Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Checking in on the worm bin

A few weeks ago we showed you how we made our first worm bin and promised to keep you posted about how it's doing so here we are. 

Here's the bin in our garage
The cardboard we keep on top seems to be doing the job, no fruit flies
Everything looks good and their is no odor so I think we are problem free
I dug around just a little to check on how the first meal we gave them was digested.
It looks like in 3 weeks the little guys took care of the first meal we gave them. We fed them again the following week but I did not disturb that area. I don't want to disturb them too much because they get sensitive about it and may try to run away.

The worms are active and look healthy. We have little babies all over too. 
This is the third meal we have provided them, it's about 12 oz of random kitchen waste.
I dug an area that I had not put food in before and placed my scraps in
And then covered it all up again and replaced the cardboard
We tried to name as many of the worms as we could so they would feel loved and wanted. With the way they're reproducing though it's hard to keep up.

Schlemiel and Schlimazel tried to make a break for it but Hasenpfeffer is still content so I think we're doing okay
I'm happy with just 2 losses. Our worm bin is so far successful and before long we should have some fantastic vermicompost for our plants. If we had a strange odor, ants, fruit flies or any other thing going on then we may need to adjust something but the bin is dark, moist, smells fine and has no pests so we'll just leave it be until we feed it again in another week.

"That's it. You're fired! I'm taking back the head farmer hat. You have not grown a single rabbit or chicken as I've repeatedly requested and you're obsessed with stupid worms!" 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mealy bugs

I went out to do some preening and pruning in the front garden this morning because there were some issues that needed to be addressed. The strawberries were one of those issues.

The strawberries in desperate need of attention
They really needed a pruning
My plan was to prune all the yucky stuff off and then start some new plants with the runners that are going crazy right now.

Unfortunately I discovered there is a pretty bad mealy bug infestation on them

When I realized that the plants and soil were completely infested with mealy bugs, I went to work to try and get a handle on them. First I started with Safer brand insecticidal soap. If I would have caught this sooner, I may have been able to just eradicate them using nothing but a blast of water but I felt the infestation had moved beyond that point.

Then I went through and examined the plants carefully
I wiped off any remaining mealy residue as well as I could and even scraped off a layer of soil all around the plants. I pruned them trying to take as much of the mealy bug debris off as I could. They were focused at the base of the plant.

Now I am going to watch over these plants and see how it goes. I may apply another dose of soap, or I may even uproot all the plants and replace the soil in this EarthBOX because it's been the same soil for quite some time so it could probably use refreshing and I think the mealy bugs may have the soil well infested. Mealy bugs are yet another insect that ants will farm on your plants so they can eat the excretions the mealy bugs (or aphids or leafhoppers) leave behind after sucking the sap out of your plants. I am going to try some other methods for getting the ants under control too.

The plants look better after their pruning
Mealy bugs are not typically difficult to control so hopefully we're on our way to seeing them off but I'll keep you posted.

Gidget and Frijole thought I was talking about an actual meal, they don't think mealy bugs qualify.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Plant give away after 5 pm until they're gone in front of the garden today

"I'm giving away some of Crystal's plants today!"
Every month we will give away some plants for people who live in the neighborhood and today is that day.

We've got some nice succulents
We have a young strawberry plant
A lemon - rose geranium
These are just a few of the plants we'll be donating.  Come check out the freebies after 5 pm and please help yourself to just one so that other people have an opportunity to take something as well. They'll be in the red wagon in front of Gidget's Garden near 25th and B Street.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Radiant Golden Hill Farmers Market!

It was hot today but we have a nice set up so we were able to stay cool enough in the shade at the Golden Hill Farmers Market. We had a wonderful variety of food today. 
Our table first thing this morning
I was feeling radiant in my new dress
We sold a lot of stuff very early. We are so happy that people come back to our booth week after week. Today was fun because a couple of ladies told us exactly how they used our veggies last week and it sounded delicious!

This is what we had left at about 10 am
By the end of the day we sold just about everything we brought.

Spur Valley Ranch gave us some chicken feet, heads and necks that Gidget isn't too sure about
I am certain I'll be making a fantastic broth with them, thank you Spur Valley Ranch!

Friday, August 26, 2011

This week's market treats

We are having a warm spell in San Diego which is good for our vegetable plants. We harvested some beautiful food from Gidget's Garden today to bring to market tomorrow.

"You are forcing me to agree with Gidget again. This word "food" you keep using, I do not think you know what this word means. I do not see any chickens, tuna, or even a gopher within the vicinity, where is this food you speak of?"
Gidget is keeping her guard up in case some real food appears in her garden. 
Sierra takes a gander but she doesn't smell anything that resembles food either. 
This is the first basket of the morning; rooftop peppers
I don't care what the pets have to say, this is gorgeous food.

I said last week was our prettiest harvest but that was before I saw this week. 

We still have the herbs, lemon rose geranium and aloe to harvest in the morning.

Purple basil
Purple and green speckled basil
Italian basil
Sweet basil
Tri-color sage
Spicy orange oregano

It's been a tasty week in cucumbers around here and now we hope you're in the mood for some too. 
Armenian cucumber (1)
Japanese cucumber (3) because we're keeping one
Diva cucumber (1)
Slicing cucumber (3) because we're keeping one
Lemon heirloom cucumbers (10) We're keeping some of these too, I just don't know how many yet

Cucumbers are a challenge to grow because they are prone to fungal disease and that is an issue in our garden but they still produce well, are delicious and beautiful so I love them. 

Lady bug egg cluster on slicing cucumber, I hope to show you the babies hatching in a couple days. 
Lemon cucumbers are so much fun and beautiful. 
Regular eggplant (4) because we're keeping one 

Frijole says; "Hey Gidget, they just gave you the garden because you're too dumb to get a contract. If this was Frijole's Garden we would be eating some chicken!" Gidget asks me; "Is this true?"

We have lots of fun peppers this week too. The habaneros are not quite ready yet but we hear you and we're growing them as fast as we can. In the meantime, we have sweet and mild peppers available. 

Sunrise bell (2)
California wonder bell (2)
Purple bell (9)
Jalapeno (21)
Big Bertha (3) because we're keeping one
Poblano (7)
Pepperocini (1 basket) 
Miscellaneous peppers  (1 basket)

Miscellaneous pepper basket

We are currently in between stages with our tomatoes but we expect more very soon. 

Three sisters (9)
Cherry and yellow pear (1 basket) 


Tomatillos and golden zucchini
We tried both of these for the fist time ourselves this week and they are tasty!

Yes we have no bananas but the tree is taller than me now. 
The avocados are coming soon. We promise.
Frijole is convinced we will never have real food and is washing his hands of Gidget's Garden

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Using diatomaceous earth for organic pest management

Diatomaceous earth or DE is a fine powder comprised mostly of silica that can help control some of the unwanted pests in your garden.

It is an organic solution that works because it is abrasive to the insects and causes them to dehydrate and die. Yesterday our neighbors noticed some ants trailing to their house so I pulled out the DE and got to work.

Ready to apply DE
As you can see I choose to wear long gloves and a particle mask while applying DE to the garden. It is a really fine powder that I would rather not have on my skin and the mask is because I don't want to inhale the fine powder. DE is completely organic.

I use a mesh screen to apply it to cracks, crevices, and active ant trails
Applying DE where the neighbors were seeing ants
I also applied some around our own garden
Once DE gets wet it is no longer effective go it's a good idea to apply it where it isn't likely to get wet. Ants aren't always a problem in the garden but they can be when they start farming aphids and other bugs on your plants. The aphids suck sap out of your plants and then release an excretion that is irresistible to ants. Ants will protect the aphids from predators so to manage aphids, you may have to manage ants.

DE also works as a deterrent for snails, slugs, leaf hoppers and earwigs. It can be applied directly on the plant that is affected as well. In the case of leaf hoppers, this may be the best way to go. 

"Wake me up when you start talking about rabbits."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly Part Two

Yesterday I showed you some of our summer failures and successes in tomatoes, sunflowers, and a couple other warm crops. Today I'll show you some in flowers, peppers, squash, and volunteers.

I don't grow flowers well. I like them well enough but I tend to neglect them in favor of the vegetables. In the height of veggie growing, my flowers are the very last to get any attention and often they don't get attended to at all, so I need flowers that are easy.

Lavender qualifies as easy in our garden
Some people have a hard time getting lavender to grow but this one has been a huge success. After it got established last March it has required almost no care at all. This one could certainly use some attention right now in the way of pruning but other than that it is care free and smells lovely.

Iceberg tea rose
Roses are one of the exceptions I make when it comes to allotting time for flowers. I love roses even though they can be a little finicky. In our garden this iceberg rose has been the most trouble free. You may be noticing the gorgeous zinnias in the background of the photo, they belong to my neighbor who is a much more talented flower grower than I am.   

I've been trying to pay enough attention to grow some flowers in these pots but clearly I failed
I am going to replace these poor souls with herbs because I will make more time to take care of them if they are something that will enhance my dinner plate. There are some really beneficial flowers for a vegetable garden and I do try to keep some of them intertwined within my garden beds. Marigolds are a good example.

We have a large ornamental container garden
We could potentially have an amazing flower garden in the potted plants around our avocado tree but I like low maintenance, low water, and care free things instead. The exception here is of course the jasmine that I adore.

Peppers are another plant that we may have started a little early, especially in the front garden where we get about 8 hours of sun each day versus the rooftop where we get up to 14 hours of sunlight each day. Peppers like heat and lots of sunlight.

Poblano pepper sprawled out in EarthBOX
On left; Rio Grande pepper plant is about an 8th of the size of the Poblano above.
Generally peppers need about a foot of space in between plants but there will be some exceptions such as the Poblano pepper that may need closer to 2 feet of space.

This is a lavender pepper planted in July
This is a black beauty pepper planted in July
The pepper plants that we put in later in the season started producing much faster than the ones we put in earlier.

Big Bertha bell peppers in EarthBOX
Most peppers should not need to be supported but these ones grew tall quickly and started falling over so we had to try and cage them to keep them standing up. As you can see in the bottom right, we lost one. 

More peppers that are doing well
I added a trellis behind and on the side of this patch of peppers so the plants can be supported on it if needed, these ones also got tall fast. Other than heat and sunshine, peppers like lots of water and calcium rich organic fertilizer.

Most bananas in the store are imported from Ecuador, Costa Rica, or Columbia and while I love bananas, I do not like buying food that is shipped from so far away. When I learned bananas can be grown in San Diego, I was all over it. We got a small variety called an Ice Cream banana.

Banana leaf that shows sign of not enough water
I quickly realized the drawback to growing bananas in San Diego is that they require an enormous amount of water to thrive. With water being scarce in San Diego, this may not be the most responsible plant to have in your garden but we don't have a lawn and we try to conserve water as much as possible in other ways so I feel okay about giving our banana the water it needs. Bananas also require a lot of fertilizer.

Our plant is doing much better now that we are giving it enough water
This is our second batch of zucchini squash for the year. We started the first ones back in late February and ate well off of them for months. Zucchini is a great plant for the home garden because it produces a large quantity of yummy food without too much fuss.

A golden zucchini and black beauty zucchini 
They are a little prone to mildew though and do require enough water, especially in the heat of summer. We spray a 1 part milk to 9 part water solution to try and prevent the mildew from spreading to the rest of the plant. The white powdery looking stuff you see on some of the leaves is powdery mildew. Your vegetables will still produce and be just fine.

Diseased Kabocha squash
This squash popped up on its own where our compost bin used to be. When it first volunteered I had no idea what it would grow up to be. Had I known it was going to get this massive and have this much trouble with fungal disease, I would have just pulled it right out. With that said, I did not spray it right away when I first started seeing powdery mildew on it. It may have fared better if I had given it more time and attention. It has been here since early March and now it's done. I will be taking it out and picking the 2 small squashes this afternoon.  

Volunteers are both a blessing and a curse as far as I am concerned. It's so much fun to simply watch the earth give you food plants and to try and guess what they will grow up to be, but in a small garden like ours, we have to be careful about giving too much space to something that may or may not give a lot of good food.

Cherry Tomato Volunteer
This cherry tomato is probably the most successful of the plants that volunteered for us this year. One of the reason for this is probably because I transplanted it from the inconvenient place it popped up in to a large pot.

Gidget is already doing her job this morning and thinks I am slacking so I better get out there.