Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bugs & Mold: Solving some common garden problems

 My garden has bugs.
Not the little fly things or even nasty aphids.
I have cutworms.  And they are pure evil!!!

They come along, and chew up the leaves. Most of the time,  they chew the leaves off the steam, and the plant dies. It's been a bit depressing!

See the whole sections of carrots missing? That's because of the bugs!!! And that powder... I'll talk about that later.

I realize I haven't written about anything in a while. I'm trying to figure out what I've been doing the last month... I went up to the mountain with my dad for the last few days of the season. It had been ten years since I skied. It hurt and was super fun at the same time. I had a ladies night with my sister and cousin. My husband and I went up to Washington for a while to see his parents and sister. We rearranged our living room, and have been hanging out with people a LOT! It's a good life!

As far as home making stuff, I have been trying to spring clean the house and clean up our extra room (from when we thought we were moving and had started packing. Ya, it's a disaster.) I've been discovering and using essential oils around the home, but that's for another post. Really, I've mostly been focused on getting rid of these bugs! And a strange mold I found on my seedlings!

I love gardening, but between the bugs, and mold, and then my zucchini freezing, gardening has been very sad and difficult.

Then this little guy showed up...

... and gave me some HOPE!
This is a brand new pumpkin plant!
(He's got some little cracks. I'm not sure why, but constantly checking on him to make sure he's okay.) 

I wanted to grow pumpkins, but it didn't look like I'd have room in the raised beds. So, we bought a whisky barrel from a lady on Craig's List.
The other thing was, I didn't want to buy a whole seed packet to sprout one seed for a pumpkin. That's when the lovely Darina Davidson stepped in. We sent each other a bunch of seeds in the mail, and this is one she sent. 
I HIGHLY recommend having a seeds swap pen pal! :)

So, are you wondering what to do about the bugs? It's frustrating, isn't it?
Some of my garden is on its 3rd planting, just because the bugs are so bad this year! But don't worry. I now have back up, and I will share with you what I did.

For tiny bugs, like aphids, I found an interesting mixture of
garlic and chili powder, steeped overnight, strain into a sprayer with a little castile or murphy's oil soap, then spray on. It's a repellent!

When doing this search, I misread something involving vinegar as a bug repellent. DO NOT use vinegar on plants! They WILL DIE!!! I found this out the hard way, and killed most of my first planting. That being said, vinegar and water is a great weed killer for those buggers in your gravel.

So, the chili mixture wasn't working great for the cutworm problem, and more and more plants were disappearing! (If it hadn't been raining so much, it may have worked better, I realize.) I had a second planting coming up, then I went to Washington, and they were all gone! This is when I got serious.

After talking to the awesome guy at our local indoor garden shop, Meg-n-Grow (close to Fred Meyers, in the same plaza as Zooka Kids Dental, for you local Bendites,) he showed me various sprays, and told me some tricks. 
First off, I bought some Captain Jacks Deadbug Brew. I know, right!? It's just about as awesome as the name implies. They nibble, they die! And it's organic.

He then told me I should also get some Diatomacious Earth. 
He's so cool and knows so much! They didn't sell that stuff, but told me where I could and what it would do to help kill the bugs and keep things organic.

So, I go over to Ace Hardware, and ask the lady at the counter where I could find Diatomacious Earth. Conversation as follows...

Check out lady, in a country voice: "Di-to-na-cious!? I never even heard-a that! Hey Jack, have you ever heard-a Di-to-na-cious Earth? Do we ever have that!?"
Good old Jack was able to tell us exactly where it was.

Diatomacious Earth, or DE, is a naturally occurring rock powder. You sprinkle on the dirt around your plants, and when the bugs crawl across, it cuts them as well as dehydrates them, and they die. (And that's the less graphic version! I'll spare you more details.) It's kind gross, I know. But this is our food for the summer, and this means war! 

You should know DE is totally natural, organic, and non-toxic,  and even found in some toothpastes! Because the method of killing the bugs is physical, and not chemical, it's much safer and there's no build up of tolerance or pollution, (like Round-Up. Yuck!)


Okay, moving on to gross thing number two...
My seedlings have developed mold on top of the soil. I'm pretty sure I got some in a bag of potting soil. But by the time I realized it, I had use almost all of it. <Sigh>
So, I've been trying to replant almost everything. I need to clean up the old pots, and maybe bleach them. If you know a safer, more natural way to clean mold off pots, I am all ears! Please post a comment below!!

As for the plants, the best thing to do is scrape the nastiness off the top, then repot with as little of the old soil as possible. I've had really good success with this so far.

Another thing, check your watering! If you are watering the soil too much, that gives the perfect environment for mold to grow. On some of the littler guys, I've been misting directly where the root goes into the ground, and not the whole little pot. That's been helping too. I really didn't want to put anything on the mold because I didn't want to harm the plants. I'm sure there's stuff out there you could do. One thing I saw was misting chamomile tea on it. (Do some more research on this if that's what you're going to do.)

One more anti-mold idea: mold loves stagnant air. Air flow creates an environment that mold doesn't like, so I put a little fan on the lowest setting towards my plants. It's not going all the time, but especially on warm or muggy days, this is a very good thing.

Garden Update

I had a lot of bad gardening issues happen at once, but hopefully the worst is behind us.
Most of my gardening is starting to look good again, thankfully. 

Other than my new pumpkin, my most exciting garden news is that my leaf lettuce in a pot has gone crazy, and is already eating size! When did that happen? It sure has loved this clouds and rainy weather we've had.

Grand Rapids Leaf Lettuce, ready for munching!

And soon I will have my first strawberry, with a few others close behind!

And my other seedlings are looking good too. I have other squash starts to replace the ones that died tragically. Now, I'm really glad I planted so many, and didn't give them all away.

 Yes, this is all on my kitchen table. Apparently, we use it less than we thought anyway!

Sweetie Tomatoes! Started from seed, and looking good!
Another few weeks, and these will be going outside to a raised bed.

And outside in the beds, the radishes are starting to come up again... for the third time. 
Again... <sigh>  But they're looking good. I just keep sprinkling the DE and Deadbug Brew. Bugs, stay away!!!  These plant guys are looking so cute.

So, all in all, things are looking better, as soon I replant the squash, it'll be looking good.

I will try to post more recipes soon. I'm still in the planning stage for which of my favorites to include, so be watching for that! 

Hope you all are having a happy spring!
If you haven't yet, get those seeds and starts out there soon! You've still got some time depending on what you plan on growing.

As always, happy planting!

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