Posts Tagged ‘companion planting’

Bad bugs, bad bugs, whatcha gonna do?

Well, it’s been too long since my last post.  I have been super busy with lots of different things since I last posted.  The garden has consumed a lot of my time because we have suddenly been blessed with a large amount of rain, thank goodness!  I’ve only had to water maybe twice in several weeks.  I have raked and laid hay and grass clippings around my plants, which was very time consuming.  The hay was prompted by all the grass and weeds growing in the garden from all this rain we’ve gotten.  It has definitely helped to cut down on the amount of grass and weeds and makes it much easier to pull when it’s needed too.  Plus, it keeps moisture around the plant too instead of the sun just instantly evaporating it after it rains.  And, a LARGE amount of my time has

This squash did not get sprayed with the tobacco water. This is solely the result of aphids and stink bugs alone.

been used trying to get rid of these crazy aphids and stink bugs all over my squash.  It only got worse after I wrote about this weeks ago.  I’m sad to say the bugs devoured every squash and zucchini plant I had down to brown nothingness.  After all the work I put in to prevent this from happening, ugly words nearly crossed my lips when I found they had killed it altogether.  I’ll elaborate later on my methods for removal because they did work temporarily and might have worked if I had reapplied a second time.

I have also been spending my time learning to play the banjo.  It has been a dream of mine to learn to play for a very long time and my mother-in-law kindly gave me 2 months of lessons for Christmas this last year.  I’m just now getting around to taking them!  Robert Montgomery from Moulton is my teacher and boy, is he awesome!  I’ve been pretty awful and he has been super patient.  So far, I’ve learned to play G, C and D chords, an alternating roll and a slide.  All of this has been gradual using the song “Bile (or Boil) them Cabbage Down” (appropriate, right?).  I am thoroughly enjoying learning and practicing.  Maybe one day when I get a little better, I can share my talents with you all with a little video.  For now, I will only hurt my husband’s and my daughter’s ears. 

This is the squash right after I sprayed it with the tobacco water, bug-free. They came back and destroyed this plant.

Back to the squash.  Lots of people have been curious about this concoction I mixed up to spray on my plants to kill the aphids and stink bugs.  I thought I would include the recipe here with some advice from my experience using it.  I made a tobacco and organic dish soap mixture.  I used Copenhagen 100% pure tobacco (no Skoal or tobacco with additives) and Method Clementine-scented dish soap from Target.  I scooped maybe 2 tsp of tobacco into half of a small pot of water.  I let the water boil with the tobacco for 3-4 minutes.  The water will turn an amber color.  Since you’ve got tobacco leaves in the water, I had to find a way to remove the leaves before putting it in with the dish soap.  I put a coffee filter in the top of my coffee pot, put the coffee pot under the filter holder, poured the tobacco water over the filter so the leaves would go in the filter and the water would drain out of the hole from the holder and into the coffee pot.  I put about 5-6 squirts of the dish soap into the bottom of a spray bottle, then poured the tobacco water over the dish soap.  I screwed the lid on and shook the soap and tobacco water together.  I chose the Clementine-scented soap because bugs don’t usually like citrus-scented anything and I thought it would just add to the effect.  I sprayed the soap/tobacco water mixture on the leaves of the affected plant, on top of the leaves and the underside of leaves.  The bugs INSTANTLY died, right where they were sitting.  The larger stink bugs took a little big longer, but the small aphids died as soon as I sprayed them.  It was the craziest thing!  It is very important that after you let the spray sit on the plant for a few minutes, you need to spray it off thoroughly with clean water.  

Now, for the advice from my experience…my plants were not very well established when the bugs took over.  As a matter of fact, the bugs stunted the growth of the plant.  So I think the reason that my plants died anyway is because they weren’t very big to begin with and were weak from all the bugs and the damage they had done for so long.  I don’t think the spray killed my plants.  My mother-in-law’s squash was bigger when I sprayed it and it did fine until two days ago.  The bugs came back and finished it off after the initial spray.  Using this knowledge, I would say it is important to reapply at least the dish soap and water mixture (minus the tobacco) a second time and try some companion planting to ward them off.  I have read that aphids don’t like dill and that nasturtiums are also a good choice.  Another interesting one was to plant nettle near your squash and the aphids will cover the nettle and not go to your squash.  Others have said they intentionally put ladybugs in their garden when the bugs started to show up and the ladybugs will have a feast!  Also, the area where our squash was is not a well-drained area and I think it has gotten too much water, which in turn, drew the bugs in.  Cucumbers and watermelon are right beside where these plants were and they have both gone untouched.  I am planning on replanting at some point and will try some different methods to ward off bugs.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

I have gotten lots of tomatoes out of my garden of several varieties.  I’ve gotten lots of “Sweeties” (cherry tomatoes), Cherokee Purple, Stupice (pronouncedstew-pee-chay) and my favorite, San Marzano.  I was able to start canning today and made three half-pints of salsa using tomatoes, jalapenos and green peppers from my garden.  I bought the cilantro and onion.  I also made pesto today using the parsley, sweet basil and Genovese basil from my garden.  I bought the olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan cheese.  I found out that you can not can, or rather water bath, jars of pesto.  You can use a pressure cooker using certain recipes, but no water bath because there is no acid in the recipe to preserve it in a jar.  The only recommendation I could find was to freeze it.  I made lots of pesto in my food processor and scooped it into my daughter’s popsicle molds.  Others suggested ice cube trays.  I put it in the freezer, removed them from the molds and put them in Ziploc freezer bags.  Now I have individual servings of pesto!  I’ll just have to plan ahead and thaw it out.  As the season continues, I’ll be canning other things as well, such as spaghetti sauce and tomatillo salsa.

My husband has also been learning to dry basil.  We have quite a collection of dried basil from my garden now!  I’ll include these directions in a later post on how to do this since I’ve rambled on quite a bit in this post!

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This organic thing might actually work!

So, in the past week I have worked in the garden twice, weeding and thinning and replanting some things that washed away the first time.  Whew…weeding.  It makes me tired just typing the word.  I have been on my hands and knees pulling weeds by hand, but I know it will pay off in the end.  My Cherokee Purple tomato plant looks great!  I have two tomatoes that are ripening and will be ready for me to enjoy very soon.  My Sungold tomato plant has somewhere around 7-8 tomatoes on it now, as do several of my other heirloom plants.  Looks like this garden will be fruitful after all!

I picked lots of basil today, three different kinds, and some flat leaf parsley.  I’m super excited about this Lime Basil that I picked today for the first time.  I got it at Tune Farm when I went a few weeks ago.  They said they used it to make this delicious limeade which they infused with lime basil…they said it was delicious!  I’m anxious to try out this recipe, and if it works out, I’ll share it on here.  Enjoy looking at how beautiful this stuff is.  It looks good and it’s good for you!

I thinned out my corn today, meaning that I removed some of the stalks from my intended overplanting.  I wanted to be sure something sprouted up, so I planted too much, which means some of it had to go.  I have planted Silver Queen corn, which is supposed to be super sweet.  A dog, or some other type of animal, has trampled some of my corn, so in some spots, I had to pull all of it because it had become completely uprooted.  Bummer.

If anyone knows anything about bell pepper plants, I need some advice.  Last year, I unsuccessfully attempted to plant bell peppers in pots.  Bad idea.  They failed miserably.  So my thinking is that if I get bell pepper plants in healthy soil and feed them with the worm castings that they will produce.  They’ve had the same effects as if they were in pots.  One of my plants sprouted a bell pepper and I have tended to that thing like a baby.  I go out there the other day and the pepper has fallen off and was starting to rot prior to falling off.  So discouraging!  What can I do to have these bell pepper plants be successful?  Advice, anyone!

More advice…composting.  I have a compost tumbler that I and my mother-in-law have been adding to for about a month and a half.  We only put fruits and vegetables in there, and I have added a good deal of grass clippings from mowing our lawn.  I have also added a compost starter to the bin, which supposedly was going to help the compost get going a lot quicker and I could apply it sooner than with normal decomposition.  What is in there now is the most disgusting, goopy glob mess I have ever seen.  It does not look even close to anything that should go on plants to make them healthy or improve the soil.  It is slimy and black and full of bugs, which I guess isn’t a bad thing.  My mother-in-law read somewhere that if it is goopy like it is now, it means there have been too many nitrogen-rich ingredients added to it and to add newspaper or leaves to the bin to balance it out.  Anyone have this experience or know of a remedy?  I want to add this compost to the garden, but not how it is now.  It just doesn’t look normal.

I walked through the garden today feeling so proud of the state that it’s in now.  I feel so accomplished that this is working out…that I’ll get to eat what I grew.  I wanted this chemical-free way to work so badly, and it looks like it just might.  I’m hoping to add some more flowering plants to the garden next month to ward off any bugs that might try to make their way in now that it’s getting so hot outside.  The marigolds are working well so far, but it’s not summer yet.  Any other advice anyone can offer on companion planting is welcomed.

This crazy girl right here is gonna be drinking my raw milk and eating my organic tomatoes and will be all the better for it!

Day One blogging…week 3 gardening

So…today begins my first day of blogging about this, what some would call, crazy venture into the world of organic gardening.  I have planted a home garden, along with my mother-in-law, of organic vegetables in her backyard.  Our move to Alabama has left us with a less than desirable yard, at least for gardening…or anything for that matter.  So for the time being, I must learn to share my gardening space.  I hope this blog becomes an outlet for all things good for you.  Along with organic gardening, my family has been trying raw milk and LOVE it and learning more about soy-free products, such as eggs.  So if I venture off of gardening sometimes, don’t be surprised!

I began planting about 3 weeks ago.  I started simply with one organic Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato plant that I bought at a farmers’ market.  I transplanted it into my mother-in-law’s garden, which I am sharing with her.  Now, I should say that I am in the process of making an organic convert out of my mother-in law.  She and her parents have gardened for years and have ALWAYS used fertilizer.  So, I am working with land that, up until this year, has had fertilizer applied to it yearly for at least the last 3 years.  However, I can’t help what’s been done in the past…only work with what I have now and try to improve the soil quality from here on  out.  So far, I have planted each transplant using worm castings (aka worm poop) and the soil that’s there.  Nothing else has been applied.  I am deep into learning about companion planting, so that has helped me with pest control without using a pesticide.  I am very interested in learning more about companion planting!  I have also started composting at home using a compost tumbler.  It’s not ready to apply to the garden yet, but when it is, that will be an additional layer of good stuff for my plants.

So, I told you what I started with, but now I have since added at least 15 other transplants that I bought from Tune Farm in Falkville, AL and started some other plants by seed in the garden.  I have SEVERAL different varieties of tomatoes now, bell peppers, basil, etc.  I started squash, watermelon, zucchini, cucumbers and corn by seed.  They have all sprouted and are doing well.  You can look at pictures to see what things look like at this stage.  Along with blogging, I want to share with you visuals of successes and failures as I go along, and also track the growth of things I planted.  So far, so good though.  I was able to pick some of my basil yesterday and made a yummy pesto tonight with dinner using it.

Tune Farm…what a wonderful place!  I visited there last week and was amazed at what they are doing there!  They have got this stuff down to a science.  I imagine I will be using them as a resource for my own garden as I go along.  I learned so much the day I was there.  One tidbit – they cover their garden plots completely with hay and then, by hand, make rows for planting seeds.  The hay prevents weeds from growing up around the plants.  They do most everything by hand, which reminds me that gardening is not supposed to be this “easy” thing, as most people have turned it into.  This whole idea of mass production using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, using machines to pick everything and process it…hands rarely touch the produce where mass production is involved.  That’s what most of us eat.  Home gardeners are just as bad, taking the easy route and sprinkling some fertilizer or spraying some pesticide when there’s a problem instead of learning about organic methods of companion planting and creating healthy soil.  Healthy soil equals healthy food.  People often forget that what you put in the ground goes into your food, which goes into your body.  No wonder people are so sick!  I’ve been naive for too long and am ready to take my own family’s health into my own hands and become more self-sufficient as well.  Hopefully this garden will be a success, but if not, I hope to have fun learning along the way and try again next year.