Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bug Wars

In this post I am giving an update on what we have been doing in the garden in general, and the bug wars we have been fighting in particular.

It has been hotter and dryer than usual for our area so far this summer.  Another thing we have noticed is that there are almost no beneficial insects around to speak of, a single might be spotted here or there, but that is all.  Our Brassicaceaes have been plagued with cabbage white larvae, but even more damaging are the aphids that cause the plant leaves to shrivel up.

This year to combat the squash vine borer we discussed in an earlier posting, we put some aluminum foil around the base of our zucchini plants, and as an extra measure we put row covers over the plants as well.  It was just in time too as we saw the borer adult trying to lay eggs on the plants, right at the base where it will do the most damage!  The idea with the row covers is to keep the adults, which are actually a day flying black and red moth away from the plants.  This works until the flowers come out, then we need to remove the row covers to allow them to get pollinated.  The hope is that the borer adults will not be around later in the year. Although last year I recall seeing some adults much later than they were supposed to be out, probably due to our cold, wet spring.
Covered Zucchini to combat squash vine borer

This year we are finding a new menace, similar to the squash vine borer.  Our raspberries are being hit with the raspberry cane borer!

Excerpt on Raspberry cane borer from University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension (

The adult cane borer is a slender, black beetle with long, black antennae, black head and yellow prothorax. Adults are about one half an inch long. The larvae are legless, light-colored borers found within the stem. Fully grown larvae are about 3/4 inch long.

Life Cycle
This insect has a two-year life cycle. Adults emerge beginning in June and females lay eggs in the pith of new raspberry growth, about six inches from the tip of the cane. The female beetle then makes two rows of punctures around the cane, one just above and one just below the egg-laying point. This causes the tip of the new cane to wilt. The egg hatches in early July and the larva burrows slowly down the cane, passing the first winter within and inch or two of the girdle. During the second year the larva burrows down to the crown and passes the second winter at or below ground level. It completes its development the following spring and pupates in the soil.

Chemicals are not necessary to control this pest. Cut girdled canes an inch or so below the girdle and burn them soon after cane borer damage appears. Attacked canes wilt, making the damage easy to spot. Eliminating wild raspberries nearby will reduce damage. Since the life cycle requires two years to complete, regular pruning usually keeps the population in check.

If caught early I found that I can easily snap the cane at the lower ring and split the cane apart to find and squish the larva.
Wilted Raspberry Tip...  Check for cane borer.
Close up of cane borer damage, girdled cane markings.

On another subject, while pumping water from the Oasis hand pump earlier this week (I have to give Oasis a negative mark for durability) the pump handle snapped from normal use.

Thankfully the handle from my cast iron pump was a good match and I was able to replace the handle and continue to use the pump without much delay.
Retrofitted pump handle

As a last note for this post, in preparation for the pole beans getting taller, I attached a section of 4x4 fencing panel on the ends of beds 5, 6, and 7 using 2 L-screws on each post pointing in opposite directions to keep the panel in place.  These wood posts are turning out to be quite handy!
Beds with panels added for pole beans

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Our strawberries are nearly done for the year, but just as they have been waning, the red raspberries are starting to provide for us.  As I was picking some of the first new raspberries I was thinking how amazing our Creator is to provide all these different fruits and veggies that produce at different times throughout the year.  If we had to rely on our own gardens for all our food and not the local super market we would be very grateful for this time difference.  If everything was ready on the same day, which might seem easier it could be overwhelming, how would we harvest it all, how would we store it up for the whole year?
Not all perfect looking, but perfect tasting strawberries!

Raspberry first pickings

It took a lot of work to redo the terracing and move all the dirt and plants for our strawberry and raspberry beds bed it was worth it after tasting the strawberries which were very good this year and they are so sweet, much better than the super market variety.  It just doesn’t compare.  Shannon was reading about the way commercial strawberries are grown and processed before they reach the shelf. First a type of strawberry is used that grows large and ships well. This multi-million dollar business relies mainly on clones from the same line which is very susceptible to disease. The fields that the berries are grown in require huge amounts of chemicals to keep clear of weeds, deter/kill pests and disease and to fertilize the strawberry plant which is discarded after one season.  The result in the soil is sterilization which kills the soil and its inhabitants and we are purchasing a strawberry grown on chemicals, not nutrients.  It is getting as bad as meat! Some of the raspberry plants are yellowing though, we will need to look into the issue.

Strawberry / Raspberry beds

Here is some fresh lettuce Shannon picked, another blessing.  She found that after picking it, if she put it into cold water right away it stayed crisp longer in the fridge and any worms drowned.  Once it had chilled in the water (pink bowl below) she puts it in her salad spinner to remove excess water and any sand.  Then just put it in a container and keep it in the fridge, until the next salad that is.
Fresh Lettuce!

Mulch Mountain

After watching “Back To Eden” (mentioned in an earlier post) and being encouraged to use mulch even more than we have already been we hooked up with a local tree company and were blessed with a mountain of mulch!

Mulch Delivery

Mulch Mountain
 So we have been spending a lot of time moving this mountain, spreading on paths and beds, and storing it in the back for future use.
Back To Eden?...The fun begins.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sacrificial Plants

Today I will be talking about "sacrificial plants".  What this means is growing plants for the purpose of attracting the bad bugs, which keeps them away from your veggies.  Alternatively you could grow plants to attract more beneficial bugs to your garden. We try to do both.  In this case there were 2 large mullen plants that were volunteers, which means came up with out being intentionally planted.  These plants came up on each end in front of our strawberry patch and looked nice so we decided to leave them.  We found later that several weevils that we identified as plum curculio, were infesting one of these plants.  These weevils have a large proboscis and use it to suck juices out of plants.  The mullen kept them happy and out of our strawberries, but because the population was growing I decided to do some preventative maintenance and vacuum up these  weevils with a shop vac.  In the bottom of the vac we put a little soapy water to drown the weevils.  Because the mullen is soft and supple it was a little difficult to vacuum the weevils as the leaves would get sucked up, but with a little persistence and patience the weevil population was back under control.

Mullen with weevil infestation

Vacuuming the weevils

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I (Shannon) am reading a book entitled "Dirt: the erosion of civilizations" by David R. Montgomery. This book explores the correlation between a civilization's decline and their misuse of their soil. As the soil was overused, eroded or blown away, the ability of that civilization to feed itself declined exponentially. Over and over the major civilizations of our world destroyed their land to the point that a great deal of it has yet to recover, for example, the middle eastern countries used to be the bread basket of the world and are now wastelands.  While I found the book fascinating, I was greatly discouraged by the understanding that we (the US) are on the same track.

Recently a friend on Facebook sent me a link to the video documentary "Back to Eden". I had been mulling over and stewing about this giant issue of the destruction of our country and did not have peace. I believe God gave me this movie to inspire hope and present a solution to the problem presented in this book. It was so good and encouraging that we want to share this with others. The opening paragraph on the website explains the gist of it:

BACK TO EDEN shares the story of one man’s lifelong journey, walking with God and learning how to get back to the simple, productive methods of sustainable provision that were given to man in the garden of Eden. The organic growing system that has resulted from Paul Gautschi’s incredible experiences has garnered the interest of visitors from around the world. However, never until now have Paul’s methods been documented and shared like this!

The film is very encouraging for struggling gardeners like us and it helps tie lessons from God's creation to His character.  Paul explains his mulch system and shows the superior benefits it brings to the garden and plants.  We will definitely be implementing this information!  You can click here to visit the Back To Eden Film website and watch the full official film for free!  Be blessed!
Click to visit website and view film.