Tomato Hornworms in the Garden

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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.

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Enter a captionDamage down by Tomato Hornworms

 

 

 

Good News, Not So Bad News, Bad News

The good news is our gardens are looking good.Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 11.09.55 AM

The not-so-bad news is there is still some septoria leaf spot and powdery mildew, so we need to stay on top of it.

Bad News

Multiple masses of squash bug eggs were found (see image below) on the underside of a patty pan squash leaf but they also will go after winter squash, zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons. Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 11.06.21 AM

These need to be removed promptly before the squash bugs hatch.

I take a tissue or paper towel and scrape the eggs off the plants.  Look for clusters of reddish eggs on the undersides of leaves and often close to the ground, but not always. Be thorough. Squash bugs can be a real pest to gardeners. They are aggressive feeders and will cause a plant to blacken and die.

If you find one cluster, examine the entire plant. There are likely to be other clusters.

Thank you, gardeners. By acting quickly, we should be able to control this pest.

 

Chafer Beetles in the Garden

While Jess was weeding in the cosmos bed, she found half–inch long beetles in the sandy soil around the roots of crabgrass and saved some for identification.

They are brown chafers. The grubs cause damage to turf  and while adults will make a few holes in our vegetable leaves they are generally not a problem to our garden plants.

Thanks Jess for your bringing this to our attention. If you find an insect and want it identified, leave it in a jar in the shed and I will do my best to find out what it is and how to deal with it.

I will take an image tomorrow. In the meantime, Google brown chafer beetle for images.

 

Planting, Harvesting and Enjoying the Garden’s Bounty

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Today was a true summer day…hot and humid.

But this didn’t slow down the young gardeners at Moreau Community Garden.  Last week we “planted” seeds in clear cups with napkins and a few cotton balls. This week we talked abut how the seeds grew. How the seed swells initially. How a single root forms and then more form. What the roots looked like…and how a seedlings first makes cotyledon (or seed) leaves before true leaves that resemble the adult plant leaf emerge.

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Once we talked about the seedlings, we planted them in bed #37 (in case you want to go and check it out) in two rows.  In a few weeks we will be picking beans from this bed.

After planting beans, we harvested nasturtium flowers, which are edible and very colorful. We also harvested scallions and sugar snap peas. A big hit! So sweet and tasty!

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But the best harvest experience of the day was definitely the early red potatoes.

Early potatoes get harvested about the time you see their flowers blooming. The flowers started last week, so this week we began to harvest.  The gardeners dug up around each plant and there were a fair number of potatoes sent back to camp headquarters where Miss Laurie is known for her great efforts preparing the garden produce for the gardeners. Kudos Laurie and a sincere Thank You.

I was told that the rapini sent back the first day was washed, cut into bite size pieces and served with ranch dressing. The whole harvest “every bite” was eaten by gardeners, some of whom never tried this green before.

Today the gardeners tried mint lemonade, and loved it.  It was cool and refreshing on such a hot day. Here’s how it is made:

1 sprig of peppermint per gallon of lemonade

Put a cup of water in a blender and add washed leaves of peppermint. Blend well on high. Then pour the liquid through a strainer to remove the big bits of peppermint leaves.  Add the strained peppermint liquid into pitcher of lemonade.

It’s good. If you haven’t tried it, ask one of the gardeners. They’ll tell you how refreshing it is.

INSECTS

There are many Japanese Beetles in the garden.  Since ours is an organic garden, our best defense is to knock the beetles off plants and into a bucket of soapy water.  The bucket and soap are in the shed. These beetles are voracious and skeletonizing leaves.

We spotted them on bean plants, rhubarb and zucchini.

Real Gardeners at Work

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Today, the young gardeners did an amazing job in the Moreau Community Garden.

Among the activities were: spotting the eggs, larvae and adult Colorado Potato Beetles.   There were dozens of these in the garden.  The eagle-eyed gardeners noticed that searching around a chewed leaf usually yielded some results.  Good detective work.

Once the eggs hatch the larvae feed on leaves and for the most part stayed clustered together chewing, chewing, chewing. They can defoliate an entire potato, tomato and pepper plant.

Once the insects were found, the gardeners removed the insects and placed them in a  jar of soapy water.

All the gardeners had the opportunity to scout for insects and among the other insects found in the garden were ants, Japanese beetles, cabbage moths, squash bugs and a grasshopper.

Seed Cups

Another activity shared in by all was the “planting” of seeds in a cup.  This came about after last week when a gardener asked about how seeds grew and what did it look like.

This experiment will show how seeds form roots and sprout.

Here’s what we did: A clear plastic cup was lined with a napkin. Seeds were placed between the cup and the napkin, cotton balls were added to the center to hold the seeds in place. The cotton balls were moistened.  Next week will be examine them for germination.

The goal is to see how the different seeds we planted start growing. If all goes well, we will plant the sprouts in the garden.

Harvesting Watermelon Radish

Over the weekend I harvested most of the watermelon radishes and roasted them with thyme for everyone to try.  It is an easy recipe of chopping the radishes into bite size pieces, coating them with olive oil and a little thyme. Cook at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.

In the garden today we harvested the remainder of the watermelon radishes and sent them back with the gardeners.  The watermelon radish is a pretty one with a bright pink interior….like its namesake.

We also planted two other varieties of radishes because I have a project in mind for everyone later in the season that involves playing with your food.  You will see.

Artists at Work

The young gardeners always have the option of drawing something about the garden in the shade of the pine trees, instead of working in the sunny garden.  Some chose to draw today but didn’t finish their masterpieces. Next week I will post the garden drawings here.

What else did we do?

We weeded and discussed what was happening in the different beds.  We planted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. And we looked over the plants. We noticed the fruits on the tomatoes, the flowers on the potatoes, and how textured the kale leaves are.

Ninety nine percent of gardening is observation. And the young gardeners working with me this summer are great at looking over the plants and noticing when something isn’t as it should be. This is the work of real gardeners and these 60 participants are already showing great  skills.

Good Work Gardeners.

What a great day in the garden – Natalie

Squash Bugs…Ugh!

SquashbugsLast season the squash bugs in the Moreau Community garden caused a lot of damage. Entire plants had to be removed, which is terrible considering all the effort we put into growing them and dreaming of the great meals we will make.

On Sunday, I spotted one of these pests in our garden.  Just as expected, since June is the month they begin to lay eggs.

Preferred Plants

If you’re growing melons, gourds, cucumber, summer squash, zucchini, pumpkins, winter squash, you will want to examine your plants closely and take action swiftly.

Squash bugs are sap-sucking insects that lay clusters of copper-colored eggs on the underside of leaves, often near the base. In garden plots like ours, hand-picking is very effective. Squish the eggs when you see them and put any adults in a jar of soapy water – jars are kept under the bulletin board. Be vigilant and check your plants each time you visit the garden.

Early action is imperative.

This is very important to do as left alone the eggs will hatch and dozens of squash bugs will begin feeding….this usually leads to plant leaves wilting and the plant dying.

The other thing to know is squash bugs will seek to hide in nearby weeds. If the pathway around your plot has weeds, remove them. This will help keep your plot healthy.

If you find you have squash bugs, an application of a 1/4 cup of Diatomaceous earth around the stalk of the plant does help. This treatment is permitted in Certified Organic vegetable production.

If you have other questions, leave them in the comments section of this post and I will answer them.

Natalie, Master Gardener and Coach for the Moreau Community Garden

Grateful it’s Raining!

I’ve been working in the garden for more than a month nonstop.  And, If it wasn’t pouring rain I’d be out today!

There is still so much to be done at the Moreau Community Garden. But there’s a lot that has been done and it is looking lovely.  When I look at the raised beds, I smile. The promise of the season lies before us and it is full of carrots, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, peas, beans, potatoes, onions, sunflowers, zinnias, salvias, nasturtiums and more … much more.

A huge, heartfelt thank you to Lena’s Greenhouses, Hewitt’s Garden Center and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs for their donations of plants. What a different it makes….and it is very much appreciated by the gardeners. Right now, there are tomato plants waiting for adoption in the wheelbarrow nearest the bulletin board. Gardeners, they are free.

Insects

We have already seen cutworms and grubs in the beds.  The grubs are likely Japanese beetles. There are many in the park and later in the season we will likely put out traps. If you find a grub…small whitish, curls into a C when touched — squish it.  If you aren’t sure what it is, leave a sample in the bug jars under the bulletin board and drop me a note. I will identify it for you. Cutworms can often be found in the soil. If the tops of your beans are chopped off, they are likely the problem. Dig around the plant they have just devoured. See if you can find it. If you do, you know what to do. (Hint: Squish.)

Frost

We had a little frost damage in the garden.  Frost turned the tips of tomato leaves black.  Lets hope that cold temperatures are behind us now.

Be Aware

In years past, we have had trouble with squash bugs in the garden. If you are growing cucurbits, keep an eye on your plants and use Neem if you spot these insects in your bed. The Neem is in the shed and can be mixed in the container left alongside it and sprayed on the plants. Sprayer is there as well.

Remember ours is an organic garden and all methods of controlling insects must be organic. If you aren’t sure, get in touch before you spray any chemicals.

Mondays

Every Monday through mid-August, gardeners are invited to gather around noon under the pines and talk about the garden (or anything else), share experiences, seeds and just get to know one another.  I will also be available anytime to answer your garden, insects, plant disease questions. You can reach me here, through the blog, or on Facebook or you can leave a note for me on the bulletin board.

Bulletin Board

The bulletin board is also the place to ask for help from other gardeners. For example, if you are going on vacation, you might post a note asking for a volunteer  to water your beds while you are away.

Thanks. I hope to see you in the garden, Natalie