A few updates
A few tips
Tip for carrots:
Make sure they have enough room. I don't know what took me so long to take notice of this, but the trick to growing nice, big, straight carrots is to give them at least an inch of space between each plant. Maybe even more. They will form a lot earlier too if they have the room. The same goes for beets and radishes. And of course carrots like loose, slightly sandy soil, free of rocks.
Right after planting I sprinkled some organic granular fertilizer (see resources listed at bottom of post) around the base of the plants and then added a dressing of compost. I watered everything with compost tea, and then worked the fertilizer/compost into the top several inches of soil with a hoe. A few more waterings of compost tea every week or two, and these guys were some happy campers!
Keep the bugs at bay
Your plant's first line of defense against pests is good health. Keep that in mind when you plan your garden. Any effort you make to build up the soil and provide plenty of available nutrients for your plants will make a big difference in their ability to fight off the bad bugs. Sickly or stressed plants have weak immune systems that are more attractive to pests, since they are vulnerable and make a good place to feed. Healthy plants on the other hand, have their defenses raised and actually send signals (odors) into the air that tell pests this is not a good place to feed. Interesting, isn't it!
Another important thing in your garden is the beneficial bugs that eat the bad guys. They help rid your garden of many insects pests by eating the eggs, larva, and even some of the adult bad guys. And also we depend on the good guys to pollinate the flowers of quite a few garden crops. To learn about good bugs and bad bugs and which is which, I would recommend this neat little book which you can get here: http://www.bulkherbstore.com/Good-Bug-Bad-Bug I'm sure its probably available on Amazon too. 'Good Bug Bad Bug' will tell you which is friend and which is foe and how to attract the good guys and repel the bad guys.
Sometimes your garden seems healthy but your plants still get attacked. At least mine do! But I have noticed healthy plants stand a much better chance of recovering once you take care of the bugs, and still produce a good yield. So if you get an infestation here are a few things you can do:
Spray with organic pesticides like Spinosad and Pyrethrum. Spinosad is my first choice because it is very affective and does not wreak as much havoc on the good guys. See bottom of post for descriptions of these products and resources where to buy them.
Dust plants with Diatomaceous Earth to get rid of soft bodied insects like flea beetles. See bottom of post for more info.
You can also hand pick larger bugs like potato beetles, squash bugs, and worms. Whenever you walk through the garden, bring a small container of water with a heavy squirt of Dawn dish soap. Hand pick any pest bugs you see and drop them into the soapy water. If you are like me, you will prefer this over squishing them. UUGH!!!
Here are some of the pests that have been invading my garden:
Cabbage Worms and the Cabbage Looper (they look pretty much the same) are a very common pest of the cabbage family. Plant these crops as early as possible to prevent plants being stressed by the heat and becoming vulnerable to pests.
Colorado Potato Beetle
Bean Leaf Beetle
An interesting tidbit: I planted an eggplant in my flower bed next to some alyssum and other flowers. The leaves of that eggplant are completely smooth with no sign of any bug damage. So cool! Beneficial insects love flowers with lots of small clusters to feed on, and alyssum is one of them.
I am very happy that my cucumber plants are holding out this well. Normally they would have started wilting by the time you got several pickings - sometimes even earlier. I sprayed about three times with Spinosad and also with compost tea about every week or so. I'm thinking the compost tea helped boost their defense against the disease. There were a ton of bugs on them! Other then the visible damage from cucumber beetles, my patch still looks nice and is a-hummin' with busy bees pollinating the flowers.
I had noticed for a while that although my plants had a ton of little squash coming on, a lot of them were rotting as fast as they were growing. The bugs literally sucked so much juice out of the plant that it couldn't get nutrients to grow all the squash. And that is why the plants wilt too. I actually pulled the wilting one up to check and make sure it wasn't another bug called the 'Squash Vine Borer' causing the wilting. The borer is a worm that bores holes into the base of the squash stem and eventually the stem starts rotting through, thus cutting of the flow of nutrients and the plant wilts. There was no sign of a borer though, and only limp, pliable stems devoid of liquid. I love being able to get to the bottom of a problem and finding the cause so I can target it specifically!
I sprayed the base of my squash plants with Pyrethrum as Spinosad targets chewing bugs and is not as effective on sucking bugs. It works best when used early in the bugs' lifecycle, so knowing what to expect and keeping an eye out for trouble could save your plants. Use care when applying this product as it is also harmful to the beneficials. See below for more information.
Natural Pesticides and Resources
The best time to apply Spinosad is in the evening after 7 pm. At this time the bees will be less active and also, Spinosad breaks down somewhat in the heat and light of day so evening is better. Spray when plants are dry to keep from diluting it. Apply according to label instructions.
This product is becoming more widely available in garden and greenhouse stores. Check your local store or find it online. Here is one of my favorite resources for organic gardening products: http://ohioearthfood.com/
This product is available in many garden stores and also at http://ohioearthfood.com/
Diatomaceous Earth is an organic, totally non-toxic option for soft bodied insects like fleas, ants, slugs and ticks. To us it looks like an off-white, soft powder but to them it is like sharp glass. It is made of the skeletons of microscopic sea creatures and its sharp edges cut into the soft bodies of insects and they quickly dehydrate and die. Only effective when it is dry, so it needs to be reapplied after a rain.
Diatomaceous Earth is available at the above link and also at http://www.bulkherbstore.com/
I like the Re-Vita Complete (5-4-3) the best. You can also get poultry manure based fertilizers (usually Espoma brand) at garden centers like Lowes.