Archive for the ‘Pests’ Category

9/5 Weekly Garden Update

September 5, 2010

Green beans

We are now clearly into late season garden phases here.  No rain for at least the past couple weeks (Earl notwithstanding) and there is none forecast for the next 10 days either.

Garden 1

Garden 2

The cursed deer ate my 6 apples on the other apple tree that was producing this year.  I would curse them less had I had a chance to have eaten just one from it.  They also stripped the tips of several limbs of leaves.

Garden 3

Garden 4

We have begun ripping out a few tomato vines, all the blue lake bush beans, and we plan to continue as items stop producing.

Garden 5

However we’re still getting harvests of cucumbers, tomatoes, Dutch half-runner green beans, field peas, butter beans, and all kinds of peppers.  I have enough picked anchos now to dry, and they should make the base of a nice chili powder.

Anchos, etc.

Melons, etc.

Charentais

We got 2 charentais melons, and 1 moon & stars watermelon.  We have more ripening of both.  The butternut squash is now putting more of its efforts into making little squashes, if it continues at this rate and we are able to harvest all of them we might get as many as 20 to store in the basement and eat throughout the winter.

Field peas & Eggplant

We’re still putting up green beans.  The last time I canned them, I had a rare occurrence, i.e., a jar that didn’t seal.  We warmed them up in the microwave and they were really really good, clearly the next best thing ever to having them fresh from being picked.  They beat the dickens out of the blanched and frozen ones we did last year.

Bucket o' Harvest

One day's pickins'

Voles are seeking to make inroads.  I keep trying to poison them as fast as they show new tunnels.  Sammie Squirrels are stealing tomatoes and running off to the woods with them, little orang- red blobs in their mouths.  Deer are starting to nibble on our green bean vines.  I seriously contemplate building a deer blind on my porch so that I can have some nice venison tenderloins, squirrel stew & barbecued squirrel.

Peppers

Sage

Mustard and kale seedlings are doing well!  Cabbages, broccoli and other brassicas are coming along.  The lettuce and carrots could not stand the heat and the desiccation we are currently having and will have to be replanted.

Seedlings

Seedlings 2

We put up another cover on a box.  This morning it was 67 degrees outside, fall is peeking over the horizon of Labor Day.

Irrepressible Basil

Squash & Melon plants

Parsley

Lettuce in a Box

Well that’s all for now!

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Weekly Garden Update

August 29, 2010

Beans & Peas

Harvest 3

The usual harvest is ticking along nicely.  We got lots of field peas and butter beans, and green beans and tomatoes and some cucumbers!, and peppers and tomatillos, and whatnot.

Harvest 1

Harvest 4

We filled in replanting in areas where seeds did not germinate, for stuff for the fall plantings.

After a month of no sign, suddenly voles have reappeared.  We are attempting to squash them early this time.

Potato Box

Other potato box

We were concerned about the voles getting in amongst the potatoes, so we went ahead and harvested them.  Overall, it was a failed experiment.  The russets (which we had planted from commercial grocery store organic potatoes) only produced 2 potatoes out of 16 plants, so we had a net loss of 6 potatoes.  The Yukon golds produced a nice little bucket of new potatoes, enough for a big meal, but none of them were much larger than my thumbs.  They just didn’t make.  Research into this, including at the NCSU labs, tells us that you’re not going to get potatoes from plants put in the ground after May 1st around here, though they differ on *why*.

I learned as a child that you plant your potatoes at the dark of the moon in March, and no other time.  It is interesting to me that in 2010 we don’t have anything more than theories as to why this does work, but I believe it.

Volunteers

We got some volunteer tomatoes this week, and they’re in much better condition than the other tomato plants, since they haven’t been around as long.

Eggplants

We’re gonna have yet another eggplant this week, and we’re very happy with this continuing slow steady production.

I’m using up some of the continuing pepper harvest in making my “chili red” today.  Also, I dried a couple sheets of cayenne and Serrano peppers, and ground them up into powder.

We ate THE APPLE, with a cheese and cracker plate.  It was fabulous, and I was delighted to discover that it is a very similar apple to one of the types that used to grow on my grandfather’s farm that I never knew the name of.

Basket o' Basil

Last night we made pesto out of this huge basket of basil.  The recipe is attached to the recipe list on the main page, the big variations being using walnuts, and that we froze the pesto in muffin tins (one of the pictures there in the recipe looks like chunks of alfalfa-fed donkey droppings, I’m afraid, but there you go).

We Cover Da World

The butternut squash and melon plants continue to spread; the butternut now covers a depth of almost 4 rows, and has a great number of little butternuts on it, so we are cheering it on.  If the raccoon doesn’t get it, we’re gonna harvest a moon & stars watermelon in the next day or so.

Melons

Big Butternut

Peppers just keep on trucking, and I’m having fun with them.  We pulled up the El Chaco pepper plants, they just never did anything this year, though last year we had a bumper crop.  Who can say what motivates this kind of growth, or lack thereof.  We have lots of anchos, bells, and those little Tabasco peppers that are so cute to look at, all growing upward toward the Sun.

Bell

Tabasco

Anchos

Small butternut

The kaolin clay we sprayed does appear to be at least somewhat effective, though we want more testing to figure out how much.

Lastly, we don’t understand the lack of tomatillos.  Lots of little paper lanterns, but few of them ever actually finish making.  They seem to rot or something, any advice would be welcome.

Little House on the Piedmont

June 27, 2010

On the vine

We’re feeling like we live in Little House on the Prairie this week, as we bought canning supplies, wide-mouth canning jars, and a small (16-qt) Presto Pressure Canner.

New Canner

Canned Green Beans!

Our first experiment today was 3 pints of haricot vert, and we’re surprisingly excited.  We are already developing a list of things to can, and gathering treasured recipes (like Peach Pickles!) from family.  Watermelon rind pickles, cucumber pickles, radish pickles, HOT pepper jelly, etc.  Next thing you know I’m going to seriously need a pickling crock and grape leaves.

The voles have been absent – no losses on our part, no vole sign or dead voles in traps.  Is this just a cease-fire, or have we won ….until next time?

Tomatoes 1

Tomatoes 3

Tomatoes 6

We are harvesting tomatoes and cucumbers and haricot vert and yellow summer squash daily.  I just haven’t been able to get myself worked up about weighing any of it so far, though I think about it sometimes.  There are really only two of us, and we measure our success more by what we end up buying (or the lack of) than what we are producing, since she keeps excellent records on what we buy as part of the budget process.

Ready to Eat

Little onions

Squash

New Potatoes

From now on we can harvest celery whenever we please, until we run out or the frost comes.

Celery box

Eggplants are blossoming, as are the Blue Lake green beans.  Dutch half-runners and butter beans are putting out tendrils.

Eggplant blossom

Blue Lakes

The sage, tarragon, and rosemary have completely restored themselves since the last harvesting, and the dill is out-growing my efforts to use it.  Basil is setting up nicely, and we have 2 different mints that I just mow back whenever we have to mow.

Sage

Basil

Potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers are still growing.  I am topping and suckering each tomato plant as it reaches 8’.  We got some new potatoes this week, and plan to harvest the rest of the box most affected by the voles, then replant organic russets, like we already replanted the organic Yukon golds, which are growing nicely.

Potatoes

Potatoes

Recent Yukon Golds

We have some really large cayenne peppers growing, as well as pimento, Serrano, anaheims (harvested 2 more this week), anchos, jalapenos (harvested 3 for another round of the muffins)…well we have a lot of peppers.

Peppers

The Japanese beetle season is here, and it is open season on them.  We have beetle bag traps up, and they’re filling nicely.  No significant damage from them yet except for a few apple trees leaves, so far.

Happy Cucumber

We had to pull up a box of cucumbers and zucchini, which is always frustrating and disappointing.  We replanted in another open box, and the plants are already leaping up.  We’re not sure, but we *think* they were hit hard by an unidentified (so far) brown bug that were all over them.  We squished them, and have been squishing any signs of them, and no replication of the problem yet.  If anyone had a clue about this vague problem, we’d be pleased to consider any theories.

Flower

Weekly Garden Update: May 30th

May 30, 2010

Weekly Garden Update:  May 30th

Episode V:  The Voles Strike Back

Voles got 4-6 more potato stalks this week, 4 more celery plants, and forced us to harvest carrots which could have used more time, but which were being decimated.  We shall not give up the fight.  There is no try, do or do not.

We harvested 9 18” long tarragon stalks today, and they are currently drying on a cookie sheet in a 175 degree oven.

Tarragon

Yesterday we harvested fresh dill, and we have more we can grab whenever we need it.

Dill

We have been harvesting garlic scapes as they get ready, and I’ll be posting a brief “things to do with garlic scapes” just before this update, so there will be a link here.  Also we have started testing some of the garlic bulbs and are beginning to cure them.

Curing Garlic

Snow peas have been coming in faster than we can eat them for some time now, so we are eating raw snow peas in salads, lightly steamed snow peas as sides, and snow peas in nearly all the dishes in which we put mixed veggies.  We are freezing a lot of them as well.  It is looking like they are slowing down however, as there are few new blooms, so maybe the snow pea harvest is coming to an end.

Tomatoes

The strawberry season in central northern NC came to an abrupt halt, as no one at 3 farmers’ markets I know of had any this week, and the pick-your-own place across the street from us has closed for the season.  One farmer speculated that it was the lack of rain followed by 4 inches in one week followed by increasing temperatures that caused the strawberries to close up shop and return to fairy-strawberry-land so quickly (“…And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks…”).

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes

There are over 50 tomatoes on the vines!  Long oblong ones, small spheroid ones, clusters of them, and blooms blooms blooms are all toot-tootin’ along.

Celery

Celery that isn’t being attacked by voles is doing very well.  In fact, we were able to rescue some of the stalks of the ones that had their roots eaten by voles, and I used fresh celery in the clam chowder I made up last night.  From now until the end of the season we have celery that can be harvested at will (at least those the voles don’t get).  We still have over 36 stalks going, so hopefully we’ll still be harvesting celery at Thanksgiving.

Peppers

We replanted eggplants and peppers this week, and transplanted basil and cilantro we have been growing in containers inside.  We have oregano, rosemary, and lemongrass to be harvested at will.  We harvested another whole row of lettuces this week, lettuce production is finally petering off, though we have some new mesclun mix which is coming up nicely.

Squash

Cucumbers starting Tendrils

Garlic

May 23 Garden Update

May 23, 2010

The Vole War continues, and we seem to be winning a few rounds.  We’ve found 3 dead voles in traps and 1 just lying on the ground.  We haven’t lost any celery plants in over a week, and most of the rest of the predation seems to have slowed down since Thursday.

Cucumbers

However before this we lost 6 of 8 eggplants, 5 pepper plants, and one of our potato boxes has had about 75% of its stalks wiped out.  I put down Warfarin again today in those three boxes, hoping that the cessation of activity since Thursday is a result of many dead little furry bodies somewhere.

Zucchini

We harvested the rest of our spring kale this week, along with more carrots and 4 separate harvests of snow peas.

Carrots & Snowpeas

The watermelon radishes were not making in accordance with her expectations (none to date) and she pulled them up as an example to any other non-performing plants.

Yellow squash

We planted a box of blue lake green beans where the kale was, along with replanting of eggplant and pepper seedlings we got from a local gardening center.  We’re seriously considering if we can reseed some potatoes.

Celery

The tomatoes are couldn’t be happier, and are flowering like crazy.

Tomatoes

Peppers

Winter Squash

More tomatoes

Haricot Verts

Even more Tomatoes

RAIN.

May 19, 2010

We have almost 4 inches of rain in the big gauge from the past 72 hours.  Over 3 inches of it on Monday, enough to put a gully through the mulch at one place, and another gully down the driveway.

After only having 0.75 inches in the previous 45 days, we certainly needed rain.  It came down in sheets, thick enough to obscure the green forest around us in a blur, drumming on the roof in that thick quiet hum, like standing in the middle of a power station, feeling the electricity thrum through you.

The garden loved it.

A couple of weeks ago, right after we put the peppers in, it got down to the upper 30s at night two nights in a row.  It seems to have halted the peppers’ growth a bit, hopefully they will pick up again now.

Snow Peas

We direct seeded Greek and Genovese basil this past week to augment the container plantings, as we harvested some lettuce plants (enough for 2 weeks of eating).  There is still at least a month’s worth of lettuce out there.  We harvested all the spinach we had left, as it was starting to bolt.

Lettuces

The haricot verts are growing well, as are the cucumbers.  We filled in a few gaps where some seeds didn’t germinate with new seed.

Lettuces

Spinach

This is our first really successful planting of snow peas.  We have tried them 3 times before, and were about to give up on them in this environment.  Lo and behold, they are growing up to 6 feet high, and we’ve now harvested 2 meals from them, with a lot more coming.  The blossoms are lovely on them.

Snow Peas

Taters

Some of the potatoes are blooming.  Apparently voles ate 8 of the stalks coming up, ruining at least 4 hills of our potatoes in the lowest box and 2 hills in another box.

Our onions are doing waaaay better than last year.  The sets are still much farther ahead than the seeded ones, but one of the varieties of the seeded ones are far ahead of the rest.  Hopefully they will make this year.  At this time last year we already knew the onion crop was a failure.

Carrots

Celery

Carrots are happy in several box locations.  The rabbit has not been caught again leaping over the 2 foot high fencing.

We started 9 each of the watermelon and charentais melons 3 weeks ago.  Only 4 charentais and 3 watermelons germinated.  We will direct seed once we put them out in place of where the sugar snap peas are now.

Tarragon

There is apparent deer nibbling on some of the potatoes in the box at the edge of the woods, but they must not have been a meal of preference because it has been relatively minor overall.

Two of the 8 eggplants have been lost to voles, as have a few more celeries and 2 ancho peppers.  I’m stunned that they’re attacking eggplants and peppers, and it brings out the Marvin the Martian in me (“I hope you realize that this means war”).

Traps have gotten 2 of the little you-know-whats so far.  We’ve disseminated mothballs in the mulch and down some of their holes and placed mouse traps out for them.  In addition, we gave up and bought some warfarin.  Warfarin has the least risk and rate of secondary poisoning (things that eat things killed by it).  I am limiting it down their holes in boxes with fences and covering netting.  We don’t want to be killing hawks, and I don’t want the dog, or even the rabbits and squirrels to get at it.  On the other hand, we really need to get the voles, or they are going to destroy the garden.  We’ve never cared if  voles or moles or anything dug in the yard, but the count is up to over 10 celery plants, 6-8 potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and sugar snap peas.  We don’t have the space, the inclination, or the resources to afford to house a vole colony, though we don’t like putting down even controlled bait stations.  When even the resident rabid animal welfarist says “kill them”, I know it is time.

Garlic is looking like it should.  We plan on grabbing a garlic every week and eating it, not only to enjoy the fresh green garlic, but to monitor the grow of the bulbs.   Summer and winter squash seedlings are spreading their big leaves, already you can see the variegations in the leaves from the house.  The tomatoes are growing like there is no tomorrow.

We have achieved broccoli!  We have 4 heads of broccoli making.  This is the first broccoli we’ve started ourselves and we’re very excited.  The cauliflower is looking indecisive.  The (mostly) early heat this year may inhibit this spring’s crop; several of the farmers I’ve talked to have indicated that all the field broccoli looks fairly stunted in this county.

Broccoli

We’re trying to figure out why stuff we’re growing in containers inside and on the porch don’t do as well as things we put in the boxes.  It’s the same dirt, and we try to treat them the same.  The only thing we can figure is that maybe the containers dry out faster than we think.  They all look a bit leggy compared to the same stuff in boxes.  I’m going to seed some more mycorrhizal fungi into them; maybe that will help.

This update is late because of the weekend goings on, see the previous post.

Weekly Garden Update 5/9

May 9, 2010

Attack of the Varmints:

One day this past week we saw:  rabbits, hummingbirds, deer, bluejays, a hawk, squirrels, and cardinals all in the space of about 15 minutes.  That was a lot of fun.

What is not so fun is the very large rabbit who has decided that he wants to be clever.  He has patiently nibbled his way through the plastic green fencing in at least 2 boxes so that he can just hop through into them.  After we thwarted this effort, we saw him this morning jump over the 2 foot fence into a box with carrots, not realizing that we had a thin black plastic chickenwire netting on the top.  It freaked him out a bit, but not enough, and by the time I got downstairs and out the door he was sitting happily amongst the carrot greens.  I yelled, “get outta here, you pernicious thieving little sneak!” and he ran away, but only to the edge of the yard, where he sat arrogantly.  When the dog ran outside, he went further, but I suspect we are going to have to take more severe action against him.  Maybe I can do a post on my braised rabbit dish.

The real problem however is the voles.  They have just ruined one 4’ section of beets, and are starting to steal our celery plants, like eating one every other day or so.  Now they are attacking our sugar snap pea roots as well.  We are trying some organic repellants that don’t seem to be working, and have placed some mouse traps out that they aren’t going for.  We knew that putting mulch around the boxes had the potential to be a two-edged sword, but the pros seemed to outweigh the cons.  Something has to be done, and advice is welcome.

The two most recommended things to do are things we probably can’t:  get rid of the mulch, and buy a cat.  Our dog doesn’t play nice with cats, alas.  There are a lot of products out there that claim to help take care of the problem, from high-pitched rodent sound repellers to in-ground traps to poisons, etc.  I hesitate to leap from one idea to another unless I know that someone else has actually had success.  We don’t really want to put down poison unless we can find one that doesn’t have significant risk of secondary poisonings for pets and hawks, and we have no idea if the sound things work or if they would drive the dog crazy as well as the voles.

Other things in the garden are going well, though we had the driest April on record (120 years of record).

In the orchard parts, we have blueberries on the bush and apples in the tree.

Apples

Blueberries

The potatoes are growing so tall I’m starting to worry about their ability to support themselves; two blew over in the wind the other day.

Potato Box

Potatoes 2

We planted our eggplants under a hoop cover.  I made the hoops out of pex piping, held them to the box by using nail-on pex clips, and secured the cover with the same clips.  We have 8 eggplants and 2 thai peppers under the cover.  Flea beetles are death on eggplants in this area, all but one of ours was eaten last year they were so bad.  So this year we’re growing them under cover, hoping the additional heat will also help their growth.  We’ll be doing more of these covers over time, particularly for wintering various species that need just a bit more warmth.

New Hoop Cover

End View

We planted charentais melons and moon & stars watermelons.  They have germinated and are growing nicely, almost ready to put out.

Happy pepper

Broccoli

Haricot Verts

Snow Pea Blossoms

A tomato

Box 'o Tomatoes

Celery

Even more potatoes