Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, August 19th. We will start at 5:45 with the potluck as usual. We will also have a “Food Exchange” so if you have a glut of produce in your garden and want to share…bring it to the potluck! After supper, we will head over to the Community Gardens for a field trip with our master gardener, Beth McGuinn.
At our last meeting, we discussed organic controls of insects and the best ways to ward off those pesky creatures. Here are a few things we talked about…
• Crop Rotation: Rotating your crops will help ward off insect infestations from year to year. For instance, if potato beetles are eating your potatoes this year and laying eggs in the soil, next year they will be mightily confused when they emerge to find broccoli, or kale or chard in their beloved potato patch!
• Covering your crops: Covering your seedlings with lightweight horticultural fabric such as Remay does several things. First, it protects your crops from flying insects looking for their favorite meal. Second, it raises the temperature slightly one or two degrees which can make a big difference for veggies that like hot weather like tomatoes, peppers, squashes, eggplant and cucumbers. Once your plants start to flower, remove the covers so they can be pollinated. By that time, they will be larger and better able to ward off a few bugs chewing on their leaves.
• Hand Removal: Yes, we know it can be icky and gross, but nothing beats checking on your plants daily and hand removing insects/larvae and squishing any eggs they may have laid on the underside of the leaves. Carry around a jar of sudsy water and knock the insects into it, they will drown a glorious (but squeaky clean) death!
• Homemade Preventative Measures…
–Put cutworm collars around all of your seedlings. If you are planting large seeds like peas, cut the bottom off of a yogurt container, sink it into the ground and plant the seed inside.
-Put a toothpick right next to the stem of your seedling. The cutworm can’t wrap itself around the stem.
-Sprinkle crushed eggshells (process them in the food processor) around your tender seedlings or over freshly seeded beds.
-Make beer traps. Sink a tuna fish can or metal pie pan into the ground up to the edge of the an and fill it with beer. The slugs love beer but don’t waste your micro brews on these nasty creatures, cheap beer works just fine. Empty daily into your compost pile!
-Put plywood or newspaper between rows. Lift up in the morning and you will see the slugs. Cut them with a scissors (ewwww!) or just remove the newspaper and start fresh.
Repellents: Last resort…use with care!
-There are so many homemade repellents you can make such as garlic spray, hot pepper spray and insecticidal soaps. Do a google search and you will find dozens of recipes. Just know that when you are killing the bad insects, you are also killing the good insects.
• Encouraging Beneficial Insects: There are good insects that will kill the bad insects and help your garden to flourish. You can encourage the beneficial insects into your garden by planting flowers with your veggies. Nasturtiums, old-fashioned marigolds, chives and alyssum are just a few flowers that will encourage beneficial insects. Flowers of all kinds will bring pollinators into your vegetable patch and make your lovely garden even more beautiful!
• Good Soil: Good soil will build help your plants to grow strong and healthy. Healthy plants are able to withstand a few chewed up leaves without too many problems. So, if your plants basically look healthy but are getting chewed on a little bit, don’t freak out. Just pick off what pests you can find and look for their eggs. Your veggies will still produce a good crop for you this season.
• Plant Extra: Just know that you will lose some plants to the weather, insects and disease. Plant more that you will need and you won’t be devastated when you lose a plant (or two or three!).
• Research: There are so many books and resources available today about organic gardening. Beth brought an excellent resource book to the meeting…The Organic Gardeners Handbook for Natural Insect and Disease Control by Barbara Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley. You can also check out UNH Cooperative Extension and Vegetable MD-Online.
Just know that the more you garden, the better you will get. You will learn more each year. A failed crop is not a failure…just a learning opportunity! Finally, I will leave you with this funny quote…
A good farmer is nothing more nor less than a handyman with a sense of humus.