First Aid for the Garden

Sharon's watercolors make Trowel & Error an even more charming book!

Cucumber beetles, those dastardly, yellow, ladybug-sized pests that don't stop eating a plant until it is dead, have arrived in our garden. Last year they were in such great flocks, clouds really, that control was useless. The alternate host is said to be the corn rootworm larvae but information is murky. I've tried everything with these pests including yellow sticky traps with little soil-soaked cottonballs (soaked with oils of allspice and bay rum, which is claimed to attract them to the sticky trap, see below). Last year someone suggested that I call an exterminator and spray the entire garden. I try to be ORGANIC, so no thanks to that. Someone suggested a vacuum cleaner. Imagine trying to suck up a dust storm with a vacuum cleaner!

This year we're starting early. First, the sticky traps with allspice and bay rum oils. A few pests hatch from the soil early, breed like rabbits, then lay eggs and die, which means the main bug crop is coming, coordinated with the sprouting of cucumber, squash and related plants, which they attack near the base of the stem and eat. So I'm turning to Sharon Lovejoy's amazing book, Trowel and Error and using some of her suggestions.

Sharon's books are always a delight to read. She has a charming, childlike amazement at every living thing and translates those wonders through her joyful books and art. In this book she gives a recommendation of items every gardener should have in their garden first-aid kit (or as Sharon dubbed it, "The Gardeners Apothecary" which sounds much more gentle than First-Aid).

Sharon suggests several methods of attack. One, a basil sun-tea, which you brew up in the sunshine, combine with soap (not detergent) and spray on the cucumber beetles.

On the next page of Sharon's Dispensary, you'll read how fermented salmon repels deer and chipmunks, and how flour (white but not self-rising) sprinkled on plants deters grasshoppers. Other household ingredients such as honey, rubbing alcohol, petroleum jelly, liquid soap, vinegar and many others are important to have in your arsenal for protecting your garden plants.
You'll learn why soap makes a good insect control for certain pests in the garden.
Here's a formula from Sharon's book that makes the entire rest of the book worthwhile, IF there was nothing else in it!

One of our methods we use here at Long Creek Herb Farm to help control the early cucumber beetles are sticky traps, baited with allspice and bay rum oils. The cups are covered with Tree Tanglefoot, then the oils added. (Yellow sticky traps attract and trap flea beetles from tomatoes and egg plants, too, and with the addition of the oils, the cucumber beetles think it's tasty - until they are trapped, that is).
Yellow cup, covered with Tree Tanglefoot, baited with allspice and bay rum attracts insect pests.
For some really good, inexpensive and organic methods for pest control in your garden this year, you need this book. And if you haven't found Sharon's blog yet, visit her there, as well (or on the Lowe's Garden Blog, where she also posts). You can order Trowel and Error, as well as her other books on her website.
Sharon Lovejoy's fanciful watercolors reveal her sweet spirit, and bring her books to life for adults and children, alike.

Happy gardening, and may your garden be free of cucumber beetles this season!


Mississippi in May

Magnolia blossom.
All along the mighty Mississippi, flooding. Those 20 inches of rain we had in 12 days here, eventually wound up in some farmer's backyard, down around Vicksburg, MS. I'm sorry for the people who have had to move, or had everything washed away.

My reason for being in Mississippi this past week was for the Mississippi State Master Gardeners Conference in Ellisville, MS. Driving down, I could hear masses of locust in the timber along the roadsides. But the scent in the air was of magnolias in bloom. Along the highways the native magnolias were showing off, their dinner plate-sized blossoms waving at the passing traffic. If you've not smelled magnolias in bloom, its a heady smell, a soothing, relaxing fragrance that will almost lull you to sleep. I sometimes add magnolia blossoms, dried, to bath blends.

Ladies having a flower arranging session.
I arrived the day before the conference so I could set up my table of wares and check out where I was to speak. These folks were having a great time with a flower arranging class.
The roses were donated by a local grower, the Mills Rose Nursery. This is one of the creations of the class.
Upon arriving at my motel room a few miles away in Laurel, MS, I found a gift basket. It contained an assortment of snacks and a jar of blueberry preserves and one of plum jelly, both homemade by members of the Jones County Master Gardeners. What a great welcome. Folks down South show such generous and warm hospitality!
One of my programs was, "Eat Your Landscape" where I talk about all of the perennials and shrubs (and water garden plants) you may not think of as food, but which you can make good meals from. I had lots of slides in my KeyNote program to demonstrate what I was talking about. This was my audience, in a very nice auditorium.
It may not look like it, but there's quite a bunch of folks up there, and some along the sides.
It's hard to see me there amongst the roosters and paintings but if you look real close in the middle, next to the rooster, I'm there. The projection screen behind me was partially hidden but what you don't see is above my head is a giant screen, too.
Roosters seemed to be the theme of the very impressive stage display the gardeners had created.
The group's creativity was everywhere. The Jones County Master Gardeners were the hosts for the rest of the state.
Another display by the Master Gardeners. I always like taking pics of masks.
A small portion of the rose fields at Mills Rose Nursery.
The Mills family grows roses for the wholesale and retail trade. From what I could tell, the rootstock for their award-winning roses is jasmine. I didn't even know you could graft a rose onto jasmine rootstock! I didn't bring back any roses for my garden as the Mills' said they probably wouldn't be hardy for me here.
Good food!
Like all plant conferences and herb events, the food was very good. The facility where the conference was held, also is host to a culinary school, and we reaped the benefits.
Jan Knight was the winner of my bentwood trellis.
My second program was, "Making a Bentwood Trellis for Your Garden" and Jan Knight won the drawing for the trellis. Several others said if Jan couldn't get it in her car, they'd take it home.
Robert St. John is owner of several restaurants in Hattiesburg, MS
The keynote program was given by a local hero, Robert St. John. His quirky, down home newspaper columns have a huge following in Mississippi, and rightly so. He had no idea what Master Gardeners were all about, but proceeded to entertain us for the entire evening with his stories of his children's most embarrassing moments, as well as his own. His tales of being a restauranteur and all around foodie were fun. He also told how he had visited an Alice Waters' program a few years back and came home inspired to grow as much of his own produce for his 3 restaurants as possible. He bought 2 acres and the first crop he planted was a 100 ft. row of summer squash. He explained that as a novice gardener, he had no idea they would produce so much, or keep producing for months.
The smells of honeysuckle added to the magnolia air.
I was blessed with a wonderful helper, Kay, and lots of hosts and kind people. Merry Beth Tigert was my guide to being there and I got to see great folks from past trips to Mississippi as well as meet lots of new friends, as well.  Those Mississippi folks really know how to make a northerner feel welcome!


Baker Creek Spring Garden Festival

One tiny corner of the Seed Store.

It's always fun to go to the Baker Creek Festivals but it's the spring festival I look forward to the most. Lots of plant vendors have great varieties of vegetables, herbs, berries and fruit plants for sale. This year I took my Red Flyer wagon so I didn't have to carry everything. Unfortunately, it rained and was chilly both days, which made it pretty miserable for the people with booths.

Booths cover the hillside leading up to Bakerville.
They were expecting about 25,000 people but the days and days of constant rains kept the numbers lower. Still, people came, they shopped and had fun.

Across from the Seed Store is the garden in the center, and the restaurant, apothecary and store.
It's actually pretty amazing that this town, Bakerville, didn't exist just 5 years ago. If you could see to the left of the photo, pretty far to the left, is the old farmhouse where Jere and his wife, Emilee, live. The town square is built in what would have been their front yard, or front field.
This is Jere Gettle, whose vision it is to create an old-time country town. One of the requirements for being a vendor, or a speaker at the festivals, is to be in period costume. Jere's outfit is always interesting, often bizarre, but always fun.
I don't know this character's name, but he's always a fixture of the festivals. He's a good musician, and changes costumes, and characters, about every 2 hours. He keeps everyone laughing.
The Tomato Meter offers a comparison for tomato sizes.
One of the interesting things I saw at the festival was this Tomato Meter. Dan, the inventor, said people used to give him a blank stare when he'd say that a black cherry tomato was the size of a large marble. Or that a patio tomato was the size of a golf ball. So he put together this Tomato Meter, so people can actually visualize the sizes of the tomatoes they will produce on the plants he sells them.
I don't know the number of booths, but several large tents were filled, as well as rows and rows of vendors in tents. I didn't see everything, somehow I missed an entire tent.
Hank Will and Karen Keb
This is Hank Will, editor of Grit magazine, and his wife, Karen Keb, editor of The Heirloom Gardener magazine (you'll find my regular columns there, under the name of The Heirloom Herbalist; you can get a sample issue here). They were giving a program on the many varieties of corn. You can see one of my bentwood trellises in the background. I'd given my program just before theirs.
There are lots of music groups playing in various parts of the festival. Jerry Van Dyke played and sang on Sunday. Every hour of the festival you could sit and listen to several groups playing in several locations.
This young fellow was tuning up his washboard, getting ready to go on stage.
I don't know how you tune up a washboard, but this fellow seemed to know exactly what he was doing.
People who attend the festival, get into costuming, as well.
Our friend Robbins, who sells plants. She came from Osceola, Mo, near where I grew up.
People come from pretty much the entire U.S. You'll find vendors and customers, too, from every state.
The groups that perform at the festival are very talented and fun to listen to.
Baker Creek Seed is helping organize the National Heirloom Exposition, to be held at the Sonoma, CA County Fairgrounds, Sept. 13-15. It's shaping up to be a pretty amazing event, combining seed companies, chefs, organic organizations and lots more. I'm pleased to be one of the speakers!
This young fellow's job seemed to be guarding the wagon, which he was doing very well.
So I'm off to Mississippi for the Mississippi State Master Gardeners Festival. My programs are, "Eat Your Landscape" and "Make a Bentwood Trellis for Your Garden." Here's a plug for my book, in case you want one.
Happy gardening!