Tag Archives: collards

Canada Day musings

Boy, did I drop the ball last year with the blog. But instead of beating myself up about it, I will jump back into it with a challenge for myself: 31 days of blogging for the month of July. Let’s start with some 2016 highlights:

Community garden

The highlight of last season was the arrival of a swallowtail caterpillar.

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Beautiful! And so smooth!

I’m glad he was a pretty one and not one of the ones that look like snakes (creepy!).

I had several volunteer (did not plant) dill plants last year. It’s not one of my favorite herbs (although the best pho I’ve ever had had dill in it), but it does a lot of good in the garden as a companion plant, attracting beneficial insects and discouraging harmful ones. I purposely planted one this year in hopes of attracting the caterpillar, but no luck yet. Sadly it hasn’t done much to discourage cabbage worms.

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A discouraging sight on my collard greens. Had to pull them and my kale.

There was a new pest in the garden last year: mealy bugs. I’ve encountered them before. They decimated my succulents at work. But this was the first time I’d seen them in the garden. I got to see them up close.

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Fuzzy mealy bug

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You can see his snout much clearer here. I could feel him sucking in the air across my palm!

The dill were covered so I just pulled them. By then the swallowtail was nowhere to be seen. I’d like to think he became a butterfly rather than a bird’s meal. Someone told me if I left a stick near the dill, it would pupate there. I’ve also heard it could have pupated on the side of my raised bed. Wish I’d seen that. I did see the caterpillar in the instar stage so it would have been cool to see the full cycle.

In addition to the mealy bugs, I was sad to find a cabbage worm on my dill. Once I checked the life cycle to ensure it wasn’t a swallowtail caterpillar, it went right in the trash.

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Cabbage worm, with evidence of mealy bug cottony webs.

Even when I thought I was bringing some nice dill in to work for a colleague, it turned out to be infested with aphids. Trashed again.

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Not a nice gift after all!

Despite not really being able to use a lot of the dill last year. I think it’s worth growing it for the beneficial predators it attracts and the beautiful swallowtail caterpillar.

 

 

 

 

 

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A new pest for 2015

And this seems to be the worst one I’ve come across so far: the bloody flea beetle!

Flea beetle damage on radishes

Flea beetle damage on radish leaves

They are decimating my collards in the community garden and other seedlings in Hamilton. They may not be new to the garden (I may have attributed the damage to another pest in the past), but they are certainly making themselves known this year.

Flea beetle damage on eggplant

Flea beetle damage on eggplant

Flea beetle damage on tomatoes. New tomato leaves seem to be OK for now

Flea beetle damage on tomatoes. New leaves seem to be OK for now

They are a real pain. I can’t get close enough to squish them, they just hop away. They are definitely the most mobile pest I’ve encountered.  You Grow Girl says that they don’t enjoy moist environments or shade, so maybe once things start growing and shading other plants it will get better. Diatomaceous earth, row covers, and sticky traps are useful sources of organic control. Radish is supposed to be a trap crop, so I guess I should feel happy that its doing its job.

I read this interesting article that stated tomatoes planted near collards will deter the flea beetle. This is interesting because I thought that brassicas and tomatoes weren’t companions. Maybe some cabbage family members are more of a problem for tomatoes than others (and vice versa). Anyway, it’s good news as I think I’ve planted a tomato near my collards because my brother wanted two tomatoes in the community garden instead of the one I had planned for.

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Critters 2: … and the ugly!

I came across these cute (and gross) creepy crawlies last Friday. They were all over the kale in the greenhouse. At the time I thought they were caterpillars but I later learned, through a lot of Google image searching, that they are cabbage worms or cabbage loopers. They attack brassica family plants, such as the kale and collard greens that are currently in the garden.

These guys hide in plain site. I almost didn't see them, and then I saw a ton of them!

These guys hide in plain site. I almost didn’t see them, and then I saw a ton of them!

According to About.com, the worms are the larva of the cabbage white butterfly. As soon as I read this, I remembered chasing a little white butterfly with my camera as he fluttered through the garden not long ago. At the time, of course, I thought it was so cute. Little did I know, their larva are the ultimate ugly.

What’s ugly is the amount of damage these little buggers can create. Unbelievable.

They have teeth!

They’re eating the kale right before my eyes!

I thought about picking them directly off the plants but I couldn’t bring myself to handle their soft, squishy bodies with my bare hands. Stroking their backs was as brave as I could get (they’re furry!).  Seeing their little mouths chomping on the kale was another deterrent from picking them up. I didn’t want to get bitten :).

I came across this interesting post yesterday by Urban Organic Gardener while I was searching for  information about cabbage worms. His post showed that the black spots in my picture below are actually worm poo and not aphids as I’d thought.

I thought this was aphids

That’s a lot of poo, which can only mean — a lot of worms! Nooo!

I managed to pick up a copy of Grow Great Grub and You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail from my local  Hamilton Public Library branch. I remember the books having sections on organic pest control (as most gardening books do) that I had ignored in the past but now I desperately wanted some reliable info on cabbage worms.

Here are just some of the recommendations from the books and entries from Hubpages and Better Homes and Gardens that I came across:

1. Companion planting – with items such as Aster family flowers (which if Wikipedia can be believed includes sunflowers, yarrow, and calendula), onions, and sage that either deter the worms or attract insects that will prey on them. Note that the examples I used are all growing in my garden. The sunflowers and calendula are close by but they aren’t in full bloom yet.

2. Use floating row covers to keep the butterfly from laying its eggs on your brassicas.

3. Handpick the little buggers off of your plants.

First calendula bloom of season.

First calendula bloom of season. Hopefully it will attract some predatory wasps to eat the cabbage worms.

I took home some collard and beet greens last Friday. When I got around to washing them on Sunday, I found two worms had hitched a ride and survived the fridge (well, one was moving in the water; the other wasn’t). A clear reminder to check my leaves carefully before I bag them.

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Reminiscing…

It’s rainy and cool out there and forecasting more rain for the weekend. Feeling an ominous air of summer coming to a close and I haven’t made it to any Farmer’s Markets yet. Or the beach. Feeling reminiscent and as a result I’m thinking back on the successes and failures of the garden this season.

My favorite new addition this year was the collard greens. My sister really likes them so I bought seeds  especially for her. What a beautiful and tasty green! The stuff at my local grocery store is ginormous and tough while the collards in the garden were tender and non-mutant. The kale was pretty good too but the collards seem to do better. Kale is supposed to be better in the fall, and tastier after a light frost, while collard greens tolerate the heat better. We’ll see how they do in the fall planting.

Collard greens, with kale in the background

They make a lovely bouquet – collard greens and Rainbow kale

Even though I only got one measly piece of fruit from the plant and it took up a heck of a lot of space, I’m still glad I tried zucchini this year. I’m hoping there’s still time for the new plant to make more fruit before it starts to get too cold.

Zucchini and blossom

Like an Olympic flame

Prized zucchini blossom

Luuved the surprise of the multi-headed sunflowers this year. They are looking pretty atrocious in the garden right now as they are coming to the end of their life cycle. The cucumbers are pulling them down as well, but I can’t take them out until I can figure out another support for the cucumbers.

There are about 4 individual sunflowers here; to the left is the large multi-headed sunflower as seen below

Sunflowers in their glory

The cucumbers were probably the biggest surprise for me, in the sense that for the longest time my brother and I thought the plant wasn’t doing anything at all. Turns out all the fruit was hiding underneath its large leaves. What a joy to come across even a tiny cucumber!

Peekaboo!

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

I was probably the only one in my family that enjoyed the chives this year. My sister complained that they were bitter and tough, but I quite liked the taste. I like to sprinkle it onto my meals for a nice onion-y kick. Did I mention these are garlic chives?! I’d forgotten. Apparently they are much tastier than regular chives.

Garlic chives – snapping off pieces promotes new growth, much like deadheading

Garlic chives sending up flowers – blossoms are apparently very tasty!

I came to really appreciate basil this year, not only for its tastiness but also for its hardiness.  It did really well in the garden, probably better than anything else. And it’s still doing well!

Sweet and dark opal basil with parsley

Sweet and lemon basils

This exercise has totally cheered me up. Looking forward to some sun!

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Hot and humid

It’s been really humid this summer. I’m noticing that plants such as the borage and tomatoes that were so chipper and upstanding last year are looking limp and sad. It thunderstormed yesterday afternoon, bringing much needed rain. As a fellow gardener said to his friend: “If I don’t water, it won’t rain.” I watered in the morning as well and as I watched the downpour I worried that my plants might have gotten too much water. But I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the rain. You can water as much as you want, but it’s only after the rains that plants really flourish. It must be the nutrients in the rain. I don’t have much nutrient-rich kelp meal left,  so I’ve been saving it for when I plant the fall crops.
While at the garden, I picked the first zucchini of the season.  It was small, about 7 inches long, but firm with very few blemishes. My family enjoyed it raw in a bean salad. Very nice.

First zucchini of the season!

There are a lot of male flowers  on my zucchini plants (the female flowers are at the end of the zucchini). I picked two, one of which was housing about 6 earwigs (I shook the flower and they fell out). I’ve been reading online that you can batter, stuff, and fry them up and that they taste divine. I might just try it or a less labour-intensive baked version.

A male zucchini flower ready for harvest, with some young zucchini in the background

Gardening is definitely giving me an appreciation and  a comfort level around bugs. I used to be really creeped out by earwigs, in particular, when I was younger. I can say this year they don’t bother me so much.

Earwigs hiding in basil leaves

I managed to photograph the very beautiful cucumber beetle exploring a cucumber flower. I’ve had a hard time killing these little buggers, they fly away so quickly. I’ve been a bit obsessed with trying to photograph as well as kill them. I’m  glad none of them have managed to damage my zucchini. I’ve read online that you can plant radishes near cucumbers to repel the beetle so I planted some Hon Vit radish from my Spicy Salad Mix package. You can also lay down onion skins. I don’t know how effective these interventions are so we’ll see what happens. Apparently the Marketmore cucumber I planted are disease resistant. I guess that’s not the same as pest resistant.

Cucumber beetle explores cucumber flower

Incidentally I’ve been wondering when I will start seeing cucumbers. Turns out they can take anywhere from 55 to 70 days, which I had forgotten. This is length of time is disappointing, but reassuring that my lack of fruit at this stage is perfectly normal. I think I planted around the beginning of June so I should see fruit around the beginning of September.

I’ve been quite lax with picking off the suckers of my tomato plants. Some of them have already turned into long branches with flowers so I picked off the ones without flowers. I’ve noticed on one plant that the bottoms leaves are spreading out across the ground.  I remember reading somewhere that you should remove the leaves close to the ground but I can’t remember why. Many of the forums I’ve looked at today say that removing the bottom leaves increases fruit yields, that they should be removed if they are yellow, and that because they are close to the ground they could pick up diseases. The leaves near the ground on my plants are green and show no sign of disease. Some forum posts gave logical arguments against removing leaves, stating that leaves are required for  photosynthesis and that we don’t go around pulling leaves off of other healthy plants so why do it to tomatoes. I think I’ll just watch and see what happens. It does seem like I have less tomatoes than I did last year, but maybe it’s still early.

A sucker

I planted some dill and parsley. I was happy to see that the collard greens I had planted either last week or the week before are starting to come up but upset to see that leafminers have already begun attacking them!

Leafminer damage already!

I had to tie up my borage plant with twine. It was falling onto one of the tomato plants and keeping the parsley that is already growing from getting any sun.  One branch was actually breaking off but I thought if I tied it up it might heal itself. Many of the flowers are not open yet, but the few that are open are being visited frequently by pollinators. Good stuff.

Pollinator at work

I harvested mostly basil today, with some nasturium leaves, borage flowers, a beet, and the zucchini.

Harvest July 15th

A lovely beet

My brother told me the blogger for our community gardens wants to feature our plot in an upcoming blog post. Exciting! We’ll see if it comes to pass. I think what stands out in my plot are the flowers. One might think they are a waste of good growing space (especially my 3 squares of sunflowers), but they are essential for attracting pollinators. And they look so pretty!

Garden July 15th

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