it occurred to me that I had a space for one more plant, and dad likes grey squash, so I got a “Magda” zucchini for him. It was a really healthy looking plant, and it’s a cinch to grow so no skin off my nose to put in an extra plant.

The beans went in easy, as beans tend to, I still mulched the heck out of them of course.

I also put some stakes down for them, I also have some netting that I think I’m gonna use for the trionfo beans.

The main issue today was turnips. They’d been growing slow, and were starting to bolt, no surprise there. One of the reasons I got this fabric bed to stash in the shadiest part of my garden was so I could grow the more temperature sensitive crops like lettuces and arugula and turnips in a shaded area of the garden.

The problem was cabbage fly. I had eaten a lovely turnip a week ago, small but tender, and was all set to pick the biggest few for tonight’s dinner. Only to discover all but one eaten up by cabbage fly maggots.

The one survivor was added to dinner, the rest were added to the compost bin. This is not my first tangle with cabbage fly. Years ago I had a whole lot of really beautiful turnips ruined by them. They’d been scarce as of late, and I thought I could get away with it, but it looks like our really wet start to spring helped the damn flies get off to a good start. Of course, while the damage cabbage fly can do to turnips is the most dramatic due to them eating the roots all up, cabbage fly can damage the roots of any brassica. SO tomorrow’s big task is going to be checking the roots of all my cabbage family crops for maggots or eggs and hand destroying and spraying the lot of them. And sadly I have a lot of brassicas.

This is the new bed. There was clearly a sewing error as you can see it’s a little lopsided. As I got it fairly cheap I suppose it would be bad form to complain about a minor cosmetic error so who cares.

I have quite a few plants I’m putting into this bed, including a few types of fancier lettuce, but these are some of my favorite Japanese vegetables that I picked up from the ferry building a few days ago and can’t wait to grow. Of course both are cabbage family crops so now that I know the cabbage flies are out I’m going to have to be extra vigilant. Both of these plants are quick growers, so it should be only a month from sprouting to harvest and then I can sow again. In between most of the lettuces I sowed some extra french breakfast radishes. I had sowed some radishes in front of the peas, and due to the extreme wet only about three came up.

This guy was my first to eating size. I cleaned it up and gave it to dad and he ate the whole thing leaves and all.

God bless him.

Well soon I’ll have many more, radishes are one of those plants you can tuck anywhere and they’ll mostly grow no matter what you do. Of course they are cabbage adjacent so I will once again have to be a little diligent sweeping for fly eggs.

In other not so good news, the red aphids have returned to the sun gold, and in the course of hand picking them, I made a truly bone-headed error.

This is the rose tip of my watering can, and as you can see, the inner part that has the little holes in it is missing. That’s because I set the can down to remove the aphids from the sun gold (and they only were on the sun gold which was weird) and I stepped on it. I heard a *ping* as the inner part went flying somewhere and I have no idea where it went. So while I will scour the garden in the morning hoping to find my missing part, I have a good idea I’m going to have to replace my watering can tip, possibly my watering can.

In the meantime, I have this little fellow playing back up. So what if he doesn’t hold much water, he has the right tip and he doesn’t just barf water out like a plain spout does. I could blame the aphids for this latest clumsy mistake, but I think it’s just my complete inability to see where I’m stepping.

I will of course blame the aphids anyways.

The excelsior bee hotel is open for business

And luckily the flowers are starting to bloom just in time to give the bees something to eat.

This lovely bee house was a gift from an online friend named elsietheeel who sent me this wonderful bee house out of the blue in winter. The edge was slightly damaged but it is perfectly usable. I slapped a little sugru on the rough edge, and on the split on top that was 100% my fault (dropped it oops).

The paint was 100% optional and 100% necessary.

It’s the excelsior bee hotel!

I found a spot for it on the back fence with enough sun for the bees to be comfortable.

I screwed a small screw into the fence to help keep it steady, and hopefully I’ll have plenty of bees soon to pollinate the tomatoes.

Because the tomatoes are ready for bees.

This is the sun gold and it’s in full bloom even though it’s not that big yet. The sauce pot is also obnoxiously flowered for April-but I shouldn’t complain!

My brand new chamomile plant is also ready for bees- you can really tell it’s a member of the extended daisy family when it’s in full bloom.

But what I’m really excited about is my larger blackberry vine.

Its flowering already! Look at it it’s so pretty! I’m super thrilled. I’m hoping this is a sign that all the effort I put into acidifying the soil and mulching so heavily did the trick.

Of course not all the food for bees was intentionally planted- this is the gorgeous scarlet pimpernel that showed up in front of one of my back beds. It’s just so nice to look at too.

Of course there’s also the neighbor’s flowers contributing to food resources. They do a wonderful job with their roses, and they’re also growing fava beans this year, very popular with our buzzing friends.

Anyways I’m just glad after a whole winter stuck inside it’s finally dry enough to be put outside. Got to support your local pollinators!