Archive for August, 2009

Of Pests and Parasites

I may just have to stop reading my gardening literature. Twice in the last few weeks, I have read about a garden problem and then stumbled across it in my own plot just days later.

It started with the fall issue of Zone 4 magazine, where I read an article about raspberries. The berry expert profiled in the article mentioned that yellowjackets can be quite troublesome in raspberry patches, burrowing into the fruit and sucking it dry. “Note to self,” I thought, since my raspberries are coming along nicely and should produce well next year. I filed the tidbit away for future use. Not two days later, I wandered out to my strawberry patch, to find it literally buzzing with yellowjackets, sucking the life out of my STRAWBERRIES!! Ugh. I bought a trap, which has since accumulated quite a collection of corpses. But not before they laid waste to just about every beautiful berry on the plants. Damn, damn, damn!

dodder1A few days later, I was perusing my “Weeds of the West” reference book, trying to figure out if what was growing in one of my perennial beds was yarrow (it was common tansy). While flipping through the book, I came across a yucky-looking weed called Dodder. It looks like thin yakisoba noodles, draped all over the host plant. “Ick,” I thought, and quickly turned the page. This weekend, while weeding my garden with the help of my sister and her husband, we discovered the nasty stuff draped all over my corn! I was so mad….like irrationally mad. This weed is a parasitic annual, which explains why my corn had been looking a little iffy. We pulled it out and stuffed it in a garbage can, but I haven’t had the chance to go back out to inspect the damage. Here’s the thing though…further research this evening shows that corn is supposed to be resistant to dodder. Something’s not adding up. Anyone have any ideas? My next step is to go pull out all my corn, just as it’s setting ears….


Seed Saving Workshop: August 22, 2009

fava beanIt’s about time to leave pea pods on their vines (so the seeds fully mature) and a few biennial carrots in the ground (until next year for them to flower). The Basics of Seed Saving Workshop is also just around the corner at the Missoula Urban Demonstration site. The cost is $10 for members and $20 for non-members–well worth picking up the skills you’ll need Peak Oil or when your peaking interest in hybrid seeds plunges. The workshop is scheduled for August 22 and lasts from 1-3 PM. Think of it this way–once you’ve harvested a sweet crop of seeds, you’ll be able to trade with other Missoulians at the Seed Saver Swap in late October (Date & Time TBA).


Another workshop that we highly recommend is the canning how-to on September 11.


Here’s how MUD describes the workshop: Rumor has it that last April Burpee’s sold out of all its seeds and had to put thousands of orders on backorder. Don’t let this happen to you! Yvonne will teach you how to collect and store your precious heirlooms for next season, and tell you which seeds are hybrids and which are sterile. Also, keep your eyes open for a Seed Saver Swap in late October! 

Filling a void (the sharecrop and fall planting)

Earlier this week a new friend, Marco, and I began a contemporary voyage into (the once abused term) ‘sharecropping.’  Pat Pulliam's 1 editPat Pulliam's 3 editAt two households that have, for all practical purposes, been in fallow for years (visual of one), the lords of the land are letting us fill the void by weeding or tilling, llama manuring or composting, and planting this week.

I’ll provide an updated photo showing the progression tomorrow.

Our goal is to return this ground to a more holy state–not that we’re improving on nature’s inclinations–what I mean is more directed at the ecstatic skin of the Earth, the soil. As Franco put it importantly, “we are growing the soil, not the plants.” Astrologically, Leo (July 23-August 23) is the best time to work the soil.

Our plan is to work a bit with the moon cycle, grow some species of the root (radish, beet, carrot) because today was the first day of the full moon. [To be full-fledged biodynamic guys, we would incorporate many other techniques, but I feel like especially at this late juncture, we are making an effort to become connected to the seasons & intuitively (suprisingly) timing our work together. We’ll expand our repertoire next year.] It’s really an experiment and even with the infinite powers of natural cycles, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can pull of this late season dance. If you’d like to bow to yer neighbor and do see do, we’re willing to sell directly to you. Let me know if yer interested and I’ll get back to you in approximately 48-70 days letting you have a pick of the roots, basil and cucumber.

Has anyone tried garden cover crops before and have advice regarding winter wheat/rye or tritacale? Would anyone like to give it a go fer the first time and buy bulk with us? The plan is to plant whatever we order in September.

This crop serves such a dual purpose–one leg of which belongs to a hairy homebrewer. I’m pondering using a bit of the grain in an ale this spring with hops grown by Lifeline Farm. It could be a loco local beer. We’re also going to be gleaning the neighborhood of its apples, making cider (hard and soft), applesauce, jam and pie. Let me know if you’d like to be a part of any or all of this process. By the way, if you’re a member of MUD you can vie for access to two cider presses in these, the Apple Days.

Peas, BBH

the economy of growing your own food

In an effort to not be redundant and post this in a third spot, I am going to just invite you all over to read my recent post at The Hip Homemaker on how I have tried to be economical in creating my first year garden… See you over there!


A Little Payoff and Some Meandering

squashDepsite one of the most persistent stomach bugs I’ve had the misfortune to encounter, I did manage to wander out to the garden for a few minutes this weekend to hunt for the zuchinis that I knew would be out there. Sure ’nuff, I nabbed 4 good-sized beauties plus a couple of summer squash. Last year, I started both of these veggies indoors, and didn’t have much luck with the summer squash. This year, I threw ’em right in the ground and they are doing quite well.

Other updates: I have some green tomatoes but not a ton. I was so excited to get eggplant in the ground AND to see 4 or 5 blossoms, but I don’t think they’re going to do anything. The plants are looking a little yellow and wilty. I’ve been having a really hard time thinning my carrots…I just hate pulling out plants and tossing them. I get tough with them every few days though, and they’re starting to actually look like carrots when I thin them now.

I was so excited to have a bunch of volunteer sunflowers from last year, but it turns out they have invited along a big, fat infestation of aphids. I’ve tried not to be too freaked out about it…the ladybugs are plentiful. Unfortunately, so are the ants. I’ve picked off a few of the worst infested leaves, but have left the ladybugs to their work. They’ve always been my favorite bug…actually the only one I like. Except for worms. And bees.