Insects like the same plants we humans do. When I planted sesame, it came with its own pest, a worm that ate the insides of the seed pods. When I planted brown and yellow mustards for seed, they, too, came with their own insect pests.
We into the season of flea beetles on eggplant, aphids on tomatoes and potato beetles on potatoes. Some pests, like aphids on tomatoes, spread fungus and wilt. So this week we began spraying weekly with super fine oil spray, alternating with Safer Soap spray. Additionally, I had Adam making sticky cup traps for placing next to the eggplants and tomatoes. In just 2 days the yellow cups had attracted hundreds of flea beetles and aphids.
The system is simple. I cut some stakes about 15 inches long. Wearing rubber gloves, Adam covered the outsides of the yellow plastic cups with Taglefoot (available in most garden and hardware stores). Once covered on the outside, he attached the cup, lamp shade style, over the end of the stakes already driven in the ground next to each plant. With a thumbtack pushed through the bottom of the cup into the stake, the trap was complete. The traps will have to be replaced with new ones in two or three weeks. The traps cut down on the pest population very quickly and the spraying keeps them under control.
It's amazing what progress can be made in a few days. I'm late getting things planted this year, mostly due to the constant rains and chilly weather. Seeded crops like beans, gourds, loofahs, squashes, are usually planted in mid April. It's mid May this time but with the ground temperatures unusually cool, it's just as well. Stressed at being late and hurrying to get ready for a garden writers conference here in June, I dug planting holes and wrenched my arm, wrist, shoulder and wound up in a sling and brace.
Just in time, to the rescue, came our WWOOFer, Adam Mihalik! He's a remarkable young man of 23 who wants to learn about herbs, herb growing and cooking, from the ground up. He has a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree from Baltimore and prior experience in production farming. While I babied my arm and gave directions, he managed to plant: tomatoes, peppers, 3 kinds of soybeans, cumin, fenugreek, caraway, calendula, squash, gourds, loofahs, eggplants, basils and a dozen other things in just mere days. One handed, it would have taken me weeks.
Stress has eased up for me, arm is better and I'm not feeling like I'm drowning when I look at the calendar. (WOOFers, if you recall, are Willing Workers On Organic Farms, volunteers who work in exchange for learning; last year Gabe from Bellingham, WA WOOFed with us). If you're interested in being a WWOOFer anywhere in the world, check the link.
We saw our first monarch butterfly today and this one looks like it ran into very tough weather between S. America and Long Creek Herb Farm. Battered, bruised, most of its color gone, it still has life. Asclepias, butterfly weed, may be its favorite place to lay eggs, but it was enjoying the nectar from my white chives that I got from Ricthers Herbs last season. Later I found him or her (how do you tell the gender of a butterfly?) in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket, nearly drowning in a bit of water left from Josh watering the pepper plants he'd just put in the ground.
I rescued the monarch and put her in a pot to dry her wings. In a couple of minutes she was out, nearly dry and off on another adventure. For something that looks so fragile, they are certainly tough to make the flight back home in time to mate and lay eggs.
Monarchs live for only 5-6 weeks, but in the fall a special generation of the butterfly hatches. These, dubbed the Methuselah generation, can live for 7 - 8 months and these are the ones which come fly to central Mexico for the winter and return to us each year to start another generation. Learn the whole story here. I wonder why she chose the white chives over the purple ones? Maybe milder flavor (think honey and onions!)
(Jere Gettle, founder of Baker Creek Seed, and wife, Emilee)
We spent the weekend at Bakersville, the 2 year old, old-timey town built around Baker Creek Seed. This was the Spring Garden Festival, which grows bigger each year, and saw 5,000 people attending.
It's an amazing place, focusing on heirloom plants and responsible gardening practices and the festival had several very good speakers, along with many, many booths with plants, garden gadgets, foods, tools and more. My program was on making bentwood trellises and it was well received.
One of the other speakers was Jessica Walliser, author of Good Bug, Bad Bug, one of the best quick references to insects in the garden that I've seen. If you want to know quickly, whether to stomp that garden bug, or pet it on the back, this is the book for you. Jessica reminded me that I was her mentor at the First-Timer's reception at the Garden Writers of America conference this past summer. You might enjoy reading her garden blog and seeing what she grows, which you can find from her website.