Monday, July 2, 2012

Gardening Update #1

I thought a little gardening update was in order as it has become such a significant part of my life this year. There is so much to cover, however, that this is clearly going to take two posts.  How enamored am I with my little swatch of farmland?  Well, this past Friday was my 27th Anniversary, and while I did remember it the night before, my first thought when I woke up that morning was to get outside and water the garden's flowers and vegetables before the 104 degree temperatures came to kill them.  My dear husband wandered outside a short time later to find me, bestowing a commemorative reminder kiss upon me as I'd clearly come under the hypnotic early morning thrall of tending to my nursery beds.  I do love you more, honey - I know you know this.  And thank you again for my garden - my Christmas/birthday/Mother's Day/Anniversary present.  Well done, my sweet.

This being my first year, I've had such a roller coaster learning curve of a ride even in these three short months. Let me try to do a little recap.  Our first seedlings were planted in March and everything came up leafy and green and beautiful and all was wonderful.  Gardening gives one a new appreciation for Spring.  And then the velvety cabbage worms came along.

Lesson One: Don't take the Polly Anna approach of simply hoping that all those bugs will not find your garden.  Buy what you will need so that you are prepared to do battle at the first sign of attack.

I went to Garden's Alive and ordered the necessary biological weaponry: Green Step Caterpillar Control.  It arrived a few days before I was leaving to visit my family for two weeks, so I asked somebody to please mix it up and spray it on my collards, cabbage, bok choy, and broccoli while I was gone.  Many wonderful projects were completed in my absence, but the spraying for the eradication of these pests was not.  So I returned home to two surprises.  One was "Jurassic Garden."  Evidently, my plants maintained a moderate pace of growing in my absence until the two days of rainfall just before we flew back in.  They drank it up like steroids.  The girls and I got in pretty late, but I probably woke a few of the neighbors with my hysterical laughter!  My shock over the change was simply overwhelming.  I was worse than the ridiculous auntie who can't believe how much you've grown in the time since she last saw you.  But it was crazy!

Lesson Two: Plants fantastically love and flourish under God's provision of rainfall over our man-made water systems, so make sure to rely as much upon that as you can.

My second curveball was the copious riddling of holes in the leaves all the afore-mentioned brassicas, not to mention the arrival of irritating, harder-to-kill worms turned cabbage moths!  Don't you know I looked like a loon whacking my tennis racket around in attempts to decrease their population (it's what we quasi-hippies do when faced with flying foes, or at least so instructs my internet gurus.) Vain attempts, I might add, as I have absolutely atrocious aim.  But I now have a homestead to protect and cannot concern myself with appearances.  Read: The protection of my public semblance of full sanity dropped a few more notches.  Oh well...

Aphids on my rose bushes were next, as was
Lesson Three: A homemade water and soap spray solution works for these pests, so save your money for more serious threats.
My spray bottle was a weenie, so I wound up pouring it into my palms and hand applying it, but this took care of them overnight.  Boo-yah!

I didn't yet know a new nemesis was about to descend: the Japanese Beetle.  At first these metallic little buggers charmed us, but we quickly came to realize they are voracious devourers and had arrived as they always do - en masse.  They favored my plum tree, borage, roses, and most especially my zinnias.  Initially, this swarm pumped up my blood pressure something awful as I stressed over them off and on throughout the day.  I tried an insecticidal spray first, then others I whipped up via instructional youtube videos, but they weren't tremendously effective. Eventually, I began to relax and have even learned to have a sort of appreciation for these little nitwits.  I mean, all they do is lie around in the sun and mate as much as possible.

Lesson Four: A jar filled with water and a drizzle of soap works wonderfully as a drowning pool for them.

There's a good deal of satisfaction in having an enemy that is so stupid and lazy.  I typically take a stroll out to my garden about three times a day and swipe these green little glints off leaves and petals, dropping them into their watery demise. Proportionally, I realize the score is still probably JB 1,000 / Me 1; but I am appeased.

Lesson Five: Although I was initially tempted to cut the unsightly leaves they created, I've found that they are ridiculous creatures of habit, returning to eat from the same spot again and again.

So leaving the riddled leaves provides me with a ready-made meeting place from which to catch them. Plus, I have another secret weapon I am preparing to pull out.

Lesson Six: Japanese Beetles come from a nasty little grub, and I plan on using a two prong attack against them: Milky Spore in the near future, and beneficial nematodes in the fall.

In addition, Lesson Six: We now love wasps, bees, even yellow jackets, and ugly little guys like assassin bugs. They are our friends, and our enemies are their's as well, so we are co-existing quite peacefully.  Even my girls have learned not to shy away from them!  Well, unless they try to land in our hair or something.

More tomorrow....

Shared at Titus Tuesday
Works For Me Wednesday
Raising Homemakers
Women Living Well
The Better Mom
Simple Lives Thursday

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