Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pests in the garden- Squash Vine Borer

 Whenever i tell folks i garden, the first question i always hear is 'how do you keep the deer from eating the garden?'.  Oddly enough, deer have never been a problem for me. We have two dogs who hang around outside and bark at everything that moves. So we've really never had any problems with deer, ground hogs or even rabbits.  The most destructive pests we have to deal with in the garden are the insects. 

All of my gardens are organic. i do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides. Most of the folks around us use Seven dust on everything, so all the hungry bugs flock to my garden. lol.  :) There are always tons of bugs in the garden, some are beneficial and some are extremely destructive. The pests i have the most trouble with are the cucumber beetles, the Mexican bean beetles and the Squash vine borers.

Cucumber beetles and Mexican bean beetles are easy to spot and can be picked off by hand. Although it is a pain in the butt, their population can typically be managed using this route as long as you stay on top of it.  Some folks recommend dusting the plants with DE (Diatomaceous Earth), but DE can be harmful to the bees so i don't like using it when the plants are blooming. The cucumber beetles are most often found inside the  blooms, so it would pretty pointless to use DE for them. 

Squash vine borers are a bit trickier to manage, as often times you won't realize there is a problem until the plant suddenly wilts and dies.

Although i've been dealing with vine borers for several years, i just recently began identifying the actual Vine Borer moth that is responsible for killing the squash.  The Vine borer moth lays it's eggs on the the base and stems of the plant. When the eggs hatch they immediately burrow into the stem and begin feeding on the plant tissue. 

The moths are rarely seen. i believe they come to lay their eggs morning and dusk.   i have found that if i go outside early in the morning i will sometimes see them resting on the squash leaves. Floating row covers are one way to prevent the vine borer moths from laying eggs on your plants, i have also heard you an wrap the stems in tin foil, although i haven't tried that yet.  However if you've failed to do any preventive measures (like me) you'll want to check your plants daily for signs of borers.

You want to keep a eye out for the moths, but also look for the eggs along the stems. The eggs are very small, brown and flat.  Scrap them off and destroy them.

You'll need to check your plants every day. Once the vine borers find your plants they will return often to lay their eggs. Remove any eggs you find. 

If your plants wilt, and begin dying then the vine borers have made their way inside.  Check around the base stem of the plants for frass (borer poo).  It will look a bit like yellow/tan sawdust coming out of the stem. If the plant has borers is only a matter of time before the entire plant collapses and dies unless you remove them. However, you still may be able to save the plants.

These are the actual borers that will destroy the plants. They are the larval stage of the Vine Borer moths. If you notice frass coming from the stem, you need to remove the borers. To do this, take a sharp knife and slice the stem in the area where the frass is coming out.  Gently, pull open the stem and remove any borers you find. Then close the stem back up, you can tape it back together if you like and cover the area with soil if possible. Often times they are in the leaf stems as well, so you can remove the entire stem.

From what i have read online, you cover the area with soil to encourage the plant to lay new roots. However i think this really only applies to the vining squash plants. The bush varieties are better off just taped back together.

i then collect the borers and then introduce them to my chickens. ;)

Squash borers are a constant problem. They will attack summer squash and winter squash and it's very important to monitor your plants and remove the eggs and borers as soon as you begin to notice them. Not only will they kill the plant, the borers will sometimes bore into winter squash as it is growing. The squash will heal itself, so there won't be a visible hole. You won't even realize there is a problem until you winter squash that is in storage suddenly begins rotting. i've had this happen most often with butternut squash and pumpkins. So it's really important to pay attention to your plants and watch for borer activity.

i've read a bit about using BT to kill borers. BT or Bacillus thuringiensis can be injected right into the stems and any borer that feeds on the plant tissue will die. It is a natural product that is considered suitable for organic gardening.i haven't tried this yet, by i may try it eventually, especially with winter squash which often times dies before it hits maturity.

One thing i do with my summer squash to combat the borers is to plant summer squash continuously every 3 weeks during the summer.  That way if an older plant is overcome by borers, i can pull the entire plant and destroy it. Since i continually have new plants growing, i won't feel too bad about losing a plant here or there. This method helps keep me well stocked in summer squash all summer long.

Have any tips for dealing with Vine borers? i would love some other ideas. i actually purchased floating row cover this year, and then ended up using them on other plants. i just put in more summer squash yesterday, so i may get the row covers set up on them and see how that works.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Garden Update- June week 1

 Just a quick garden update.  Mostly pictures, because i just don't have a whole lot to say these days. Just enjoying my time in the garden, and obsessing about the weather.

Swiss Chard, beets, garlic and onions in this photo. My onions bolted completely unexpectedly. They hadn't even started forming bulbs yet.  Not entirely sure why. i'm guessing they were stressed from the lack of rain and high temps.   i think this is the first year i've ever had onions bolt so early in the growing season.

Sugar snap peas and just starting to flower and produce. Should be able to start picking them in the next week.

This is the Speckles lettuce from Botanical Interests. i really like this variety and love the way it looks in the garden.  i also planted red and green oak leaf, red romaine, red salad bowl, mesclun mix and probably a few others. 

This is the black seeded Simpson,  Majesty lettuce and spinach. We harvested spinach for a few weeks, but it's bolted now and i had to pull it all a couple days ago.  i have other plantings in that we are still harvesting, but i do't have a cold crop (shaded) garden this year, so it's all going to start bolting soon. 

As much as it sucks to pull the bolted spinach it doesn't really go waste. The chickens strip all the leaves off, and absolutely love it.  My little silkies are getting so fuzzy, i'll post a chicken update soon.

i only put in 12 broccoli this spring, because last year the cabbage worms were terrible and the broccoli was so wormy i ended up throwing out much of what i had grown. So far this spring, i have not seen one cabbage moth or worm on any of the plants. They are just beginning to form flowerheads, and after our recent rain they literally doubled in size overnight.  

After having late blight wipe out my tomatoes two years in a row, i'm trying not to get too excited. i grew all my tomatoes from seed this year (except for a 4 pack of Mr. Stripy and Rutgers)  and i planted way too many. i counted something like 40 plants already in the ground, and at least 40+ still in pots. lol. This was my first year trying to do all my tomatoes by seed, and i didn't actually expect them all to survive or do as well as they are doing.  So this years tomato variety is Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Golden Jubilee, Ferris Wheel, Yoder's German Yellow,  Black Pineapple,  Pineapple tomato, Hillbilly, Pink Brandywine, Yellow pear, and Violet Jasper.   i also planted romas and Moneymakers, but they didn't come up. i replanted and they are just starting to grow so i'm not sure they'll have time to mature.  i also have a few cherry tomato volunteers coming up in the main garden. Fingers crossed for a good year. i truly missed having my homemade pasta sauce and canned tomatoes over the winter. 

First planting of summer squash is doing well in the tiered beds. i planted quite a few variety of squash again this year.  In this bed i have Black Beauty Zucchini, Golden Zucchini and Patty Pans.  i also have Gray Zucchini and Romanesco Zucchini in another bed. i stopped planting the yellow crooked neck, because i don't care for it much.  i also have several variety of winter squash coming up in the goat field garden. i'll post more about them once they are farther along. 

Right now i'm harvesting salad greens, Swiss chard, asparagus, garlic scapes and a few strawberries, although most are wild. Chickens are laying really well and we've been giving away a lot of eggs.  In a another week or two i should be getting sugar snaps, broccoli and kale.

Every year i totally over plant everything, and end up overwhelmed by July. It doesn't stop me from expanding my gardens each year though, and spending almost all my time outside trying to keep it under control.  We had a lot of setbacks last year, and am truly hoping this year's garden makes up for it. 

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. ~Mirabel Osler

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bamboo in the Garden

Woah..i haven't updated this blog in a while. Sorry about that. Spring is always really busy for me, and this year is no different.  i've been working every day in the garden, and i'm almost done getting it all planted.

Bamboo has all kinds of uses in the garden.  It works great for tomato stakes, bean poles, trellises etc. Every year i find new uses for it. One of the best things about it, is that it is readily available and free! 

Just down the road from us some folks have a huge patch of bamboo and have given us permission to cut what we need.  Although Bamboo is a renewable resource and is considered eco-friendly, but it can also be very invasive if you do not maintain your patch. So i'm really happy that we have places where we can cut it, and do not have to grow it ourselves. 

Last fall Kenan burned all of my bamboo, so all spring i've been asking him to cut me some more. He originally cut about 50 poles, but i went through them quickly, so he went back and cut another 50 or so. :)  i use a pair of large pruning shears to cut all the extra branches off, and cut the poles to the size that is needed.

One of my favorite things to do with them is to make bean teepees. i came up with this design a few years ago, and have used it every year since. It works wonderful and looks fantastic when it is all covered in vines.  The poles usually last two years, but the twine has to be restrung each year. This year i accidently have the teepees set a little differently, so the bean trellis twine sits farther back. It shouldn't really affect anything, but i'm a bit annoyed that i strung the entire thing before i realized it.

 i plant purple pole beans at the base of the twine starburst pattern, so they grow vertically.  Then i plant Scarlet runners at the base of each pole and i plant cucumbers in between the poles, so that they will climb up the twine that is wrapping the teepees. Since my starburst pattern is in the back this time, it opens up that triangle in the front where i could easy plant something else. 

This photo is from 2012, just to give you an idea of how it looks when the plants cover it.  

After watching my dogs run through the garden a few times, i decided i wanted it fenced. i had the idea to make a simple and decorative bamboo fence around the garden. This isn't intended to keep out all critters, but i am hoping it will at least deter the dogs from running straight through the garden every time they catch the scent of something. So far it has worked well and although i've never wanted this garden fenced, i love the way it looks.

i even made a gate. :) i'm not going to go into a detailed description of how i built the fence, it's pretty basic. i just used bamboo and tied it together with twine. i used a mallet to hammer the posts in.  Easy peasy.

i also made a simple trellis, again just using the bamboo and twine. Last year i made one for cucumbers and it worked very well. i decided to make one this year as a functional decoration for my herb bed. Last fall i had transplanted a butterfly bush behind the bed, but it ended up dying.  i needed something to fill the space and noticed that i had morning glories coming up all over, so i thought i'd give them something to climb.  i made another similar trellis for the front of the house. i'm hoping to transplant my clematis and hide the ugly electrical box that is in the front of the house.

i even found a use for the left over scraps. This isn't finished, but i started to hammer in the left over pieces to make a simple border around the front of my herb bed. i'm planning to just do this on the corners.  i really like the way it is turning out, and i love that there is no waste.

This week i've been working on cutting tomato stakes, and i may make another trellis for cucumbers in one of my other garden beds. Cucumbers don't have to be trellised, but i like to get them off the ground. There are less places for the pests to hid, and the cucumbers don't end up laying in mud.

Bamboo is truly invaluable in the garden. There are so many creative and functional ways to incorporate it into your garden.  i would not recommend growing it yourself, without really doing your research first. However, if you have access to it, bamboo is a wonderful tool to add a touch of beauty to your garden.  i will definitely post more pictures as my garden begins to fill in.