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Archive for May, 2010

SVB Moth

Tonight whilst meandering out in my garden, I came fact-to-face with my nemesis, the beast that every year since I have gardened has laid its wicked spawn that killed my beloved butternut squash three times. I have never laid eyes upon this evil vermin, only its slimy, icky, destructive progeny. Tonight I saw it, and I shuddered. (Cue Jaws-themed inpending doom music):

It was the Squash Vine Moth, vile mother of the evil, insidious, pestilent, slimy, icky, groddy . . . SQUASH VINE BORER!!!! (high-pitched, hysterical female scream)

I steeled myself and faced my foe, determined and unafraid. I bravely considered my plan of attack, thinking, Um, but first I need to Google this and make sure what this critter is . . .

So I took a quick detour to find out if this indeed was my bitter enemy. Well, to be honest, since it was lurking out amongst my yellow summer squash, I thought it might be my other enemy that decimated my yellow squash last summer, the evil Squash Bug. I Googled “Squash Bug,” and nope, wasn’t it. Then I Googled Squash Vine Borer, and yup, thar she was in all her wicked glory, looking just like the be-ach out there squatting upon one of my yellow squash leaves.

Now I knew who my enemy was, and I was ready to form a plan to destroy her. But first, I wanted to get a picture of my own. I mean, y’all have to see her, right? So I got my camera, went back outside to my yellow squash plant and told her, Smile, because you’re about to die! Mwahahahaha!  Then I snapped her picture. She actually was a pretty creature, and I loved her vivid red and green coloring, but her beauty wasn’t gonna save her. She had to die.

Then I had to decide how I was going to kill her. To be honest, I really hate killing anything, even if it is threatening to kill my plants. Must be because I was a Buddist in another life – or was that Catholic – or maybe nudist – uh, oh never mind. I just hate killing anything, even pests – it always makes me feel guilty, no matter how destructive the critter. So I grabbed a jar, placed it under the leaf the moth was on, and shook the leaf. The SVB moth tumbled in with nary a struggle. Too frickin’ easy. I screwed on the lid and then placed the jar in the grass while I decided what to do.

I decided to plant the datura I bought at Natural Gardener this past weekend. Yes, I know I just planted a bunch of moonflower seeds, but I realized they weren’t the same ones that grow out at Leb Shomea where I went last summer. Natural Gardener had datura (which is also known as moonflower), and I knew this was it, and that was what I wanted. I know I’ll be very happy with the moonflowers that are growing from the seeds I planted, but I really did want what grows out at Leb Shomea.

SVB Moth in Jar

So, since I still didn’t know how I was going to kill the SVB moth, I dug a hole and planted the datura. Then I checked all my squash plants for any more SVB moths, gave them a second, and more thorough, dusting of diatomaceous earth (I’d given them all a little dusting the previous night since I figured SVB season was coming upon me quickly), cleaned up a little around the patio, grabbed the jar with the moth and went inside to take a picture of it in the jar.

Then I considered how to kill it. I thought about putting water in the jar or flushing it down the toilet, but that seemed sort of a cruel, prolonged death by drowning. So I decided to take it back outside, shake it out on the patio and then stomp it to death with my foot. A relatively quick death for the moth. I stomped it three times to make sure it was good and dead, more so it wouldn’t be suffering than because of any enraged venom I have toward the SVB moth and its gross progeny. I didn’t feel great about doing it, but I knew it was either the moth or my squash and I ain’t given up my squash that easily this time. So the SVB moth had to die, and so will any others I lay my eyes on.

I hope that’s the only SVB moth that lights upon my squash, but I’m ready to do battle if need be. I want my squash, damnit, and the SVB ain’t gettin’ any this year!

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My Butternut and Delicata Squash

Once again this year I am trying to grow beans and squash. The first year, as an experiment, I planted some black-eyed peas in a container. They came up and produced a few pods, but not much. Last year I didn’t have much success with the Kentucky Wonder beans and bush/soup beans that I planted, nor with the yellow squash I planted, and if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know all about my ongoing struggle with butternut squash and the dreaded, evil SVB (Squash Vine Borer) since I started my garden in 2008. And last year I tried planting delicata squash with the butternut squash and it never came up at all.  So you’d think that I’d just give it up, this being my third year of gardening, and the third time to try beans and squash.

But the third time is a charm, and this year will be different, I have determined. It already has been different. This year I bought bean innoculant for all my beans, and instead of coming up all puny and anemic like they did last year, they have all come up thick and rich and green and, in the case of the pole beans (Kentucky Wonder and Scarlett Runner), they are eager to climb whatever they can! I installed a net trellis in the raised bed with yellow summer squash and the pole beans on the back row, and for the beans in the row in front of them, I set up two bean teepees from  branches I saved last year when I cut off some really low branches on my Bradford Pear tree. And so the pole beans have plenty to climb up on, and they are going to town.

Bean Teepee

I had also foolishly planted Scarlett Runner beans (from the bean seeds I had left from the Hummingbird Garden) right in front of the yellow squash, and I later realized that if I set up bean teepees with the Scarlett Runners it could block sun from the squash. I know beans don’t transplant well, and I didn’t really have a good place to transplant them anyway. But I really hated to pull them out and throw them away – it seemed like such a waste (I also hate to thin plantings for the same reason). So as their vines get longer, I am successfully training them to go up on the bean teepees on each side of them.

As of this writing, I also have three healthy plants each of yellow squash, butternut squash, and ta-dah! – delicata squash!  Not sure why the delicata came up this year when it didn’t last year; I used the same packet of seeds as I did this year, but in any case, I’m please that they all came out. And all of the squash plants have tiny flower buds on them!

Of course, now that my bean and squash babies have survived the initial “birthing” process, my thoughts turn to pests – how do I prevent them, or at least, keep them from getting out of hand? Last year I never got any yellow squash because I got squash bug and noticed it too late, and I did have another attack of SVB on the butternut squash, but fortunately it only got one plant and I was able to save the other one and kept a sharp eye out for any SVB eggs. The borage I planted may have also helped, but this year I didn’t plant borage right in front of either beds that contain squash, though there is borage nearby.

Yardener.com offers several solutions to the dreaded SVB, one of which I’ve already done, which is to use Garlic Barrier to repel the moths that lay the eggs that hatch the larvae that burrow into the the vine that destroys the plant (yes, this sounds like an annoying children’s song). Another solution I might also try is to dust the plant with diatomaceous earth to prevent any larvae from entering the stem, although what it will really do is slice those little suckers like glass (Bwahahahaha), which yeah, certainly prevents them from entering the stem! 

I could also use row cover, but it’s such a pain in the you-know-what to lift it up, check yer plants, or harvest, or whatever and then cover it back up again and seal all the edges. And I’m too lazy to do all that. So I’ll keep using the Garlic Barrier as repellent, and try dusting with diatomaceous earth and keeping a good eye on my plants.

I just did a little research on bean pests and diseases, and prevention of pests and diseases for beans does not seem to be as cut and dried as it seems to be for squash.  It makes me tired to think about it. And I realize that I probably over-planted beans. I kept with Mel B.’s (of Square Foot Gardening fame) recommendation of planting 9 pole beans and 8 bush beans per square foot, and even for one square it just really seems like too much, plus I planted not just one square of pole beans and one of bush beans, but 6 squares of pole beans and 8 squares of bush beans, and this doesn’t even count all the runner beans I planted in the Hummingbird Garden! Jeez Loueeze, even if all my bean plants survive and thrive, I’ll have more beans than I can possibly ever eat! Oh well. Guess I’ll have to share my bounty with family, friends and neighbors!

However, I do wonder if crowding the beans like I have is good for them. I wonder if I should thin them out some, but again, I hate the thought of thining them out. Well, anyway, like I said, it just makes me tired to think about. Guess I’ll join Scarlett O’Hara and say, “Tomorrow is another day.” I’ll worry about it then.

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The new hummingbird garden

A couple of weeks ago, when I went to my fave gardening shop in the whole universe, Natural Gardener, I was so proud of myself for showing great restraint in only buying compost, seaweed extract, bean innoculant and . . . seeds for a hummingbird garden. Didn’t buy a plant one, even though they were bursting at the seams with the usual spring multitude of veggies, herbs, and flowers. Went home all smug and self-satisfied, thinking, Yes, I will just plant seeds this year, mostly from what I saved last year — how thrifty is that? No buying upteen jillion dozen veggie transplants, flowering plants and shrubs, no making any square foot beds, cuz now I have 7 (!) beds, and I will not till up any more flower beds . . .

Later I looked at my little seed packet for a hummingbird garden — a lovely array of scarlet runner beans, zinnias and nasturtiums, and all in my favorite color – RED! Then the thought — where the heck am I gonna plant these? When I bought them, I had some vague thought that I’d plant them somewhere in the back of my flower bed. However, by the time I got around to thinking about planting them, I’d already planted sunflower seeds and zinnia seeds from seeds I’d saved from last year’s multi-colored zinnias. Hum.

I could have interspersed the seeds in little places around the flower bed, but I really liked the idea of having a brilliant flame of red color all in one little spot. I’d also been thinking about putting in some more rosemary, thyme, lavendar and maybe some other herbs somewhere. Hum.

My eyes fell to a spot of yardage between the veggie bed closest to my patio and the new bed where I used Natural Gardeners’ convenient Mel’s Mix and planted more cilantro than I could ever possibly consume. Originally I had thought about turning this into a deeper raised bed for growing root vegetables, but there were other places I could conceivably put that, and I could even turn one of my raised beds on the other side of the house into a deeper bed. Hum.

Also, I noticed that the grass from the fence to about a foot out was pretty much dead — probably a consequence of our deadly dry summer last year and our hard freezes this winter. How conveeenient.

So last Tuesday night (in the friggin’ dark, no less), I decided to start ripping out the dead grass. In my madness I figured that would commit me to just having to put in a new flower bed. (I’m a Gemini, ya know, with the archetypal twin nature, and the naughty part of me is always plotting against the part of me that wants to be logical, common-sensical and have more time to sleep instead of tending plant beds day and night).

In the light of early evening the next day, a foot of bare earth next to the fence, I realized I was indeed committed (or ought to be committed to the State Hospital). I finished the dirty deed Friday night (again in the friggin’ dark).

Actually, I enjoyed the whole process of ripping out grass and literally getting my hands dirty. There is something so satisfying about tearing out grass by the root (I especially like ripping out my damn St. Augustine grass for some reason) and reaching one’s hands into the rich hummus of earth seeing (even in the dark) and feeling (as it gets darker) all the various components that make up this hummus — grass, leaves, rock, worms, rolly-pollys, grubworms, etc. (don’t worry, I wear gardening gloves when I rip out grass, so nothing yucky touches my bare hands). Nothing like it. It speaks to my inner child who loves digging in the dirt — or perhaps, more likely, to my inner madwoman.

Saturday I got up to get some herbs to plant along with the hummingbird seeds. As much as I love Natural Gardener, I really didn’t want to trudge out to BFE (that’s Big Frickin’ Egypt, y’all – I try to keep it a little clean here – a little) Oak Hill where it’s located so I decided to try a new place closer to me that I’ve heard about ever since I moved to deep South Austin: It’s About Thyme.

While IAT doesn’t have everything Natural Gardener does, it does have a nice selection of plants. And I went nuts, just frackin’ nuts. I not only bought rosemary, thyme, lavendar and basil (to grow with my asparagus and tomatoes), I bought some more strawberry plants, Mexican feather grass, and as a little treat for my kitty babies, some nice healthy catnip and wheat grass. Basically, I wound up spending over $60 that I never would have spent if I’d just stuck to my original plan of no more flower beds and just planting seeds this spring. Oh well.

Oh, and, I remembered I wanted to plant some moonflowers. I’ve been lusting after having moonflowers in my garden since a guy I briefly dated last summer loaned me his book by Scott Ogden, The Moonlit Garden. I fell madly in love with Ogden’s descriptions of moon gardens and the moonflowers which are an important part of them. Then I spent several days at a retreat last summer at Leb Shomea House of Prayer near the coast in Kenedy, TX (I’m not even Catholic or particularly religious, but this is a truly wonderful place to spend silent retreat), and big white and purple moonflowers were everywhere, and yes, they only open at night. Their scent is truly heavenly and out-of-this world. This sealed my love.

Moonflower bed

So yes, I wanted to plant some moonflowers. I went to Home Depot last week to pick up some mulch, and I thought, “I wonder if they have any moonflower seeds. If they do, then I’m definitely gonna plant ’em.” Right then I turned around, and – There. They. Were. Surely this was a Divine Sign, right? Yes, surely it was God’s Will that I plant moonflowers. I bought two packs of seeds.

Then, this past weekend, even though I was gravely ill from pollen allergies (OK, so I exaggerate), I went out and ripped up another, though smaller, plot of St. Augustine grass, which decided to be a real bear about being torn out this time, and planted my moonflower seeds. Unfortunately it takes 2 weeks for them to germinate (2 weeks! I can’t stand it!). Well, I just have to be patient and bide my time, which all good gardeners must learn to do.

But really, now, two new flower beds? Especially after digging up extra beds for all my berry bushes? Yes, they’re small, but that’s two new beds I have to water, watch for pests and diseases, spray (organically, of course) for any pests and diseases I see, etc. And I have the main flower bed and all the veggie beds to tend to. And I planted corn and amaranth in the last veggie bed to be planted. And I have my new-courtesy-of-Mother-Nature-and-my-goofiness compost tomato bed. Not to mention that while my backyard is full of life and color, my front yard looks like crap, and I often forget to water my plants inside. And not to mention that there are other things I’d like to do. Like spend more time with my sweetie. Like have a social life. Like get to creating poetry and art again. Like, well, you know, have a life. But I love gardening so darn much — two years ago when I first started out on this journey, I had no idea I would love it this much. But I do.

Clearly I’m mad. Somebody needs to stop me, quick. Take me to Gardeners’ Anonymous. Hell, I probably need to go into gardening rehab. Maybe someone needs to have me commited to the State Hospital. Because I have totally lost my frickin’ mind.

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