The Case of the Knife in the Watermelon

August 6, 2017

Well, no. Actually, the case of the missing spaghetti squash.

Laura and Mitch, new gardeners in the orchard, plopped in some squash starts Memorial Day 170802-spaghetti-squash-wp_20170802_004weekend and by the end of July their garden bed was busting with yellow footballs. We were all under the assumption that they planted summer squash. (Winter squash is tricky west of the mountains and usually takes 90 to 135 days to mature.

We were afraid they forgot to harvest so I sent an email letting them know they might want to pick when the squash was small, about six inches, for the finest quality.

A few days later, I discovered seven yellow squash were on the ground, lined up along the path.

Wed, Aug 16, 5-8, Special Work Party – Make Food Bank Bed
Sun, Aug 20, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Sep 2, 10-12, Work Party
Sat, Sep 16, 10-11, Intro to Qigong

I scratched my head and decided Laura had taken us up on our offer to include them in the next load for the food bank. I carted them home for safekeeping so the rats wouldn’t take notice.

The next day Laura stopped at the orchard and began looking for her squash. She had her phone handy so she dialed Encyclopedia Brown. “Brown,” she started, “We have a mystery here. I didn’t have room in my backpack yesterday for all these heavy squash and now they have disappeared.”

Brown solved the mystery within two minutes. “Laura, what has happened here is that the older gardeners here think they know everything. They didn’t bother looking at the plant tag in your bed that clearly noted these are spaghetti squash. Indeed, they should be picked when they are the size of a football. You need to call Callard and demand your squash be returned.”

We were humbled. Laura and Mitch had pulled out a dozen spaghetti squash before the end of July! That is truly a gardening success. The rest of us will be paying more attention to the moves these newcomers make.

food-bank-haul-sm-wp_20170803_001Please consider joining us Wednesday evening, August 16, as we make another food bank bed. Thanks to Sue for last week’s harvest (see photo).

Ruth

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

July 22, 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Dog days of summer are here. Tomatoes are ripening, zucchinis are looking like footballs and aphids are blanketing the vegetables and flowers. With no rain to help wash the pests off, what’s a gardener to do?

In order to grow plants organically, the first step is to identify the pest that is eating your plant and understand its life cycle.three-bugs-smwp_20170701_004

See chard leaf photo attached. The good – the yellow ladybug eggs. The bad – the white leafminor eggs. The ugly – the black aphids and aphid eggs.

There are many beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and parasitic wasps, that feed on pests. Ladybug eggs will hatch and can eliminate a patch of aphids in no time. It is important to learn what both the eggs and the larvae of these friendly predators look like so that you don’t accidentally kill them.

Aphids are one of the most common pests we find. They come in many colors and attack a huge variety of plants. Aphids are small, soft bodied insects that suck the juices out of stems, leaves and buds. They can reproduce without mating and give birth to live aphids that do not have to pupate. As long as the temperatures are warm enough, they will keep breeding and feeding. They secrete a sticky residue called honeydew that ants love so much that they will protect aphids from predators.

Sat, Aug 5, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Aug 20, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Sep 2, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Sep 17, 2-4, Work Party
Plus Thursdays 10-12, Food Bank

Another common pest on Swiss chard, beets, spinach and sorrel are the beet and spinach leafminers. Leafminer flies land on the undersides of their preferred plants and deposit tiny pale eggs. The eggs hatch and the larvae mine into the leaf tissue, creating “tunnels.” When the tunnels run into each other, the leaf tissue turns brown and dies. The larvae drop to the ground, pupate and begin another generation of flying adults looking for a place to lay eggs.

Aphids and leafminers can do a lot of damage, but they usually don’t kill plants. Leafminers overwinter in the soil, so I recommend you rotate crops and avoid growing chard and beets in the same bed every year.

sue-and-food-bank-bed-wp_20160509_001You can tent your plants with fabric (floating row cover) that lets through light, air and rain to help prevent flying insects from landing on plants. Check weekly for eggs and larvae as a few will manage to get into the tent. If eggs hatch and you catch the larvae early, you can lessen the damage by smashing them or dislodge them with a strong spray of the hose. Or, use a soft brush to knock off aphids, larvae or eggs. Harvest damaged leaves, cut away the damaged parts, and eat the rest. More food for you and less for the pest!

UC Davis Integrated Pest Management has great photos and information about many insects, good and bad.

Aphids: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7404.html
Leafminers: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/GARDEN/VEGES/PESTS/vegleafminers.html
Ladybugs: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/NE/convergent_lady_beetle.html
Parasitic wasps: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/NE/lysiphlebus_testaceipes.html

Sue Hartman

Determined about Indeterminate

June 28, 2017tomato-whole-trellis-sm-wp_20170628_003

I put down my scythe and walked over to Sue’s tomato area, hoping for a quick lesson. She moves as quickly as she speaks so I had to dart around to keep close enough to hear her.

tomato-close-pruning-sm-arrows-doc-and-markups-wp_20170628_004She slowed a minute in order to carefully wind the new tomato growth around the vertical twine. “I keep three leaders but commercial growers often just keep one,” she announced and then she pointed out the nodes where she had previously pruned suckers.

Indeterminate tomato varieties are those whose fruit number and size is determined by you! Without pruning, they become huge, bushy and tangled.

Sue handed me the 2000 June/July issue of Kitchen Gardener that had a reprint of Pruning Tomatoes by Frank Ferrandino .

Ferrandino’s three rules for growing tomatoes:

Sat, Jul 1, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Jul 16, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Aug 5, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Aug 20, 2-4, Work Party

1) Get the plants off the ground

2) Give plants room

3) Never prune or tie plants when the leaves are wet.

I quickly made my way over to my Cherry tomato and cut off the lowest leafs.tomato-part-of-trellis-sm-wp_20170628_005

Sue recently retired from Tilth Alliance and has more than doubled the amount of FECO garden area for the food banks. And she’s looking for more beds!

If you have an idea for some recycled material that is about 18 inches in height, is study and not too heavy, comes in short sections or can curve, let us know. We would like to create a garden bed that could double as a boarder for part of the path.

Ruth