Mint and other herbs generally should be pest free, so it really “bugs” me when I find something has been eating them. The damage seems worse than usual this year, perhaps because of the cool, damp spring. It’s only this week that I figured out what makes those annoying black dots on the upper leaves of my peppermint, as well as on the lemon balm and sage.
Some internet sleuthing got me to the answer – “four-lined plant bug”. I’d never heard of it before, and I had never caught it in action until I knew what to look for. It’s a small bug, about the size of a striped cucumber beetle, and depending on its stage, has yellow and black stripes with orange or red coloring as well. It feeds on leaf tissue, leaving spots and holes, sometimes causing leaves to shrivel up. The good news is that the bug only goes through one life cycle each summer; the damage to the plant is finite and mainly aesthetic. There is not much one can do for management beyond cleaning up leaves and stems at the end of the season, so there is no place for them to overwinter. I will just continue to snip and discard the affected plants, and in the fall cut back and clear the bed more carefully.
This year’s garden at Smokey House is dope. At first I wasn’t excited about it, but eventually I started to enjoy gardening. It’s like tacos – you don’t know why you like ’em, you just like ’em! Or, it’s kind of more like a cake. You have eggs, flour, sugar and other stuff. Each is one thing that doesn’t taste good at all. Then you put them together and it’s enjoyable. Some of the ingredients for a garden are tilling, weeding, digging, compost, fertilizer, starting seeds inside, transplanting them outside. It’s very satisfying when the seeds sprout up from the ground. It’s gonna be my new hobby!
Something’s been eating the pea shoots in our garden, and it won’t let them grow. At first I didn’t even know there was anything wrong with them until my teacher showed me. So I went out and looked at them, and it turns out there were little bites being taken out of them. I didn’t know what it could’ve been. So, I did my research and found out that it could be a finch in this area. I went on Google and googled what could be eating my pea shoots. I found an article about this one guy who was struggling with his pea shoots for
eight years. He didn’t know what was eating his pea shoots either, so he tried a few different things over eight years. On one day, he was sitting on his porch, drinking a beer, and saw the pea shoots moving in the garden. So, he went and got his binoculars and looked down at his garden and saw a little finch eating away at the top of his pea plants. So, he made a hoop house with bird netting on the top high enough so the plants could grow, which also made it hard for him to get into his plants. So, hopefully that will work for our garden as well as yours if you try it.
In another part of our garden, we noticed that something has been eating at the leaves of our radishes and kale. So, we went straight to flea beetles because we’ve suspected that we’ve had a problem with them in past years. We googled them, and it turns out that their favorite foods are kale and radish leaves and that they are really small and jump like fleas. So, we went out to the garden and looked to see if we could determine what exactly they were. We determined that they were flea beetles.
How do you get rid of flea beetles? There are many different ways. We don’t know how well they work. But a few are:
Trap crop – a crop that you don’t really need, but they’re attracted to.
Coffee grounds – sprinkle around the seedlings
Crushed egg shells – just sprinkle them over the flea beetles
Soapy water – spray it on the plant
Ladybugs – let them live in your garden. They eat or kill ’em.
We aren’t really trying any of these, but we have some ladybugs and some trap crops in our garden, and we’re hoping we don’t have to do anything!
We planted aloe and the bulbs from the tops of the onions. It grows on a long stem. The buds on the top fall over. Slowly over time they move across the garden. Aloe is sticky, clear, and the inside is the medicinal part of it. Aloe is good for burns on the skin. The outside of an aloe looks somewhat similar to a cactus.We took a knife and cut the sprouts off, but we were worried about cutting too deep and hitting the roots. For the big ones, we cut off the bottom part of the stem. We’ll let them dry so that it doesn’t get bacteria in the plant then we will plant them in big pots. For the little ones, we planted them in smaller pots because they’re already rooted.
It’s hard to believe that the garden is almost “put to bed” for the winter. It feels so empty, even while it looks neat and tidy. Well, not totally empty – we still have leeks and kale growing, and the cover crop of winter rye looks like green hair in various beds!
Inside, we still have work to do. Today we worked with pumpkins – baking, scraping, and pureeing for freezing. We have garlic, onions, and potatoes to store, and the jalapeno and Thai peppers are slowing drying. The orca beans are done, but we still have Vermont cranberry beans to shell, and bags of frozen tomatoes to turn into sauce.
Unfortunately, we missed our opportunity with the popcorn. We picked it and left it in a bushel basket inside to deal with later. Then, last Friday, I discovered that the basket was full of mold and mildew. I managed to save some of our lovely field corn, but most of the popcorn went into the compost pile to nourish next year’s crops.
Pod 3 has involved garden work. We are working on getting the garden ready to rest for the winter. We got the garden out back, where the corn and pumpkins grew, cleared out of corn stalks. Then, Jennie came and rototilled it, missing where the kale was growing as she thought we were still consuming it.
We then were able to put winter rye, a cover crop, down to help protect and enrich the soil during the winter. Also, where the pumpkins grew, we cleared that out and put down winter rye. It has recently now starting to grow, it looks a little like green grass. Heidi and myself and at one point Robin and myself took the landscaping fabric out of the garden and back into the barn. We put down winter rye in some of the wooden garden beds and then lightly down hay. We also removed dead plants, such as the dill and lettuce.
Earlier this week, Juanita, Robin, and I took the large garlic heads and removed the cloves inside and planted them outside in the garden in two garden beds. We put them in different garden beds this year to give the ones last year that grew the garlic a break to grow something different. It did not take long to plant the garlic, only about 20 minutes. We have done a lot of garden work and the garden is now ready to rest for the winter. It will be ready in the spring.
In the spring we planted some corn in the garden. We tilled up the soil, then mounded it up into rows. Then we planted the seed along the rows. We had many different rows of sweet, pop corn and Indian corn. We took care of it throughout the spring and the beginning of the summer. We watered it when it was young, then when it poked up through the soil we just let it naturally take its course.
We students left on summer vacation. While we were gone the Smokey House program had grade schoolers come in and tend to the corn and the rest of the garden. They came here three days a week like school, but they only did garden work. They had no homework and it was all volunteer work. In the time they were here they took the crops that grew quickly and that kept reproducing throughout the summer, to the farmers market. They took the money they made at the farmers market and split it up individually between all of them.
Now we’re back and fall is coming soon. We are harvesting the corn and the rest of the crops. Every day we have been doing the same thing picking beans and bagging them up. We also have been harvesting sun gold tomatoes, we weighed them to package them. Every Thursday for the first few weeks we have been going to the farmers market selling our crops. Alike with the grade schoolers, we are dividing our profit.
To prep for winter we have been harvesting everything in the garden. This up coming week is our last week at the farmers market for the season. I enjoyed the planting and growing of the garden!!