Thursday, June 16, 2016

Leaf Miner

Last year my spinach crop was mostly decimated by the time I figured out it wasn't blight but a creature that was eating it. Once you know what to look for, the signs of leaf miner are obvious and unmistakable.

The trail of a leaf miner in chard.

Leaf miner can refer to a bunch of different creatures that behave similarly: they lay their eggs on leaves, and when the eggs hatch the larvae (little worms) eat a path through the leaf, munching between the layers until they are ready to drop out into the ground to turn into moths or flies and start all over again. The ones eating my spinach (drum roll)...are most likely spinach leaf miner. Now I know better than to let them get out of control. Once a plant is established, and if you don't mind a few blemishes (and the memory of a gross larva) in your greens, then leaf miners aren't a big deal. But in my small home garden they made a very big dent in my spinach and chard crop last year, especially when the plants were young.

Leaf miner damage to a beet seedling

So now I keep them in check by rubbing the eggs off the leaves before they hatch. The eggs are easy to spot - tiny tight rows of tiny white eggs on the backs of the affected crop.

A row of leaf miner eggs on the back of a chard leaf

I have raised beds so I just take my coffee outside in the mornings and sit on the walls while turning over leaves and rubbing off the eggs. There are usually a couple patches of eggs on the backs of each leaf of my spinach, chard, and beets every other day or so, so that would be a lot of little grubs eating up my food if I didn't get after them. Maybe after a season or two of management they'll be less prolific, but I don't mind the task. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Resilient Roots

Like several things that people say are easy to grow, I have had more bad luck than good with poppies. Carrots are another, and they have in common the tinyness of their seeds, which I suspect is a factor in my frequently only-moderately-well-drained soil. Perhaps. I scatter and scatter, and occasionally I get a tiny fraction of what I seed, and they have failed prove their "prolific self-seeder" reputation for me - yet.

So finally this year I decided to flout the super-dominant advice that poppies "hate to have their roots disturbed" and therefore shouldn't be started indoors. For several years now I have been starting my indoor seeds in soil blocks, which minimize root disruption vs. pots. So I started a dozen or more poppies - a mix of Hungarian Blue Breadseed and Ladybird.

Unfortunately, in the depths of winter, I got over-eager and started them too soon. By April 1st if not earlier they had sort of exhausted their little blocks. In zone 4 they couldn't go out yet, and I didn't have the space to plant them up into larger blocks as I do with tomatoes. So they waited. By May 1 I had many of them sitting outside under cover in trays, despite some very cold nights (I did pull them in once for a freeze). But by then I had also read more about their roots and realized they have a long deep tap root that was probably hopelessly bound by now. I wrote off my experiment, thinking I'd try again next year with a much later indoor start date, but I planted them out anyway to bookmark their spot and because I am almost incapable of tossing seedlings.

Many of them do appear stunted, not much larger than when I planted them a month ago. But several are putting up buds, and the first bloomed today.

I am 95% sure this is one of the Ladybirds, judging from the foliage, but the bloom is not true to either of the varieties I started. I'm not complaining, just explaining.

I have high hopes for a future filled with cheap, beautiful, indoor-started poppies.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Fava Flowers


It smells so sweet.

This is my wisteria's 4th year with me, and it's first bloom (I have two plants on different posts of my arbor).

I pruned the heck out of it last spring and late winter, following the advice of some you-tube videos. I'm still not sure it bloomed where they said it would, and whether my pruning was instrumental or incidental. But I don't care, because it's beautiful.

Here is an early bud, when I was still just hoping that that's actually what it was:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

No Dig Potatoes

I don't have a pile of tires or potato bin yet, but this is an easy way to grow potatoes.

1. let your potatoes go to seed. (Last year I bought some early from the co-op and stored them in a paper bag in the basement. This year I just failed to keep the last of last years crop of purples potatoes from sprouting. I kept them for months, hoping they'd make it to spring and...

2. throw sprouted potatoes, or chunks with at least on sprouting eye a piece, on the ground. (You can also bury slightly if you feel like it).

3. cover with hay, or clippings.

4. keep topping off throughout the summer with clippings, to keep the plants growing higher, and creating more height for the roots and potatoes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fungus Gnats!

While tending my seedlings this morning after a long weekend away at the DFL convention in Duluth, I noticed some movement in one of the pots where the seeds had failed to germinate. Upon very very close inspection, I saw teeny tiny white/clear worms moving about. I dug around and didn't see them in any of the other failed pots (and most of the babies are doing great), but they are pretty hard to see. A little digging on line and I think I've got it: Fungus Gnat Larvae. As soon as I ruled out a few other pests and came across gnats, I remembered the little flock of gnats flying around my seedlings a couple of weeks ago, which I just hoped weren't a problem. Turns out they are - the larvae live on roots and seeds and can spread quickly. All my pots have the same organic mix this year, but I only washed and didn't bleach them, and may not have done a very good job with some. I'll have to do some more poking around in the dirt and on-line tonight to see if I can and should do anything to protect the other plants. (Other than take away the infected pot(s))

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I'm blushing

My neighborhood friend and huge garden resource Russ Henry profiled my garden in his latest newsletter, The Seed. It's a very glowing interpretation of my handiwork. I haven't felt like such an earth-mother since I was on the verge of leaving college to go bake bread on a commune. Thanks, Russ! (Okay, I never chose a commune. But I had a big book - before absolutely everything was on the internet - listing communal farms all over the country, and I was circling and day dreaming like mad.)

The best part of being interviewed was going back to look at some of the "before" pictures of my garden.

I inherited a great garden from the previous owners, in fact it's totally what made me notice this house, which they had just decided to sell, but hadn't even put on the market yet. But that's a story for another post. I was lucky though, because that garden stood in for details that as a first time home buyer I wasn't quite tracking. What I didn't realize is that the garden was so great because, with a house that faces the street, I had an alley on the East and a neighbor's yard to the West, and a low house to the North, meaning a ton of sun for the even bigger garden that was hardly even a twinkle in my eye at the time. Anyway - when the garden is a big swath of dirt this time of year, I can wonder if I was wise to tear up all that yard. But looking at those pictures, and reading Russ's insistent tribute, reminds me how much I love my garden.