Think About a Winter Garden

There are several plants that can go into the garden now as seeds and will reward you with greens into the fall and, if you’re lucky, up to  Christmas and beyond.

seeds for fall planting

The yellow wax beans are finished in my community garden bed. I was away for a week and just picked the last of them a few days ago. They were old so I cooked them a long time with a slice of bacon, but they were too stringy to eat. It was worth a shot, but they ended up in the garbage. I didn’t put them in my compost bin as they had fat from the bacon on them.

I’ll pull those beans up in the next few days and plant some kale and lettuce. I’ve already done that at home and here are some photos of Russian Red Kale which is a terrific green to plant now. Kale is one of the healthiest things you can eat. You can even make Kale Chips out of the leaves. These seeds were planted 8-14-14 and a week later had secondary leaves.

Russian Red Kale 8-14-14

The tomatoes in my community garden bed are still producing so they won’t get pulled out yet. When I do, I will make sure the cut up the plants before they go into the compost bin.

So…consider a fall/winter garden. You will be rewarded.

 

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Compost Bin Update

On Saturday morning Penny Haase, Robert Messick, Lynda Barrow, Val Kenn Gray and Mala and Roger Burt chopped, turned and cleaned up the compost bins. There is already compost in some of them.

organizing compost bins

Some reminders are in order.

1. It speeds up the composting if the things you put in the bins are cut into smaller pieces. Whole tomato plants, squash plants, for example, should be cut into smaller pieces and spread on the pile. You can use a shovel to break up a pile of debris you want to add to the bin. Don’t put big sticks in the compost bins. Put them next to or behind the bins and someone will get rid of them.

This is a photo of what we don’t want.

compost no-no

2. Do not put trash in the compost bins. This includes plant markers, bags from soil amendments (composted manure, LeafGro, etc.) Here is a photo of some stuff we pulled out of the compost bins. There is a trash can inside the shed. Please use it or take your trash home.

compost no-no's 2

3. This is what the bins should look like.

compost ready to work

Thanks for your cooperation.

Penny Haase shared beets from her bed with the workers. It pays to show up!

Penny Haase and beets

The Fall Garden

Most of us have already harvested the last of the summer’s produce. Disclaimer…the garlic below did not come out of my garden. I had garlic, but hadn’t gotten around to cleaning it. The heads I bought at the store made a prettier photo.fall harvest
However, I was sorry to see a lot of tomatoes in the community garden go to waste. We need to figure out how to utilize the produce our own families won’t use. All the green tomatoes from my bed went on newspapers in the garage. As they ripened, I got enough to can two more batches of tomato sauce .

Now is the time to put in a fall garden. Broccoli, cabbage, and kale are among the plants that love this cooler weather. Seeds of some lettuces, arugula and other greens can be sewn with time to sprout before the really cold weather comes.mala's bed Sept 21-13Last year’s very mild winter meant we ate greens all winter from my raised beds at home. I had covered them with Agribon, a floating row cover. Originally I did this to keep the leaves out of the beds and then was too lazy to take the covers off. Little did I know the reward in store. We didn’t buy any greens until I pulled things out in April.

I laid the Agribon directly over my plants and secured the edges with a couple of bricks. When the plants grew bigger, I gave them more room by adjusting the Agribon and the bricks. Sun and rain go through the floating covers. Some people use metal hoops they purchase or make. I plan to put a floating row cover on my community garden bed and see how my fall plants make it through the winter in that location. This photo is from my raised beds at home. The covers went on October 8 because we were expecting a weekend of rain.row covers 10-9-13People also use floating row covers to keep insects off their plants. Next spring I’m going to give that a try. Maybe my broccoli will be worm free. That would be lovely!

Kids, Carrots and a Thank-You Sign

On Saturday I was at the Farmer’s Market and stopped to water my bed at the community garden. As I was leaving I saw a woman with two young children in tow. From the alley she was pointing things out about the plants so I asked if she’d like to come in. She was delighted. Our deer fence, which isn’t proving very useful in keeping the deer out, does seem to keep people out. That’s unfortunate.

I asked the little girls if they liked carrots. They were willing to try a bite, so I pulled some from my bed, washed them off with the hose (I love having water so close by) and the kids each had the freshest carrot they had ever eaten. I asked if I could take their picture and here it is. The smallest girl is not happy in this photo, but was a minute before when she had a bite of carrot.

visitors to the garden

These serendipitous moments are the best part of the community garden for me. Did I make a couple of fresh carrot converts on Saturday? Maybe.

We have some new signage in the garden. Val Kenn Gray, Lin Clineburg and Joanne Buritsch collaborated on this sign which thanks the groups whose generous help was instrumental in getting our community garden started. The sign was placed on the side of the garden shed where it is visible and adds some decoration to an otherwise blank wall. Well done! Let’s all remember to thank and patronize the groups that support our community.

community-garden-sign-for-w

Kids, carrots and thank you signs are all a good thing in our St. Michaels Community Garden.

Harlequin Stinkbugs in the Garden

The following information was suggested by Elizabeth Beggins whose bed (#29) in the St. Michaels Community Garden has been overrun by Harlequin bugs. The information below can be found in its entirety at http://www.toxicfreenc.org/organicgardening/stink_bugs.html. The photos are also from that website. The photo of the eggs is helpful. Barrel shaped and distinctive. One more thing to look for.

Harlequin stinkbugadult  Adult Harlequin Harlequin nymphs Harlequin nymphs

About Harlequin Bugs and Stink Bugs

The Harlequin bug is a type of stink bug that causes trouble for many gardeners in the Southeast. Other stink bug pests in North Carolina include the Green stink bug, Brown stink bug, and Southern green stink bug.

All are pests of many crops, but they especially love plants of the brassica family. The brassicas include cabbage, collards, broccoli, mustard, turnips, and kale. During heavy outbreaks, or when all their favorites are gone, Harlequin bugs will eat other garden plants such as squash, okra, tomatoes, corn, beans, and tree fruits.

Both adults and  nymphs cause damage. They eat all parts of the plants, including stems, leaves, fruits, and seeds. They use piercing mouth parts to suck out plant juices. Damage on leaves and stems looks like uneven discolored spots around a hole. Young plants may wilt, turn brown, and die. Mature plants may survive but growth is slowed. Damage on fruits such as squash, tomatoes and okra appears as dark holes surrounded by bumps, pits, or white-yellowish spots. The lighter spots do not ripen to the same color as the rest of the fruit. Fruits may also dimple or grow in strange shapes.

The tips below are designed to help you control stink bug damage in your garden. Sustainable pest management strategies usually work best when used together. Think about your garden, your resources, and your time, and put several of these tips together into a plan that works for you.

Identifying  Harlequin Bugs and Stink Bugs

Adult stink bugs are about half an inch long and shield-shaped. Their colors range from dark brown, tan, to green. The Harlequin bug is black with orange, yellow and red markings (see picture above).

Nymphs are similar to adults but smaller and with a more rounded shape. Eggs are barrel-shaped. They are laid in groups on stems and the undersides of leaves, and may be yellow, green, pink,  gray, or striped. (see picture above)

Harlequin eggs Stink bug eggs

It is important to note that not all stink bugs are pests. Some predatory stink bugs, such as the spined soldier bug, actually attack other garden pests. They should be encouraged in the garden. The spined soldier bug looks similar to the brown stink bug, but has spikes standing out on its shoulders.

Stink bug good spinedsoldierbug Good guy!

Life Cycle

Stink bug adults spend the winter in old plants and other garden litter. They come out in the early spring to begin laying eggs. In early spring eggs take up to 20 days to hatch, but as the weather warms they may hatch in as few as 5 days.  Nymphs mature into adults in 5 – 8 weeks. Populations tend to grow through the season, getting heaviest during early to mid fall.

Prevention

1) Grow healthy organic plants. Strong plants can handle some damage from stink bugs better than weak, struggling plants. Make sure that your crops are getting enough sunlight and water. Ensure that the soil is well-drained, and rich in nutrients and organic matter.

2) Grow resistant varieties. Some types of brassica plants are naturally resistant to Harlequin bugs. NC Cooperative Extension recommends the following varieties: Cabbage: Copenhagen Market 86, Headstart, Savoy Perfect Drumhead, Stein’s Flat Dutch, Early Jersey Wakefield. Collards: Green Glaze. Cauliflower: Early Snowball X, Snowball Y. Radishes: Red Devil, White Icicle, Globemaster, Cherry Belle, Champion, Red Prince.

3) Till in late fall. Tilling crop leftovers into the soil once cold weather has arrived can reduce the number of adult stink bugs who survive the winter. Then fewer come back out the following spring.

4) Control weeds in the garden area. Stink bugs are attracted by weedy areas in or near the garden. Weeds should not be allowed to spread in the garden. Weedy areas around the garden should be mowed before spring planting and regularly after that to keep stink bugs from hanging around.

5) Use row covers. Keep stink bugs from finding your crop by covering your brassica plants with a lightweight “floating” row cover such as Reemay. These materials (as opposed to plastic or heavier fabrics) let water and air through and do not block very much sunlight. They can be found at garden supply stores or ordered from seed catalogs. The covers can lie directly on the plants (the plants will lift the cover as they grow), or you can support the covers with wire hoops. The trick is to keep the edges of the covers tightly buried or weighted so that the stink bugs cannot get in.

Getting Rid of  Harlequin Bugs and Stink Bugs  Without Toxic Chemicals

6) Scout and hand pick. Hand picking stink bug adults, nymphs and eggs early in the season can really help you control them later in the year. Likewise, hand picking in the fall can cut down the number of adult stink bugs that come back the following season. Scout the garden often throughout the year. When you find stink bug adults, nymphs, or egg clusters, crush them with your fingers. Or, since stink bugs really do stink when you squish them, it might be less smelly to drop them into a pail of soapy water.

Garden Maintenance

Garden maintenance can be one of the more annoying things about gardening. Weeds are inevitable in the garden, but some are more noxious than others. I blogged previously about poison ivy. Another weed, wire grass (Bermuda grass), is even more troublesome.

Wire grass is a noxious weed that is hard to control.

Wire grass is a noxious weed that is hard to control.

It grows by rooting runners and underground rhizomes and is almost impossible to get rid of. It has very long roots so no matter how deep you dig, you never seem to get it all. If you’ve ever tried to pull it, it just breaks off and the plant takes that as a green light to grow more.

Wire grass is the one reason we occasionally use Round-up on the mulched paths. It’s the only thing I know of that will kill the roots. You don’t want Round-up sprayed in your garden bed because it is a dangerous chemical and will kill anything green it comes in contact with.Last year when I noticed wire grass coming up in my bed, I used a Q-tip to put Round-up on the sprouting weed. One of the issues in community gardens is that not everyone keeps their gardens weeded. Weeds get tall, seeds are blown into neighboring beds and wire grass creeps. Good bed maintenance makes good neighbors.

Our Watering System

On a recent visit to the garden I noticed the spigot on the hose near my bed had been left open. (See the wire grass creeping out of a neighboring bed. That bed was weeded after I took this photo, but it’s almost impossible to get it all. You can see how it creeps out into the path.)

open spigot

Below is the way the spigot should be left. Note the closed handle. This will extend the life of our hoses and eliminate leaks so thanks for closing the water spigots.

closed spigot

The recent rains have perked up our veggies, but also the weeds. Please be a good neighbor and keep your bed tidy. Pulling any weeds in the mulched paths will also reduce the need for Round-up.

Slugs – Not In My Garden!

slugs

No, those are not the size of the slugs in my lettuce at my community garden bed, but the smaller ones I find still creep me out. Slugs are gross, and I have yet to figure out what they are good for. I don’t want slugs of any size in my salad!

I’d been using slightly diluted ammonia in a spray bottle. If sprayed directly on the slugs, it kills them. I don’t spray it directly on the plants, but for the slugs I find hiding inside upside down pots or crawling up the foundation of my house, it’s perfect.

I started using Diatomaceous Earth (which I got at Tractor Supply) to control squash borers. But if it helps with slugs, I’m all for it.

Diatomaceous earth comes in the form of a chalky powder, and is the natural fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. For non-toxic, effective treatment for earwigs, slugs, and other garden pests: sprinkle over plants and around edges of garden beds.

Diatomaceous-Earth

Thanks to the people at Eartheasy.com for permission to reprint this information about slug control.

“Slugs are in every garden, and cause more damage than most garden invaders. Commercial slug killers are available, but they can be toxic to birds and other wildlife, and are less effective after rain, when slugs are most active.

We have found that non-toxic, food grade Diatomaceous Earth (Insect Dust) is effective for slugs, but there are also many other methods available for little to no cost.

Before reaching for the pesticides, here are a few alternative natural, non-toxic methods of slug control:

• Watering Schedule
Far and away the best course of action against slugs in your garden is a simple adjustment in the watering schedule. Slugs are most active at night and are most efficient in damp conditions. Avoid watering your garden in the evening if you have a slug problem. Water in the morning – the surface soil will be dry by evening. Studies show this can reduce slug damage by 80%.

• Copper
Small strips of copper can be placed around flower pots or raised beds as obstructions for slugs to crawl over. Cut 2″ strips of thin copper and wrap around the lower part of flower pots, like a ribbon. Or set the strips in the soil on edge, making a “fence” for the slugs to climb. Check to make sure no vegetation hangs over the copper which might provide a ‘bridge’ for the slugs. Copper barriers also work well around wood barrels used as planters.

• Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth (Also known as “Insect Dust”) is the sharp, jagged skeletal remains of microscopic creatures. It lacerates soft-bodied pests, causing them to dehydrate. A powdery granular material, it can be sprinkled around garden beds or individual plants, and can be mixed with water to make a foliar spray.

Diatomaceous earth is less effective when wet, so use during dry weather. Wear protective gear when applying, as it can irritate eyes and lungs. Be sure to buy natural or agricultural grade diatomaceous earth, not pool grade which has smoother edges and is far less effective. Mala note: it’s in the poultry section at Tractor Supply.

• Salt
If all else fails, go out at night with the salt shaker and a flashlight. Look at the plants which have been getting the most damage and inspect the leaves, including the undersides. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the slug and it will kill it quickly. Not particularly pleasant, but use as a last resort. (Note: some sources caution the use of salt, as it adds a toxic element to the soil. This has not been our experience, especially as very little salt is used.)

• Beer
Slugs are attracted to beer. Set a small amount of beer in a shallow wide jar buried in the soil up to its neck. Slugs will crawl in and drown. Take the jar lid and prop it up with a small stick so rain won’t dilute the beer. Leave space for slugs to enter the trap.

• Overturned Flowerpots, Grapefruit Halves, Board on Ground
Overturned flowerpots, with a stone placed under the rim to tilt it up a bit, will attract slugs. Leave overnight, and you’ll find the slugs inside in the morning. Grapefruit halves work the same way, with the added advantage of the scent of the fruit as bait.

Another trap method, perhaps the simplest of all, is to set a wide board on the ground by the affected area. Slugs will hide under the board by day. Simply flip the board over to reveal the culprits.”  That’s when I get satisfaction from getting out my spray ammonia. However, as I said, if the diatomaceous earth works and is more effective, I’m all for giving it a try.