Tag Archives: yarrow

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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End of spring means sweet deals

I was in Toronto when my uncle returned last week. He was upset that there were so many weeds in the garden and that my cousin hadn’t mowed the lawn. That was my fault. I’d accidentally locked the shed door. The key had gone missing so we couldn’t get at the necessary equipment (the garden claw and lawn mower). I’d felt bad that I hadn’t gotten around to planting his okra as the plants were starting to look yellow. He planted some since his return and told me today he`d plant the rest tomorrow. He`s realizing now that space is an issue in his area.

Look at all them weeds. Almost didn't notice the spicy salad mix on the left.

Look at all them weeds. Almost didn’t notice the small light green patch of  spicy salad mix on the left.

I haven`t been spending enough time in the garden to really get at what needs to be done. This is evidenced by the fact that the tomatoes were getting out of control. One plant had even fallen over, it was so top-heavy.  I swear, I was watching them closely; removing the suckers every time I visited. I thought I was doing a good job of maintaining one main stem, but each plant has bifurcated and continues to grow new shoots in any way it can. Some suckers are so big and have tiny flower heads on them that I couldn`t bring myself to remove them. I`m really bad at a tomato management.

The plant to the back left has fallen over

The plant to the back left has fallen over

Technically you`re supposed to insert the stake right when you plant the tomatoes in order to reduce the risk of damaging the roots, which is much more likely when the plant is full grown. I tied them gently but firmly to the stakes using twine.

Looks pretty good!

Looks pretty good!

Tomatoes forming!

Tomatoes forming!

I’ve noticed that one of the strawberry plants is starting to lose its leaves. I’m wondering if the weeds are strangling its roots.  Sure, it’s still forming and ripening berries, but for how long? I’m planning to do some weeding on the weekend now that the shed is accessible. Apparently they never found the key and had to cut the lock.

Strawberry plants in May

Strawberry plants in May, when they were first planted. The one on the right was the first one I planted. It was less mature than the one on the left.

You'll notice the weeds all around and the fact that the foilage is not as dense as it once was

The first strawberry plant I bought. You’ll notice the weeds all around and the fact that the foliage is not as dense as in the picture above (and no, it’s not the angle. It is much thinner).

On a positive note, Urban Harvest was having a plant sale as this is the last week their physical store would be open for the season. The sale started last weekend: 3 perennials or 4 annuals for $10. I didn’t make it on the weekend and my week was filled with after work activities. But what a deal! I couldn’t miss out…

I managed to get into union station in Toronto at 5pm on Monday. My aquafit class started at 6:30 so I took a chance and took the subway north to Dundas West station. I was in such a rush that I ended up getting 3 perennials: rosemary, lavender, and yarrow, and only 2 annuals: nasturtium and cilantro.

Left to right: yarrow, rosemary,  lavender, cillantro, nasturtium

Left to right: yarrow, rosemary, lavender, cillantro, nasturtium

The staff were nice enough to give me 2 annuals for $5 rather than $3.50 each. By the time I left, it was 6pm. As I ran to the subway, it briefly crossed my mind to go back and see if I could get the 5 for $10 deal because I wouldn’t make it all the way to the east end in 30 minutes.  I should’ve listened to that thought because I didn’t make it to class. I was kicking myself for a few days. But I suppose it was a blessing in disguise. I don’t really know where I’m going to plant what I bought…

Close up!  I can almost smell them...

Close up!
I can almost smell them…

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Still thinking about seeds…

Visited relatives last weekend and came back with some sage, mint, and hot peppers from their garden. I’m using the mint and sage for tea and I’m trying to save the pepper seeds for next year.

Sage, mint, hot peppers

What I’ve realized after reading articles on the subject, particularly the Seed Saving Instructions for Beginners and the Vegetable Seed Saving Handbook , is that the fruits must fully ripen on the plants before the seeds can be harvested otherwise they may not germinate. I had been drying seeds from a green pepper, not a fully ripened red one, and it did not ripen on the plant (obviously). I tossed them out today and after washing my hands, forgetting I had been handling hot pepper seeds, I began to rub my eye. Big mistake! My eye swelled and burned like mad. Without thinking again I put water on my eye, which made it burn even more! I should have remembered that drinking water after eating peppery food just makes things worse. I did eventually recall what helps to soothe the pepper burn – milk! I put some milk in a cupped hand and rubbed it on my eyelids and the swelling began to go away immediately as did the burning. Pfew!

The other day I was surprised to find some calendula seeds just lying around in the plot, near where the borage plant used to be.  So I gathered them up and I’m making sure they are fully dried before I package them for next year.

Calendula seeds

I read in an eHow article that seeds that fall on the ground can be moldy and can get wet (which makes they nonviable for saving). I’d still like to try growing them so I think I’ll separate them into another package, rather than putting them in with the seeds I bought from Urban Harvest. The soil was very dry when I found them so I’m hoping they are still OK.

So now I’m thinking more about harvesting flower seeds for next season. I’ve been admiring the yarrow in the community plot all summer.

Yarrow

I’ve been reading lately about the benefits of yarrow as a companion plant. According to wikipedia, it attracts predatory wasps and ladybugs, improves the soil, and improves the health of plants that are grown nearby. eHow also gives some other useful information about yarrow. It apparently takes 2 years to become established, which is a bit of a bummer.

I helped myself to some drying flowers just off of the community plot and I’ve placed them in a paper bag to fully dry. You can shake the bag to try and separate the seeds from the chaff before you store them.

I saw an interesting video on Youtube today about collecting nasturtium seeds. I’m going to be looking for these on my next visit to the garden!

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