Archive for June, 2009


Sometime last week I noticed we had an aphid problem on the brussel sprouts. At first I couldn’t tell what the dusty white growths were, but after seeing the photos blown up on a computer screen it became pretty obvious.

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My first thought was a soap spray. The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening lent to us by Jan said only that the soap had to be soap, not detergent, because the fatty acid/lipid base was what was harmful to the soft-bodied insects (like aphids). Aparently the soap spray paralyzes them.

I tracked down a spray bottle in the kitchen (interestingly we didn’t have any soap- it was all disinfectant and detergent) and ran home to the apartment for some Palmolive. I wasn’t sure if it was the best kind of soap to use but it was what we had available.

My google searches on soap spray for aphids warned me not to do in in full sun, on plants that were heat or water stressed, or on young leaves. Soap can burn or stress the leaves. Leaves that are smooth and waxy are more resistant to damage that soft or hairy leaves. One site recommended I do a spot test, spray a leaf and wait 48 hours to look for damage. The spray bottle had an intended purpose in the kitchen besides aphid spray, and had to be returned that day, so I put in about half a teaspoon of dishsoap in a quart sized waterbottle and sprayed down the kale, brussel sprouts, and purple cabbage, all the plants that had aphids on them.

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Today Sara (who has recently returned from a sustainibility conference) and I went out to check the garden and found that the drip had been turned on by some unknown individual with a waterkey and left on all night, and that the purple cabbage had suffered burns from the soap treatment. Oops.

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We rinsed the leaves well with a watercan, and I’m considering trying a tomato leaf or garlic oil spray on the purple cabbage. It will be a few days before we can tell if the soap spray is effective on the other plants. One source indicated that they should be sprayed every three days or so, so I’ll report back with results next week.

(P.S., We’re going to the Farmer’s Market for the first time tomorrow!)

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Squash flower Tomatilla plant
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Boise Farmer’s Market

The kale was getting HUGE to the point of being completely out of control, (and possibly soon inedible. What do you do with giant kale?) and we had two or three rows of other greens ready to go to market. With Sara and Matt out of town we couldn’t get our Caldwell Farmer’s Market booth up and running, but Robin of Lazy Dog Farms graciously agreed to take some of our greens with her to the Boise Market tomorrow morning (Saturday). We sent her five or six boxes of kale, chard, and heritage lettuce mix.


Chard and kale ready to go to the Boise Farmer’s market in the back of Rebecca’s car. Of course a leaf of kale with two big holes would be on top. Oh well, it’s an organic garden.

Thanks Robin for washing, bundling, and selling our greens for us! Organic gardeners/farmers are possibly the coolest people on earth.

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Contender Bush Beans

While weeding I noticed the bush beans have finally sprouted- ten or eleven days after they were planted. They’re contender bush beans (Phaseolus vulgaris cv. Contender) donated to us by Beth of Canyon Bounty Farms. (Thanks Beth! You rock!)

Contender Beans, treated with Rhizo Bacteria Cute little bean seeds

Our beans were treated with a coating of nitrogen-fixing Rhizo bacteria to help them get established in their new bed. They were planted directly outside and will need to be thinned soon.

Contender Bush Bean Seedling

Aren’t they cute?

The plants are expected to grow between 12” and 20” and the bean pods are stringless and about 6” long, and can be eaten cooked or directly off the bush. Bean plants need air and were planted with plenty of spacing between plants and beds. Hopefully we should have beans in about 40 days.

Bush Bean Links:

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Can’t Afford Hoes

One of the things I enjoy most about the garden is how we manage to operated on an essentially non-existant budget as a second year program. On our second official day as sustainability interns, Sara arranged a meeting with her employer Beth (An experienced and completely helpful local organic farmer) and her friend and fellow gardener Jan Book, who sometimes caters for Bon Appetit, to discuss the specific needs and challenges of our garden plot and fish for suggestions for improvement.

The subject of tools came up, and we had to admit that our only garden tool was a small hand cultivator. (Luckily the entire garden had recently been tilled, Robin of Lazy Dog Gardens lent us her tractor, so the planting wasn’t too difficult with only that tool.) But as weeds had taken over the entire unplanted half of the bed, it was obvious that we would need a little more help than that.

“What’s your tool budget?” Beth asked,

“One hundred dollars,” I replied.

“One hundred dollars for tools?” she asked.

“No, one hundred dollars total.” I admitted.

We had a good laugh about it. Jan generously offered to lend us some hoes so we could get a feel for what we liked before ordering one. Peaceful Valley Farm Supply was the reccommended supplier.

Our favorite of Jan’s hoes for weeding is called a stirrup hoe.
As you swing it, it chops up weeds from both sides. Jan recommended we purchase a file as well, since it works much better when sharp. With a handle and shipping, it would probably use up what small remainder of our budget wasn’t spent on tomato cages. And we still don’t have cages around all the tomatoes. (Which, according to our predecessor Claire, grew to gigantic proportions last summer.)

Our plan is to try and find someone to donate tomato cages, and see if the proceeds from the farmer’s market booth are enough to buy a few tools.

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Worm Smoothies (or, How to Spoil your Vermiculture)

When Sara and I inherited the internship, the one major thing that carried over besides the plot was a red wriggler vermicompost bin.

Red wriggler is a common name for Eisenia foetida. Red wriggler worms are epigeal, meaning they are adapted to live above the soil surface in an environment of decaying organic matter such as leaves.

A couple of our red wrigglers

This makes E. fetida perfect for composting, as it thrives in an environment of decaying vegetable scraps and produces a fine, dark vermicompost comprised of bedding materials (in our case, shredded paper) food scraps, and vermicast (worm poop). Vermicompost is an excellent organic fertilizer.

Vermicompost from our bin

Our worms are potentially some of the luckiest red wrigglers in existence, because not only do they have an entire cafe/catering service worth of food scraps to eat, we make it easy for them.

So, how to make a worm smoothie. Which is not a smoothie made out of worms, but a smoothie for worms.

First, take your bucket of kitchen scraps (wilted lettuce, strawberry tops, slightly moldy tomatoes, old onions, eggshells, etc.) helpfully saved for the worms by the kitchen staff.

Then add water,

Now for the fun part. Grab your giant hand mixer and grind it into a stinky, thick paste. Bonus points if you can splash some on the other intern. (Just kidding, that’s gross.)

Finally, pour your smoothie(s) on the worms. We feed ours once a week, and only on one side of the bin. That way, they all migrate over to where the food is, leaving the vermicompost in the other half of the bin free of worms and ready to go on the garden.

Eat up, little guys!

Eat up, little guys

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