Friday, June 24, 2011

Squish, Squash, Applesauce...

I am fighting a losing battle right now. My yellow squash, zucchini, and volunteer winter squash are under attack from all sides. I will continue to harvest what I can and hope for the best in the late varieties I have planted. From the roots to the stems, to the leaves, all my squash is affected in some way. I thought I would post about some of the insects that are causing me a ton of problems this year so folks can see what they look like. As far as how to get rid of them, I am using the brute force. When I see something eating my plants, I kill it! Kill it! Kill it!!!!

Early in the growing season, you might have problems with cut worms. I think I may be having some issues with cut worms right now with my pumpkins, but am in a wait and see mode. If more of my seedlings die, I will know I have an issue. The way cut worms work: they wrap around the base of the stem of a seedling and cut it off at the source. They munch around the stem until the plant just falls over dead leaving a tiny stem sticking out of the ground.

Squash bugs are what most people call stink bugs - they lay their eggs on the leaves (both front and back) and stems of your squash. When they hatch, the voraciously devour your squash and squash leaves. Remedy: Squish the mating bugs and scrape off their eggs. This may not always work. These are pesky little buggers. The babies are small blue things that grow into great big gray stink bugs.



I am also having issues with the Squash Lady Bird Beetle. These look like larger versions of your typical Lady Bird Beetle (Lady Bugs) with lots of rows of spots.

Their coloration and similar spotty appearance to their beneficial carnivorous cousins fooled me this year. I thought they were after the stink bugs. They were really after my squash leaves! Their babies were voraciously consuming my winter squash plants today. Yellow, fuzzy, and kind of cute... After I took some pretty pictures of the cute little evil things, I squished them flat... Check out the damage they did to my poor plants:

Then I discovered yet another victim... This time not just the leaves, but the whole plant. I have had really poor luck with zucchini this year and I am only harvesting a few from one large healthy plant that is producing smaller than last year fruit. I had another stunted plant with a few small zucchini on it, but found its base brown, slimy, and nearly completely chewed through. I pulled up the plant and began examining the cause of the problem. Found lots of tiny black opportunistic beetles, some small mites and this:

Don't see it? Here... Let me coax him out of his hole for you:

Ugh! This guy is the larva of a Squash Vine Borer. I have not seen momma, but I did lose a few plants earlier in the month to the same type of rotted stem. They are apparently not a wasp, as I had found in my research earlier, but a clear winged moth! Kind of cool, when they aren't eating my squash. Anything that wiggled or crawled within this stem is now dead, dead, dead!

Not all the crawling things in my garden are vile and destructive. I did see some "real" lady bugs, a mantis, and this really pretty writing spider:

It is tiny right now, but I am hoping it is a she spider who might leave a nice egg sack somewhere in my garden for next year. I'll keep a very close watch on her and make sure she stays safe, nestled among my tomato vines and corn. Really hoping to see more of her brothers and sisters hanging about my garden soon!

Other beautiful things in my garden right now:

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Early Morning Insomniac Gardening

Late night wings and Dr. Pepper are never a good combination for a tired gardener. But an all night bout of insomnia gave me a new perspective on my beautiful garden. You see, I am NOT a morning person. If I am up before 8 a.m. It is either because one of my children is sick, I am sick, or it is road trip day. Today is none of those things. But since I was up and was showing no signs of falling asleep, I decided to head out to the garden just around sunrise to get some weeds out and some photo opportunities in my yard.

I walked into my front yard first and found my Black Eyed Susan beaming up at me. My Aunt Pat saved these seed for me years ago after a visit where I admired the variety in her flower bed and asked her if she would send me some seed when they stopped blooming. She did and these flowers have come back every year since.

I made my way back to my garden and discovered a symphony of birds singing for me from my pecan trees and bats fluttering about catching mosquitoes. It was melodious and beautiful. By the time I reached my garden, I was thrilled I had decided to come outside. I pulled a few weeds and began taking some snap shots. It was still too dark under all the trees for non flash photos, but the effects of the flash on the early morning dew was pretty pleasing!

I moved to my flower garden in the back yard and found that in the early morning light, the colors of my variegated plants really pop out.

Back out front, the sky was finally dawning from slate gray to a gorgeous Carolina Blue. I love my small town with all the charm and peace for which one could hope. My early foray into my yard was everything I needed to start my day right. I loved it almost enough to become a morning person. Almost...

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Folks have been asking me about the pictures I post on Facebook and here. My garden is doing as well or even better than last year. My low to high planting on my big garden bed has worked out fantastic. My garden rows run in a generally east to west direction. The sun rises over the ends of the beds and comes up directly over top and then slides behind the trees. By five in the afternoon, all but the longest row are completely shaded because I have so many giant pecan trees and a two story house. I have more yard than I appear to when looking at the front of my house. 1.3 acres and I would say 80% of it is shaded at any time of day. The garden is only in full sun from around 11-3 but just about every part receives at least six hours of sun. I have three rows about three feet wide and of varying lengths.

Currently, the short bed from front to back contains grapes, dill, basil, lettuce, peppers, watermelon, and parsley. The middle contains more watermelon, cantaloup, Yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, some volunteer tomato plants, and some fresh plantings of zucchini. The big bed is planted in rows from short to tall for nearly all of its length. The short is bush beans, followed by tomato, then corn, then sunflowers. It also contains some fresh plantings of bush beans, onions, a few turnips, a volunteer butternut squash, and some other sort of volunteer vining squash (maybe a pumpkin).

In addition to all of this, I have a thornless blackberry patch, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and figs. All these are just getting started.

Here are a few photos:

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sunflowers and Birdies

My sunflowers are probably 3-4 weeks out from blooming. I planted them in mid April as soon as I could. In a month an a half these things have grown huge. I have two varieties - the Mammoth, and the Goliath. In other words, the big varieties. I planted them along the "back" (northern) side of my longest Lasagna Garden Bed.

I wanted to see which variety would get the tallest for myself. So far, Goliath is in the lead. They both have big beautiful foliage that forms a nice canopy out from the stem. I love to water these plants. Sunflowers like this have thick stems and wide shallow root systems. Their leaf canopies direct the water right to the ends of the root systems. Nature is amazing to me. The picture below is the dividing line between the Goliath on the left and the Mammoth on the right. They were all planted on the same day an have received the same attention. The Goliath are about six feet tall and the mammoth range from 3-5 feet.

I have a pair of brown birds that have nested in my grape arbor. They came to visit me out here today. They've nested in a good spot to eat my grapes, but I am willing to share as long as I get enough for some more apple grape jelly this year. They are a little hard to see here, but I tried to get closer and they flew away. One is on the arbor, just above the seat and the other is to the right in the grass.

The peace I feel when I am out here is wonderful. It is my refuge from reality. I have neglected my garden now for two weeks, it shows, and there is a lot to do. But the it does not make me anxious like the stresses of indoor household work. I procrastinate because I don't enjoy it like I enjoy yard work. I do find myself skipping other things- housework, errands, other hobbies - to be out here among my plants. Letting my kids play in the sprinkler today counts as a bath for them right? ;)

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Buggies, tomatoes, weeds...

My garden is having very serious pest problems this year! Today I squished dozens of egg clusters from my zucchini. I think I may also have a cut worm in one of my zucchini plants. If one more leaf is dead tomorrow, I will dig out the whole plant and the surrounding dirt.

I have my very first tomatoes coming out on my more mature plants. I'm so excited I will have tomatoes to eat in a few weeks. I can almost taste the first tomato sandwich!

My beans are beginning to bloom. I harvested my first new potatoes. I have peas coming out of my ears! Everything is growing well including the weeds. Oh, and I have my first spot of poison ivy on my arm... That annual battle has definitely begun! I hope to get out tomorrow and pull some weeds and give my garden a really good soaking. It will be 92 and everything is going to roast. I may throw an umbrella over my lettuce!

Before Ireland, my garden was so small, now everything is huge!
Here is a before and after of my sunflowers.

So exciting!! Now if I can just keep the bugs and crab grass at bay I will be doing well!!

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Peat Moss and Bog Destruction

One of the benefits of being in the Connemara region of Ireland this week has been learning epoch amounts of information about bogs and bog land destruction. All over Ireland are small patches of bog, however, there used to be much more. Because of the lack of natural trees in the area, farmers have used bog sod for everything from building huts and out buildings to heating fuel. Every where you go you see the stuff laid out to dry or in piles for collection. They use spades and these long tools to cut out fairly uniform chunks of peaty sod. When this is done by individual farmers for individual needs this usually isn't a huge problem. But done in large enough numbers for so many years, it takes a toll on the natural environment. The amount of bogs in Ireland have decreased a great deal. And I am sure it is a similar situation anywhere peat moss is harvested for commercial use as well.

We visited Connemara National Park today. The visitor's center had a lot of great information about bogs and how they have changed due to human destruction. Especially look at the maps of Ireland and how the amount of blog land has dwindled. There are many species who thrive in these bog lands and it seems a shame to take away their habitat. Much of the land here is now used for sheep herds.

In the US we get much of our commercial Peat Moss from the bogs of Canada. It contains almost no nutrients, but is seen as a soil additive because it adds a bit of aeration. There is so much more we can use as our soil additives. There is no need to strip these dwindling ecosystems of their native lands for soil additives or heating fuel unless it is necessary for survival.

On a more positive note, the bog walk in the park was really nice, though, today has been a very wet and rainy day. We took a many kilometer hike up a mountain and back down. Again, my anti-nature, very sweet husband was indulging my need to explore the environment. He went the whole way with me and even pretended to enjoy himself. ;). We saw great landscapes again, along with more sheep and some of Connemara Stat Park's herd of Ponies.

Tomorrow we head home and while I have loved every minute in Ireland, I am ready to see my kids, my animals and my garden! It feels like forever since I've seen my kids and I miss them greatly.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kylemore Abbey

Well, I had a beautiful post written, with loads of text to go along with the pictures and BlogPress crashed... That will teach me... Save along the way. So, since I don't feel like writing an epoch again, I will just say a few things and then post a lot of pictures below. The grounds of Kylemore Abbey are breathtaking. The house is beautiful; the Neo-Gothic Church contains a ton of gardening elements carved in stone; the extended woodland walk is everything I'd hoped (and I am thankful to have an indulgent husband willing to walk it with me even though nature isn't his thing), and the gardens... Wow!!! The Fuchsia, which the nuns paint on pottery and grows in shrubs all around the property is much different than the fuchsia I have seen in pots in the states. But it is quite a delicate and understated looking flower until you get up close and see how pretty it is. Our camera battery began dying near the gardens so the pictures are darker than I would have liked. But you will get the idea of the grandeur of this garden. From the vegetables to the formal garden, it is all landscaped so precisely. So nice!

Crooked smiley face tree with ferns sticking out of his ears.

Gian tree! Makes me look skinnier!!

This last one is of the outer garden wall... The mountain in the background... Ah... This place is heaven. Is it too late for me to become an Irish Benedictine Nun?

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