What struck my garden last year

9 06 2013

It seems you can’t go through a garden season without some kinda bug, disease or fungus occupying some of your time.  And good for that!  How boring would gardening be if you just had to water and stand back. Now, that said, I was pretty passive with all the stuff that was happenning last year.  I am curious to see how that will effect their presence in the garden this year.

Luckily, most bugs have homemade brews that range in usefulness from deterrent to stone cold killa.  Over winter, I found a FANTASTIC book with a variety of spray recipes.  Once I start to see some trouble back there, I’ll get those recipes and put them up here so you could give them a try if needed.

Sure it’s a bummer to watch your healthy huge broccholi leaves slowly get chomped down by cabbage loafers, but dang it!  Those tiny bugs become food for birds and the broccholi had already been harvested so it was more an aesthetic problem anyways.  Cabbage loapers are green “catepillar” looking things that turn into the white moths.  Last year, they just appeared endemic around Edmonton.  They had a bit of a feast on my sunflowers too I think.  Want to avoid these bad boys guaranteed?  Well, floating row covers will stop the moths from laying their eggs on the plants and keep them away.  And after you harvest your brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprout), just get those bad boys down, and toss them in the compost.  That would help to keep the loapers from giving them MORE food.  The good thing about cabbage loapers is that they only eat those thick brassica leaves and don’t hit other plants with thinner leaves.

On the bottom of my haskup berries, I found a few Spittle Bugs.  I like these things; not because they eat your leaves.  I like them cause they looked like a row of truckers came past your plants and hork all over them.  They are quite easy to find, and easier to deal with.  A quick hard spray with a pressed garlic concoction or just squish them off the plants with a gloved hand.  A recent book I read on urban farming recommended just squishing virtually every bug bigger than a few millimeters in your garden.  That would certainly deal with individuals; and, nothing like a little  “killer practice”.  Ultimately, that may not be for the most squimish but it certainly gets rid of individuals.  UPDATE: Just saw my first spittle bug spit of the year.  Don’t worry.  I…… took “care” of it.

Slugs.  Damn slugs.  They came for the haskups as well.  And later in the season, I found them, in large numbers contentedly sitting under the plant.  You can find slugs around, seemingly any plant with green leaves though I must say that they congregated in only one bed.  Dealing with slugs?  I didn’t.  I was a fool as I found their shiney tracks on chomped leaves.  Next year, I know where they will hide and I’m hitting them with EVERYTHING.  Drowning them in beer traps (a man’s wonderful dream, but a slug’s nightmare), that’ll kill ’em.  Copper tape around the plants I really want to protect will give them a little shock if they crawl on it but a quick note on that: Copper tape at garden centres is 19$ but copper scrubbs for the kitchen are only 3$.  I do not understand why the price difference and, if necessary I’ll test the 3$ option to see if they work as well..  Putting a 2×4 in the garden will make a nice little spot for them to hide under.  Slugs prefer the cool and dark of late evening night.  I’ve seen them gather on sunny days under 2x4s and they’re easy to pick off but that is not nearly fool proof.  As slugs like it moist and out of direct sun, I will probably limit my mulch around the haskups this year to keep if that’ll do something to limit slugs.  Finely ground egg shells are supposed to work quite well also if they’re sprinkled around plants (as a tip; sprinkling 1/2 a cup around a tomato plant will also give a SLOW calcium release which does a LOT to help limit blossom end rot on those plants (a plant killing disease that is not uncommon in tomatoes).

Between the slugs, spittle bugs and powdery mildew, it’s no wonder the haskups looked like death.  Powdery mildew looks like a light dusting of flour on your plants.  My haskup berries and my nine bark in the front bed had it going on HARD. Besides  the dusting, leaves would curl a bit and look quite unhealthy. There doesn’t appear to be a TONNE you can do with it.  A 1 part milk 9 part water sprayed is recommended.  As is a baking soda (1T) and soap (5mL) mixture with water (1L).

At the same time, that was last year.  This is this year.  So far, everything looks quite healthy (though the season is early).  I appreciate how every year brings a new “Particularly bad” or “Particularly good” for different vegetables or bugs.  It’s a pain, but it reminds me that from plants to bugs to humans, we are all hurtling through space at 30 km/second.

One last BIG tip for you tomato lovers: In my experience, trouble happens with those plants from the bottom up.  My guess was that the water, hitting the soil would bounce the “baddies” up into the bottom leaves.  So, at the LEAST I would recommend that you cut off the bottom few branches (if you look at pictures of large scale tomato growers, they have about a foot off the ground with no branches).  But, and in my experience this worked AWESOME, it would be BEST to mulch under your tomato plants.  I put straw underneath last year and it REALLY helped.  So, prevention is 9/10ths of the battle.

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