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July is International Pest Month!

Just kidding! But it is the month so many of the little buggers come out in force! Taking good care of your plants during pest cycles goes with the territory!

Pest Prevention and taking care of your plants during pest cycles is a natural part of gardening!

Aphids & Whiteflies = Ants    Both ants and aphids exude a sugary ‘nectar,’ honeydew, that ants harvest from them.

Jet spray off the whiteflies! That’s those little clouds of tiny white insects that fly away when you bump your plant. Some of them transmit diseases to some veggies. Spray off dust that interferes with natural predators. Whiteflies like the heads of your broccoli side shoots, so keep those picked pronto! Smudge off any eggs you see on the undersides of leaves. Use a finer spray for bean leaves and be gentle, beans stems can break easily. White flies like humidity, so plant less densely, and keep check on the inner and lower leaves. Add a 1″ layer of worm castings out to the dripline of your plant. Water it in well. Insecticidal soaps or Neem oil can reduce populations. You really don’t want those tiny white flies, cute and adorable as they look, because they encourage black sooty mold and aphids that inject toxins and also carry diseases. Not good.

Some aphids are still lollying from April and June. Some are pretty little green tykes, others are dull gray, or black, usually numerous where they have decided to camp. Same principles. Keep vigilant watch so things don’t get out of hand, keep your veggies picked, and jet spray. Look inside curled leaves, under the leaves, and in newly leafing tops. See more about Aphids at UC IPM!

Ants tend aphids. Some say sprinkle cinnamon around your plant to keep the ants off it. Otherwise, use safe ant bait stakes. Be sure the stakes are the right kind for the ants you have and the time of year. ARGENTINE ants prefer sweet baits year-round. Protein baits are attractive to Argentine ants primarily in the spring. Chemical baits are not ok in our organic veggie community gardens. Instead, a simple remedy can be putting a few drops of dish soap around and filling the nest entrance. Pull mulch back from the stem of your plant and let that immediate soil dry a bit. Ants nest near water. See more about Ants at UC IPM!   See a lot more details about aphids and ants!

No mercy to those little green and black striped cucumber beetle cuties down in the cuke and squash flowers or simply strolling about! Squish. Or should we let a few pollinate our cucumbers and squashes even though they eat the flowers away? NO! Because they carry seriously nasty plant diseases.

Pick your outer lettuces leaves, cut & come again style. This guarantees you will find those morning slugs and snails. Poke around your beans gently and peek under squash and chard leaves for ambitious high altitude snail hikers. Scan your tomatoes for the varmints! Toss them someplace, the same place each time, so your local birds can gourmet on them. When the birds see you they will come for snacks! Use Sluggo, or the like, a few times to stop the generations, or hand pick if you can stand it.

Leafminers. Yuk. They chew on your chard and other veggies, get right between the layers of the leaf, making that section brown. External applications obviously can’t touch them. Pull away the infected sections of the leaf, remove badly infected leaves. There are several different kinds of leafminer insects that operate all at once. It’s their hatching season. Later summer there will be less. Keep harvesting to keep ahead of the miners.

Flea beetles in July? Yup. Those trillions of holes in the leaves? That’s who we’re talkin’ about. There are 3 to 4 generations per year, depending on weather, and the generation time is roughly 30 days. They look just like fleas, and are about impossible to catch. No mercy. Disturb their cycle by putting compost, manures, worm castings, under susceptible plants – eggplant, arugula, radish. They like radish the most, so plant it as a trap plant near other susceptible plants and let it grow out. Radish grows quickly, so plant it anytime! Turning the soil exposes the eggs and pupae to dry and die.

Keep the water coming so not only do cukes and lettuces stay sweet, the cukes and beans grow straight, but they grow fast and outgrow pests.

Unlike with insects, you don’t get a second chance with gophers.

Gophers are simply an ongoing pest for most gardeners. You mention them and gardeners groan. Now they are getting summer shiny and well fed on what you grow for them. It’s never too late to put in gopher barriers in any planting area. You can sink in an 18” to 2′ deep barrier, 6” above ground, perimeter, but better is to scoop out the area and lay the wire around and across the entire area, securing the wire edge to edge by weaving it with wire! Be sure neighboring edges are secure one way or another so there is no sneaking through. Hardware cloth will do the best job, lasts about 10 years, naturally is the most expensive. Chicken wire has too big an opening, and is easily gnawable. Aviary wire (1/2” opening), is the better choice,  and disintegrates in about 3 years, but is tons better than nothing at all!

If installing a barrier isn’t an option, then trapping is the most effective. It’s not hard to do, but I admit, it’s not entirely pleasant or even safe. Please do be careful setting traps, especially if you are gardening alone. I push the dead creature down the tunnel and close up the tunnel. Hopefully any newcomers to that tunnel system will plug that section off. Wire traps, like Macabees, are cheap and effective, need only a small hole dug to install, less digging, saves nearby plants. Box traps are perhaps more humane, and probably catch the fast small babies better, but do install two, one each direction, that’s what’s effective, you need a hole at least a foot in diameter. That usually requires a plant or more loss. The easy way to find tunnels, if you can’t find it at the fresh mound, is to push a small diameter ¼” to ½” stick into the surrounding ground at intervals until it gives when you push it in. That’s your tunnel location. The bigger the tunnel, the better your chances, especially if it goes off in two directions. Install your traps, one each direction. More on gophers!   UC Davis Integrated Pest Management  Good hunting.

Last option, but overall expensive per cost per an area, time and repeated installations, is wire baskets. You can buy them or make them. First check out how deep your plant’s roots are likely to grow and shop or make accordingly. If the roots grow through the basket they are likely to be nibbled.

We have talked about small nuisances and gophers. We haven’t talked about bunnies, mice,  deer, grasshoppers, skunks or others. But we can if you need to. Let me know.

Good gardening.  Vigilance, giving immediate care, are two good traits to have. Keep it organic. Remove pest habitat, keep working your soil, keeping your plants healthy and resistant. Floating row covers can be a good early season choice. But they have to be opened daily when it gets too hot, and opened daily or removed to allow pollination when your plants start flowering. At that point, they become more work than they are worth for pest prevention. Avoid overplanting that leads to neglect by not harvesting. If you’ve done it, remove plants you don’t use, give away if possible. Replace with something new, vigorous and inspiring! Sometimes a plant you love will simply successfully grow through the season of the pest, outgrow the part of the pest’s cycle that would bother your plant. Plant year round habitat for natural predators, beneficial insects. They are hungry hard workers! Don’t kill the spiders, welcome the lizards, put a safe bowl of water for the birds – safe means away from kitties and with a little ramp so lizards and mice, the tinies can get out.

Prevention is best! Select pest and disease resistant varieties. Use companion planting wisely!

  • Basil is great with tomatoes, and a pack of culinary dandelions! It is thought to repel white flies, mosquitoes, tomato hornworms, aphids, houseflies, and asparagus beetles. Smells great and tastes great!
  • Beans, Cukes, Dill, Radish Combo! Cukes and Beans are great on the trellis, one high, one low. Dill goes with your pickling cukes. Radishes to deter Cucumber beetles.
  • WHITE Potatoes with Zucchini to repel squash bugs.
  • Radish with eggplant, cukes & zukes act as trap plants for flea beetles and to repel cucumber beetles.
  • Carrots love being with cilantro and chamomile, and chamomile improves the flavor of any neighboring herb!
  • Herbs are fabulous! Calendula, aka Pot Marigold, traps aphids, whiteflies, and thrips!
  • Marigolds are brilliant and called the workhorse of pest deterrents!

No denial allowed! Be observant and take immediate action. Carry on, good garden soldiers!

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The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

 

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June's Summer Magic Fairy Day June 24!

Summer Magic is happening! Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, basil!

Depending on how long you want your summer veggies available, and when you want to start your fall plants, a 3rd round of summer planting is a choice! Heat lovers like okra and eggplant sometimes do better and grow quickly in the warmer temps.

Transplants! Lima and snap beans, time now for long beans, celery, corn, leeks, okras, peanuts, peppers, soybeans, squashes, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Choose bolt resistant, heat and drought tolerant varieties when you can.

From Seeds, those plant-anytime fillers! Beets, carrots, chicory, chives, slo-bolt cilantro, leeks, warm season lettuces, green onions, radish, warm season spinach.

Remember your beans-cucumber-radish triad to deal with cucumber and flea beetles. And also plant radishes with eggplants as a trap plant for flea beetles. Plant your favorite varieties of potatoes to repel squash bugs.

Now that your plants are going, sidedressing keeps them going! Sidedressing usually starts when your plants start to bloom, make fruits. Scatter and lightly dig in a little chicken manure and/or lay on a ½” of tasty compost, some worm castings, water on some fish emulsion. Water well.

  • Sidedressing with seabird guano (NOT bat guano) that is high in phosphorus, stimulates blooms! More blooms, more tomatoes! We’re good with that. More about guanos and manures.
  • Foliar drench or spray with Epsom Salt mix – 1 Tablespoon/watering can, plus a teaspoon of dish soap (surfactant).  Foliar feeding is the most efficient. Epsom Salt, right from your grocery store or pharmacy, is high in magnesium sulfate. Peppers especially love it. Fruits are bigger, peppers are thicker walled. I drench all my Solanaceaes – toms, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, tomatillos – with Epsom salt. Foliar treat at first flowering, and fruit set.
  • If leaves start yellowing, green ‘em up quick with an emergency doctoring of bloodmeal! It’s very high in quickly usable Nitrogen (N).  Dig it lightly into the top soil, water well. Be aware, it and fish/kelp mixes are stinky and bring predators. If you are having a weekend party, use your fishy mix 2 or 3 days beforehand to let the smell go by.
  • Heavy daily producers like strawberries, feed with fish/kelp mix every other week to keep them producing at top tasty speed. No chickie manures for them; they don’t like those salts.
  • Keep those workhorses like beans, berries, cucumbers, well watered. If they lose their perk, especially late in the season, give them a little feed too!

Special care for your tomatoes if you have verticillium or fusarium wilt in your soil as we do at Pilgrim Terrace.

  • Remove any lower foliage that touches the soil or would with the weight of water. As your plant gets big enough remove foliage that could be splashed by infected soil.
  • Mulch 1 to 2 inches deep with a mulch like straw that allows air flow but prevents soil splash.
  • Remove leaves that are curling the length of the leaf or have black edges or stems.
  • Don’t cut suckers (branches between the stem and main branch) off because the cuts can be entry points for wind borne wilts.
  • Wash your hands after working with each plant with the wilt so you don’t spread the wilts yourself.
  • Water by drip or by laying the hose down under your plant, or carefully with a low flow water wand (like the ones they use in the nurseries), so there is no splash, and the leaves don’t get wet. Wands can get under plants, put the water exactly where it is needed. Fuzzy plants like tomatoes and eggplant don’t like to be watered on their leaves. And you can see how that water and fuzz could make fungi, so no watering the foliage.
  • When the toms get about a foot tall, STOP WATERING! Remove weed habitat and don’t mulch or remove the mulch you laid down earlier. The fungus can’t thrive in drier soil. Water around the toms, their neighboring plants, but not the toms. Tomatoes have deep tap roots and they can get water from below the wilt infected soil zone.

Aphids, Whiteflies, Ants  Whether you mind ants or not probably depends on how many there are and what they are doing. Ants feed on fleas, termites, and other pests in your garden, but if they are tending aphids, no, no, no! If you see curling or deformed leaves, gray spots on the leaves, or the central stem of your plant turns gray or black, take a good close look. Check the undersides of the leaves, in the curls. Aphids come in black, and gray, in our area. Immediately remove them, either by hand, smush them away, or blast ’em by hose! Check every day until they are gone. Aphid honeydew also attracts white flies. Ease up a bit on fertilizing and watering, making very soft bodied easy to eat leaves. Avoid over watering – ants will nest near a water source. Put a few drops of dish soap around, down the nest hole, fill in/bury the nest entrance. They will never be all gone – what we want is balance.

Well fed and maintained plants are more disease and pest resistant, are lusty and productive! Plan to save seeds from your favorites!

Start your fall compost now. That means letting it process June and July for unfinished but usable August compost. Let it go through August for more finished compost to be used in September planting.

Take some moments to sit under the orange tree. Hear the garden grow. Watch the birds, see what they see…feel the air on your skin, feel the colors. Forget who you think you are, just be.

See the entire June 2014 Green Bean Connection Newsletter!


The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden.  We are very coastal, in the fog belt part of the year, so keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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Small Bites, Big Problems! May/June PESTS!

Flea Beetles! For the first time, I got down close to my poor perforated eggplants, lifted the leaves, and, ugh, there they were, flea beetles! The ones I saw are tiny, about one-sixteenth of an inch, shiny black beetles with enlarged hind legs that enable them to jump like fleas, just a bit bigger than our pet’s fleas, easy to see, and, they are buggers to catch! They DO jump, vigorously. And they are not particular. They munch on eggplant, potato, tomato, sweet corn, peppers, radish, Brassicas, and, you’ve seen all those pinholes in your arugula leaves? That just drains your plant’s energy. You can imagine what they can do to a tiny plant just coming up. It’s a race to see if the plant survives, outgrows how fast the beetles feed.

Flea Beetle bitten Arugula

Here’s a cure from Maria Coombs, Plot 37, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden:

‘When I realized my eggplant was losing a battle between life and death against flea beetles, I began my search for a viable organic pest solution. I studied several gardening books: old, new, traditional, and organic to help me. After an unfruitful search, I searched the good ol’ web and found several organic tips. However, one stood out from the rest: a concoction of chili and garlic. Based on the fact I had ingredients to make it, I decided to give it a try. The tip didn’t come with a recipe, I made it up. So, you could potentially use any chili you have….. it would be interesting to see if anyone tries a different type and if it does/does not work!

The simple home recipe is: 1 cup boiling water, 1 Thai chili (cut lengthwise), 3 garlic cloves (shredded)

Place chili and garlic in cup of boiling water. Let it steep until cool and strain. I felt it necessary to put the chili and garlic in boiling water to help release the oils, but you may not have to. I put the concoction in a spray bottle and drenched the plant, tops and undersides of leaves, and the soil around it.

Dousing is needed every 3 days to kill newly emerging fleas (there were fleas again on the 4th day), until you don’t find them anymore. However, I would recommend checking the plant every day for awhile, then spot check from time to time. The potency of chili and garlic will vary, and temps may affect hatching, which may change the timeframe.

Good Luck fellow eggplant growers!’

Thanks to Maria for inspiring me to get over my fear of looking for the flea beetles, then actually doing something about it! Every year I make progress.

Cucumber Beetles? Cute, but NO, NO, NO! One morning Kevin Smith, Plot 44, at the Terrace, showed me these small creatures publicly procreating in our zucchini blossoms! Take a look down into the center of your zuch flowers, you may be shocked – at how many of them there are! Not only cucs & squashes, and beans, but eggplant suffer too! Thought it was flea beetles on your eggplant? See for sure. Here’s what cuc beetles look like, this one below is on an eggplant. The simplest remedy is to remove them by hand. Learn more at Vegetable Gardener.

Cucumber Beetle on Eggplant

THE LARGER PEST – GOPHERS

We have been plagued, the gophers have thrived this year. 3 helpful ideas!

1) If you decide to use chicken/aviary wire barriers, you could do small areas at a time as they become available. You could purchase, or make, wire ‘baskets,’ very small to quite large, for areas that you want to plant gopher favorites like lettuce, beans, cucs, chard – soft bodied plants. My other thought is to install a border of wire vertically to see if that works, rather than digging up the whole plot and laying wire underneath. I’ve seen two places where people installed these boundaries and the gopher piled soil outside their plot where the barrier stopped them. They didn’t go underneath it.

Several people at Pilgrim Terrace have made varieties of sizes of wire baskets – see Hillary’s Plot 24, Marion Freitag’s, Plot 19, Hoanh’s Plot 45. Hoanh installed black plastic flats vertically around his plot as a barrier as well. He said to use the small grid flats; they chew through the large grid flats.

2) Raised boxes with wire stapled to the bottom are another barrier type option. See Bob Berdan’s Plot 30, Ginny Woliver Plots 5-7. Nice thing about this option is you can take the boxes with you if you have to change plots when the lottery comes, or you can take them with you if you leave the garden, or you can give them to someone when you no longer need them. Easy to empty and transport. Yes, boxes and wire degrade over time.

3) If you want to use traps (UC IPM), get someone to show you how to use them. There are a few tips that you learn with experience. And, really, they are dangerous, so respect them completely. Traps are a temporary solution. Of course, after about 3 years, the wire and wood barriers degrade and need to be replaced.

One of the tips I would give, is trap immediately if you decide to trap. I have caught them in 20 minutes, while I was working in the plot! That means no more plants are eaten or damaged, at least by that gopher! Otherwise, they can just mow an area.

The cheaper little Macabee wire traps, not the large ‘black hole’ tunnel kind, need much smaller holes to insert. That’s less damage to existing plants, less need to remove any plants to make room for the traps. But the big traps might have a better success rate with smaller gophers. Both kinds of traps are dangerous to humans – DO NOT SET THEM UNTIL THE HOLE IS READY FOR YOU TO INSTALL THEM. Do not leave them lying about once they are set.  Not a project to do with children about.

4) You can use a combination of the top 3 ideas.

Beeper repellent stakes  Battery operated is expensive – price it out, you’ll see, or do the recharge dance.  Solar beepers on sale are better and they last 2, 3 years.  They work best in ‘open’ areas where the sound can carry, like lawns.  If you put one in an area planted with tall dense plants, it won’t do much good.  But if those plants are special and you want them protected, that works.  Be sure the solar panel gets a lot of sun, doesn’t get shaded by your plant growing over it.  If it is shaded, it fades to no beeping.  Underground critters depend on hearing and vibration to alert them to danger, so take careful notice of the radius the beeper says it will cover per the area you need to work for.  Heavier soils such as clay are superior transmitters of sound and vibrations than are sandier soils, so our loose garden soil isn’t going to get great mileage.

Poison is not a good choice because of neighborhood pets. They could somehow ingest the poison, or an animal that has been poisoned. There have been instances where people found only partial remains in traps that had been dug up by predators after the gopher had been caught.

Very funny, sometimes touching, dialogue at the Garden Web Forum!  The more I read, the more I laughed, having great empathy with many of the writers, real people with their various experiences!  Worth the read.

So part of your decision is based on budget. Buy traps, wire, lumber. Think now, gather materials, perhaps install raised boxes this fall for your winter planting?

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