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.

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!

šŸŽ¶It’s the circle of lifešŸŽ¶

Captainā€™s log: April 28th 2019

It’s been a bit of a week. Bit of two weeks really, the increase in temperature and sun has been a boon for the tomatoes and maybe not a boon for some other things.

First the sun gold. It’s huge! And it’s still growing which is phenomenal! I’m not falling into last year’s trap of overwatering so by being sparing with water but unsparing with maxsea I seem to have hit upon the right formula for cherry tomato nirvana.

Of course unleashing ladybug larvae on the plant seems to have helped. I still find the occasional red aphid on the plant but it’s clearly a lone survivor easily snuffed out by a squish.

I’m spotting ladybug larvae all around the garden, including nestled in my sage.

Aphids generally don’t attack sage, but other pests can, so go and be hungry my larvae friend!

I’m not so great larvae news, the cabbage fly maggots have definitely attacked the roots of the cauliflower. I killed a bunch yesterday and thankfully today they were nowhere to be found. So either they’ve turned into pernicious flies- or between squishing and spraying I got them.

As you can see the cauliflower looks fairly healthy regardless- but some of the underleaves look very rough, and clearly the root nibbles were not good for the plant. I’m giving them a little extra fertilizer and hopefully they’ll rebound. Cabbage fly is an awful pest but much more deadly to root brassicas than leaf brassicas- especially a cauliflower of this size that’s well developed.

That being said I have baby romanesco all over the garden and I’m going to have to be very diligent in checking their roots for eggs. In a baby leaf brassica cabbage fly can be fatal.

Speaking of baby cabbages, the new shade fabric bed filled with brassicas and lettuce is starting to sprout. I sowed the bed in a frenzy and didn’t write down what was what… but I think I sowed tokyo market turnips and komatsuna closer to the fence along with radishes and mizuna- and then lettuces and arugula closer to the path. I think. The point is it looks like it’s all coming up so go shade bed!

My new potted chervil is doing well- it looks like chervil is more of a pot herb then a bed herb. You can see the little fronds on top, that’s fresh growth, a sign that the chervil likes its new moist shady spot.

Besides the issues I’m having with the parsley in the shade bed, the lemon balm has gotten quite tall. I’m attempting to try to grow a few new plants from cuttings but so far the lemon balm hasn’t taken. The pineapple mint has though, I have several growing from cuttings.

As you can see they’re quite vigorous. I’m also attempting to grow some thyme from cuttings, jury’s out on that one. Cuttings are a crapshoot- like 60% just don’t take. But with a little surestart and some love some will- and then you can multiply your plants. This is especially useful in plants like mint and thyme which can be used as borders or ground cover- expensive to buy all the plants you need to cover such a space- much cheaper to take care of a few vigorous specimens and over the course of a few months take cutting after cutting until you have enough for your needs.

I wish my chives were doing better. There’s a very un-chive like sprout in the garlic chive pot which makes me think weed, and the regular chives are barely growing. Are they getting too much sun? Should I have sowed more thickly? I just really want some dang garlic chives! Back to the drawing board I figure.

The monster squash is growing squash! We picked our first zucchini yesterday and there will be more in the coming days. I suspect much more.

And of course there’s my other zucchini plants in the back which are growing well when the feral cats aren’t sitting on them. I suspect they’ll be too spiky for cat butts soon anyways.

The beans sowed from seed in the back- Kentucky Wonders- are growing nice. They’re mulched and one or two of the Swiss chard seeds have sprouted in front, but they’re too small to mulch. Swiss chard can get huge when planted with beans, due to the nitrogen fixing so fingers crossed. In a week I’ll put up the trellis for these guys- have to check to see if I have enough stakes of the proper size though.

I have concerns about the blue lake pole bean starts though. Some have been just eaten up and are wilting badly, while others are vigorous and putting out new growth.

I had good luck with the haricot vert starts last year and I’m sad those weren’t available but I’ve staggered my pole beans well so I should get a good harvest. Not to mention if the trionfo violetto give harvest early enough I might be able to take advantage of our Indian summers in September/August and plant some late season harvest green beans. After all the soil temp requirements for germination are separate from the growing temperature requirements and as long as we don’t get any frosts I might get some winter beans.

My bigger potatoes are looking a little rough. Much like the spittle bugs on my parsley, earwigs are harmless unless they’re in great numbers. Sadly, much like the high level of spittle bugs on my parsley, the level of earwigs feasting on my potato stems is causing problems- so it’s sluggo time.

Luckily my younger potatoes are growing great- it’s gonna be time to put extra soil in those bags soon. This might be the crucial difference between proper seed potato and just chucking supermarket potatoes in a bag though. It could be the sulfur dip I put on my supermarket potatoes wasn’t enough and that’s why it’s acting up. We’ll see anyways.

I re-staked the San Francisco fog, as the v-shaped bean trellis was not right for this tomato the way it was right for the sun gold. It’s just a hoop and two free standing stake and I’ve used soft ties to lift some leaves off the soil. Not fancy but it works.

I’ll leave you with some magnificent chamomile ready for harvest. The ease with which I’ve grown this is pretty astonishing. Just put the plant in and away it went! I’m looking forward to tea.

Tea and less cabbage fly.

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!

Captainā€™s log: vaguely late March

It’s really pouring again but in short bursts punctuated by bright sun. So spring is here but it’s also quite damp. That’s not stopping my neighborhood criminal from lounging in my pepper pot.

The nerve of some people! He also likes to sit on my leeks.

Which is always cute but I’m worried if he sits in my baby tomato pots he’ll crush them with his big cat butt.

Baby sun gold is growing nicely- fresh growth already. I’m hoping the deluge, as intermittent as it is, won’t damage them.

My seedling zucchinis are pretty much ready to put in a bed, but it’ll have to wait until it’s dryer.

Right now the zucchini and other seedlings are under the house’s overhang on the work table. During a worse downpour earlier they went indoors for a while.

This took up some space but better than having them get washed away.

Spring is really here- I’m seeing the first big fat ladybugs. I’ll have to put out my bee house soon.

The original potatoes are growing like crazy- the rain is helping them be their best potatoes.

This is my latest project- I’ve taken cuttings from my various mint plants and I’m attempting to grow some plants for friends. We’ll see if they take- but I have high hopes as mint is indestructible.

I’ll leave you with yet another of my plastic owl guardians- now hanging from the apple tree being judgmental.

Of course he’s not the most judgmental thing in my garden.

This cat is the most judgmental thing in my garden. He sits. He watches. He judges.

As long as this guy doesn’t stick his furry butt in my pots.

I don’t have high hopes.

The magnificence and risk of early tomatoes

I had only two things to get beside the soil today. Seed potatoes and two extra potato bags.

I got tomatoes.

I also got a six-pack of cauliflower sets which is a much saner purchase than March tomatoes.

In my defense- they were on sale.

In not my defense it’s going to rain in a week and that’s probably not the greatest for baby tomato plants.

But back in my defense- the smaller the plant the more water they need so a week of rain might be just what they want.

Gardening is a land of contrasts.

I got a sun gold because I love a sun gold and they’re a proven winner in my garden and a San Francisco Fog tomato because my dad remembers growing them decades ago very fondly and he swears they’re delicious and grow well.

I am aware other people have opinions on San Francisco Fog tomatoes but I do not want to hear it- these tomatoes are for dad.

I put the sun gold in the large urn and mulched it well- it’s in position to get a ton of sun and as long as it’s well watered it should take.

Mr. Fog is in the big blue pot also well mulched and hopefully it takes as well.

This early is a huge gamble. But as I have room for 5-6 tomatoes this year putting a few in early is harmless and might give me early yields so why not?

Besides while I’m not sure about the longevity of Mr. Fog, sun gold tomatoes are the belle of the ball out here- they love this part of the city and perform well.

Of course if the rain next week is too hard…

I was planning on planting my seed potatoes today. I had absolutely no energy left after the new beds and the tomatoes- so that’s tomorrow.

Here’s a parting picture of copulating ladybugs.

First ladybugs of 2019 and they’re screwing.

That’s a good omen right?

Mid-November tomato update

The air quality is better, but there’s still a bit of haze in the air. I spent maybe a half-hour outside and definitely felt it.

Besides the air quality the other fun thing is the turn for the colder. We’ve gone from a heat wave to proper November weather- which does have me a tad worried about the yet to ripen tomatoes on my plant.

I think the setting of tomato flowers is what’s temperature dependent, though I’m sure the cold isn’t helping ripening much. As is, every tomato I get this late in the season is a gift.

What’s not a gift?

Ah my old friend the red aphid. Hand killing is gross and messy but works better than an all over spray. Gotta squish those bugs! The cold will take care of them soon enough- hopefully not taking care of the plant in the process.

I’ve also had to tie up the plant better- as the small tomato cage was just totally inadequate for its new bulk.

It’s kinda still a mess!

But at least the various stems aren’t trailing on the ground anymore.

Last but not least:

Hello delightful ladybug larvae- you’re on the wrong plant! Come over to my tomato plant and eat the aphids!