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Archive for June, 2012

On a whim this year, we decided to add Brussels sprouts to our planting list. Both of us really like to eat them but have only ever had the frozen variety from the grocery store.

One of these little caterpillars did all this damage. The bottom right shows complete destruction of our Brussels sprouts.

When we bought our plants this year, Matt noticed the garden center also had sprouts, so we decided to get some. They’re at the back of our lettuce bed in the space vacated by the broccoli we never got to harvest because the squirrels ate all the seeds.

The Brussels sprouts were doing fine for a while but then they started to get holes in the leaves and every few days, more and more of the plant was gone. At first, I suspected slugs because those were a known problem in our gardens.

We lost four of the six Brussels sprouts we planted but found some more at the garden center and replanted.

When we planted the replacements I noticed a tiny green caterpillar near the roots. After a bit of research, I found out that it was the cabbage white butterfly and its larvae causing all the destruction.

One of the “saved” plants, left, and a replacement. Both seem to be doing well.

I started using an insect spray and we haven’t had much of a problem on batch two. Next year, I want to find a better method (preferably organic) to control these and this website looks like a good place to start.

My mom also told me about some kind of dust my grandpa used to use to protect his cabbage and broccoli from being eaten by this cabbage butterfly. She didn’t remember what it was so I’ll have to look it up for next season.

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Slimy. Small. Absolutely disgusting and totally destructive.

That’s how I describe the slugs that decided to invade our garden. The first signs appeared on our hostas and then there were a few small, irregular holes on our eggplant leaves and other vegetables. I remembered seeing a slug leave it’s slime trail on our outdoor table and then found another one on a perennial.

While I suspected that was what was chewing the leaves on plants all over our yard, I wanted to see how bad the problem was so we set beer traps all over the yard. The next morning we found out. I didn’t find just one, two or even 10 slugs in the traps. There were 50. Yes, 50.

Since we set the traps there hasn’t been as much damage, so I hope those were a deterrent to all other slugs who dare slither into our garden.

A pan full of slugs found the morning after we set our beer traps. There are about 10 in this one dish.

How to set a beer trap

  • Place small pie pans around your garden and fill with a little beer. Make sure the top of the pie pan or small dish is level with the ground.
  • The slugs are attracted to the beer an then drown after they drink their fill. Be prepared to find a few in each pan. It’s gross but works.
  • This website also has great tips for controlling slugs in the garden. It includes natural solutions such as planting deterrents such as chives. I’ve also heard that sprinkling crushed egg shells around the plants can be effective.

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There’s nothing better than a fresh tomato picked right from the garden. I think the wonderful taste can convert even the staunchest of tomato-haters.

Case in point: Matt never liked tomatoes (he’d eat every kind of tomato product – salsa, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, etc. – but never the actual fruit), but after I made him repeatedly try tomatoes for a couple years, he’s starting to come around. Now he occasionally asks for tomato on sandwiches or salads.

Deer sheared off the tops of our tomato plants.

I’m not sure he’d eat a whole tomato himself so we plant these mostly for me–just give me a salt shaker and I can easily eat a few raw tomatoes.

This year, like the past two growing seasons, we planted two slicing varieties, two Roma and two grape tomato plants. We were happily watching our plants get established until one day I noticed something went wrong.

Three of the plants (both grape tomatoes and the early girl slicing variety) had stumps for stalks. It didn’t take long to figure out the deer chewed off the top part of the plant. Fearing they wouldn’t recover, we transplanted those into pots and replanted a few as replacements.

Now everything seems to be thriving, which is a good thing. I’d be thrilled with tons of tomatoes and can’t wait to see the first signs of the tomatoes turning red!

Grape tomato plant recovered after deer chewed off the tops.

Blossoms!

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It’s been about a month since we put everything in the ground, and so far our garden looks promising. That’s not to say we haven’t had any problems.

First jalapeño of 2012.

We’ve battled everything from deer to slugs and a variety of other creatures and insects that seem set on ruining our garden. Because so much has happened in the past several weeks, I’m going to break this up into a bunch of smaller posts.

I’ll start with peppers because those seem to be our golden crop. In a little more than a week our plants have gone from a handful of blossoms on a few stalks to actual fruits starting to emerge.

We got our first “harvest” on June 19 with one jalapeño. I’m kind of amazed it came so soon, but the weather has been above average temperatures for most of the year. We love spicy food so I’m hoping this is a good sign.

Homemade jalapeño poppers from last year.

Last year, the jalapeños were super productive (we almost always had a steady supply of 6-8 peppers). At one point, I didn’t know what to do with the 20+ jalapeños we had at one time, and then I found a recipe for homemade jalapeño poppers. They were kind of a pain to make but absolutely delicious. I’d love to have enough to make those again this summer!

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Last year, we failed at peas. We planted them in early June without realizing peas need cool weather to thrive. Needless to say, they yellowed and  died pretty quickly.

We managed to get our peas in the ground early enough this year and they’ve been doing great. Snow peas came in early and we had so many.

Almost ready to pick!

The sugar snaps are doing pretty well, not producing as much as I hoped but they’re still growing and blooming. I’m sure it didn’t help that this has been one of the warmest springs on record! At the end of May we had several days of 90-degree weather and no rain.

It also probably didn’t help that every time I saw a sugar snap was ready, I’d pick it off the vine and eat it, something I often did in my grandpa’s garden. I guess old habits are hard to break. =)

Now it’s cooled off a bit and I hope we get another harvest.

Snow peas in the front, sugar snap in the back.

Second harvest of snow peas.

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A couple weeks ago we planted most of our vegetables in the garden. Several hours and a few garden centers later we had our plants and herbs.

Everything is in it’s place, now it need to be planted. Peppers and eggplant in the front, tomatoes in the back.

It took a while to weed and prep all the beds but we managed and everything looks great!

Our garden is around the detached garage — we have two 4 by 6 raised beds in the back and four 4 by 4 beds along the side. It’s a perfect location because the back faces south and we get a great amount of sun throughout the day.

Last year, we didn’t rotate any of our plants, which might explain why our vegetables didn’t do so great. We switched it up this year and have everything plotted out a little differently.

Here’s our planting plan, starting in the back beds and moving around the side:

• Tomatoes – Romas, regular slicing ones (early girl and better boy) and grape, two plant of each.

• Peppers – five bell pepper plants, two jalapeño, one Anaheim and one mild banana pepper. We also planted two eggplants in that bed.

• Peas – these are winding down and we will plant cucumber and squash in that bed soon.

• Green beans — the Kentucky Wonder pole beans did great last year so we are trying those again. Still undecided on using a trellis or poles.

• Herbs – two parsley plants, cilantro, thyme, oregano, chives and two sweet basil plants. We also want a Thai basil but haven’t been able to find it this year.

• Lettuce and brussels sprouts – we planted a few different varieties, red and green looseleaf, butter crunch and another variety I don’t remember. Our broccoli was eaten by squirrels so we planted some brussel sprouts at the back of the bed.

Let’s hope everything does well this year!

Bed for the beans is prepped and ready. We’ll plant squash and cucumbers where the peas are now (back).

Matt is planting the brussel sprouts at the back of the lettuce bed.

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