May 29, 2006

I hate cutworms!!

Here's the story: I planted my seedlings on Thursday morning. On Friday and again on Saturday when I went to check on them a few looked like someone had taken a teeny tiny machete to them and cut them off at the stem. For a few it was just a severed limb but for at least 4 plants (eggplant, peppers and marigolds) it was a death blow! I had no idea what could be causing this since it seemed far too.....well.....BIG an injury to be a bug.

Then yesterday (Sunday) a friend who was gardening a few plots over brought over a really ugly reddish wormy thing for me to see and asked me if I knew what it was. I didn't but, I went to get my handy bug book from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to look it up. After determining that it was the larva of the colorado potato beetle I went back to my plot and her to her's. She came back a few minutes later to show me this blackish/brownish really ugly wormlike thing to look it up in the book as well. I did and as I started to read the description I realized this bug was what was likely hacking my poor, defenseless seedlings. And then I was MAD!!! I wasn't 100% sure though because I hadn't seen any bugs in my plot so I, stupidly, decided to see what happened overnight and then decide. Well, I lost another eggplant and a few kale plants lost limbs last night due to my negligence so, no more messing around. I also found two live cutworms in my plot when I went digging for them in a rage this morning.

It's too bad I hadn't been looking for them when I turned over the soil BEFORE I planted any of the seedlings because I could have nabbed a few then and I could have taken steps earlier on to thwart their sinister plans to kill my plants. If you, reading this at home, want to get a head start you should look for them in the top few inches of soil and get rid of them. You should also put some sort of "collar" on your seedlings when you plant because the cutworms are too stupid to get around those.

For now here is what I'm doing in my personal cutworm war:

1) Nails or Toothpicks next to the stem of the plants -- I guess cutworms sort of make their bodies form a circle around the plant stem and if something like a stick or a nail is in their way they can't do that. I grabbed some nails this morning and stuck them next to most of the plants and I'll get some toothpicks later today. Cutworms feed at night so I have some time.

2) Cornmeal - This is not a proven method but, some people think it works and I figure it can't hurt to try it. The theory is that cutworms like the taste of cormeal so if you sprinkle some around your plants they will eat it but then...... they can't digest it so they die (Bwah Ha Ha Ha Ha!). I did the cormeal thing this morning so we'll see how it goes.

3) Night hunting - Because cutworms come out at night you can find them with a flashlight and get rid of them then. I'm pretty excited to try this one!

As mad as I am about these F***ing cutworms, I suppose it's good to have experiences like this because you learn what to do to prevent them in the future. I will be better prepared next time.

May 24, 2006

Compost Morning

A few days ago I got an e mail informing me that my community garden WAS going to get a delivery of compost on May 23rd. This was very unexpected since we didn't last year despite lots of promises to the contrary. You can sort of see the big compost pile in the background of the photo here. It is hard to describe how elated I felt at the news. It was as if I got free tickets to see some amazing band or found out that I won a trip to Paris.

It's supposed to rain again this weekend and I really want to get my struggling seedlings in the ground so this morning I got up at 5:30AM and turned 3 wheelbarrows full of compost into my garden. I basically dumped the compost on the surface and then just used a pitchfork to mush it in a little. Quite a workout!! It looks so good -- like a field of chocolate cake. Tomorrow morning I'll try to plant everything and then the rain can come and welcome my little plants to their new home. I had wanted to get some sort of tiles to create a few more paths to make sure I don't tramp on the soil too much but, that will just have to wait.

In digging things up today, I made the decision to get rid of a giant yarrow plant that I had gotten last spring. Its pretty and I like it but it was just getting too big. I already transplanted part of it over to the sink and I really think I'm going to need the room for vegetables. It was a hard moment there at 6AM, talking to myself, trying to decide what to do but, I think I made the right decision and just a few steps away his/her/it's progeny will live on.

Overall the rain seems to have been a great thing for the garden. All the flowers that I planted in and around the sink are taller and fuller with more flowers and the chives have gone completely crazy.

Oh and I almost forgot. This morning I found a yellow and pink plastic egg hidden in my daisy plant. I didn't open it but, from rattling it a little I can tell there is some kind of toy or candy in there and NOT just rocks. There are a lot of kids who live in the neighborhood and although it could have been a gift for me from them (or maybe the Easter Bunny), I have a feeling that someone else was supposed to find it. I moved it onto the ground where it would be more visible and I'll check back to see if someone claims their prize. Pretty fantastic way to start the day huh?

May 14, 2006

The best laid plans...

For months I had been looking forward to the lovely sunny day in mid-may when I would pick up my seedlings at the organic urban farm that is also a women's shelter and spend the whole weekend setting up my garden. This was clearly not meant to be. It has been raining for about 5 days straight and according to it's going to rain HARD for another 10 days.

I did pick up the plants which was sort of fun and sort of a miserable, drippy, muddy, experience. The setting is truly urban which I find really cool -- a farm in the middle of the 'hood -- but, the weather and the trudging through mud to find my seedlings was not what I was expecting.

The main problems with this weather are:

1) You are not supposed to go in the garden when its wet.
This has to do with the fact that soil will get really compacted if you step on it but, it can also spread diseases and hurt the plants in other ways. For this reason you're always supposed to do whatever weeding or planting or whatever you need to do BEFORE you water. Watering is always the last step. So, for goodness sake, stay out of the garden when its wet! Visiting to observe is ok but do not touch anything!

2) The seedlings really want to be in some warm garden soil.
Right now the seedlings are all on my front porch, under a metal table with a black trash bag over them to keep them warm. Sounds pretty crappy doesn't it? The friendly and competent people at the farm said the plants will be ok but, for how long is what I'm wondering. When plants are small and out of their comfort zone they can die or get attacked by diseases or pests. You know how when you watch those tv shows with lions hunting elk or something. It's always the babies or the sickly, skinny suckers who get killed. That's just how it is with plants so I'm pretty nervous. I want to bring some of the more heat-loving seedlings indoors (tomatoes and eggplants and peppers) but, I don't want to shock their little systems. The temperature in the farm is not at all like the temperature in my house and I don't want them to lose whatever hardiness they've developed in the tough outdoors by introducing them to warmth and American Idol. If I do that then there's a good chance they'll be too weak when it's time to go into the garden. I think I'll bring them in for a little bit and then go back and forth for a while.

On other garden-related news:

I have nominated myself to run for the Steering Committee of my Community Garden. It may be the only way I can keep my sink!! Stay tuned for reports of serious campaigning. I don't think there will be any televised debates but, you never know.

May 9, 2006

Pitching and Pansies

For real! According to the New York Times, Pedro Martinez (formerly with the Red Sox now with the Mets) spends 2 hours in his garden, talking to his flowers, before he pitches home games. Go Pedro!! He doesn't appear to be as interested in growing food -- except for the fruit trees he has in the Dominican Republic. His garden seems a little "tidy" for my tastes can't be too critical of a multimillionaire who likes gardening enough to do it himself.

Here is a link to the full article.

May 3, 2006

Compost quest

I have been really frustrated by the fact that my community garden has not been able to get any compost delievered in the past 2 years. This has something to do with finding a place to drive up to in the garden in order to deliver it but, heck, I'd be happy if the truck came by and I just filled up some trash bags myself.

I live in an apartment with small porches in the front and back so I figured it was too small for a compost bin but, I figured there might be something smaller designed for an urban gardener and voila! Here is a really cool link to a really cool website that I am very excited to have found. It describes how to create a compost bin from a rubbermaid container that you can fit in a small outdoor area!

For this year I'll probably just end up buying some at the nearby farm (what a shame to pay right?) and then maybe NEXT year I'll have my very own bucket to brag about.