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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pests, Updates, and First Harvests.

Surprise. Surprise. I have pests. Up until now my biggest pest has been my dog
(Fresh potting soil is soooo delicious).

My big question is… how did they find me and how do I get them to go away.?

The other day I went out to the garden and my plants were covered with aphids. They are hungry and sticky little suckers. I have white, green and red ones. It's a rainbow of friends. I also have powdery mold and green caterpillars on the cucumbers.

Not wanting to add harsh chemical pesticides to my garden, I am experimenting with other solutions.  I originally planted marigolds around the tomatoes in order to discourage caterpillars (I learned this last year after they ravaged my tomatoes) but they haven't bloomed yet. 

One of my gardening books(Gayla Trail) has loads of recipes for homemade pesticides and moldicides. Her recipes use natural ingredients so they are safe to use around kids and pets. I have tried two of them. 

I made one solution for the mold. It was a combination of water, Murphy's Oil Soap, and baking soda. It worked well and most of the mold went away. I will have to spray again as the mold is coming back. 
Making a homemade pesticide from natural ingredients.

The aphids are very stubborn and I am trying several things to see what happens. 
1. Pesticide. I made a homemade solution of brewed coffee, thyme, and Murphy oil soap.  I'm not sure how well this worked. I am thinking that maybe my spray bottle doesn't spray enough of the solution. (I used a travel size sprayer)
2. Garlic. My mom suggested that I plant garlic around the infected areas as that worked in her garden. I stuck several cloves that I found in the fridge here and there. They are now happily growing and I am seeing less aphids in those areas.
3. Marigolds My husband said his father suggested Marigolds. Since I know that caterpillars hate them I bought a bunch of them. They are now scattered throughout the containers like little soldiers. The caterpillars are gone but aphids are still hanging out. Too bad marigolds aren't carnivorous.
4. Praying Mantis.  I haven't gone this far yet, but may buy a couple Mantis egg sacks so that they will hatch and eat all those nasty bugs. My only concern is that I'm not sure what introducing a couple thousand baby mantis to my garden will do. I'll keep you posted.

As for the garden. Things are growing. The cilantro and basil are very happy. The lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers are doing well and I have a couple small lemons developing on the tree.

The okra is sad. It is trying very hard to grow but I don't think the weather is right.  The peppers are touch and go. I moved them to more sun with less water and they seam happier. The banana pepper seems to be very happy while the other two are just hanging out waiting for conditions to improve. 
Sad okra (Left), Happy Lemon tree with lettuce (Right)

The tomatoes are doing well. I'm surprised by the hanging tomatoes. In all those "Topsy Turvy" commercials the tomatoes grow straight down. My tomatoes  are trying to defy gravity by growing up toward the sky. I thought they would just grow straight (i.e down). Is this the same reason our eucalyptus trees don't grow straight here like they do in Australia? Just a thought.

Finally the first harvest. We had a nice salad the other night with fresh lettuce. We were both surprised at how flavorful and tangy it was. About a week later I got my first cucumber. I think the pot its growing in is the main reason for its success as its self watering so the cucumbers are always getting the water they need. Growing up we tried growing cucumbers and never succeed. They were always eaten by slugs or burned by the sun.   (BTW. when I called the local nursery about buying lady bugs and praying mantis they said they also carried carnivorous slugs. They are slugs that eat all the slugs that eat your garden. Interesting.)

Fresh lettuce from the garden.

My first home grown cucumber..... ever.

Happy Gardening and tune in next time for...

Projects and resources!

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