Monday, July 13, 2009

Independence Days Challenge - Japanese Beetle Edition

I am glad that I am not a novice gardener this year. A significant number of my spring crops failed with all the wet we had in June. If I didn't know this for the simple luck of the draw (a bad one), I would be so discouraged that I would probably give up on gardening entirely. Nor would I know that replanting provides even odds for a fall harvest of some crops. As it is, I've been patrolling the garden with something close to anxiety, watching my second round of starts like a hawk. The gorgeous sunflowers are some consolation. Normally at this time I would be struggling to keep up with the kale, and putting as much of it away for the winter months as I could. It feels very odd to have as much time on my hands as I do right now. Not in a good way, either. Though it is allowing me to gather plenty of Japanese beetles by hand, much to the delight of the hens.

Though we treated with milky spore early this year, we are still seeing some damage from these supremely annoying, invasive pests. Nothing native eats them; there are no checks or balances with Japanese beetles. The girls however will happily eat as many as I can bring them. I tried putting a hormonal lure and modified beetle trap right in their pen, but I think the lure is old and ineffective. It was given to me for free by a relative. I find the beetles most often on my potatoes and comfrey, and on my husband's raspberries and grape vines. I've seen a few on other garden plants and there's a shrubby sort of plant in our weed patch that attracts them very strongly. I have to dump the beetles onto a light colored frisbee so that the girls can see the little pests, which otherwise are too well camouflaged on the earth. They love this special feeding time. I'm getting about a dozen beetles each time I gather, which is now at least three times per day. It's worth it since it lets me cut back on the purchased feed for the chickens. And oh, how satisfying to see my girls eat my pests!

Planted: Finished transplanting my last ditch efforts with the Tuscan kale and Savoy cabbage for this year. I'm on pins and needles about these fall crops since my spring brassicas failed entirely due to the June rains. What we'll do without a bumper crop of kale, I just don't want to contemplate. Trying again with okra too. Put in a few more snow peas and daikon radish seeds.

Oh! I was also inspired and deeply impressed with Julie's ginger harvest. It's technically too cold to grow ginger here, but I do love it. So I decided to try growing some in a five-gallon bucket, which I'll need to bring indoors for the winter. The experiment began just a few days ago. We'll see how it goes.

Harvested: The remaining 1/3 of my garlic crop, a few excellent cylindra beets, lots of herbs, Slobolt lettuce, the beginnings of the summer squash and squash blossoms, eggs as usual from the girls.

Preserved: Air dried a few zucchini just as an experiment. Also made a simple syrup with anise hyssop for mixed drinks (alcoholic and otherwise).

Waste not: Used a bunch of newspaper for lasagna mulching in a new area of the yard. Feeding the beetles to the girls instead of putting up with crop damage or resorting to pesticides.

Preparation/Storage: Priced some shelves for food storage in the basement, but the price is really more than I want to pay. Still looking.

Community: Not much. I've committed to helping can raspberry jam with an acquaintance, and promised some garden seeds to her too. I hope she follows through and lets me know when she's ready to can.

Eat the food: Used some of last year's roasted tomato sauce and summer squash from the garden for a squash tart. It was a hit. I'm going to try it again this week with the addition of pesto. Also made a chunky salad of beets, grilled zucchini, roasted corn kernels, avocado, garlic scape pesto and mayonnaise. It all turned the lurid color of beets, but it was really tasty and went very well in wraps with Slobolt lettuce from the garden. So four of the ingredients (half) were homegrown.

Read about Sharon's Independence Days Challenge, and you can participate too!


Wendy said...

We have the same problem with beetles really liking the grape vine and potato plants, but they've never been a "problem." I don't know what keeps them in check, but something seems to, and while I do, occasionally, see them around, they're never out of control.

I did find out, though, that Starlings are a natural predator, and they live all over the US. Starlings like peanuts, if you're looking to attract a bird that might eat the beetles ... other than your chickens, which would be my favored choice of predator ... if I didn't have to pick the beetle.

Julie said...

Good luck with your ginger! You've really got nothing to lose if it doesn't work, but if it does... yum! I love the bucket idea so that you can move it around to catch the warmest spots as the weather cools (and I'm guessing your summers don't get as hot as here either?). Easy to harvest :-)

Kate said...

Wendy, the milky spore definitely has helped. Last year we were overrun with JB's on the grapevines and raspberries. Perhaps your neighbors use milky spore, and that's what keeps the numbers down in your area? We have starlings in this area, but I've never seen them on my property. I have actually considered growing some peanuts as an additional calorie crop; it can be done in my area. But given the effort it takes (starting them in a cold frame, etc.) I doubt I would consider them fair game as a lure for starlings. KWIM?

Julie, thanks. That's my attitude precisely. I even happened to have a spare five-gallon *food grade plastic* bucket. So that worked out well. I'm wondering when I might harvest, given that I'm probably not planting in the ideal season. But I guess I'll figure it out as and when the time comes.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE borcht! I have yet to have my first summer bowl this year. We are incredibly late with everything this year. It was too cold a spring.

Lucky you.


gardengrl said...

Any challenge for August yet? I love love love your challenges.

I have a question also...about garlic.... I planted mine in April, it seems to be doing well. Some of the tops have dried out and look dead. Can I leave those in the ground for next spring, or do I need to dig them out. I pulled a couple, and they are VERY small, they were supposed to be elephant garlic, I ordered them thru a mail order place that said they only ship when its time to plant, and I received them in April.
This is my first attempt at garlic, we use a shipload at my house, and I thought I could save a little by growing my own. Everything I have read says you plant in I out the money I spent on them...or can they be saved?

Kate said...

HDR, we're late with everything too, but stuff is coming in now. Better late than never!

Gardengrl, elephant garlic is not a true garlic and is more closely related to leek. So far as I know, real garlic is best planted in the fall, as you would any flower bulbs, and I imagine it would be much the same with elephant garlic, though I've never grown it. I think you could leave them in the ground to overwinter, but you might be better off digging them up, separating them, and then replanting them this fall. Try to get them back in the ground about a week after your first frost date for best results.