Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Trouble in the Garden - Pests and Weeds

After a week away from the garden, we discover not all is well.

Millet, volunteer wheat (from my straw mulch) and red rooted pigweed are having a good year (did I mention I grew up on a farm where knowledge of weeds was second nature).  The only thing about these weeds is that they're much easier to control than quack grass.  They're easy to pull and once they're out, they're gone.

It was hard to distinguish our leeks from the millet in our garden.  When we did find them, we discovered that out of the 100's that we planted, only a few made it.  We probably should have watered them more consistently after planting them and put some sort of protective barrier around the rows to protect from cutworms. Can you spot the leeks from the millet in this picture?
Here's an example of how our garden neighbour protects his seeded rows from cutworms.
We also discovered some unwanted visitors, in addition to the many cutworms we've mentioned before.  This little shiny black beetle is a flea beetle (also well known on the farm).  And, although they're little, they can strip the leaves off of plants very quickly.  Cole plants like cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi and cauliflower are favourites.  They seem to enjoy our eggplants and pepper plants as well.

Here's what's left of my kohlrabi.  It used to have leaves as big as the photo above.

Options for controlling these little guys include planting sacrificial plants beside your veggies. Also known as trap plants.  For example planting radishes, mustard or canola beside your cabbage may distract flea beetles from your veggies.  On the other hand, they might just attract more beetles!

Putting netting or some sort of cover around your plant provides a physical barrier.

We're going to try mixing a batch of onion and garlic tea.  We've never tried this before, but it sounds like a fun thing to do for a 6 and 9 year old.

For more flea beetle information check out these resources http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/fleabeetle.htmlhttp://www.ghorganics.com/page9.html#Flea beetle:http://www.ghorganics.com/page9.html#Flea beetle:

We also saw our first sunflower beetle.  These bad boys look a lot like potato beetles, but they like to chomp on sunflowers instead.  They're a little smaller than potato beetles and have a solid brown head.
All our sunflowers are volunteer plants that we let grow throughout the garden.  Because these beetles don't do much to other plants (at least I think not), we don't take drastic measures.  Although, when we see them, we squish 'em.

All in all, things aren't that bad.  Just think, if there weren't any of these issues, we'd have nothing to complain about!

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