Blog Archives

A Bug & Pest Round Up

All of a sudden last week the population of bugs, pests, and other problems seemed to explode in the Demo Garden!

All of a sudden near the end of last week the spider mites came on strong. This poor specimen is on the ‘Iron Lady’ tomato. It may be resistant to blight, but it is clearly NOT resistant to spider mites. There are several plants with varying numbers of spider mites on them, but this is one of the worst. The typical “first” line of defense is to spray with a hard stream of water. Given the humidity, the next option is neem oil, horticultural oil, or insecticidal soap. These products need to be sprayed every 5 days or so when it is hot, until new damage isn’t occurring. Unfortunately, is you spray when it is hot out, they can actually damage the plants, so you need to spray in early morning.

In the realm of four-legged, furry varmints, it appears that we have some critter that is enjoying the almost-ripe tomatoes. My guess would be a squirrel, because of the bite marks and also because we’ve had that problem before. The ants are just opportunists here!

I’ve also seen stinkbugs around the garden, which is an insect we don’t normally see a lot. Here’s a stinkbug on one of the cherry tomatoes.

Here’s another look at a stinkbug, this time on one of the eggplants. Stinkbugs are “true bugs,” and they feed on plants and fruit by puncturing and then sucking out the juices. On tomato fruit you will often find yellow or white spots just under the skin where they have been feeding. They don’t damage the edibility, just the prettiness. They can be pretty destructive though given a high enough population. They can also feed on the plants themselves and can have similar effects to aphids and spider mites. How to get rid of them? Well…it depends what you are willing to do. The reality is that it is pretty difficult to kill those hard-backed bugs. Since we aren’t seeing very many of them, we aren’t going to do much at the moment, which we will probably regret in a few weeks.

Here’s what the stinkbug damage looks like on a tomato. The tomato is still perfectly edible, it just looks kind of ugly.

The Arkansas Traveler tomatoes all of a sudden are showing these “crop circles” on the fruit. To me, this looks like Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. The plant doesn’t look particularly bad, although I commented earlier on the fruit being smaller than advertised. A virus would partially explain that. There is perhaps a little bit of necrosis (dead areas on leaves) at the shoot tips. The question is how it got the virus. This virus is typically transmitted by thrips in a greenhouse. Well, this plant was raised in my office, and I don’t think there were any thrips or infected plants for the thrips to pick up the virus. My guess would be that it was infected with the virus outside, either by thrips that picked up the virus last year and overwintered or infected thrips that were on one of the plants that did come from a greenhouse. At any rate, there’s nothing we can do about it now.

This is a pepper with a bad case of sunscald. Typically tomatoes and peppers are the most susceptible to sunscald, especially when there is lots of hot, bright sun. Keeping plants healthy with lots of leaf cover is the best option. Some varieties are better than others as far as shading fruit. At other times if you are having a very severe problem, providing a little additional shade would be the only option, which can sometimes be a logistical challenge in a garden!

Our sunflowers in the Kids Snack Garden are getting rather holey and spotted leaves. On examination, I found these little lacebug nymphs on a couple leaves.

And also these little white caterpillars. I think they are just a type of wooly bear caterpillar, even though they are white. If anyone knows differently, please let me know! These guys are having quite a meal of sunflower leaves. At this point, I’m not going to do anything about the bugs on the sunflowers. Now if they encroach onto a vegetable…

Some of the eggplant leaves are also looking a little bit Swiss Cheesy. I couldn’t find anything on the plants, although my suspicion is cucumber beetles. I found a couple flea beetles, but they typically cause pinhole size damage. I’ll be keeping an eye on the eggplant to monitor the damage and to see if I find anything doing the chomping. When you see the pile of eggplant we harvested today, you won’t be to concerned about our plants!

If you remember from a couple weeks ago, I showed some pictures of the Chocolate Cherry tomato and was suspicious of either a fungus or bacterial canker on the plant. Well…I sent a sample to our plant pathology lab, and they said that it was scorch. I’m not convinced, because there were lesions on the stems. They could have been from one of the hail storms. At any rate, the plant is not recovering and seems to still be in decline. We removed it today. The neighboring roma seems to be developing some sort of ailment, but it might just be a combination of spider mites, early blight, and a slight nutrient deficiency.

After all that death and destruction, here’s a palate cleanser! Yes, this Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar is munching down the fennel, but we planted it for that purpose anyway!

Tuesday Harvest

We aren’t recording our harvest yields for any of our gardens this year, since we aren’t doing a Family of 4 Garden. However, just for today, I did weigh out our produce.

We had 5.25 pounds of eggplant, 4.25 pounds of tomatoes, 1 lb of peppers and onions, and 1 lb of green beans for a total of 11.5 pounds of veggies! All of our produce this week was taken to one of the drop off locations for the Plant a Row for the Hungry Program, since it is Plant a Row for the Hungry Week!

Friday PhotoEssay

After a cooler week, it looks like we are going to climb back into our more seasonable hot temperatures in the mid-90s for next week. Happily, I think everyone has had good tomato set and all the plants are off to a really good start before we get to that point.

You can see that we now have a big open hole in the center of the garden with the garlic and shallots completely gone. We’ll be planting some buckwheat next week. Meanwhile, the tomatoes, eggplant, and vine crops are increasingly looking like a jungle! The eggplant are particularly dense.

The eggplant are starting to produce like crazy. I know that a picture of 4 eggplants may not convince you, but there are dozens more eggplant fruit set on our plants. The white with lavender streaks is the ‘Orient Charm’ and the dark purple is ‘Millionaire.’

I noticed these tomato flowers on my morning walk through the garden, probably because they were right at eye level and the yellow stood out amongst the green leaves and stems. When the stems of the flowers turn that bright yellow, you can be sure they are going to drop off because there wasn’t any fruit set. There are still a couple green ones, so we’ll have to wait and see if there is any set from this cluster. So why are the flowers dropping when it hasn’t been too hot? Well, what I didn’t tell you is that this is the heirloom variety ‘Limmony,’ which is supposed to have fruit up to 1 lb in size. I know there are a couple tomatoes set already, and I suspect that the plant knows that it can’t handle too many fruit of that size, hence dropping so many flowers. It would be interesting to know if this is a chicken or the egg scenario. Does the fruit get huge because the plant only sets a few fruit or does the plant only set a few fruit because it knows the fruit get huge?

Except for the basils and thyme, all the other herbs are in containers this year. This container is looking great right now! I think the location, where it is getting a bit of afternoon shade, is agreeing with it. The variegated plant in the front is Pineapple Mint. The container also has Stevia, Scented Geranium, and a Cinnamon? Basil.

We are starting to see a lot of flowers on the melon plants in the Vertical Garden area. Unfortunately, as is typical, they are virtually all male flowers, especially on the non-watermelon types. I’ve seen a few female flowers on the watermelon. This flower is very clearly a male, as there is no baby melon behind the flower.

This flower is so pink, it kinda seems fake! This is the center of a huge bloom on the ‘Pink Clouds’ hibiscus that we have planted in a couple of the containers by the classroom area.

Have a great weekend!

Harvesting Eggplant

It looks as though the season of eggplant bounty is nearly upon us, even before the tomatoes are ripe! We have eggplant set on all of the different plants right now, and it looks like it will be a bumper crop.

If you’ve never grown eggplant before, it can be a little tricky to determine the right time to harvest. (Or it can be extremely easy, depending on your viewpoint and what you plan to do with your eggplant.) The reason is that you can eat eggplant at almost any stage from very small to the mature size. The trick comes in 1) knowing the “mature” size of the variety of eggplant you are growing and 2) if you harvest at the mature size, knowing when it has gone past into the really seedy stage.

This ‘Traviata’ eggplant is your classic purple/black Italian type that can get pretty huge. However, you can certainly harvest it at this size if you want and cook them whole or halved.

As the eggplant starts to reach its “mature” size, which you have to research for each variety, you want to watch for two things: glossiness and firmness. This ‘Orient Charm’ eggplant is still nice and glossy, as it should be. If you could reach through the screen and feel the eggplant, it would be firm but with a slight, sponge-y give to it. That’s good!

Where you want to start getting cautious is when the skin gets a very dull color and the fruit becomes hard, almost like an apple. This ‘Millionaire’ eggplant isn’t to that stage yet, but it’s as close as I could find. It isn’t that you can’t eat an overripe eggplant, it’s that it becomes more challenging and less enjoyable. You see, what we consider “ripe” for eggplant is a stage that is botanically immature. A botanically mature eggplant has seeds that are viable, fully developed, and ready to reproduce. Hence, a botanically mature eggplant is usually so full of big, tough seeds that most of us are less interested in eating the seedy thing. (If we were interested in eating it anyway!)

If (or when) we have an eggplant that is overripe in the garden, I’ll be sure to show you a picture. Hopefully we won’t miss picking very many though!

Friday PhotoEssay

Whew! It was a pretty hot week here. I’m looking forward to temperatures in the 80s next week. Let’s start out with our weekly overview of the garden.

The front bed still looks pretty bare, but I bet that by a month from now the sweet potatoes will have completely covered the soil. Just for fun, let’s see what the garden looked like at the end of May.

This is one of the pictures I took on May 31st. For one thing, the sky is sure a different color! In a month’s time, the garlic has gone from being the dominant feature of the landscape to being a faded remnant, while the tomatoes have turned into quite a jungle! It’s hard to see from this angle, but the eggplant are also quite a jungle.

Speaking of Eggplant, this is the ‘Orient Charm’ eggplant. I apologize for the horrid sun and shadows in the picture. It was giving me fits this morning. this is the long, Chinese type that has a pink/lavender blush.

The ‘Millionaire’ eggplant is already reaching the stage that I would term “quite prolific.” We harvested one on Tuesday and there’s another one ready today. I think by next Tuesday there will probably be several ready. We are going to need those eggplant recipes! Once we get a few more plants producing, I’ll have a post about harvesting eggplant.

Speaking of harvesting, I picked this small handful of green beans earlier in the week and found about twice this many today. By Tuesday it looks like there will be lots of green beans to pick! The purple ones don’t seem to have started producing yet.

The parsnips have  been looking a little bit strange, and on closer inspection yesterday it appears that they’ve got spider mites. Who knew that parsnips get spider mites? This is why we try new things! Anyway, when I was watering yesterday (we are currently handwatering the parsnips because the garlic in the rest of the bed is in dry-down phase), I turned the water up all the way and blasted them good with a hard stream of water. That is one way to combat spider mites, and the undersides of the leaves look much cleaner today. We’ll probably have to either do that or spray with neem oil for the duration, since they will be growing until fall.

This truss of Golden Honey Bunch tomatoes just keeps growing! (You should compare to the picture in last week’s photoessay!) How many tomatoes do you count on it now? I’m wondering if they are going to ripen as a whole truss or if they will ripen one or two at a time. If the catalog pictures are to be believed, they should ripen as a group.

This is one of our two beds of basil. I love the perfect mounds and the pyramid shape of the plants. The only thing that would make it better is if the Red Large Lettuce Leaf Basils (the one in the middle tier) were as red as they are advertised to be. Oh well, we can’t have everything!

Have a great weekend!