Friday, August 29, 2014

Beware, the little green alien invasion!


These terrifying soldiers could be in your back yard right now!

Just remember, the most important thing is to keep calm - DO NOT PANIC! If you do panic, you just might regret it later!  Keep reading...

Invader Vs Invader, who will win?

Well for those of you who are not familiar with the pictured critters above, you can see two different images that portray two very different scenarios.  While the first picture can be devastating to your tomato crops, the second picture is a view of hope in the future. 

What you see in both pictures are Tomato Horn Worms.  What you see in the second picture is the eggs of the Braconid Wasp on the back of the horn worm.  These little wasps fly around predating on caterpillars.  These eggs will hatch and the young'n will slowly feed on the worm as they hatch, killing it in the process.  See, no need to panic!

While I did kill the horn worms that did not have the eggs laid on them, I certainly left the second pictured one to help continue the life cycle of the Braconid Wasp.  I'm a big fan of the predatory insects in my garden, as long as they don't eat too many pollinators that is.


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Garden Update

 EDIT:  SOMEBODY PLEASE IDENTIFY THE MYSTERY ASIAN SQUASH SHOWN BELOW!  (I think it the seeds came from a co-worker, but he doesn't know what it is... he got the seeds from a lady at some Asian restaurant).


Sad looking sunflowers...

 But first... Vacation~!

It's really nice having a permanent job where I have vacation time, such a change from the years working as a contractor!  Taking advantage of this, I was able to take my family to visit my grandparents and other relatives in Kansas two weeks back.  We had a wonderful time relaxing... something I'm not good at.  It was great to spend time with family I haven't seen in nearly five years!  We ended it with some time in Arkansas where my uncle has a dock with a top notch ski boat.  He tried teaching my wife and I how to barefoot ski...  let me tell you something about barefoot skiing - DONT DO IT!  That may be harsh... but I came home from that experience with a greater understanding of my body and where it can hurt!  On a side note, I was able to get out and do some slalom skiing (one ski) which was an incredible blast!  The wife however, never was able to make it up on two skis... maybe another day.


Naturally while away I was a little apprehensive about what the garden would look like when we got home.  After ten days of not being around to manage everything, what would it look like?  Well last night I got around to taking some pictures.

The patio bed
This past spring I decided I wanted a nice raised bed next to the patio.  That way, any of the things we would eat on a regular basis would be close... such that Mrs. J wouldn't have to go all the way out to the garden to get whatever she might need while cooking.  That was the idea... the only thing that seemed to work out was the lettuce, now bolting (going to seed).  The broccoli was a terrible flop, I think the soil is worthless.  The carrots were likewise.  Also seen is a rouge squash and some celery - that was an experiment, but seems to be growing just fine, although we've yet to taste it.  It might just go into the dehydrator...

$2.50 each
I doubt you can see it, but there is a blueberry bush in the top left and a berry cane in the center of this pic.  Each were purchased from Tractor supply for $2.50 when things went on sale.  I would have had two blueberries, but I accidentally stepped on one.  I also bought two berries - one a golden rasberry the other a ???  I can't remember... oh well, only one made it and I don't know which one!

Jersey Knight Asparagus
This stuff seems to be doing well.  I planted it in some black gold from a neighbor and then covered it with packing paper (from the move) and then the horse manure/ sawdust mixture I had delivered.  I really works nicely to keep the weeds down!  Next year I'll have to edge the beds to keep the grass from growing into the bed.

Pole beans, etc
Well I like Herrick Kimball's idea for the tomato trellis so much, I did the same thing for the pole beans.  These are Rattle Snake beans from High Mowing Organic an the package says they grow to 8ft tall... well, mine will never get there.  Some of them did great, others just refused to come up.  Again, poor soil... you can also see how I mulched the garden with paper and horse manure to cover up the hard pack clay!

Garlic seed
I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to let the garlic go to seed like this if you want to harvest it for eating, but all the bulbs I dug up were so small anyway, I figured I'd give a shot at planting seeds this fall.  I was told that garlic is a heavy feeder on nitrogen... obviously my garden is lacking that!

Caged tomato's
These cherry tomato's are doing pretty good.  However, I'm having difficulty keeping them where I want them... which leads me to the Herrick Kimball Whizbang tomato trellis:

 My Whizbang Trellis's
Naturally I took my own interpretation when I built these, but I think it's close enough!  These trellis's are AWESOME!  I really love how I can weave the tomato plant through the cattle panels (each section is 1/3 of a panel) to train them as they grow.  No longer are there any plants laying on the ground, which really helps with diseases.

A little bit of congestion...
 As you can see, these things are a little congested.  Between each trellis I planted basil, which is doing great!  The tomato's on the right trellis are doing great too!  I've never had paste tomato's get so big without succumbing to blight.  Well see if this year is any different.  You might be able to see it, but in the second row (in this pic) of trellises, I planted a squash between the trellis's that seems to have a mind of its own, and has taken over at least two of these trellis'...

Honey Nut Butternut Squash Mystery Asian Squash... the freak show of my garden!
I suppose it's good that my tomato's here didn't grow bigger, because it quickly became apparent that the squash was going to win! 

Just at 24inches circumference
And on the left, 25 inches circumference

Needless to say, I'm quite pleased on how the tomato's and Honey Nut Butternut's Mystery Asian squash are doing!

At the beginning of the season, I had very low expectations for these peppers.  They were short and didn't look like they would go anywhere... but I have been pleasantly surprised to find a number of delicious greens on each plant!

German Chamomile
I had purchased a number of different flowers and herbs this spring and was really just experimenting.  Of all the hers/flowers I planted, the chamomile is the only one that really took off... and boy has it taken off!  I think we'll be planting this a border around the entire garden next year... I think it's quite pretty to be honest... hopefully it makes for good tea as well.

Walthamville (How many squash do you count?)
Another plant I'm excited about is the Waltham butternut's.  At my parent house, in the past, each year we would only get a few fruits before the plant took to the squash bug/mildew.  This year, I've only seen one bug and the mildew is only attacking the pumpkins...

My little rhubarb patch
 I'm telling you, the rhubarb from Stark Bro's is pretty awesome!

Sweet potato patch
I know Sweet Potato's do better (at setting fruit) when they are stressed, so this year may not be the best... but at least I tried!  (Multiple layers of horse manure and cardboard or paper).

My new vineyard
Many thanks again to Herrick Kimball for all of his work on gardening and sharing some of it on his websites!  (I do wish he'd finish up his site for those lamps though!)  Anyway, this is my new grape vineyard.  I need to replace the t-posts on the ends with some wooden posts, but everything in between is awesome!  Thank you also to Tractor Supply for the free grape vines!  Don't worry, I spent nearly $200 there to get this thing set up... in the end, we both won!

Stringing up the vines
I really don't know anything about growing grapes, training them or pruning... but I think I'm on the right track.  I'm simply wrapping the young vine around some twine to get it to grow the direction I desire.

Grrr!!!!  Japanese Beetles...
I'm going to have to figure something out here... these guys are just plain destructive!  Although on the bright side, maybe they will kill all of the bluegrass in my lawn!  That stuff will send roots underground that pop up all over the edges of garden beds... not my friend.

Pollinators, woohoo!
I thought there were not any bees in the area... apparently I was wrong!  Notice the yellow pollen on the bees legs (not the bumble bee's)... that's what goes into making honey!  You can bet I'll be planting a lot more sunflowers next year!  (I'm wanting to get my own bees.)

The swale bed
I hand dug a swale (click here for an explanation of swales) in my backyard and planted some green beans over it... the difference between the mulched an non-mulched beans is pretty obvious in this picture!

And here are a few of my fruit trees...


June 2014

This is a little late getting out... sorry!


Well that sure flew by!  I'll try to start from the top...


For a couple years now I thought it would be neat to keep bees.  So when I saw an add on Craigslist for bee keeping equipment, I jumped on it!  $80 later I came home with two books (that I could have gotten on Amazon or for less - I have to learn to be a better haggler), some lemon grass oil (for attracting swarms to a hive box), a smoker, a hat and a veil.  In all, I don't know that I saved a lot of money... well, yea, I saved a decent amount.  Oh, I also got a hive tool or two.

With all that said, I've been doing a lot of research on Top Bar Hives.  They are not your typical commercial hives and they have some benefits and drawbacks.  I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and I'm now hoping to build two (Tanzian or Kenyan? - Oh the choices... most likely a Kenyan) hives in the next year... then I have to find some bee's to go in them!  First things first...

Resources for Bee's: - A great article honestly!

Garden / Vineyard / Orchard

Things seem to be in full swing here, although the peppers are off to a slow start.  I got all my rhubarb planted and it's all up and growing!  (That's pretty good as the first year I got 1 or 2 of 10 plants to grow).  Stark Bro's even sent me two extra plants, so thank you for that!  Oh, I also have three wild asparagus plants growing around my yard... that's kinda cool!

I also planted my rhubarb - this deserves a quick review...  When I planted some at my parents house a few years back, it came as three spindly little roots about an inch around and 3 inches long... one was rotten already and the other two looked pretty lame.  My rhubarb from Stark Bro's came in about 4 inches diameter and 6 inches long.  I even took a shovel to one and split it to make three plants and they are all growing!

A few weeks back I planted the following:
2 Peach Trees, 2 Pear Trees, 2 more Apple Trees and 1 Sweet Cherry Tree (the other is coming in the fall - they had sold out before I made my order and didn't update the web page).  The good news - they are all budding out and growing!  In comparison to the trees I bought from gurneys, these things are doing great!  (Gurneys did give me a substantial refund by the way - I think it's noteworthy, although I'm a huge Stark Bro's fan now)

This pas weekend I put the FOUR grape vines in the ground that I got for free from Tractor Supply... I know, it's kinda strange... but I'm excited about growing my own grapes now too!  I have all sorts of plans in my head for what I can do with them.  I have two Concord Grape vines to make juice and jelly, a Niagra for eating and I can't remember the other.  I am a little worried about the Reliance grape vine I got from Stark Bro's however, as it's not yet budding out.

I'm also getting ready to build... drum roll...

The Planet WhizbangT-post Grape Trellis

Hopefully I'll have pics of that soon! The only difference for me is that the 1" Conduit comes in 10' lengths, so I'll have 10' spans between posts, unlike Herrick Kimball's 8' recommended length.

I also planted 3 Primocane Red Raspberries a few weeks back that have yet to show any life sign... so I may have to make do on Stark Bro's 1 Year Satisfaction policy.


Good news - I haven't killed any more of them!  I also, through some roundabout ways, determined that the first chicken had "Water Belly".  This is apparently a relatively common event with chickens, especially fast growing meat chickens.

Here is a quote from a great site to learn more about it:

"Water Belly refers to the fluid accumulated in the abdominal cavity as a consequence of heart failure. The disease is more scientifically known as pulmonary hypertension syndrome and this disease may or may not actually end up as what is known as ascites."

Hopefully it isn't a problem in a large number of birds... I'm butchering in less than two weeks!  Speaking of which, those guys are getting a little bit more cantankerous to those ladies in there... not to mention working on crowing every morning... I'm sure the neighbors love it!