Friday, September 30, 2022

The Rise and Fall of Tomatoes

2021 was not a very good tomato year for me. To date, that would make over half of my years as a gardener now. Honestly – some people have a gift for growing tomatoes while others, like myself, experience every kind of pest, pathogen and persistent pressure that promotes pitiful production. This year it was leaf curl, courtesy of some menacing whiteflies. 










While I had some some beautiful Taxi tomatoes that got taken out by the whiteflies, but I had some Ace 55 plants that took over. The Ace 55s were okay, but something kept making holes in them just as they would begin to ripen. My daughter also brought by a hybrid cherry tomato plant, which kind of did its own thing.















 We gardeners tend to be an optimistic lot, so – here’s to next season!

Friday, September 23, 2022

A Couple of Carrots

My very favorite time to grow carrots is from the fall to the spring. Unfortunately, due to the dry weather in the fall and the squirrels in the winter, I rarely get any carrots at all. So here is a picture of a few carrots I harvested last spring.







Friday, September 16, 2022

Some Thoughts about Integrated Pest Management

With all the posts about "good" and "bad" bugs, I really wanted to mention something. Just as plant roots suffer without healthy bacteria (those of you with clorinated pools near your garden know what I am talking about) I believe that my garden suffers without some amount of insect life. Specifically, what I am referring to is the lowly aphid.






Though a gardener may prefer to have no aphids at all, I believe that having a mild number of aphids on my plants is really good. Why? Because aphids are the foundation insect for many of the beneficial insects I appreciate in my garden. Ladybugs, lace wings, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, other wasps, assassin bugs, mantids, spiders, etc.



Syrphid Fly larvae eat aphids





Why do I love these beneficial insects so much? Because they do the majority of the work to take care of pest problems before they get out of control. Though some of these predatory insects only eat aphids, the majority of them consume other insect pests as well. They reduce the amount of work I have to do to maintain my garden and are thus a net positive.



Ladybird beetle larvae love aphids too






While I do work to reduce aphid populations before they really damage any one plant, I believe that using an Integrated Pest Management approach helps to keep garden pests in perspective. Instead of fighting my gardening problems, I much prefer to let nature to take care of some of my pests (excluding cucumber beetles) before I really need to.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Wanted: Cucumber Beetles!

Found this in a regional nature paper in Solano County, California. Quite fun and true. Cucurbit growers beware!!!

Friday, September 2, 2022

Some thoughts about Importing Beneficial Insects

Many seed catalogs and hardware stores will soon begin selling beneficial insects. Before deciding to purchase beneficial insects to import into the garden environment, it may be wise to observe what beneficial insects already exist in the area. When I used to live in Tucson, I would see hardware stores sell a whole lot of ladybugs and Chinese mantid oothecas (or praying mantis egg cases). Though it can be temporarily fun and beneficial to introduce insects to the garden, it often does not always pay off in the long-run. Ladybugs are often sold in the spring, when in Tucson, they are only willing to stay around in the cool season - meaning that the ladybugs will make use of their wings to leave the garden as soon as possible.



Aphidius colemani mummy (wasp parasite)



Likewise in Tucson, though Chinese mantids are larger than other mantids, they don't stand a chance in the Southwest compared to the Arizona or Mediterranean mantids that have already established themselves in the area. In contrast, Lacewings and parasitic wasps are very plentiful throughout the year in Tucson, so if I didn't have them present, but had a very large garden that could support their population, I could order them from a company that sells beneficial insects.



Possibly Mediterranean ootheca found around Fairfield, CA


One alternative purchasing insects that don't do well in an area could be to attract local beneficial insects by growing small flowering plants or letting our carrots or dill bolt and flower (attracting Lacewings, parasitic wasps and ladybugs). Various flowering bushes/shrubs also attract beneficials (mantids love to eat flying insects that visit the flowers, then hide among and lay eggs on the branches). 


Local mantid ootheca (egg case) Fairfield, CA

Providing an ideal environment for preferred insects will ensure they are welcome to the garden and encourages them to be around when they are needed most.