Caterpillar Inspired?

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 6.38.31 AMI have a theory.

A Monarch caterpillar climbed up the cosmos and spotted the drawing of a chrysalis on the sign made by the students at the Waldorf School for the butterfly garden at Pitney Meadows Community Gardens.

Inspired, he thought, “I can do that.” And transformed from caterpillar to pupa right next to the sign. What do you think?

This is our fourth Monarch chrysalis in the garden’s certified Monarch way station which is brimming with flowers planted to support the lifecycle of the Monarch butterfly.

Launching a Squash Bug Campaign

You know you’re a plant geek when you lounge poolside, frozen watermelon mint lemonade in hand and research organic methods of trapping squash bugs.

One google search “Are squash bugs attracted to light?” brought a positive result.

Gardeners reported their porch lights attracted squash bugs and this got my wheels turning.

Maybe I could create a trap that lured squash bugs using a light source and somehow keep them from crawling back out.

So I took a large plastic soda bottle and cut the top one-third off. This funnel shape would be placed spout side down into the bottle. I had tiny tea lights that I could use as a light source and put one at the bottom.

With luck, the squash bugs would see light at the end of the funnel and follow it to their demise.

Then I headed to the community gardens. Martel gave me the OK to use her plot for the experiment. We caught squash bugs there in the last two days.

I was concerned the squash bugs, because of their size, could manage to get out of the trap so I used sticky Tanglefoot to coat the outside of the funnel. This helped also to create a seal between the funnel and the side of the bottle.

Next, I put some tape strips around the bottle to give the squash bugs something to crawl on. A ‘pathway’ to the top of the bottle and into the trap just in case the plastic bottle is too slick for them to cling to.

I dug a hole and inserted the base of the bottle. The hole is under the zucchini leaves as this is where squash bugs hang out.

Now, I wait.

Tomorrow morning I will head to the farm and count how many bugs we catch.

Our other experiment, the yellow cup faux blossom traps caught near 100 cucumber beetles in one plot alone.

 

 

Eradicating Squash Bugs

Hi gardeners – I just got back from the gardens and all-in-all things look good.

We discovered squash bugs this week.  Mary Beth shared this great image of them:
Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 11.56.44 PM
These are the eggs they lay on the underside of leaves.
Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 8.21.46 AM
If you find the eggs, remove them with your fingernail or with a piece of duct tape wrapped inside out around your finger. Take them out of the garden and discard.
The next step would be to spray with diatomaceous earth (DE).  I left two full spray bottles on the counter. Shake well before using and spray both sides of the leaves only. Not the flowers. We don’t want to hurt our bees.
What damage do squash bugs do?
This insect feeds by sucking the sap of plants and in the process infecting plants with toxins that lead to the plant’s demise. Our best defense is to stay on top of it, remove the eggs and use DE.
If you see something in the garden and need information, contact me.
Observations
A few gardeners need to get to their weeding.  And, a few others, who have let their plants go to seed, may want to pull the flowering broccoli rabe, lettuce or arugula and plant a new crop.  Once they are flowering, the taste is more bitter.
I will be in the garden Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. And I will be teaching another class Saturday morning at 9:30.
Hope to see you in the gardens,
Natalie Walsh, Garden Director

What a Great Morning in the Community Gardens

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 12.01.22 PMThere was a lot happening in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens this morning.

Faye Mihuta read books to about a dozen children as part of the Sunflower Hour held each Saturday in the gardens.

Then Jess Clauser helped those who wanted to plant flowers in the Children’s Flower Garden as well as in peat cups they could take home.  It was wonderful to see children participating in all aspects of gardening and exploring the plots.

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 12.01.35 PMAnd not everyone participated in the program. The sandbox, play farm and a toy excavator saw a lot of use much to everyone’s delight. Great photo opportunity for grandmother.

Compost Tea

We had the great pleasure of having Chris Cameron, an organic gardener and supporter of PMCG,  in the gardens this morning to talk about the benefits of compost tea and how to make tea at home.

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 12.17.39 PMChris explained how using compost tea improves the soil by promoting healthy bacteria and other microorganisms that nurture strong, robust plants.

Thank you Chris. Your enthusiasm is inspiring and your lecture was informative.

If you want a copy of Chris’ handout, it will be available in the gardener’s shed.

And if you see Chris on the farm, feel free to ask him questions about compost tea.  He has been brewing for years and can show you the positive results in the plants he has been treating in the community gardens.

I’m so glad Chris is part of the team!

Gardening Class

After Chris, my lecture for our Gardening class was about what to do to minimize damage done by the cucumber beetles, squash bugs, cabbage loopers and the cutworms we found in the gardens this week.

About 10 participants learned how to identify the insects, the different ways to apply diatomaceous earth as a control and all had access to the organic remedies to use. They also learned how to find squash beetle eggs on the underside of leaves and how to remove them.

Finally, we talked about fertilizing. It is now time to fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Check your bottle, for my gardens I use 1 ounce in a two-gallon watering can and apply it to the soil every week for robust vegetables.

My bottle has an NPK of 2-4-1.  If the brand you have as a higher concentration of nutrients, you can treat it every other week. Watch your plants and how they respond. They will “talk” to you with a rich, green color, strong stems and vigorous fruiting.

Our next class is next Saturday.  All are welcome. 

Like today, we will walk through the garden and discuss what is happening and what we can do to keep the garden strong and robust.

I will also be working in the gardens on Thursdays from 8 to 11. You can come and see me then about chores to do or any garden concern.

Thanks for making this place great.

See you in the gardens, Natalie Walsh

What’s Happening in Our Gardens

 

See that beetle in the center of the flower? It’s a cucumber beetle.  The yellow traps worked well, but the number of beetles currently in the garden plots means we should step up our game and use another organic remedy: diatomaceous earth (DE).

DE is made up of sharp-edged fossils and is an organic solution to problems with ants, cucumber beetles, cutworms among other pests.  We have spotted these three in our gardens. It also kills pillbug, for the gardener that was looking for a solution for her home garden.

Purchase food grade DE and you should have no trouble finding it at the big box stores or garden centers. You can also order it from Amazon.  Follow the label instructions and dust the plant leaves, flowers and where the stem comes out of the soil. Don’t do it if it is windy, wait for a calm day.

Beetles need to cross the dust to be eradicated. Repeat after a rain.

Screen Shot 2018-06-25 at 8.07.09 AM.png

Septoria Leaf Spot

I spotted Septoria Leaf Spot in one garden plot this morning. The best way to deal with it is to stay ahead of it.  Remove the diseased leaves immediately and take them out of the garden, don’t compost.

If you can improve the air flow around the plant, do so.

Water only at the base of the plant…not overhead and add a mulch under the plant to keep any spores from splashing onto the leaves.

Then spray with copper fungicide, which is available at garden centers.  Pitney Meadows Community Gardeners can only use a copper fungicide as we are an organic garden.

Late Blight has been confirmed in NYS and using a copper fungicide as a preventative will help keep this problem at bay.

Plants will need to be sprayed every 10 days. Follow label instructions.

Cutworm

I left a cutworm in a jar on the counter so everyone can look at it.  If you find an insect that you need help identifying, leave it in the clean jar on the counter and I will tell you what it is.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need help.

On Saturday morning at 9:30, I will walk around the gardens and discuss any issues. Also Chris Cameron will be on hand to talk about the benefits of compost tea.

 

From Caterpillars to Chrysalises

They grow up so fast!

Our three little caterpillars became chrysalises yesterday.

Jess C. reported that they started to spin silk and in a short amount of time attached themselves to the net sides of the butterfly habitat where they will remain until Spring.

IMG_1225

If you look closely you can see the silk the caterpillars use to attach themselves.

They are in safe, competent hands and are another thing to look forward to next season.

Just as our gardens are tucked in for winter, so now are our butterflies.

Thanks, Jess and Charlotte, our butterfly caretakers.

Look Who’s in the Garden!

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 9.34.32 AM I found five black swallowtail caterpillars feasting on parsley in one of the raised beds early this morning.

It’s not surprising that we have black swallowtail butterflies as they are found in open areas and lay eggs singly on the new foliage of host plants, of which parsley is one.

I’m hoping we can find the chrysalis in the next  few weeks and follow it’s development into a butterfly.

Let me know if you see it, won’t you?

 

 

 

Do you Know Whose Web This Is?

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 2.30.23 PM

This is the web of a Golden Orb Spider. A masterpiece of a spider with yellow and black markings. It is also known as the writing spider because the center of the web reminded someone of handwriting.

Could this spider be the inspiration behind Charlotte’s Web writer E.B. White’s character Charlotte, who wrote messages in her web for the farmer?

The Pitney Meadows Community Gardens are a great place to imagine and get inspired. Come and see.

 

Tomato Hornworms in the Garden

screen-shot-2017-08-14-at-9-38-54-am2.png

This morning, I found tomato hornworms, Manduca quinquemaculata, on a single tomato plant in one of the raised beds.

These are destructive caterpillars that will defoliate a plant very quickly and decimate your tomatoes. They also like to devour peppers, potatoes and eggplants.

Here’s what to look for: black turds, defoliation of the tender top leaves and a green caterpillar that is both fascinating and disgusting at the same same.

Usually there are many turds on a leaf or on the ground. If you see this, start looking for the hornworms, which can be up to four-inches long. They are called hornworms because they have a black “horn” on the last abdominal segment.

Handpick hornworms from infested plants and remove them from the garden.

Hornworms become a moth commonly known as a hummingbird, hawk, or sphinx moth.

screen-shot-2017-08-14-at-9-39-28-am1.png

Enter a captionDamage down by Tomato Hornworms