We are rapidly rolling through June, and by now your plants should be really starting to grow. In this episode, it is time for another Garden Update, and while our gardens might be growing, our plants are under siege from common garden pests of all shapes and sizes. I am dealing with some common garden pests here in my small raised beds, and I wanted to give you a head’s up about some common, and one unusual, garden pest before too many of you lose productive plants.
In addition, I expanded my garden space by adding two vinyl gutters two weeks ago! I have discussed these kind of gardens before in the Vertical Garden 101: Introduction to Vertical Gardening and Vertical Garden 102: How to Build a Vertical Garden posts. I provide some thoughts about these type of gardens in this podcast in this environment.
Introduction: Common Garden Pests
How are your plants doing so far this season? We are moving into a point of no return for the 2018 season. What do I mean? With us getting into late June, there is a point where plants like tomatoes, peppers, squash or zucchini cannot be replaced and still generate a decent harvest this season. The bottom line is that if you lose a plant any later in the season, it will be difficult to replace it.
This is why pests are so difficult when they show up in the garden. I am sure pests have their place in the world; however, they do not have a place in my gardens where I have been working hard to create healthy and happy plants and produce to feed my family.
Without much ado, I am going to discuss how the garden is doing and some of the common garden pests I am dealing with this season. Some of these pests have been more destructive than others, but regardless, you have to check your garden daily and make sure that you address and dispatch each pest quickly.
Before I left for Wisconsin last week, I was looking at my garden beds and saw an interesting and frightening sight: holes in kohlrabi and broccoli leaves. Having grown these plants before, I knew the source of the problem: cabbage worms.
Cabbage worms are the velvety green larvae which eventually turn into adult butterflies sometimes called cabbage whites or small whites. The Latin name is Pieris rapae, or Artogeia rapae. Thank you to the Old Farmer’s Almanac for that information!
Cabbage worms are common garden pest for cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and other members of the cabbage vegetable family. They feed on the leaves, and if left to their own devices will defoliate the entire plant. You will also see their feces on the leaves and stems of the plants, which is pretty disgusting and can contaminate your produce. The feces are small black or grey nodules.
You can prevent cabbage worms by:
- Installing row covers over your plants
- Spraying with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki) every 1 to 2 weeks will also help control cabbage family pests.
- Spraying Sevin every 1 to 2 weeks
If you have them, pick them off your plants and dispatch them however you see fit. I found five different cabbage worms on my plants, and I picked them off and squashed them.
For more information, you can check out a video I did of these little buggers in the garden.
We are currently hosting a 2-year old half lab, half pitbull. She is a wonderful dog: she is really smart, friendly and loves to play. I enjoy playing ball with her in the backyard.
So….what’s the problem?
We have a digger! Karma the Dog is a digger, and she has decided that my fenced in gardens are the ultimate playground.
First we lost a delphinium in the flower garden near my garden beds.
Then we lost 5 out of 8 Comfrey Plants from Nature’s Image Farm.
Next came the garden beds. The first incursion into Fort Snelling happened last week when I was in Wisconsin. She dug up some basil, some broccoli, geraniums and a tomato plant. Fortunately, I had cleared some area out with my gutter garden project (see below). The introduction soundbyte at the start of the podcast is my real life, real time reaction to seeing the remains after this incident.
The second incursion was into Alcatraz. This happened earlier this week. I lost some peppers, geraniums and a tomato plant. She snapped a San Marzano tomato plant off right above the roots, and I guess that is one drawback to using bailing twine for my trellis system. I am trying to save the San Marzano, but we’ll see.
Today’s incursion was in both Fort Snelling and Alcatraz. I lost another tomato plant, and she created a big hole in each bed. I cannot sustain these kind of losses each day, or I’ll be left with two patches of dirt.
I needed to develop a strategy, create a plan and execute. What to do? So, I wanted to talk some folks that might have dealt with something similar. In talking with other homesteaders such as the Colorado Regenerative Agriculture Group and Daniel Bokros, I got some suggestions including:
- Dusting the plants and soil with Chili Powder
- Spraying the plants with a 1:1 ratio of Frank’s Red Hot and Water
- Hardware Cloth and T-Posts
- Electric Fencing
Even though we have a fenced in yard, we are implementing a monitor at all times policy. Next, we are implementing Chili Powder dusting. Finally, this weekend I am going to strengthen the fencing around the garden beds with hardware cloth and posts or 2×4 frames.
We just need to shore up our fencing. Plan, develop a strategy and implement!
I had plants left over after I gave most of them away, and I happened to purchase some onion starts in Northwestern Wisconsin three weekends ago. Two weekends ago, I decided to expand by adding and planting in two vinyl gutters. These gutter gardens are using vertical space along my fence.
Gutter gardens, or otherwise known as vertical gardens, take advantage of unused vertical space. I discussed vertical gardens before in the following articles and podcasts:
- Vertical Garden 101: Introduction to Vertical Gardening
- Vertical Garden 102: How to Build a Vertical Garden
- Vertical Gardening with the Plant Charmer Part 1
- Vertical Gardening with the Plant Charmer Part 2
These two gutters are attached to three 2x4s. The 2×4’s are zip tied to the chain link fence posts. This is the second iteration of this particular build, and after the rain this week, I will be adjusting the design once again. The wet soil coupled with the the flexible nature of the vinyl gutters is resulting the gutters twisting away from the fence.
I have a solution in mind, and I will be posting an article specifically for this garden design. Who knows….I might be expanding the gutter garden with some free gutters.
Beyond the design, the basil, onions and peppers are all growing really, really well. I am very pleased with the results so far, and I can’t wait to see how these plants grow this season.
Last Fall, the maple trees dropped a lot of leaves onto the lawn. I used a lawn mower to mulch up the leaves, and I dumped the chopped up leaves into the garden beds. The leaves break down over time (especially as worms work through the mulch), adding to the nutrients of the soil.
At the same time, the leaf mulch holds in extra moisture during the hot summer days. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. The leaf mulch seemed to be holding in too much water, and the extra moisture seemed to be creating dampening off disease on some of the basil. The peppers were showing stunted growth as well.
I have noticed some discoloration in Garden Bed 1 (Alcatraz). Plants in this bed are smaller and growing slower than plants in Garden Bed 2 (Fort Snelling), and that tells me that there might be less nutrients in the soil of this bed. I know that my mother-in-law grew tomatoes in Garden Bed 2 (Fort Snelling), and they had improved the soil accordingly. I do not think that the Alcatraz got the same treatment, so I will have to add some nutrients to the soil.
I am not opposed to using some fertilizer, but I am very careful when I apply it. You are adding oil and salt to your soil each time you fertilize, and you can burn your plants and destroy your soil. I will be adding a cup or two of fertilizers and micronutrients from the Food for Everyone Foundation (Mittleider Gardening Method) to both garden beds, and I will also be “brewing” some organic “tea” for the beds. More on that later.
Putting It All Together
At times, having a garden can be so rewarding. Other times, having a garden can be incredibly frustrating. It is always an adventure. The biggest piece of advice I have for you is to check your plants and make sure there are no critters chewing on your leaves and stems. Cabbage worms blend right in with your leaves on kohlrabi and broccoli, and squash borers dig into the stems of your squashes and zucchini.
Of course, there are bigger garden pests out there too, right? I have been battling chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits over the years, and I have found my chicken wire fencing is effective in keeping those pests out.
Other pests are more difficult to manage. A 60-pound half pitbull-half lab who loves to dig is more challenging. She is a good dog, but she has discovered that the garden is her sandbox (so to speak). I have talked with other homesteaders about how they address the Dog Question, and they have mentioned everything from low cost solutions like spreading chili pepper to high cost electric fencing.
In the short term, I will be using some chili pepper to educate the dog (hat tip Adam from Colorado). For a more long term solution, I am going to replace the rickety chicken wire fencing with hardware cloth and 2×4’s or T posts (hat tip Jason Grey from the Regenerative Dad’s Podcast and Grey Area Farms in Colorado). Regardless, I have to protect what is left and the new plants going into the ground, or there won’t be anything growing in my garden.
Hopefully you got something out of this podcast this week! Are you dealing with common garden pests? Which ones are you struggling with? Feel free to add a comment or send us a note on the Contact Us page or realsmallscalelife at gmail dot com.
Make sure you check your plants! I’ll be back soon with more on the garden and from Homesteaders