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Mike Turner
Posts: 324
Location: Upstate SC
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I thought it might be useful to have a thread to record things of interest in the garden that aren't important enough to warrant a dedicated thread of their own.  Here's a few of my own observations.

This summer's Japanese beetle season has been a killer, with beetle numbers about 10 times higher than on the typical summer (last summer was the first wet year following 3 years of drought).  When I first set up the beetle traps, it looked like a bee swarm with all of the beetles gathering around the traps.   A few things I've noticed:

The Ecos Red Apple has been totally untouched by beetle damage even though nearby apple trees have about 30%-40% defoliation.

Older trees/perennials and those growing in richer soils tend to have less beetle damage.

Strawberry plants growing under a light canopy of wild cherry tomato plants have little to no beetle damage.  The beetles don't like tomato leaves and don't find the strawberries growing under the tomato sprawl.

Spraying seaweed emulsion on the leaves helps to reduce the amount of beetle damage.  I guess the nutrients in the emulsion allows to plant to make the most of its chemical defenses.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Have you tried using 4 O'clock flowers to lure the Japanese beetles in?  I've heard good things about them from several sources.  We planted them last year but didn't have a very bad beetle year so it was hard to know if they would have made a difference.  Once I pulled out the Einset grape vine which was their favorite target, they also reduced in number around the yard.  If you have a pond, they make good frog food.
 
Lf London
Posts: 96
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
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Pennsylvania Smartweed will attract Japanese Beetles and reduce predation on food crops.
They turn the leaves into lace with large groups of them working on individual plants.
Its worth allowing limited spreading of this weed in edge zones and untended fallow fields
but never let it go to seed in a garden.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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may i suggest something you might try? HOw about picking up some bird feeders with some sunflower seeds in them and hanging them really close to where the worst infestation of bugs is..and the hungry birds will drop to the ground to get the seeds that fall and find the bugs and maybe they'll gorge on the bugs, they prefer bugs to seeds.

I had some problems with an infestation of earwigs..which are a predatory insect but they also do eat some foliage. Well there were thousands of them so they were doing some damage to some foliage of a few plants. I put 4 bird feeders out into the garden near the infestations, as i read that earwigs are basically bird candy..so i figured if i draw more birds to that area then they'll take care of the excess earwigs..might work for any other bug problems??
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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My observations this year:
- The wettest spring we have ever had, which has triggered:
  - Slug explosion
  - Bad apple scab.  Although one of the trees I planted from seed many years ago has no scab.  I was going to cut it down (it is too crowded) but I'll need to reconsider that.
  - Mosquito explosion
- When the blackcap (native) raspberries were blooming, they were covered with small bees & wasps.  I never thought of raspberry as an insectary plant before.
- My bird feeder (black oil sunflower seed) has gotten way more use than ever before, by bird species I have never seen before.  We also had a squirrel show up who regularly gorged himself and even chewed a hole in the feeder.  I have since placed the feeder on a metal pole, out of his reach.  But still the feeder runs out every few days.  In previous years it took at least a week for it to be emptied.  I attribute this to the following causes:
  - Over time the feeder is discovered by more birds, including species I have not seen before.
  - More birds are nesting in our yard, thus the parents are around more, and they have babies which are also using the feeder.  I am quite certain that the same birds come back year after year to the same bird houses that I have in my yard.
  - Fir the first time, I have seen starlings eating sunflower seed.

 
                
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Brenda Groth wrote:
..so i figured if i draw more birds to that area then they'll take care of the excess earwigs..might work for any other bug problems??


Unfortunately while that'd be awesome for earwigs, I think Japanese beetles tend to be pretty unpalatable to North American bird-life--while I've heard that starlings will occasionally pick them off, they apparently taste sufficiently lousy that most of our natives don't want to eat the little buggers. (Even the starling thing is kinda questionable--I've seen on-line sources claim they eat 'em, but a number of my blog readers claim they've watched flocks of starlings bop around the yard without ever so much as touching a Japanese beetle, so I can't say one way or the other if this really works or not. For whatever reason of geography or dumb luck, I don't get starlings out here, so no firsthand experience either way.)

Now, assassin bugs are supposed to be the great equalizer, but they only go after the larvae. Still, there's always next year if you can find a way to encourage the assassins...apparently they're really fond of the daisy and wild carrot family (Queen Anne's Lace, fennel, rue) alfalfa and goldenrod, and they need either tall grass or low shrubs to lurk in.

I've got lots of local assassin bugs, and only minor annoyances with Japanese beetles, but I honestly can't say if the one is due to the other--haven't been gardening at this location long enough to tell.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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i googled, they say ducks, and some nematodes, as well as gregarine and milky spore..so i guess if you have a problem with them you might borrow a few ducks??
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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I just went for a walk here at work and walked by the employee garden.  My employer allows employees to pay a nominal fee to have a 10x10 garden plot here on site in a large open field.  I noticed that several plots were growing pole beans.  One in particular had built a trellis out of tree branches, poles & wire, which stood about six feet tall.  On the bean plants & the ground below the trellis were tons of bird droppings.  Apparently wild birds use the trellis as a roost, leaving their droppings (nutrients) below the trellis, i.e. free fertilizer.

There were a variety of trellis structures that people had used, so I compared the droppings beneath each one.  It appears that the birds prefer the trellises that are the tallest, and also easy for them to perch on.  e.g. one tall trellis was made from twine, but it had very few droppings.  Another short trellis made from thick wire (easy to perch on) also had few droppings.

I'll see if I can get some pictures tomorrow.

So if you want wild birds to fertilize your garden (and probably eat insects and seeds), provide perching places at least six feet high, above the spot where you want their droppings.  And if you don't want droppings on your plants, make sure that your trellises are not easy for birds to perch on.
 
Dave Miller
pollinator
Posts: 416
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
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As promised, photos of the trellises.

Best example - lots of perching space.  Looks nice too.  Although I don't think I would have used LAN cable for the wire 



Note lots of bird droppings:


Bird demonstrating perching  :

Another good example (semi-large chain, big enough for birds to perch on), lots of droppings, though not as much as the first trellis. 


Another good example - large wire mesh:



Another good example - large wire mesh:

Bad example - small mesh, no perching space on top (it has cut wires sticking up).

No droppings:
 
Dw Cress
Posts: 24
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Imagine growing some kind of biomassy guild for mulching beneath one of those.

Can you say "compost activator"?
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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exellent photo examples..thanks for putting those up.

I have 3 sunflower feeders going in my food forest garden and even the few potato bugs taht were there are now all gone. I did however see a bunch of wasps (yellow jackets) also in the garden and they are predators so i was wondering which bugs they were eating..and yes i was careful around them..hopefully it wasn't a next but rather a hunting grounds.
 
                              
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July 11th in the north woods of Minnesota.

 
                              
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Mike Turner
Posts: 324
Location: Upstate SC
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I'm growing Cucuzzi or Italian edible gourd which, like most running cucurbits, will sprawl across the ground or climb a fence depending on what it is given access to.  This plant is one of the self seeders in my garden (I haven't planted any of their seed for the past few years) , so wherever it appears in the garden in the spring, I will guide it to the nearest fence and let it do its thing. The local squash bugs have grown to like this plant (they didn't bother it the first year I grew it), so I do "bug patrol" every few days to thin out their numbers.  I've noticed that there were very few squash bugs on the parts of the plant running along the ground, but plenty of them on the parts growing up the fence, and I finally found out why.  The local ground spiders frequent the parts of the plant on the ground.  I even found one enterprising spider camped out next to a cluster of squash bug eggs and was nabbing the bugs as they were hatching.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Hm...might there be a way to shelter spiders along the fence, so that birds don't eat them? Alternatively, it sounds like bird feeders on the fence would help.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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such beautiful garden photos..

i mentioned the bird feeder thing to my sil who was having problems with Japanese beetles and she put one in and it seems to be helping with hers..
 
Suzie Browning
Posts: 48
Location: Southwestern Ohio
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Here is what I see happening in my zone 5/6 garden.

Spring was wet wet wet which I was thankful for but slowed down some planting so my veggie's are a bit behind.

We've had an invasion of flies for about two weeks, followed by what my neighbor calls Wheat Bugs and now the fleas are the worst I have seen in years.  Slugs were an issue for a while but with eggs shells and dryer weather, they are under control.  Now the Japanese Beetles are coming in droves more so than last year.

Moles have been a major problem for me the last couple of years but this year, after taking out two of them, they seem to have calmed down a tremendous amount.  I still see a mound or two every once in a while but they seem to be keeping their tunnels deeper in the soil this year.  I try to leave them be unless they are creating problems with food plants.

So far, I've had no problems with disease but we'll see how well that goes later in the season.  We had blight problems with tomatoes last year.

A bumper crop of mulberry's, cherry's did well and my mom and neighbor have excellent peach crops this year.  I attribute all that to the abundant spring rains.

We are now having record breaking heat waves with lots of humidity.  I'm hoping the tomatoes are going to love this and reward me for suffering through the heat.

So far, in my little corner of the world, it's been a good season.









 
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