Spring Tater Update!!

The potatoes are growing. Another layer of tires were added, compost was installed between the growing plants and topped with straw.

 

The compost used was from last year! Dark and rich with almost no smell!! Hopefully the plants will take off and turn darker green.

Pots of basil and other aromatic herbs will be placed between the tire rings to deter insect pests. Colorado Potato Beetles can be a challenge.

I’ll keep you posted.

Papa

It’s Tater Time Again!!

When my son Nathan was here, we planted potatoes in used tires with the sidewalls cut out. Three tires were planted with Red Norland and three tires were planted with Yukon Gold.

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We have an issue with standing water from time to time. Piles of composted tree trimmings were leveled out and covered with weed cloth. The tires were placed and the bottoms were filled with sand. The hardened off potato cuttings were placed in the bottom of each tire on top of the sand. Compost mixed with soil was placed on top of the cuttings to cover the cuttings. Subsequently, composted grass cutting were placed on top.

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I will keep you posted on the continuing results of this Spring project.

Papa

Cold Frame Beauties!

Cole crops, Swiss Chard and pansies (started in January) were started in early February using heat mats and LED lights. (BTW, Cole crops are veggies like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and the like). Mid March the transplants went out to the cold frame. Subsequently, most of the plants took off like a rocket!

 

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The cold frames are made of landscape timbers, lined with one inch foam board. Weed cloth is placed on the ground bottom and the top is hinged 1/4 inch poly carbonate panels.

I use bricks to prop open the top panels when weather allows. All of the crops in the cold frame are now hardened off to moderate cold temperatures 27° – 32° (F).

Fertilizing with seaweed emulsion is the only additional feed used to enhance growth and to immunize for stress.

All of these transplants will be in the ground shortly. They should take off quickly in the cooler soil!

More new info to come!

Papa

The Not So Common, Common Milkweed!

The Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) was a familiar sight in the Missouri Ozarks. Between mowing and spraying herbicide this beautiful plant has become more scarce.

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This particular milkweed can grow very large (up to 6 1/2 feet tall). The profuse flowers vary from pinkish to purplish in color. The coveted Monarch Butterfly caterpillars are the chief consumer of the leaves and stems. The caterpillars prefer the more tender newer smaller leaves.

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The Great Spangled Fritillary  adores this plant! Today I counted 20 butterflies on one plant!

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It is an amazing spectacle to see how the Fritillaries covet this “common” plant!

Do yourself a favor and plant as many of these special plants to perpetuate the threatened Monarch Butterfly and enjoy a truly beautiful perennial plant!

Papa

 

The Amazing Tomato Hornworm

My old nemesis the Tomato Hornworm is back! They certainly are an impressive creature!

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When the Five Spotted Hawk (Manduca quinquemaculata) moth finds a tomato plant, it will lay one or several eggs on the tomato plant. When the eggs hatch, the little caterpillar will eat its egg case and starts to eat like crazy! The caterpillar will molt several times until it becomes mature and ready to burrow in the ground and metamorphize into a chrysalis. By late spring the chrysalis will open and a new moth appears in late spring/early summer. Finally the cycle starts all over again.

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It is incredible how fast an almost mature caterpillar can strip a tomato plant. I recommend removing the worms by hand. Usually the creatures are found alone hiding amongst the damage. Beware, there color is a great camouflage! Check out the size of this critter!!

BTW, here is another indicator of their escapades. Giant worm poop!!!

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You have to admit, they are amazing!!!!!!

Papa

Green Beans VS Japanese Beetles, Beetles Win!

Last year green beans were out of the question due to a plague of Japanese beetles. This year started out, pretty much the same. I am determined to get a good crop of green beans. To accomplish this feat, I have to get rid of the dreaded Japanese beetles by mid July.

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Just look at the damage they do!!

I decided to try Japanese beetle traps.  (If you need traps, I can recommend these over on Amazon.com: Japanese Beetle Trap.) The trap consists of two plastic rectangles (holes punched and slotted), pheromone lure, plastic bags and a twist tie. I have made a modification to the collection bag by cutting off the bottom of the bag and suspending the trap in a 5 gallon bucket filled with one to two gallons of soapy water.

The beetles are lured to the pheromone, fall into the bag and drop to the soapy water.

A large tomato cage was used to suspend the trap above the soapy water. I use dish soap vs dish detergent. The soap bio-degrades and is friendly to the environment.

If I used just the bags, I would easily go through three to four bags per day. What a waste! You can use the same bag over and over again. The bucket is emptied once a day. The soapy water kills the beetles within minutes. I toss the dead beetles out in an out of the way place to break down and compost on their own.

The two traps have easily killed thousands of Japanese beetles. YES!!!!!!! I am already seeing a difference. There seems to be fewer beetles.

Papa

PS: Green Beans VS Japanese Beetles, Beetles Win!

Spring has Sprung! A Month Early!

Garden peas and sugar snap peas were planted  a week ago! They should be up in about a week.

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Bachelor Buttons, Shasta Daisy, Pansies, Snap Dragons, Marigolds, Foxglove and other flower seed were planted in cell trays. Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower were started as well.

Tomato and Pepper seed will be planted tomorrow.  Full production has started in earnest!

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Flowers have started to bloom. The Crocus and jonquils are showing their lovely blooms!

Watch for more gardening goodies!!!

Papa

Tomato Cuttings Made Easy!

You desire to grow some late tomatoes, but you didn’t start more seed. What do you do?

Take an old shallow container, drill holes in the bottom and root tomato cuttings in vermiculite and water. It’s actually pretty simple. Tomato plants are actually very tough.

Find a container that will hold coarse vermiculite and water ( a plastic dishpan works great!!). Drill several 3/8 inch holes in the bottom of the container. By the way, you may use a large shallow nursery pot as well. Now place about 3 to 4 inches of coarse vermiculite in the container. Water the vermiculite to supply moisture to the cuttings. Allow excess water to drain prior to taking cuttings.P1040429

Carefully take cuttings from desired tomato plants using garden pruners. I have found, the larger the cutting, the easier to root! Place the cuttings in the moistened vermiculite about 3 inches apart. I place my rooting container in the shade to maintain proper hydration of the new cuttings. Usually it takes 10 to 14 days for proper rooting.

You may notice raised bumps or even small roots starting on the stem. These cuttings are the easiest to root.

Look at the results after just 10 days.

Now it is time to pot up your rooted cuttings in large containers to use for transplant in 10 days.

Water the newly potted cuttings and place in a lightly shaded area. Gradually move the pots into more sun light. Plant the potted plants as you would any transplant.

This an easy, effective way to start large, quick growing tomato plants.

Enjoy!

Papa