Salads are such an easy meal for summer time and a great way to get all our greens (7 cups a day!). Some people are intimidated by growing lettuce and shy away from it but there's no need, it easy!. Today I'm going to give you my best tips for growing lettuce so that you can have a continuous supply for quick and easy summer time meals that don't heat up the house.
Gardening season is upon us and we are here to guide you! Many of you may know that I've been working on a gardening book, "Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Garden." It's done! It will be released on Tuesday May 14th and available for purchase here on our website and on Amazon
To kick off it's launch I thought I would do book giveaway! Yeah! To be entered into the giveaway is all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what excites you most about gardening. Simple! That's how we like it and that theme carries through to my book. A simple guide that won't confuse you or give you a bunch of unnecessary tasks. Yuck! My book outlines everything you need to do so you can have a garden THIS YEAR! Yes please!
There are numerous book on the market about grading-so many that it can be overwhelming for someone who is just starting out. Where are you to begin?
Cutworms and How to Control Them Organically
Cut worms (they are actually more like a caterpillar) can reek all sort of havoc on a garden. Most commonly they kill seedlings by chewing their way through the stem or just eating the entire top of the seedling off, leaving only a stem. A stem that will no longer grow. Sad.
We have had problems with cut worms in the past eating our freshly planted starts and our newly emerged seedlings. A simple fix we found to work well is to plant your seeds and starts in a ring of un-perforated drain tile pipe. We use 4" drain tile cut into rings about 4-5" tall. Make sure they are set into the ground about 1". At night, when the cut worms crawl out of the ground looking for something to eat, they run into these rings and find they are not edible and move on leaving your seedlings alone. Cut worms don't seem to bother carrots but they do like peas Cole crops and squash. Another way to battle them is with beneficial nematodes. They actually eat the cut worms. We find the rings to be more effective. Beneficial nematodes have a short life and it would require a whole lot of nematodes to cover all of our gardens. They have to be reapplied every year.
Besides eating seedlings, cutworms also like to chow down on mature plants. And that is what happened in one of our tunnels of cabbage this year. They ate some of the leaves for an appetizer then gorged themselves on the center or heads of the cabbage.
Thankfully we caught it in time and applied diatomaceous earth (DE) to kill the cutworms. DE comes from the fossils of diatoms, a type of hard shelled algae. The remains are ground into a fine powder and is used in multiple applications and it is approved by OMRI for use in organic farming.
Watch our video below to find out how we used it to stop the cutworms from eating our cabbage and how DE works.
No more cutworms in our cabbage. Oh, so looking forward to eating these beautiful cabbages!
Always check your local store first for DE but it can be difficult to find. You do not want the kind that they use in swimming pools. Try one of these if that is all you can find. I do use this brand when I can't get it locally. Like I said early earlier is just sprinkle it on with my hands or some panty hose, but is that seems too messy for you, and it is, you may like to try the duster.
I hope this helps you with any cut worm problems. May your garden be blessed.
Happy, healthy, clean eating,
This week we released ladybugs into the greenhouse to help control aphids. This is a safe and effective alternative to chemicals. Ladybug larvae will consume 400 medium sized aphids during it's development to the pupal stage. An adult ladybug can eat as much as 5,000 aphids during it's lifetime! 5,000 aphids in a year, that's impressive!
It is easy to order ladybugs off the internet and I have provide a link to California-native ladybugs below. It is important that you are purchasing native ladybugs and NOT the Asian variety.
Asian ladybugs were purposely introduced to American in the later half of the 1900's by the Department of Agriculture to help control crop pests such as aphids and scale. Although they did do that is was learned that they are not as friendly as the native version. Asian ladybugs bite for one. They also will overwinter in your house if they can find a way in. Once they are in they may stain your walls and furniture with the sticky yellow fluid they secrete.
This certainly detracts from all those "ooh, aren't they cute" feelings we have when we see a ladybug. Can you imagine being worried about letting a child hold a ladybug because it might bite them? That just isn't right. Please buy only native ladybugs.
If you come across a ladybug an want to be sure it is of the native sort then check for a white spot at the back of it's head. If you find that white spot you may want to pass on picking it up but I will leave that up to you.
Once you receive your ladybugs put them in the fridge until you are ready to use them. It is best to release them in the evening. Before you let them out make sure there is a quick food source for them. You can buy lady bug food along with your ladybugs. This just gives them a boost after their long trip to your house. We use a powder form that you sprinkle on your plants then gently water. After this your ladybugs are all set to chow down on all those unwelcome guests in your garden. Remember that you don't have to release all your ladybugs at once. Save some in the fridge for 2-3 months. The longer they are stored the more likely some will be lost but it is good to have multiple releases to ensure that your pest problem is taken care of.
Like I stated in the video, ladybugs eat nectar when there are no pest around for them to munch on. Having flowering plants and herbs increases your chance of them sticking around for any future pests problems.
If you have an infestation ladybugs are not going to be enough. In this case I would recommend Safer Soap. It is a soap based insecticide that uses potassium fatty acids to kill arthropods and soft bodied insects. It works by breaking down the outer shell of the insect. NO synthetic chemicals involved. It is OMRI listed and compliant for organic horticultural practice. Simply spray it on and by the next day the little aphids are brown and all dried up. Reapply in several days, or anytime you see any new aphids to make sure you get any new hatchlings .
Have you ever used ladybugs before? How about Safer Soap insecticides?
Happy, healthy, clean eating!
Now to find out just how horrible and scary they are........ Not horrible and scary at all! Actually they are very beneficial!
Rat-tailed maggots are the larvae of hover flies. Hover flies are pollinators. The world needs all the pollinators it can get right now. You may have heard about Colony Collapse Disorder in bees. Bees are disappearing in droves. "There are about 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food globally. Of these, 71 are pollinated by bees. In the US alone, a full one-third of the food supply depends on pollination from bees. Apple orchards, for instance, require one colony of bees per acre to be adequately pollinated. So if bee colonies continue to be devastated, major food shortages could result."http://www.globalresearch.ca/neonicotinoid-pesticides-ongoing-death-of-the-beas-epa-slapped-with-lawsuit/5334816
This brings us back to the rat-tailed maggots. Although they look absolutely disgusting, they are very beneficial and important for the garden. We need every pollinator we can get and are obliged to provide a pollinator friendly habitat for pollinators of all kinds. Maybe we can be like a little oasis for them on their journey. They are still repulsive to look at. Just imagine one of these swimming around in your garden's tea. Then remember not to kill it but to be thankful for it.
Here is a great article on hover flies and other syrphids . Some even eat aphids!
Happy gardening adventures.
Crops that belong to the Brassica family, or cole crops can be tricky to grow. This is not because they a finicky so much as they attract a lot of pests. Cabagge loopers, and flea beetles are the most common culprits.
Some years we have flea beetles and some years we don't. They eat holes in the leaves and give them a unpleasant appearance. This year they really seem to love the kale. We have been battling this issue with garlic and hot pepper spray along with sticky traps. I make the garlic and hot pepper spray by blending garlic cloves and Thai chile peppers in the blender with a little onion and then add water. It steeps in the fridge overnight and is then strained. I add a tablespoon of mineral oil and dish soap each. I shake it up and spray the entire plant. The bugs don't like this and do go away but it wares off so it needs to be reapplied often.
This week I put sticky traps up. These are just yellow piece of plastic with a sticky substance on them. the bugs are attracted to the yellow and then get stuck in the glue. Simple and effective. Yeah for sticky traps. The only down fall is that it also traps beneficial insects. We don't like that.
Every year we battle cabbage loopers. Yuck, yuck, and more yuck. The cabbage looper moth is a prolific egg layer. The eggs hatch and out comes a tiny little caterpillar that grows very quickly as it feasts on your crop. You have got to stay on top of things or it can get way out of hand.
After years of trying floating row covers in various forms, which work until they are torn to shreds in the super strength ND winds, I think we have found the solution. This year we are using low tunnels with shade cloth. We started out the season with row covers. The temperatures are too low in the beginning of the season to use shade cloth. They were once again torn to shreds. We thought that the low tunnel system would possibly work better with the row covers. No, we were wrong. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have replaced the row covers with shade cloth and it seems to be doing great!. Small bugs like the flea beetles can get in through the shade cloth but cabbage looper moths cannot.
Yesterday I spent several hours examining every leaf of the cabbage and cauliflower and squishing any cabbage looper eggs or caterpillars that were able to get at the crops while we were waiting for the shade cloth. I also squished aphids and put up sticky traps for the flea beetles. It is really hard to squish flea beetles because they jump very quickly like fleas. We have to rely on the traps or garlic and hot pepper spray.
The cabbage and cauliflower look beautiful. I will go back through everything in the next couple of days to see if I missed any eggs or caterpillars.
Not all of our cole crops are under low tunnels with shade cloth. We have more cabbage and cauliflower that is not, as well as broccoli and kale. The shade cloth systems seems to be working so well that we are ordering more for some of the cauliflower. The others are planted in a spot that just won't allow for a low tunnel. It is very important that it is actually a supported tunnel. If we just laid the shade cloth over the crop then the cabbage looper would lay eggs on the shade cloth where it was touching any part of the plant. The caterpillars would then hatch and crawl through the wholes of the shade cloth. The tunnels support the shade cloth and keep it off the plant.
Next year we will certainly be incorporating more low tunnels with shade cloth. I'm so grateful to find something that works. May it continue to work so well for the rest of the season!
The Rest of the Crops
I'm said to say that there isn't going to be a strawberry harvest this year after all. When we first planted them they all came up and were beautiful. I don't think there was one out of the 500 that didn't come up. The flourished and began to flower and set fruit. Then we got a horrific storm. We were watering the strawberries just before the storm hit and they were all beautiful. We checked them the next day to find many with leaves that were black on the edges and curling up. Over time more and more followed. We have now lost many plants. We are working with the nursery to see if we can figure out what has happened to them and what we can do, if anything, to fix it. Pray that we figure it out.
The grapes look fabulous. every one has leafed out and they seem to be very happy. We are happy too!
Lots of things are blooming and even starting to set fruit. I believe all the tomatoes are blooming and the Nova and Bison tomatoes are starting to get fruit. Many peppers are blooming and some of them are starting to set fruit as well. The eggplants and zuchinni also have blooms. Winter squash is growing nicely along with the cardoon.
The First CSA Baskets of the Season
The first CSA baskets go out today and will include Flame lettuce, Little Gem lettuce, Buttercrunch lettuce, kale, spinach, garlic, onions, cilantro, dill, Little Finger carrots, and beets.
If you are interested in a CSA share you can still sign up. The price of the share will be reduced in proportion to the amount of weeks that are left in the season. We will be starting the farmers market on Thursdays at the Gazebo park in Beach but the CSA shares are a better deal. We have several sizes available and you can get all the info on our CSA page.
Our grass finished beef is all spoken for at this time but we do have some grass finished lamb still available. $ 50 reserves a lamb and goes towards the final cost. You can contact us here if you are interested.
Enjoy your first CSA baskets!
You know how you get all these plans going in your head. You think "yeah I can get all that done this week, day, hour....." That was me this week. I thought I would have chicken wire up around the entire greenhouse garden in one day. It took me three. Three days! Of course there was lots of other things that had to be done at the same time. Garden farm chores can't be put on hold so that I can put chicken wire up. Watering weeding and planting still needed to take place. Well tonight I got it done and I'm so grateful. Chicken wire is not fun. Out of all fencing wire I think it is the worst. But like I said it is done and I'm grateful. No rabbits will be coming to the greenhouse garden for a midnight snack. Thank you!
4 of the 7 varieties of tomatoes have blooms along with several varieties of peppers. They won't be ready for the first farmers market but we expect to have, several kinds of lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, garlic, onions, chives, cilantro, possibly some carrots (a baby variety), and peas. Maybe, just maybe, some strawberries. Let's all pray!
Have a great weekend.
Hello, I'm Jaci. I love wandering around in my gardens admiring God's creation. I'm passionate about whole foods and clean eating. I look forward to sharing my farming and homestead adventures and helping you reach your gardening goals! If you have any questions then don't be shy, I'd love to hear from you. Send me a message and I will be glad to help!