Archive for Organic Pest and Weed Control

Weeds

The bane of any organic gardener’s existence are weeds. We have been keeping up with the weeding as much as possible, but we’ve learned the hard way that there are just too many. So we’ve been exploring different methods of mulching. We currently have organic grass clippings on a row of onions and a row of peppers and it seems to be working pretty well. The mulch is about 2 inches thick and it has kept the weeds down pretty well. Between a couple of the other rows we laid down cardboard.

This is a row of peppers that has been mulched with grass as well as the cardboard. It has been working decently so far, though there are still some weeds poking out.

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We Have Bugs

Today was day 2 in the battle against pests. We have a slight infestation of both cut worms and aphids.

So, when we originally had aphids on the kale I asked Beth Rasgorshek of Canyon Bounty Farms what we should try. She suggested looking for safer soap at the D & B. So my first excursion to D & B found me standing in the pest control row for about half an hour just looking at everything trying to figure out what I could use and what I could not. What I ended up with is an OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved NEEM Concentrate Oil that smells like garlic. After a couple sprayings of the kale, the aphids were gone. But now we have a huge infestation, so now the NEEM is really getting put to the test. I had originally just used a small hand sprayer, but since there are so many plants with pests, I got out the big guns. The pressure sprayer. It makes things so much easier. Just put in the water, the NEEM, put the lid on, pump it to build up the pressure and spray. We’ll see how this works.

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Thank you

Thank you!

These grass clippings are free of all non-organic chemicals and were donated by the garden’s good friend Rebecca. (Thanks again!) Mulch should be laid at least three inches thick and prevents weeds, conserves water, and improves the quality of the soil.

Much more mulch is still needed!

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Mulch Appreciated

While we’ve been preoccupied with planting, harvesting, aphids, market, and composting (worm and otherwise,) a problem has been slowly creeping up on us, fed by the heat and the dripline (which is sometimes left on too long) spreading it’s pernicious tendrils up and down the rows.

Weeds.

Weeds. It seems as though we just weeded, and yet there are weeds. A quick search for organic weed control methods turned up some interesting results (apparently boiling water works really well for grass in driveway cracks) but almost all mentioned one method in particular- mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch.

So the garden is in need of organic mulch materials. Grass clippings, straw, cardboard, lawn detritus, (I am even considering shredded paper) as long as it is not sprayed with toxic chemicals (Herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers). If you bag your clippings and don’t spray your lawn, let us know, and we’ll be very grateful to come pick them up and give them a good home.

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Aphid Update

Dead Aphids

The soap spray (we used liquid Dr. Bronner’s organic castille soap after the first day) is quite effective, and doesn’t seem to bother the plants. Above you can see the blacked, dead remains of a once-thriving aphid colony on a brussel sprout leaf.

Unfortunately, the aphids were multiplying faster than we could spray them, which with a kitchen spray bottle and five long rows of brassicas to spray is very tedious and frustrating work.

(A friend recently informed me that aphids can be BORN PREGNANT, since they reproduce parthenogenically. They certainly do breed at an alarming rate)

The brussel sprout (left) and purple cabbage (right) below are lamentably completely overrun by aphids.

Infested Brussels Overrun Purple Cabbage

There was still hope, however.

Ladybugs for Sale Another organic method of pest control was still available to us. Natural predators. Rebecca picked up a plastic container of 1000 ladybugs for us at Zamzows. We released them after our first night at market.

Ladybugst

We were concerned about them all flying away, and while not all of them stuck around, I see four or five a day as I putter around the garden. I was particularly excited to find the ladybug larva in the image below on a brussels leaf.

Ladybug Larva on a Brussles Sprout

Between the ladybugs, the occasional spray with cold water from the hose, and a bi- to tri-weekly soap treatment (focusing mainly on the actual edible sprouts themselves, which bud off of the central stalk) the aphids are very nearly under control. While only three very large brussels plants made it through, we should get some sprouts off of them and are better equipped to deal with possible aphids on the new flat of brassicas Sarah picked up from Beth this week. (We planted some broccoli and cabbage this morning.)

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Aphids

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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