Sunday, April 29, 2012

While I Was Out

I'm back from my trip to Oklahoma, and, while I was away, a lot of growing took place out in the garden.

There is plenty of lettuce for salads now:

The onions are looking surprisingly like onions, even though it isn't even close to June:

Squash plants have grown large enough that flower buds should be visible soon:

There are enough peas for snacking, but not for a meal. If these flowers perform as expected, though, we'll have peas with supper in a couple of weeks:

The corn has come up, but the "outdoor" (wild) bunnies have been snacking on the little plants. In this picture, one plant is left, but, looking out the window, I can see that that plant is already gone. Since I now have indoor bunnies and know how much they can eat, I should have expected this to happen. I will need to replant, and protect, some of the corn:

The tomato plants look a lot sturdier than when I left town. I've been putting cages around the plants, in case they grow so quickly that they suddenly need the support (it happens!):

The bush beans are starting to get bushier. I expect to see flowers within the week. These plants, which I planted as seeds in the garden WAY too early, are showing a little frost damage. It's my own fault, so I can't really complain:

The berries are blooming and making little green berries. I am looking forward to eating the ripe, sweet berries, but we are going to need some rain to move that process along:

The ground outside is very dry, and rain isn't in the near-forecast. I will be spending some time in the next day or two watering the garden. I also have a little more space to plant. My youngest son (age 21) would like to try some parching corn, so I am glad that the last bit of garden hasn't yet been planted. I can rework the plan, dropping the wax beans, and add another small patch of corn. First, though, I'll have to order some seeds. That's on the list for tonight.

Inside, my baby bunnies also grew while I was away. I can't believe I waited until I was in my 50s before having bunnies in the house! They are just wonderful:

We don't normally do the "baby animal" thing at our house. Our dogs and cats are typically adopted as adults (2-4 years old) from animal shelters. However, napping bunnies are extra-cute, but they are great when they are awake, too - a lot like big, fuzzy popcorn. Since the "popcorn" pictures keep coming out blurry, here's another "resting" picture:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Old Time Insect Control

My father told me a story this week about the Victory Garden his family had tended during WWII. The garden was in the vacant lot - with permission from the landowner - across the street from their home. They grew potatoes, pole beans, and "some other stuff." His recollection is that most of the garden was taken up by the potatoes, but there was a problem in the form of potato beetles, which were both abundant and voracious.

My father and his older brother, who were a little younger than 10 years of age at the time, had a job each day. They went across the street with two small blocks of wood each, and they used those blocks of wood to smash potato beetles. Each boy was required to clear a whole row of potatoes each day.

Apparently, I need to add some small blocks of wood to my tool bucket, for use at the garden/farm where my little family has spent some time smashing potato beetles. We have been flipping the beetles off the leaves onto a nearby hard surface, then smashing them with rocks, but bringing the hard surface to the beetles, in the form of a block of wood, makes a lot of sense.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Keeping Track of the Harvest: March

I weighed most of the produce that was brought into the kitchen from the yard in March, and these are the weights in kilograms (what my kitchen scale does best - obviously the instrument wasn't made in the USA!).

Radish, winter 1.55kg
Carrots 0.2
Collard greens 0.75
Chicory 1.1
Kale 0.75
Onions, green 0.1
Swiss chard 0.25

There aren't weights for the herbs because they were harvested in small enough amounts that they didn't register an exact-enough weight. Also, a lot of the cilantro and mint went to the momma bunny. Moonpie loves cilantro!

The March total harvested was 4.7 kg, which converts to 10 pounds, 5 ounces. The running total for 2012, Jan. + Feb. + Mar., is 25 pounds, 10 ounces.

There actually were even more winter radishes, but some had begun to bolt in the freakishly warm weather, and the roots were getting tough, so those went straight out the back door to the compost heap (well... a few little pieces went to Moonpie).

I am not expecting much for April. So far, we are bringing in herbs and little bits of spinach and lettuce - for sandwiches - that haven't been weighed, and we're rooting around in the freezer and cupboards for the last of last year's preserved foods. I would hate to get to July, when the summer garden produce is pouring into the house, and run across a leftover bag of something in the bottom of the freezer!

In the planning department:

I have saved a few sweet potatoes from last year's harvest, and those are sprouting nicely. I'll be snapping those sprouts off and putting them in damp potting mix later today so they can begin rooting. It won't take long! At this rate, the outdoor garden soil will be toasty by early May, and I can get those into the ground. They will be almost my last summer crop to go in. I also am starting a few tomatoes to plant at the end of June, to keep the harvest coming.

The garden seems to have survived the past couple of colder nights. The thermometer on the front porch was showing 35 degrees F yesterday morning, but we are back to a forecast for warmer days and nights.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Pest: Kudzu Bug

A new, tiny brown bug - the Kudzu Bug - showed up in my yard last week, but other yards in the Atlanta area have been host to this insect for a couple of years now. A large number of calls to the local county extension office over the past year have been about this particular pest.

It shares that unfortunate habit of ladybugs of overwintering inside the walls of buildings, leading to occasional outbreaks of "what the heck?" when great masses of them emerge inside the building instead of outside, where they belong.

The really bad news is that this is not a "good bug" like the ladybug, devouring aphids and other small garden pests. The kudzu bug is itself a pest, not only on kudzu, but on all plants in the bean & pea family. It eats their leaves.

UGA's Dr. John Ruberson has published a short Pest Report (click the link to read it) about this new pest in the newsletter of Georgia Organics.

For farmers, the bug is a big problem partly because effective controls haven't yet been established, even though the bug is causing some serious damage. I am hoping that, for gardeners, the insect (which is a true bug - a Hemipteran) is not as much of a pest as the Mexican Bean Beetle, but I may have to resign myself to battling yet another beetle that eats my bean plants.

So far, my bean-beetle battle strategy includes early planting of bush beans, which works because the Mexican Bean Beetles become much more abundant as summer progresses. Sometimes, I don't see them until July, and by then I can already have harvested quite a lot of beans from bush-type plants.

According to the short article by Dr. Ruberson, the Kudzu Bug is showing up much earlier in the gardening year, and the bug in my garden suggests that he is right. That means my strategy of planting early bush beans isn't going to help much in the effort to avoid damage caused by Kudzu Bugs.

My other main strategy is to knock adult beetles into soapy water to drown them. Smashing the adults has also worked for Mexican Bean Beetles, even though it is pretty messy, but I have heard that the Kudzu Bugs have stinky guts, which makes smashing a less attractive strategy.

I also smash Mexican Bean Beetle larvae and eggs, and this would probably also work for Kudzu Bugs, but the smashing strategy isn't nearly as effective as avoidance by earlier planting of early-maturing bush beans has been. Smashing and drowning the pests just delays by a week or two the time when the crop is a complete loss.

It looks as though this will be a very interesting gardening year. Wish me luck!

EDIT: I usually get my basic information right, but in this post I originally had called the kudzu bug a beetle, and it isn't. The kudzu bug is in the order Hemiptera; it's a true bug. The information should be all correct now!

19 April 2013 EDIT: Anyone who is interested enough in Kudzu Bugs to have read this far should probably read the Kudzu Bug Update from 8 April 2013.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spring Madness

For quite a long time, I have thought it would be nice to have a pet bunny. I even bought a book about rabbit care at a Goodwill book sale several years ago. About a month ago, I had the opportunity to adopt a bunny from a family that was a little overwhelmed by the work involved in taking care of two bunnies. They kept the black and white one, and I took the one that is white with pink eyes. Meet Moonpie:

Not only is she totally adorable and incredibly soft, but she is a great compost assistant. Ever since I starting adding the contents of her hay-box to the compost pile, the compost has really been cooking!

A couple of times a day I walk around the yard gathering bunny-salad for Moonpie to eat. She is very fond of cilantro, but she also likes a lot of the edible weeds that grow in the yard - chickweed, dandelions, violets.

In other news, of the hilarious "watch out what you ask for" variety, Moonpie had babies last week. All five of the surviving babies (a very tiny one didn't last beyond the first day) are in the picture, but one is only represented by its pink and white nose sticking out from under the pile.

The babies were born sometime between when we went to bed on last Monday evening and when we got up on Tuesday morning. We didn't know Moonpie was pregnant - she can't weigh more than four pounds - so the babies were a surprise! The book says that the babies will open their eyes after ten days, which means their eyes could open today.

We are hoping to find homes for four of them, but we plan to keep the grey one that matches our grey cat, Louisiana. My son has already named it Louie-too. With the waste generated by two bunnies, the compost pile is going to be smokin'!

Out in the garden, I've been planting almost nonstop. Normally, the planting madness wouldn't even have begun this early in the month, but the garden is nearly all planted. I have just two beds left. Of course, there will be more planting when the cool-weather crops are finished.

So far, the Kagran Sommer lettuce has not emerged (I'm about to give up on it), but the first lettuce (Capitan) is doing well:

There is spinach that is definitely harvestable (not an actual word, according to blogger):

The peas are flowering:

And the potatoes are looking healthy. I need to pull more dirt around these plants:

Some of the seeds that were planted in the last couple of weeks, for warm-weather crops, are already coming up. Four of the seven zucchini seeds have germinated, and those little plants are each making their first leaf. The salad cucumbers have germinated, too.

The bush beans have been patchy in their emergence, and when I poked around to see what was going on, I found that something has been nibbling on the germinating beans, so I replanted a lot more bean seeds. The rows will probably have to be thinned when they all come up, but I'd rather thin a too-thick patch than not have enough beans.

Hope everyone else's planting is going well!

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