alpine flowers at Grey Rock

Monday, May 31, 2010

Pest of the Month

Spittle Bug! The rather disgusting wad of spit on this weed is the nest of a small beige, green, or yellow insect. The foam is where it lays its eggs and protects them with the wet glob. Gross, HUH? Diatomaceous Earth works well on drying the wad of spit out and ultimately the bug and eggs. A hard shot of water will slow them down. Hand picking them out of the moist glob works, though only a true gardener may want to do this!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Question came in about how to deal with aphids. The good news is you have plenty of nitrogen in your soil, so your plants attract aphids. The bad news is, you don't want to eat the bugs. So, here are a few options for dealing with aphids... A triage for any pest that you can do first is spray cold water. Most pests hate it and it is something you can do without any special equpiment or purchase. You can wash off quite a few and slow down there success rate. There are various soaps for dealing with them such as Safer's which you use to wash them off the leaves and the soap actually melts their soft bodies. Sometimes the soap is too strong for certain plants, so you must be careful. You can use diatomaceous earth, D.E., which pokes holes in their bodies and dries them up, but also is all over your herbs you'd like to use, so not the best case scenario there, but handy for other instances. You can spray with an insecticidal oil like Neem which smothers them and prevents future inhabitants, but must be reapplied every week or so to prevent more from coming. Neem will not hurt you or beneficial bugs, but needs to be washed off before using herbs or everything will taste like Neem! You could spray with Pyganic, a pyrethrum(African Daisy) based pesticide, if you are heavily infested. Spray soil, too. This will kill EVERYBODY, spiders, bees, and other beneficials it touches, so not to be taken lightly. The most fun way to deal with aphids is with ladybugs. They are available at many garden centers or through catalogs like "Bugs Alive!" Let go of a few at a time and let them devour the soft bodied pests in your area. After they eat everything there, they move off to better feeding grounds, so wait a week and let go of some more, especially after a watering as they come out of dormancy(you keep them in the refrigerator) hungry and thristy. Hope this helps. Aphids are worst in spring and fall and not as much of a problem in hot, dry times.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Weed of the Month

Plantain! Many people work hard to keep this plant out of their lawns. I try to keep one in some corner somewhere that I know about as I use it as a drawing herb when needed. In my experience, a leaf of plantain rubbed or chewed into a poultice and applied to a bee or wasp sting can prevent swelling and subsequent reactions to the sting. The green spot of plantain should be kept on the sting site for at least 15 minutes. If you remove and heat starts to build up, reapply with a new spot. I have used this weed to remove a sliver of glass from my son's foot after digging at it with a sterilized needle and giving up. I put a poultice and a bandaid on the injury and sent him to bed. In the morning, when I took his sock off, the glass was sitting outside of his foot! I have taken leaves in our first aid kit when traveling, I put that much confidence in it. There are two varieties, English broadleaf and the narrow leaf we are more familiar with.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Trimming Tomatoes

A question came in about taking blossoms off of tomato plants as they are growing. (See comments below.) I think the theory is good in that it prevents a small, young plant from putting energy into making fruit before it has established a good root and stalk. It is kinda like raising a teenager. One important issue to address is whether you are growing indeterminate or vining tomatoes such as cherries, or determinate ones such as a patio. With determinate, bush type, you only get the blossoms pre-determined for that plant to have for that flush. If you pick too many blossom off, say after the four or fifth branching set, you are limiting your production. Determinates will make another flush if your season is long enough, though. Indeterminate types can be pruned to fit a framework or area, to limit what ripens in a northern climate, or just because you know you can't eat that many. It will not affect their production as they will just keep making blossoms out their ends.