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.

Growing Buckwheat to Improve Soils

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This is the second crop of buckwheat growing in the area where we will likely add new garden plots next season.  Soon, this field will be blooming in white and buzzing with honeybees.

Gardeners have asked what does buckwheat do for us?

It improves it by providing quick cover and suppressing weeds, it attracts good insects,  and it makes otherwise unavailable phosphorus available.

“The roots of the plants produce mild acids that release nutrients from the soil. These acids also activate slow-releasing, organic fertilizers, such as rock phosphate. Buckwheat’s dense, fibrous roots cluster in the top 10 inches of soil, providing a large root surface area for nutrient uptake,” a publication of the Cooperative Extension system. Complete article: https://articles.extension.org/pages/18572/buckwheat-for-cover-cropping-in-organic-farming

We will be tilling the buckwheat into our soil to add organic matter. The nutrients will enrich and enhance what we have. In the meantime, honeybees and other beneficial insects  such as hover flies, predatory wasps, lady beetles visit the buckwheat and help maintain the garden’s health.

Bad News for Tomato Hornworms, Good News for Us

Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 7.30.40 AMWhat are those white ovals on this tomato hornworm found in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens?

They are the pupating cocoons of braconid wasps and a welcome sight in the garden. The wasp is a beneficial parasite that lays its eggs on the hornworm.

As they grow, they feed on the hornworm. Once the wasps emerge, the hornworm dies and the wasps look for another hornworm to repeat the cycle.

It is good to see our gardens are a good habitat for the wasp, which will help us keep tomato hornworms out of the garden.

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:
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These are the eggs they lay on the underside of leaves.
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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.

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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.

 

Cutworms Found after Chewing through the base of a Pepper Plant

cutwormWhen a gardener asked me to look at their pepper plant that had died in a day, I had my suspicions on who might be involved.

“It was growing nicely and the following morning was wilted,” he said.

Cutworms. These are the larvae of a variety of  different night-flying moths. And while the moths differ the modus operandi is the same.

A healthy robust plant dies overnight. Upon inspection, the stem is severed near the base.

Cutworms feed on a wide variety of plants including peppers, beans, lettuces, carrots, cabbage, corn or tomatoes. If you think your plant has been attacked, move the earth around the base and look for two things:

1 – A cut right through the stem where it was chewed at the base or just below the soil line.

2 – The culprit who did it. Cutworms don’t flee the scene and can often be found at the base of the plant hiding in the soil within a foot of the plant. Sure enough, the inch-and-a-half caterpillar pictured above was curled up in the soil.

If you find them, you can squish them or throw them in soapy water. But don’t leave them. They have pretty big appetites.

To protect your remaining plants from other cutworms, make a 4-inch collar from a toilet paper roll sliced open and place it around the base of the stem.  I stick it in the soil about an inch or so and let the rest circle the stem.

Another trick it to sprinkle coffee grounds, crushed egg shells bits or diatomaceous earth around the plants.

 

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Trapping Cucumber Beetles By Mimicking a Flower

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That is a cucumber beetle and they can do a lot of damage.  I found them in the garden this morning and took immediate action.
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Cucumber beetles are found on squash, pumpkins, and melons and feed on the plant’s leaves, vines and fruits.  One organic approach is to trap them and this morning I made a trap that mimics the blossom of squash.

Here’s what I did.  I used a yellow plastic cup, a garden stake, and a container of Tanglefoot, a very sticky substance used to trap insects.

I cut a hole in the cup and pushed the stake through. Then I used a brush to coat the exterior and interior of the cup with Tanglefoot.

I placed the trap in the bed where I saw the most cucumber beetles and within minutes trapped one.  Now I will monitor the trap and see what we catch. Let’s hope this is enough to keep the beetles at bay.

If you want to make one of these for your plot in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens, let me know. I have everything you need.Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 1.18.19 PM.png

UPDATE: Eleven cucumbers beetles were trapped the first day.

July 8 – Over 100 cucumber beetles were trapped in one plot with these cups.