Category Archives: Pests of any size & species

Deer, aphids, fungal pathogens, blight, humans, cucumber beetles…to include a few

The Good, the Green, and the In Between

Now that fall officially has arrived we have seen some summer-like weather returning briefly.  No complaints!  Summer was just shortening up a bit too early in mid-September, so it seemed. But, nothing can be consistent; sprinkles invaded today, as I write.  Much of the house yard looks more relaxed for the moisture we’ve had; the cherry profusion zinnias are looking boldly pink again.  The sages ‘Pineapple’ and ‘Black & Blue’ are moving into full bloom, much to the delight of the hummingbirds.


Transitions- Sept 22 Equinox


Some actual ripe tomatoes have made their appearance, finally, having been discovered hiding under lush vegetation (now further cut back).  Fourteen pounds of ripe tomatoes, and 20 pounds of thinned back greenies and blushers in the last week is a definite improvement!


Beginning the tomato bounty-finally!



Classic fall! Ripening tomatoes and mildewy squash leaves


A nice picking of 5 large clusters of ‘Lakemont’ green seedless grapes from my second-year-ling has been a delightful surprise, and very tasty.  A good cultivar given the shiftier weather and less warmth needed to raise sugar content.  Looking forward to more next year!


A small but beautiful harvest of Lakemont seedless grapes off my first-year plant


Our ‘friend Bambi’ just returned a little over a week ago, though now I think he’s deterred.  Came with the change to cooler weather.  A few nibbles on the bush beans was the only damage in the CG (thank you!), sparing the lettuce seedlings in the next row.  After browsing all the leaves off my youngest columnar apple seedling, and half of the apricot, he continued more voracious sampling on a neighbor’s young apples, pears, and cherries.  Some netting and tree-bark rub downs with Irish Spring soap seems to be doing a good repelling job.


The ripening corner


Happy 1st birthday CG!

Why is it that the best weather of a 3-day weekend arrives after 4:30 pm on the final day?  Nevertheless it was an excellent weekend to move ahead with garden tasks, dodging drizzles and rain.  Although we don’t have the exceptionally fine weather that blessed our initial project one year ago, we celebrated by seeding the first phase of summer veggies.  As various CG members filtered into town from their various journeys, different tasks were done, depending on who showed up and when.

With the air and soil temperatures being nearly equal at 70°F we seeded various squash, melon, and cucumber cultivars, corn, and basil.  (Check out our 2010 planting list here.) One minute it was threatening rain, the next a few light rays of sun peaking through the clouds to make one want to don shorts; but wait 5 minutes, and the sun is gone.  Do I need another shirt again? Yes.  Wait, now I’m too warm.  It came down to rolling up the jeans and a t-shirt.

Taking a stroll through the house yard to check on tomato seedlings keeping warm in their little greenhouse, my mouth dropped as I spied a group of deer pellets on some grass.  Never in my residency here has one come this far into the yard!  We decided to grab netting and place it over the cool weather crops immediately.  He hadn’t managed to sample anything yet.  (I think it’s the same young male who visited solo last year.)  While tying out cloth strips soaked in Irish Spring soap solution on various young fruit trees and roses, I did notice some rose tips “nipped in the bud”.

Here is an update to the final harvest tally of our 2009 plantings, contributed to by our overwintering kale and leeks, which were removed in May for more garden prep:

  • Kale: 10 (pounds)
  • Leeks: 3.25

Bringing our 2009 grand total to……592 pounds!

As we celebrate our first birthday we have a new 2010 tally, from harvesting the thinnings of early spring plantings during April and May:

  • Beet greens: 1.5 pounds
  • Kale: 2.5
  • Lettuce blends: 7.5
  • Spinach: 2

Total: 12.75 pounds            Off to a great start!


Yes, this weather IS perfect for…some green veggies (thank you!); and it is perfect for transplanting some 360-plus plugs of Scotch moss amidst my new walkway stepping stones.  And, the rain IS good for cleaning the air of various pollens which went out of control during the 3 days of sunny, warm weather we enjoyed mid-month.  The winds that accompanied the clear weather required a hose hook-up to water the veggies in the CG!  In that marvellous weekend we experienced some real May, after having survived Februmay.

Cool weather crops enjoying the Marchmay weather!

Alas, we’re now in Marchmay, along with a gamut of weather tricks.  The petunias look smaller than when I planted them 3 weeks ago, and the tiny zinnias are struggling.  The lobelia looks happy at least.  Time to thwart slugs again; they’re chomping on an artichoke seedling.

Gnome biding his time, hoping for warmer days.

The strawberry plants are blooming very well now, which means….late berries, maybe a good thing.

Strawberry blossoms coming on strong; we need some strong sun, too!

Good news!  Thinnings of lettuces, spinach, beets, and kale have contributed several pounds towards our new harvest tally, to be posted in early June.  With several CG members on holiday until Memorial Day weekend, I persuaded some neighbors and friends to share the bounty.  We’ve postponed planting squash, melon, and cucumber seeds until Memorial Day, although the soil is nicely warm, independent of the weather events.

Aspen needs to sample everything...lettuce, kale...not fussy at all.

While thinning chard and spinach, I was briefly perplexed about the spotty blemishes that seemed to have appeared just in the last few days, separate from the chronic leaf-miner damage.  I’d already discovered a layer of dried raindrops laden with pollen on the red lettuce, but this was different.  Oh…right! Try hail damage; at least the leaves weren’t punctured!

Update on ladybugs: they’re all hiding; maybe boycotting for more sun.

Ladybugs…workers and slackers

There’s a reason there are a few hundred ladybugs in a bag when you purchase them.  They don’t like to stay in one area, even with a food source; some don’t survive; and some refuse to go to work, even if presented with a banquet.  I think a bunch of mine had other ideas in mind.  It’s always fun checking around to see where they might be hiding after being released last evening, scattered over some roses, lavender, Jerusalem sage, and particularly upon a honeysuckle smothered with aphids.  For some reason, this is the mother-lode plant for aphids this spring.  Perhaps it is offering to serve as the prime bait plant, so as to lure them away from other plants.

While one worker has more than enough aphids to contend with, another two have "other ideas"...

Must be the feel of real spring in the wind! Irresistible to ladybugs who have been squashed together in a mesh bag for weeks. Maybe they decided they needed to generate more troops to contend with more aphids…..hooray!

Lavender is a great place to party....without aphids. Shhh....don't ask!

Something in the way it froze last December

Rewind: an unusually hard, but short freeze around December 2, 2009, after a long, relatively warm fall.  Very little in the way of freezing temperatures for the rest of the month; much of January and February were very warm.

Fast forward: April had several frosty mornings, colder and wetter than average temperatures.

Results: more weeds than I’ve ever had in the yard, including big crops of maple seedlings.  Several “hardy” perennials appear to be dead, though they’ve survived harsher winters; I’m still holding out hope for some of the late-to-wakers.  Tender perennials, like some of the sages, I’d expect to lose, even with mulching.  Alas, my young apricot tree is diseased with bacterial canker (causal organism: Pseudomonas syringae), probably induced by weather-related stresses.  Double rats!

It’s always a puzzler when plants survive typical winter periods of cold temperatures just fine, then die after a winter of milder temperatures.  But, that one cold snap came so early in December, with little chilling preparation ahead of it, and some plants physiologically weren’t ready to cope.  Sigh….

Classy evening wear

Just because we harvested all the basil the evening before a cold rain was supposed to dowse us, the storm skirted north, depositing its brief, but heavy showers while I was slipping the last plants.  I wasn’t going to take the chance of seeing our beautiful plants become black-spotted before harvest!

Instead, dry, but cooler weather has prevailed, allowing the summer squash to keep pushing out more small “gourmet size” fruits, while several yellow bell peppers have actually yielded a couple of large, still-green specimens.  (Perhaps they felt it necessary to prove themselves after finding themselves mentioned in a “comedy of errors” mode.)  Tomatoes are in absolute limbo with the lower sun angle and night temperatures hovering in the low to high 30’s.  They have earned the right to wear evening jackets!

Evening wear for classy tomatoes

Classy evening jackets for the tomatoes

Happy to report that the lettuce seedlings that had nearly been chomped to death before evacuation of the kale and chard, have pulled through and are starting to put on a little girth.  And, some rainbow chard seeded in July, largely sheltered by green beans and squash has grown up nicely, almost ready for picking.

Lo and behold, I came upon another “double-take” today while scouting about the patty-pan/saucer squash; that makes four pairs of fused veggies this season!

Double-take on patty-pan squash

Double-take on patty-pan squash

We’ve been warned about a rapid arctic front moving in just ahead of autumn rains setting in, and the weather guy’s last-minute prediction of 28° had two of us running out before dusk to clip off all the tomatoes.  It felt too warm to believe it could fall that low, but we weren’t going to get up at 4:00 am. to find out.  As it turned out, it only went down to the crisp 30’s again, but we’re further along in preparation for the temperature dive now postponed for a couple of days.

Emergency evacuation: pests out of control!

In a fast move to save the lettuce seedlings being savagely eaten in an outbreak of both aphids and Cabbage White Looper caterpillars migrating from the neighboring chard and kale, an emergency evacuation took place.  Thanking the plants for their extremely productive service, all kale and chard was removed, salvaging what little was decently usable as food, but discarding most directly into the waste debris containers.  This is what we get for “slacking off” in observation given our really busy schedules last week, while there was a burgeoning plague.  I had noticed a few tell-tale signs of building aphid populations on the kale, as well as white flies, but nothing had seemed in imminent danger. Then the Swiss chard seemed to become inundated with aphids almost overnight.  Evidently, behind that were lurking newly hatched Cabbage loopers, always unseen until they wreak havoc, stripping plants to their ribs in only 1 or 2 nights.  Even with eradicating the plant host-sources, and spraying Thuricide* on the lettuce, we could still lose the whole row, but hopefully not.  We’ll know in a day or two.

It was also good incentive to tidy up other areas in the garden looking a bit more distressed, removing the cucumbers and ‘delicata’ squash plants, and trimming back the sprawling cherry tomatoes.

"Looking good" yet hunry pests lurk in the chard and kale.  So, now you see us.....

"Looking good" yet hunry pests lurk in the chard and kale. So, now you see us.....

Free of aphids and ...........

.........Now you don't! And the lettuce seedlings are much happier.

*Thuricide is a liquid comprised of millions of spores of the bacterium Bacillis thuringiensis, which reproduce inside the gut of specific types of caterpillars, becoming fatally toxic in a very short time.  This is a naturally occurring bacterium that evolved into its specific function.