Nuking it from orbit

The it of course being my tree collard. The nuke of course…

It’s not like I love the usual red and green aphids, they’re the worst. It’s just that grey and black aphids are the extra worst.

And those damn grey aphids are on the tree collard, and I killed a few black ones on my new baby celery.

So, in the dead of night, my weapon of many little beetles was deployed.

And in the morning at least a few remained!

Some migrated a little off course…

But the few I tipped into the baby celery were still there. In ripping out the awful potted tomatoes I kinda decimated my ladybug colonies. So in order to make sure I have enough eggs in late fall to overwinter, I’m probably going to have to keep topping up the ranks every month or two months until we stop selling them around November.

It’s always better to use a natural method of pest control, even over organics like neem and insecticidal soap.

You’ll pry my B.t. out of my cold dead hands though, as it’s the only thing I’ve ever done against caterpillars that actually works.

I’m a land of contrasts.

Mint rehab

It’s time for an intervention.

A mint-ervention, if you will.

Look. The Moroccan mint is just a mess, and it’s all my fault. It’s just not mint tea weather, so I haven’t been picking as much as I should. (Never got the hang of iced tea I’m afraid)

The Chocolate peppermint’s problems are not my fault.

Oh boy it’s scale! One of my least favorite pests.

The only solution is to cut it back, and drench it in horticultural oil. And then keep doing that until it springs back.

The Moroccan mint got a drench too, and I’m fertilizing it and babying it and hopefully it will have some new growth I can take cuttings from so I can refresh the plant.

The constabulary is over-interested in my roman mint. This is a sign of white-fly. The other sign of white fly is, all the white flies. Ick. I’m loath to spray it down while the ladies are visiting though, so I’m hoping they’ll take care of business so I don’t have to.

I think my pineapple mint has gone past needing rehab into needing a hearse. Well. It served me well and gave me many cuttings and much tea, so I suppose it was bound to happen.

Luckily I still have one of it’s clones. And this guy is super duper robust and healthy.

Tada, meet pineapple mint, son of pineapple mint!

They grow up so fast.

Now my strawberry mint looks like it needs an exorcist, but it’s fairly healthy, just needs a trim. It’s interesting which mints tend towards the buggy and which tend to repel them. Peppermints seem more vulnerable than spearmints and pineapple mint (a sub variety of apple mint) seems to be the most resistant of all.

Anyways, the mint-ervention is ongoing, and I have high hopes for them all.

I will never apologize for a pun.

Pepper problems

So at this point I have two established pepper plants, a lipstick pepper and a Italian Bull Horn pepper. The Lipstick has some nice fruits, so I thought it was time to pick a few.

Look at those nice big green peppers. Now lipstick peppers are generally picked at the red stage, but even with our heat wave there is no guarantee they’ll get that ripe, and I just wanted to check for texture anyways.

Quality control!

One of my local ladies was chilling on the plant, which is always nice to see.

Right. So three nice green peppers. One minor problem- there was a small hole in the top of one of them. Might as well cut it open just to make sure right?

Fuck cabbage moths. Just… I hate those little bastards so much. Needless to say this pepper ended up in the compost.

Also- since when do ‘cabbage’ moths eat peppers! ARGGG.

Well It’s a good thing I bought B.t. for the tree collard. Turns out I’m going to have to use it for the dang peppers too because life’s not fair and caterpillars suck.

In the end the peppers were ok but too bitter. I’ll try to let the rest ripen, or make sure to cook them first. It’s ok- these were picked as quality control, so it’s ok that they weren’t perfect.

But seriously I hate cabbage moths.

 

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🎶