Category Archives: pests

Fall Gardening in the Grand Valley

Fall in the Grand Valley:  leaves turning, rabbit brush blooming, a few chilly nights. Apples have replaced peaches at farm stands. The Mesa has had its first dusting of snow.  Color Sunday has come and gone, and it’s time to prepare your gardens for winter and a strong start for next spring. Here’s your to do list for these last few warm days:

Your lawn. A healthy lawn is more resistant to disease and insects. Prepare it for winter survival, and a strong start next spring with Winterizer from Fertilome.

20161012_143419

Your veggie garden and other annual plants. Once frost has toasted your annuals, it’s time to pull them up. If you’ve had issues with disease or insects in those plants, bag them for the trash. Otherwise, they’re good to compost. Pulling dead plants out lessens the areas problem bugs have to overwinter. This is especially important for your squash plants—pulling and disposing of the dead plant material is the first step toward fewer squash bugs next season.

When veggie beds are cleaned of dead plant material, now is a great time to lay down a layer of compost and turn it in, or plant a cover crop, like winter rye. Veggies are heavy feeders, transferring soil nutrients to those peppers and tomatoes you’ve been enjoying. Amending your soil helps return nutrients to the soil as well as improving soil texture and water retention.

If you have ceramic glazed pottery, it’s a good idea to remove the soil, or move pot and soil to a place where they will not get wet. Wet soil freezes and thaws during the winter and can crack the glaze of your pretty pots.

20161012_163850

Many annual plants, such as marigolds, make seeds that can be collected when dry. Collect these, removing leaves and stems, and store them in labeled Ziploc bags in your fridge to plant next spring after frost danger has passed.

You can also save seed from heirloom tomatoes. There is a bit of a process to follow for success, but totally do-able. This video explains the process clearly.

Potted tropical plants, like hibiscus, jasmine, and geraniums can be brought inside for the winter. Before frost, check them for insects, and treat them with a systemic insecticide to be safe. When inside, place them in a bright sunny room, and water as needed, fertilizing once a month.

Dahlias, gladiolus and other tender, summer-flowering bulbs must be lifted out of the ground. Brush off excess soil and store in a cool, dark, dry place until next spring. Replant them when frost danger has passed.

Perennials. Unless you have perennials you keep in your garden to provide seeds, shelter for winter birds, or those you like for structure or interest in the winter garden, now is a good time to trim them back and prune out dead stems.

Fall planting. Fall’s cooler weather makes it a great time to plant! Trees, shrubs and roses are often found at sale prices. Be sure to amend the soil as you plant and use a root stimulator to encourage strong root growth prior to winter. It’s also a great time to plant perennials, pansies and spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Pansies often reseed themselves and sometimes will even survive the winter to provide color next spring. Salad greens and root crops can survive a light frost and extend your garden season, especially inside a cold frame.

20161012_14351820161012_143540

Weeds. Continue your weeding vigilance until they are well and truly dead. Weeds, unlike desirable plants, can tolerate a pretty hard frost. Weeding done now makes next spring’s weeding a bit easier. You might also consider putting down a preemergent and watering it in to smother weed seeds laying in wait in the soil.

20161012_163625

Leaves. Rake up leaves and compost or dispose of them, or use a mulching mower to chop them into tiny pieces. Leaving them on the lawn invites fungus and insects. This is the same reason to not use them to mulch your perennials. Leaves have a tendency to layer and pack down, holding in moisture that can rot a perennial.

Rain barrels. Now that Colorado allows for their use, keep in mind that they can split when they freeze. Empty them, clean them of any residual algae or mud, and store them for the winter.

Garden tools. Clean tools and apply a light layer of oil to prevent rust. Store them where you can find them easily next spring!

20161012_163427-2

Chemicals. Even organic gardeners have some sort of fertilizer and bug killer around. Most chemicals are good season to season if stored properly. Liquids must be prevented from freezing—freezing draws water out of the solution and will not properly go back into the solution when thawed, making your chemical ineffective. Dry or granular chemicals should be protected from moisture. Plastic bins work great for this. Be sure to leave all chemicals in their original containers.

20161012_16345620161012_163440

When the snow flies, you can sit back and enjoy, knowing your garden has been safely tucked in for the winter. Anticipate the next season by keeping track of what worked and didn’t this year and making plans for next season. Seed catalogs and a new gardening season will be here before you know it! Your friends at MGG will be here to help, starting in mid-March!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under amendments, General gardening, pests, soil

Heidi Mae’s Garden: Harvest

Here we are mid September.  Where did the summer go?  This time of year I can barely keep up with the produce coming out of my garden.  I confess to a huge pile of zucchini and patty pan sitting on the counter and a big bag of beans in the fridge; waiting patiently to be dealt with.  So pretty though, right?!

baskets

bounty

Needless to say, I’ve been busy.  Tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes, are washed and frozen to make sauce later as soon as they are picked.  I have kept up (sort of) with basil; already making pesto for the winter.

pesto

I’ve already canned a batch of Dilly Beans with some of the beans and made a few batches of hummus.

dilly beans

I’ve roasted, steamed, peeled and frozen Big Jim chiles and poblanos.

roasting chiles

roasting poblanos

Peppers have been the star of my garden this year. I’ve made stuffed peppers a couple of times, and have otherwise kept up with them by leaving them in the garden until  need them.

valencia

peppers

Buttercups are starting to size up; I picked the first one last weekend.  They’ll keep for a bit, hopefully well after fall becomes winter.

buttercup

Thankfully, I’m staying ahead of squash bugs and horn worms, but a couple of my tomatoes caught a virus this year, cutting back my overall production there.  One was a Mortgage Lifter, the other a Cherokee Purple–both heirlooms and therefore a bit more susceptible to such things.  The fava bean experiment has ended.  Even after the construction of a shade structure and hand watering, they weren’t happy, refused to set and got black on the edges.  I admitted defeat and pulled them out.  My potatoes died back, so they’ve been dug as well, with a much happier outcome than the poor little favas!

I’m alternately dreading the impending frost (Still have lots of green tomatoes!) and kind of looking forward to it (kinda ready to be finished with the “putting up” part, what AM I going to do with all this squash?!).  I know I’ll miss having fresh veggies anytime I want them.  But, everything that gets canned and frozen now will bring happy memories and flavors of warmer days when the snow flies.  Fingers crossed for a late frost.  🙂

Previously,  in Heidi Mae’s Garden:

Getting Started

Sprouting

Goodbye Cool Season, Hello Warm Season

Bring on the Heat

Midsumer Fantabulosity

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under General gardening, pests, squash bugs, tomatoes, vegetable gardening

Ewwww! Squash Bugs!

Last night on Facebook, a discussion started with a friend who has already found squash bugs on her squash.  The discussion continued this morning, with so many participants I felt it was time to talk squash bugs.

Squash bugs are those flat, gray, sideways-crawling, continual egg-laying beasties that can suck a squash plant dry seemingly overnight.  The resulting damage is a completely wilted plant that blackens and dies, often with a perfectly healthy plant right next to it.  They will attack any plant in the curcubit family (cucumbers, melons, summer squash, winter squash and pumpkins), but seem to prefer squash and pumpkins.  They emit a strong odor when crushed, which may have something to do with the lack of natural predators.  Without help from birds, lizards and toads, gardeners must take the front line in defending your crops against the invading army of squash bugs.  This is a bug I hand-picked (ewwww!) from a squash and threw on the gravel for its photo op.  I then stepped on it.  This was before I discovered the duct tape solution; I’ll tell you about that later in this post.

squash bug

Squash bugs can overwinter in the top six inches of soil, under firewood, within garden debris, under stones or dirt clods, or any other protected place near your garden, emerge in the spring and start laying eggs just as you start planting your little squash babies.  The first step to controlling squash bugs begins with careful garden clean-up in the fall.  Theresa from Tending My Garden suggests the following:

  • “Before removing the plants from the garden, I want to kill as many squash bugs as possible. I pull the plants up and leave them — along with any damaged fruits —in a pile on the garden bed. Since squash bugs have a tendency to stay with the vines even after they wilt and reduce in mass, I’m able to check every day for more adults and nymphs – killing all I find.
  • I  also look for eggs and remove those. (I tear them off, take them with me, and throw them in the trash.  They’re next to impossible to crush. So I take no chances of having them hatch anywhere in my yard or garden.)
  • Usually it takes about a week before I can’t find anymore bugs. Then I remove the plants and any damaged fruits from the garden.
  • By killing as many as you can and removing the food source (the finished plants) from the garden you greatly reduce their chances to make it through the winter. Lowering the numbers that survive is your first step in keeping the prolific squash bug under control.”

The following spring, you should be ahead of the game where squash bugs are concerned, but a few will have escaped your careful cleaning–they are excellent hiders!  Your next line of defense will be to sprinkle diatomaceous earth, if you’d like to stay organic, or an insecticide granule with bifenthrin, such as Fertilome’s Vegetable and Ornamental Insect Control, around the base of each squash plant.  Diatomaceous earth must be reapplied if it gets wet.  Both of these can help control the adult insect.  You might also place a board or shingle near the base of the plant.  Squash bugs will congregate under them, making it easier to find and squish them.

Companion plantings can also help reduce (but not eliminate!) the numbers of squash bugs.  Tammy Biondi writes in Life123 that “catnip, tansy, radishes, nasturtiums, marigolds, bee balm and mint” can be planted near your squash to help repel squash bugs.

A suggestion that came up with last night’s Facebook discussion was using wood ash at the base of the plants.  I’ve never tried it and couldn’t find another source to verify it, but the writer says it works.  Wood ash is alkaline, so be careful with it if your soil is already alkaline.

Some squash bugs will still escape all of your efforts, so it’s important to be vigilant!  Check your plants daily for eggs.  Squash bugs lay their tiny, bronze, football-shaped eggs near the intersection of veins on the underside of a leaf.

squash bug eggs

Removing the eggs and crushing or disposing of them is imperative.  My favorite egg removal tool is duct tape.  Stick the tape on the section of leaf with eggs and gently pull it away.  The eggs will stick to the tape without damaging the  leaf!  Duct tape is also useful in removing a hatch of squash bug nymphs AND can also be used to capture adults!  Duct tape comes in lots of pretty colors and patterns, and you can wear it on your wrist like a bracelet. Fashionable, deadly to squash bugs and satisfying for the gardener.  🙂  Hand picking and squishing the beasties and their eggs is icky, but works.  Watering the stems at the base of the plant will send adults scurrying for higher ground, making them easier to catch.

As a word of caution, bees are important pollinators for your squash plants.  Insecticides will kill bees, so be careful to not apply them when bees are active.  Read labels and follow instructions.  If you choose insecticides, be sure to select those that are labelled “safe” for food crops.

Good luck to you, fellow squash bug warriors!  The battle will be long, and at times difficult, but you can prevail to have more zucchini than you can possibly use!  Be watching the recipe page of this blog for ways to use up your bountiful squash harvest and hopefully prevent you from leaving baseball bat-sized specimens in unlocked cars…..   🙂

 

1 Comment

Filed under General gardening, pests, squash bugs, vegetable gardening

Using Ladybugs to Control Aphids

Aphids are often the first pest to appear in the Spring, covering the growing tips of roses, aspen trees and columbines, sucking out the plant’s juices with their straw-like mouths.  Aphids secrete a sweet sugary substance that attracts ants–often the first indicator of an aphid infestation.  Curled leaves are another aphid indicator.  Most aphids can’t fly, and can be dislodged with the spray from your garden hose.  However, those not dislodged can give live birth to up to 100 baby aphids each, replenishing the population in no time.  Aphids can also be controlled using sprays, systemic insecticides and ladybugs–the method being discussed here.

ladybug eating aphid

 

Photo Credit

Ladybugs are a natural predator of aphids, capable of eating up to 5000 aphids in their 3-6 week life span.  Ladybug larva don’t look much like the adults, but are responsible for the majority of the aphid-eating.  They’re not very pretty, and actually kinda creepy, but don’t squish them.  Here’s a picture of one I took in the Greenhouse last year:

ladybug larva

Mt Garfield Greenhouse sells cartons (prices determined by the vendor each year) of live ladybugs starting in the spring and up until the weather starts getting hot.  Each carton contains over a thousand ladybugs!

ladybug carton

Here are steps you should take to help keep these aphid eaters around:

  1. Mist the top of the carton with water and keep them in the door of your fridge until you’re ready to release them.
  2. At dusk, spray the aphid-infested plants with water.
  3. Sprinkle the ladybugs at the base of each plant.  (Ladybugs don’t like to fly at night, and will move up the plant drinking water, eventually finding the aphids.)

As long as there are aphids to eat, the ladybugs should stay around!  Ladybugs are insects, and will be killed by insecticides–don’t use ladybugs if you’re using an insecticidal spray.

Leave a comment

Filed under General gardening, pests