Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When I Get There

Kiddo and I always have the best conversations while driving.

Kiddo: "When I'm older, when I am a men (yes he says "men" no matter how much I correct him), I'm going to finish 12th grade, and you're going to get me a present. It's a sunflower and a bluebonnet, and when I finish 12th grade, we're going to go to a field and get the sunflower, and then we'll go to another field and get the bluebonnet. What happens after 12th grade? {Me: You go to College} What happens after college? {Me: You graduate and get a job.} What's a job? {It's where you work and make money.} I'm going to work with boats. I'm going to draw boats, and create boats."

Does this mean I am off the hook for a new car?? ;-)


Oh my garden!! It is going bonkers. We have zucchini coming every day and lots of green beans as well. I finally have some tomatoes showing up and there are several ears of corn maturing. We also have about 10-15 cucumbers on the vines. Here is the deal though - there are so many pests! I am amazed at how rapidly they show up and multiply. Where were they all before??? How do they know I have a garden???

I am trying to do this whole garden thing with as little "treatment" as possible. I actually lucked out in a number of areas; planting the corn, green beans and zucchini together is an old Indian method of planting. Apparently the three veggies work together to keep each other healthy. Planting the basil near the tomatoes is another good way of "companion gardening"{by the way, I found that book at Garden Ridge for $3.99!!}. My pot of basil sits right next to my tomato plants. Next time I am going to plant even more "companions" and be a little smarter about how I plant.

So the pests - of course I have talked about the squash bugs; they have taken over the zucchini. Thankfully though the plants are strong enough to produce quite a lot, despite the infestation, and it isn't affecting the veggies at all. I am taking out the bugs I find, and adding more dirt to the injured stalks. They re-root really well. I am now also seeing cucumber beetles, both spotted and striped, on the cucumbers and corn, as well as some aphids attacking the dill. I have also found cabbage worms on the brussel sprouts. In all though, these pests aren't really harming the plants much, they are more a nuisance than anything. However, I am worried about the corn. I believe it has corn earworms, though I have only actually seen 2. The silks on the corn are completely gone at the top and something has been doing business in there for sure. I don't know if the ears are salvageable or not. We shall see.

I knew something was munching on my tomatoes, and it had to be big because it wasn't just leaving holes in the leaves, it was eating whole branches. But I never saw anything when I looked. Then, while out in the garden yesterday though, I came across this beauty...
Isn't he/she gorgeous?!? I didn't have the heart to kill him/her. I hate doing it anyway with the other pests, but I know I have to or they will eat everything. But this one, gosh he/she is just so darn pretty, and so big! I just couldn't do it. I collected him/her in a jar, did a little photo shoot {wink} {the natives were not amused}
and left him/her on my back porch. By this morning that branch of tomato plant you see in the picture - it was completely gone. You should have seen the caterpillar, uh, turds it left behind!! Fascinating! Now I wish I had a picture of that... Anyway, today I took him/her out in the front and set him/her loose near our driveway. I figure there is a very slim chance of it making it all the way back to my garden, and most likely a hungry bird will do my dirty work for me. Or, better yet he/she will find a place to pupate and a beautiful Carolina Sphinx moth. Uh oh, I just read the moths feed on tomatoes too. Better go look for him. *sigh* sign of it. Hopefully one of our annoying birds took care of it.

So anyway, back to the tomato plants. They were not producing fruit at all. They would bloom and then the flowers would turn brown and drop off. I have been reading and searching and trying to find an answer and everything I was finding said that it was probably too hot for them to produce. I was so sad - to think I had all these gorgeous, thriving tomato plants and wouldn't get any broke my heart. Cuz Lord knows it ain't getting any cooler here any time soon! Then I came across some obscure post on some obscure forum and this one person mentioned that someone told her to water her tomatoes with apple juice. The thought simmered in my brain for a few days and after not finding anything else about remedying the situation I thought, "why not?". So I took one of Kiddo's juice boxes and poured it into a gallon jug and filled it with water and used it to water my tomato plants. Would you believe, not 3 days later I saw my first tomato?!? Now, I'm not saying the apple juice worked, but I can say that the blooms that opened up the day after I used it were much brighter and bigger than the ones that came before. So maybe it did work...

So to combat the pests I picked up a copy of Jerry Baker's Backyard Problem Solver (Half Price Books ROCKS!) and I am trying his "Knock 'em Dead Insect Spray". It is a fragrant concoction of garlic, onion, water and cayenne pepper. I would much rather use something like that than even the "organic" pesticides sold in nurseries. Keep in mind that even "organic" items are often toxic in some form, so I would rather use ingredients I can find in my kitchen than spend big bucks on organic pesticides. Hopefully it works.

OH! And another amazing discovery - If you live just about anywhere in Texas you are all too familiar with ants, especially Fire Ants. We have them everywhere and they can rapidly take over your yard. I hate buying all the chemicals and such that honestly do nothing more than make the mound move 10 feet from where it was. We usually buy Ortho, which is quite pricey, and time and again we have to retreat the mounds every year. Well with a new back yard munchkin going in and out this summer (Port) I didn't want him encountering Ortho granules, especially since he has a fascination with eating dirt. I did a little research and came across some natural methods of fire ant killing. Of course there were all kinds of suggestions so I put a couple together and tried it out. Basically, I mix cornmeal with grits (uncooked) and sprinkle it on the mound.

I have to say I was skeptical. I really didn't think it would work. I mean, if it really is that simple, why do people spend so much $$ on the expensive chemicals?!?

Well my friends, it WORKS. And let me tell you, the mound doesn't move somewhere else. The ants die. Dead, dead, dead. And so far they haven't come back. I have used it several times in several locations and it really only takes a day or two and they are GONE.

Bag of Cornmeal - $ .95
Container of Grits - $ .99
No fire ants in the back yard and no chemicals in the dirt - PRICELESS!

Try it!

Well the baby is up from his nap. Gotta go.

D :)


Julia said...

I will have to pick my grandparents' brains about how they keep the pests under control. They've been gardening since the dawn of time, and they keep that backyard garden oasis organic (no pesticides of any kind). To keep birds from pecking away the large fruits once they form, they hang CDs on strings.

J. Nalley said...

I am SOOO trying the ant thing! We used to try the natural methods..boiling water was one, but if you've seen our yard you know the water was cold by the time I got to the mound! :-)

Barb said...

I am with you on the chemicals - so freaking expensive. We use Deer Off - its a mix of rotten eggs and pepper - not really something we want to make at home. So that was at least worth the money!

I am impressed with your knowledge of bugs are are you googling them? :O)

I don't think the ants can digest the corn meal - so thats why they die - don't remember where I read that one...

jhjohnstone said...

Sounds like you are a great gardener! You may already be doing this, but don't forget about the squash bug eggs. They lay groups of tiny, yellowish-brown colored eggs on the underside of the leaves in a very symmetrical pattern. You can greatly reduce the number of squash bugs if you hunt and take out the groups of eggs. We cut out just the portion of the leaf with the eggs and then squish the eggs with a rock on a board.


Jenn said...

Hmm...lots of great info here! I may have to swipe the recipe/ratio of the garlic mixture from you. We are pretty lucky and don't have lots of critters just yet, but I'm seeing more and more moths, and I'm pretty sure we have aphid damage. Good to hear the cornmeal trick-I'm with you, I don't like to do that Ortho stuff anymore. AND-I'm trying the applejuice trick! My only tomatoes that are producing now are my cherries. My two other plants are HUGE, but no fruit. Maybe this'll do it!

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