It's been a while since I made my last post and I think my garden is all the worse because of it. First, a brief synopsis:
I live in a Zone 8a/b depending on which resource I check. Back in February, I talked my parents into giving me a 20'x15' plot of land in the front yard. This area had been untouched in about 30+ years and up until it died last year it had no sun on it at all. There was also a 4-5" mulch of... needles(?) on the ground. On a side note, I need to figure out what kind of trees are in my yard. I know exactly what I'm planting, but no idea about the stuff that's been around 30, 50 or even 80+ years now.
I'm told that the neighbourhood used to be a blueberry farm, so that makes me think that the soil is probably somewhat acidic.
Anyway, I dug out most of the 'close to surface' roots; replaced the soil; added a layer of cardboard, sometimes 2x thickness; stabbed holes in the cardboard with a knife; put peat moss on top, do about 2" thickness; waited till it nicely soaked (a few days) and planted probably 400 crimson clover seeds, 50 fava bean, 40 winter pea; and promptly forgot about it, as we began to have our first frosts of the year...
I think I've had 5 frosts since I planted that garden. Also, I was a poor poor hippie back when I used the peat moss. I had gone to a hydroponics store and met this cool guy who had all these suggestions and one of them was: "Don't buy my soil/soilless mix. Instead, buy some peat moss for 1/8th the price and it should work just fine for ya!" Well he didn't explain the Ecological ramifications of this action, nor that the peat should be mixed with soil, or really anything that turned out to be terribly useful.
Alright, so skip ahead to mid June, after working in a plant nursery for 2 months and gaining a lot more motivation towards making my garden something nice instead of... whatever it is now...
I actually think it looks quite nice. However around the edge of the cardboard, the buttercups are thick and wild. The beans/peas that are mixed into the buttercups are doing FANTASTIC! I have fava beans which are nearly two feet tall and full of flowers, etc. The peas are gorgeous and trail along the ground a long ways. It's the Crimson Clover that blows me away however.
The internet and a few other resources told me that Crimson Clover only flowers after a year. Well I have nearly foot tall clover which recently started forming nice big flowers! Yesterday I tried eating one of them and was amazed by how tasty clover flowers are. The whole plant was terribly tasty, to be completely honest.
Well I just replanted the 1/2 of the garden, using soil and partially mulching (ripping the plants out and leaving their carcasses strewn along the ground. Realising that my intentions for the garden are not going to come true this year and that I'm waiting for autumn to do major revisions, I just put the soil on top of the peat moss because I was worried about disturbing/ripping the cardboard underneath and possibly weeds under that.
So the soil was dumped on, maybe 600 crimson clover, some kale, dill, fennel, lettuce, lupin, arugula, and probably a dozen or more other seeds were planted amongst each other. Possibly too close to each other... There is Clover everywhere, but I tried to plant in order of most sun for shorter plants to taller/less sun (until they grow taller). The area gets, depending on a few factors, 4-5 hours of sunlight in mid summer during the morning/early afternoon. In late afternoon, a section gets another 3-4 hours of late afternoon/evening sun. The plants in those areas are doing quite well.
Oh, by the way, the plants on the cardboard have sprung up quite well. The clover has gone all red around the tips of the leaves and is terribly stunted; but the beans are tall and their roots have penetrated deep into the soil below the cardboard. The peas never started in that area.
It has now been a week since I replanted and the clover is coming in strong. I fear that nothing else will get a chance to grow... However, be that as it may, next year will be the big year for getting a nice garden going! This has all been a crazy experiment and I'm in WAY over my head...
So my Q's!!
What can I do about black aphids? Some of my best looking bean plants have thousands upon thousands of black aphids in areas, usually the flowering areas. I don't like to kill, though I did squish probably 500-1000 last night with my bare fingers... However I don't like killing innocent creatures... well any creatures to be honest... I will NOT use an insecticide.
Until I lost it a few weeks ago, I had a book called "Companion Planting in New Zealand/Australia." I learned from this book that garlic chives can be planted throughout the garden and if cut every few days will drive them away. When I return from work tomorrow, I intend to bring some home for this purpose. Does anyone else have any suggestions in dealing with these?
Also, what might eat slugs? The book also explained that Lantana will attract birds which will eat aphids, but might deter other plants from growing unless they're also ramblers like blackberries or roses. So I'm not sure I want to try much lantana, even though it's so beautiful.
I have heard that ducks will eat slugs, so I've wondered, what can I do to attract ducks to my yard? There is a lake, maybe a 1/2 kilometer from my abode, which is filled with ducks. A pond would be nice, but that's a distant plan, not immediate. Are there other ducks that live in North America which think slugs are tasty treats?
I think this post is STUPID huge. I better stop it now. I'll try post more frequently with shorter posts...
there are a lot of variables involved, but there's a good chance you've got some less-than-balanced dirt. all those legumes have been adding nitrogen and some organic matter, but not phosphorus or potassium or calcium or magnesium or any of the myriad trace elements.
some predators will likely show up eventually to snack on your aphids, and there are plenty of things you can do to encourage them, but taking care of the dirt will be just as important in the long run.
for what it's worth, aphids on favas is a pretty common problem.
You might consider getting a couple of ducklings to raise as yard-ducks so they will stay around your place and go after the snails, slugs, beetles and grubs on a regular basis. Wild ducks won't be easy to get to come and work when you want.
Also nematodes/lady bugs may help with your smaller pests and/or using a sprayer attached to your hose to give the plants a light does of soapy garlic water (like Jerry Baker's natural plant remedies). Completely infested plants/stems should be cut off and buried in your compost pile or eliminated by another recycling method.
Mixing your plantings up so all that good stuff isn't conveniently located in one spot for those aphids to over take will help a little too.
What I'm saying is several small practical methods all used together will go a long way toward helping your pest problem.
THere are plants that will attract certain bugs to themselves. I don't know what would work for black aphids, but I know my bronze fennel gets covered with the plain ol green aphids(and is none the worse for that) and the aphids leave other stuff alone. Hollyhock is probably another, I notice a lot on ants on them, and there's some kind of ant that eats aphids, right? I don't mind holes in my hollyhock leaves if it means they leave the veggies alone:D
snakes eat slugs, and some snails will eat other species of snails.
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Are your aphids soft or are they kind of hard? If they are hard they might be flea beetles. If that is the case you want to attract braconid wasps and white or yellow sticky traps might work.
If they are soft, then you want ladybugs and lacewings, and make sure ants aren't herding the aphids. Ants sometimes raise aphids like cattle, defending them from predators and even carrying them onto new plants.
Other birds that eat slugs are crows, herons, and birds of prey. Toads, snakes and turtles also eat them. Adding a flat rock or large concrete paver in a shady spot could attract toads and snakes. When I lived in Los Angeles I had a pair of toads that lived in a burrow under the edge of the concrete patio slab for years.
Black aphids are a normal pest of fava beans. It sounds, though, like your favas, like mine, are doing great and are big and healthy. If that's the case, you might try ignoring the aphids. Predators like ladybugs and wasps take a little time to show up, and they won't stick around if there's nothing to eat! In the meantime, just check regularly to see if the plants are actually suffering, or if they're handling the aphids just fine. Another regular suggestion is to pinch the tops that are covered right off the plants; the aphids like the tender growth at the top, and if you take that away, they will not come back apparently. The favas then keep focussing their energy on growing the bean pods, so it's a win win. Unless you want the predators around, then I would leave a few.
I was watching the ladybugs on my fava black aphids yesterday thinking to myself, I wonder if the ladybugs wait for bugs like this the way we wait for the strawberries to ripen. "any day now, those yummy spring fava aphids will show up! I can't wait!"
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