Posts Tagged ‘vegetable gardens’

Spring. My vegetable seedlings are growing. Unfortunately, the season of pests is also well underway. There is more whitefly whizzing around, more butterflies, etc. So begins months of trying to stay ahead of the critters, birds, and greeblies seeking to feast on my crops. I tend to use a combination approach. I will set several traps and use a variety of sprays. It’s a matter of figuring out what works best for you. I try to keep the use of chemicals down to a minimum, but if you don’t mind using chemicals, you can buy everything you need from the store readymade.

I started gardening when I took over maintenance of this property about thirteen years ago (though I have lived here as an adult for over twenty years). It has been learning by trial and error, as I have figured out how to get nourishing things to grow while also controlling the noxious things. I started out using every chemical they sold. But over the years, I have figured out ways I can make products myself fairly easily.
The homemade spray I do for whitefly works a treat. Cut up two onions and a bunch of garlic and put them in a sealable jar. Fill with water before doing the lid up tight. Leave this pungent mixture outside or in the garage to cure for as long as possible. In spring, open the jar and strain the liquid. Spray this obnoxious liquid on the underside of the leaves of all the bushes and trees where whitefly is congregating. The smell is so strong that it scares them away. This spray has cut the whitefly population in our garden by as much as half. The smell seemed overwhelming for us, too, initially. But, never fear. Though it quickly faded away, it was enough to deter the pests for a long time.

Stickies are a store-bought alternative. The flies get trapped on the long sticky tapers. You can buy the strips at hardware stores and gardening outlets and hang the stickies in between the crops.
At present, our fruit trees have bloomed and are losing their petals by the day. The guava moth is the primary pest for stone fruit and feijoas where we are. The moth lays eggs in the unripe fruit which then develops into a small caterpillar greeblie that burrows its way through the fruit, ruining it. The guava moth came over to New Zealand from Australia. In Australia, they are predated by a particular type of bird. But the moths have no natural predators here and are laying waste to neighbouring fruit trees far and wide. When the first green fruit starts to appear in our yard, I spray it with Neem oil. It’s a purely natural bug repellant, which you warm up and then add to warm water. Spray in the early evening after most bees and things have settled down. Spray the fruit, the leaves, and lastly around the base of the tree even coating the ground beneath. And repeat two to three times throughout the growing season.

Tackling the guava moth successfully requires a two-pronged attack, the Neem oil sprayed on, and a moth trap. I’ve tried all sorts of store-bought traps to reduce the population of moths on my property, and there is one extremely effective trap – The Little Bugga. It works by radiating a little solar ultraviolet purple light and the moths drown in the oil held in a trough beneath. It works well, getting a far higher kill rate than other traps, but it costs $90 and only lasts for a year. The inventor lives in the far north of the country and does not supply replacement parts or batteries. So the device operates as long as the batteries last, then you have to buy a whole new trap. These days, unless I do both the Neem oil and the moth trap, nearly the entire crops of plums and feijoas will be potholed.

For caterpillars, aphids, and other pests, I use a homemade all-purpose spray. Mix five litres of water with one cup of cider vinegar and a squirt of dishwashing detergent. Spray onto your seedlings and leaves every two weeks or less. For my tips on how to make your own slug and snail traps, check out my earlier post, Backyard Gardening 3.
It’s the time of year for a ton of work, frankly, but it’s worth it. I enjoy every stage of growing our food. Once the crops and fruits start producing more food for our table it’s wonderful, and the therapy of getting your hands dirty ain’t half bad. I love spring!
Happy Gardening. More next time, green thumbs.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

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Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe. ~ Thomas Berry

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words Newsletter Subscription in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

One of the frustrating things about tending your home vegetable plot is when you do everything right: you prepare the soil, plant the seeds, fertilize, water, and tend your plants, and then find them half-eaten by little critters. Pest control is a big issue for gardeners, large-scale and small-scale alike. While it is tempting to use poisons, it does pay to be aware that these products are toxic to the environment. In years past, I used to sprinkle slug slam pellets around my garden. But our gardening tutor told us the pellets contain a neurotoxin that might make it into the food chain. It is safer to use homemade solutions. For slugs, I use a “beer trap.” Cut the bottom off a plastic bottle. Fill with beer or Brewer’s Yeast with some warm water added. Partly bury it in the vegetable patch. I put two beer traps down, and they both caught six or more slugs each in the first couple of days. It worked a treat.

For snails, they like to hide in dark, cool places during the day, so make them one! You can create a hidey-hole for them by cutting a v-shaped doorway in a plastic plant pot and setting it upside down in the garden. But make sure you put a rock on top as mine blew away in the first strong wind. Empty the pots regularly and dispose of the snails. Our gardening tutor said one student put his snails in a bag in the freezer. But the problem was his wife found them and had a fit! My mother used to squash them. Euw! It’s up to you. However, why not try a homemade remedy. It’s better for the environment.
When you are starting out as a gardener, it is worthwhile to spend the money on a few quality items that will last you for years. For instance, it is worthwhile to invest in a good trowel and a good spade. Also, spend the money on a good sprayer. Wash all tools and dry them after use. Mud left on a spade will eventually degrade the metal. Wash the spray bottle out thoroughly after use. Leave it with the lid off.

Buy seeds from suppliers online, as they work out a lot cheaper. Here in New Zealand, Kings seeds are a great source. I bought five packets for the same price it would have cost me for two bags from a retail outlet. Always plant them in a seed raising mix. Sieve the potting mix before you use it. Push the seeds into punnets as deep as two of the seeds. Cover with soil. Put your punnets of planted seeds on trays and fill the tray with water, so you are watering from the bottom, not the top. It will prevent you from washing the seeds too deep into the soil. Remember to put a sign on the punnets saying the vegetable variety and date you planted them. If the punnets still have water in them an hour later, throw the rest of the water away. You want the soil to be moist, not wet.
Don’t be tempted to plant a whole packet of seeds. Count them out, just a few at a time, and stagger the planting, so you don’t have all the same vegetables fruiting and needing to be eaten at once. I buy seeds with a friend. We pay half each and split the packets in half. Seeds get old. So it means you don’t have too many to plant, and they are always fresh. It works well for us.

As for the water in your garden, rainwater is best. We have a water tank harvesting rainwater from the roof. Watering during the dry times means using the town supply. This water is full of Chlorine and Flouride and so on. To counteract the detrimental effect of the chemicals, add one drop of humic acid to each gallon of water.
If you’re going away, take a plastic bottle and cut the bottom off. Then drill a few holes near the mouth. Leave the lid on. Fill the bottle and bury it with the lid pointed down near the vegetables. The water will leak out slowly over the days.

If your seeds take longer than three weeks to sprout, they will not grow. But, for those which sprout, let the plants reach a decent size and turn the punnets over on your hand until they come out in your hand. Gently tease the seedlings apart and plant them in your beds far enough apart to have room to grow. Read the back of the seed packet as they will often have information on the space required between plants. Pack the soil up to the first two leaves to be firm. Always handle seedlings by the leaves, not the stalks. Water them in when it’s raining and use very diluted fertilizer tea. To deter the birds from disturbing the seedlings, spread mulch liberally around them. The mulch will retard weeds and retain moisture in the soil, so it’s a win-win. Or put up a homemade scarecrow. And if necessary, you can always use bird netting at least until the vegetables get established.
Happy Gardening. More next time, green thumbs.

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me with the words Newsletter Subscription in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com