Sunday, May 31, 2009

5 more!

I went on the war path today. After my usual check-in with the garden after church, I found 5 more cutworms (I am calling them this because I think that's what they are) in my cherry tomato. They have eaten a bunch more of the green tomatoes. I clubbed them to death with a wooden stake and left them on a wooden board for the birds. That felt good.

I DARE you, cutworms. I DARE you...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

It's a jungle out there!

Dan and I spent all day outside today. I already had a bit of a sinus headache, and ended up having to lay down with a wet towel on my face and neck because I overheated a bit after all the work I did - that didn't help the headache. Dan fixed the springs on the boat trailer and I did some yard work. I transplanted the creeping phlox into pots and put it on the front porch. I weeded and remulched the palm tree, and then I edged the entire front yard. Here's a photo of the day's work:

Dan working hard!

Our garden has turned into a jungle!

After the infestation, the beans are coming back strong. I pulled off all the infested leaves and as you can see the plants are recovering.

The eggplant is already as big as it was at the end of the season last year. We've eaten a bunch off this plant. You can see the ginormous zucchini in the foreground. It just keeps on growing! It has powdery mildew right now, and in my search of organic remedies, I came across an article that recommended using a milk and water mixture on the leaves. You dilute the (skim) milk 9:1 (9 parts water to 1 part milk), put it in a spray bottle and spray away! I am excited to check tomorrow and see if there is an improvement. The cucumber isn't looking too great, but it's still putting out fruit, so I'm going with it until it gives up. I haven't seen any cucumber beetles this week, and I haven't been able to find any larvae, either. I am going to have to think of a way to plant this differently next year.

Yes, I really am this dorky. I am sweaty, red-faced and gross in the pictures from today, but it was the end of the day, and I really wanted to get into the photo to give you a reference of size. These tomatoes are pretty big! This is the husky cherry tomato.

Check out how big it was when I planted it!

I actually got my first red tomato off of this plant! Doesn't it look scrumptious? Well, before you get too jealous, see the next photo...

That's right! Someone got to it before I did! I can't express how MAD I was. This meant WAR. I immediately started hunting down the culprit. It only took me a little while to find holes in several leaves of the plant, and a trail of poop! But it took me much longer to find the perpetrator, who was snoozing in a rolled-up leaf. That little bastard.

And here he is. I am pretty sure he's a cutworm of some sort. I am really thankful though that he left the plant standing and just took a tomato. Right after this photo I squished him. I felt bad, but I can't be sharing tomatoes with bugs.

Me again, this time with the peppers. In front of me are the bell pepper and jalapeno. Next to me, the pimientos, and next to them the cayennes. I can't believe these runts have gotten so tall.

The bell pepper (in front here) has about 10 peppers on it. Wow, can you say stir-fry?

Here I am modeling with the roma tomato plant. If you look at the lower middle part of the plant you can see the green tomatoes!

A few more views of the jungle - bring your safari hat!

Can you believe it looked like this two months ago? Looks like there is plenty of room for everything, but now I'm thinking I need to expand even more!

And speaking of things that grow fast, the muscadine is finally growing over the top of the arbor! AND I found another volunteer seedling in the front yard - thanks birds who poop off the roof! The seedling is currently sitting in a vase of water, I am thinking about where I want to plant it.

We have been having garden veggies almost every night. Here's just a sample of what we're having: eggplant, squash, zucchini, beans, jalapeno, cilantro and basil. Tonight I made zucchini/chicken casserole from a recipe that I made up on my own. It was delicious!

My goal for next week: EAT A HOME-GROWN TOMATO! If I fail at accomplishing this goal, there will probably be some more cutworms swimming with the fishes. That's right pests, be warned!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I'm declaring a war on pests.

Hello everybody! I'm a little late in getting this blog out, but it's been a busy day filled with errands and rain. It's been raining just long enough to where I can't mow the lawn because it can't dry out. This is driving me insane because there are patches of weeds everywhere. In fact, everything in our yard has been growing out of control. Here is a view from the house into the yard. When we moved into the house (4 years ago), you could easily see our neighbor's house and yard. We transplanted a few bushes, and voila! Instant privacy! ...ok, so it wasn't "instant," but it only took a couple of years to fill in.

And here a view from the back corner towards the house. You can see the garden on the right, with the beans growing up the fence, and the arbor on the left, with the jasmine and muscadine grape growing up it. To the very left is out banana tree, in the middle of the yard we have our cypress, and in the background the pecan trees.

There's nothing like a happy dog (I just had to sneak Brodie in there, he's so cute).

And finally, the garden. It's filling in, wouldn't you say?

Once the rain slowed down, I went out and picked some veggies for dinner. It's kind of like having a grocery store in your backyard, except (1) you don't have as big a choice of what you can have, because you can only have what's ripe that day and (2) home-grown veggies are SOOOO much better than store-bought.

So today we had some cucumbers (I made cucumber salad).


Our first eggplant!

Our first beans! Yes, only a few, I didn't want them to get tough. There's more coming.

...and of course some fresh dill to go in the cucumber salad.

If you think back to those first few blog postings, you'll remember that I scattered many seeds in a patch of dirt at the back of the yard and hoped for the best. Well, just when I'd thought it was being taken over by weeds, I had this little basil pop up! There are many more around it, and I've already dug up two to give Ted and Beth as a housewarming present. (Ted, are they still alive?) I plan on digging these little guys up and transplanting them, since the dogs like to trample around this area a bit.

Hurray for pollination! Here's a bumblebee making sure we get beans this summer. The number of pollinating insects has been rising, which makes me happy! Still haven't seen a single honeybee in the backyard, but the lantana in the front yard has seen a few honeybee visitors.

And with pollination comes... veggies!
Check out the eggplant. And there are still more flowers on it!

Our first batch of jalapenos.

Another bell pepper. There's actually several more growing, but this is the largest.

The roma tomatoes are still just doing their thing.

Same goes for the cherry tomatoes. They are just growing lots and lots of tomatoes, but no red ones yet. If they all turn red at once, I might have to have a tomato-eating party!

So if you read the title of this blog, you are by now thinking - what's with the war on pests? I haven't seen any pests! Well, get ready.
Below we have a beautiful green lacewing. This one is NOT a pest, but a very beneficial insect. As an adult it eats nectar.
As larvae (yes, they look totally different) these guys eat soft-bodied insects. I found this one in my failed wildflower garden and quickly transferred him to the veggie garden for a feast. He's the beige-colored guy below.

I am hoping he will feast on this little sucker. This is (I think) a cucumber beetle larva. It is (as you can see) very destructive and is wreaking havoc on my plants. I saw several adult beetles out on the plants today, and unlike some other insects, cucumber beetles are FAST! So I've been researching the 'net to try and figure out what I can do to keep the garden organic and get rid of the beetles. I'll keep everyone posted on that. Click on the photo below to see the worm.

Just to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with, here's a photo of the evil, evil little thing on my thumb. I think it's amazing that I found it at all! I was sceptical, but then I saw the beetles and knew what I was dealing with. Sorry, no photos of adults, they were too fast. You can look up spotted cucumber beetles and see my mortal enemy up close.

This one is, I think, a weevil of some sort. I'm including the photo because it made me say, "aww!" It looks like a little anteater. No matter how evil a weevil, it's still cute.

Well, I can't include many-legged friends and foes without my friend the orb-weaver. We last visited this spider as it was building its neat, upside-down web in my blueberry bush. Last time I mistakenly called this spider a "she." I now think it's actually a "he" because of the large pedipalps that are visible in this photo. Pedi-what? Look it up!

Well, I was taking some awesome spider photos and tragedy struck! I was holding the twig the spider was sitting on, and suddenly the twig broke, sending the spider flying off the bush. I was instantly very upset with myself! This super cool spider has been living in this plant for months now, and I've gotten to see it grow and spin beautiful webs... and in a brief second it was gone. I've checked twice, but of course it didn't come back to the same spot. Spiders don't do that.
I was cheered a little today by the fact that two new spiders have taken up residence in the blueberry bush. They are (from what I can currently tell) two different species. One was spinning its web right in front of me. I've never actually seen a spider do that before and it was so awesome - it was much faster than I realized! I tried to get it on video, but my camera wouldn't focus on the teeny, tiny spider.
Here's a photo of the awesome orb weaver before he went flying through the air to his new home - wherever that may be. No special effects in this one, just the sun playing along at the right moment.

And last but not least - the one rose bush we have left in the yard from the previous owner bloomed today! Here's what it looked like yesterday...

...and here it is today! I love this color!

Check back for updates on the WAR ON PESTS.
I sure hope I can get rid of these stupid beetles.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rainy Day - First Harvest!

Happy Sunday, everyone! Well, it's been raining on and off for the past few days. I'm so glad I have the rain barrel in place - it's already full - in fact, it's overflowing and I am a little sad that I don't have overflow barrels in place yet. Maybe this week...

This past week I worked on getting the compost cleaned up a little. The dogs have been getting into the compost bin and eating the food in there. The bottom of the bin has little doors and Brooklyn (our little whiz kid) figured out how to open these doors, climb in and grab a snack. So she and Brodie have been helping themselves for a while. We've used some of the hardware cloth and the wheelbarrel to keep the little doors shut, but they got in again. As a result, Brodie puked all over the bedroom floor at 5 in the morning a few days ago. So I put myself to work building a temporary fence for the compost. I say temporary because it started raining hard right after I started, and I aborted the original "Mission Impossible: Keep Dogs Out." So far (fingers crossed) it's been working.

In the photo below you can see Brodie eyeing the fence and thinking, "hmm... I better consult Brooklyn on how to break through this barrier!"

Two days ago I was sitting in the living room, reading ( a gardening book, what else?) and I happened to glance outside. I saw a hummingbird at the feeder! I was just thinking about how I needed to take down the feeder and make new food because it's been out there for a while, and there he was. I'm sure he got one taste of the water and thought, "ick, don't need to come back to this bar!" I actually had the camera on hand, so I took a quick photo of him.

Here's another visitor to the yard. This little guy was sitting inside the compost bin. See how fat he is? He's probably be snacking on all those bugs that live in the bin. I initially thought this was a green tree frog, but after zooming into the photo and seeing rougher-than-normal skin as well as some subtle patterns, and then noticing the yellow on his hindlegs, I thought - maybe grey tree frog... but that doesn't seem entirely right either. Could it be a hybrid? Do I have any frog experts out there in blog world?

Get ready for this one: The morning glory is blooming!!!! I thought it would have red flowers! Guess not. It's still really pretty though. If it ever stops raining I'm going to get Dan to help me carry it around front so it can cheer up the front door and grow up a trellis.

These are the only photos I took today. Since it's still raining (enough already!!), I just took a quick snapshot from the sunroom to give you an idea of the jungle the garden is becoming.

I went out and picked some veggies for dinner! It will be the first meal from our garden and I am so excited!

Here's the bountiful harvest: To the left you can see zucchini blossoms, which I will sautee,

a bell pepper,

yellow squash,

and three small zucchinis. Yes they're small, but there's plenty more growing.

All this will be seasoned with fresh herbs from the garden.

Ok, that's it for this week. Sorry there aren't more photos, but I don't own a canoe, and that's what I would need to get out there right now. (Ok, so maybe it hasn't rained THAT much, but it sure does feel soggy.)
Oh, I almost forgot, the corn has silks and there is an actual eggplant growing! AND there are teeny little beans on the plants. I'm so excited for those beans! More photos next week when it has stopped pouring.