I discovered my new favorite way of pest-removal - manually feeding the orb weaver spiders.
My kids are into bugs, catching them and taking care of them. It's a normal rural Japanese activity, my wife even begrudgingly accepts the bugs on the kitchen table...
We've been finding live feed for the mantises, frogs, and other predators that we catch. So I realized I can just find a big web outside, collect a bunch of pests like shield bugs off of my pepper plants, and toss them into the web. It's amazing how fast the spiders work! Wrapped in web in seconds.
I had mistakenly thought I was gardening in my zone 1 this whole time... Nah, it was totally zone 2.
I just recently started some container gardening in zone 1 and the difference in attention the plants get is remarkable. It also helps that my zone 1 is south facing whereas my bigger garden area is in the shadow of my house. I will be doing a lot more zone 1 container gardening from here on, as I realize productivity can be more a product of attention than square footage.
Here are some of my recent zone 1 endeavors:
Container peppers (capsicums)
Container polyculture - sweet potatoes, peppers, and kale.
Green curtain - sweet potatoes. I wish I had planted them two months earlier and had the shade through August. But the slips were given to me and I had to figure out what to do with all of them since I had already planted out my garden... We'll get some shade through September and October, which will be nice.
My first successfully growing celery!
I also got some pictures of the pests or pest damaged plants and my "pet" spiders.
Eggplants were getting chewed on by grasshoppers and shield bugs.
Okra was getting sucked on by shield bugs and snails.
Some of the culprits:
And one of the lovely spiders with many of the silk-wrapped snacks that I fed it.
I love the realisation that Zone 1 was actually Zone 2. I can totally relate to that. My old garden was super close to the house but involved 2 gates and 2 (short) flights of stairs to get to. The tiny, shady courtyard just outside the back door received much more love and attention and was the true Zone 1.
Small-holding, coppice and grassland management on a 16-acre site.
Location: Japan, zone 9a/b, annual rainfall 2550mm, avg temp 1.5-32 C
I'm strongly considering downsizing my vegetable garden. I think from the beginning I bit off more than I can chew. As it is I only end up properly managing 1-3 of the raised beds, which can be alright if I'm planting perennials, but I mostly have the raised beds there for annuals...
It might be nice to have a little more "yard" area as well. As it is there's not much place for the kids to run around, to set-up a backyard tent, etc.
It might be fun digging up the hugels and seeing what's happened underneath too.
Finally! Female flowers on my kabocha vines. I planted the first ones in early May and then more in mid June. They were all putting out male flowers for the past month or more, but only just started making female flowers.
I kind of wanted to let nature do its work, but my desire for guaranteed squash production won out and I manually pollinated the female flowers I could find. I took some pictures for anyone who isn't familiar with the male/female flower difference.
You can see the center of the open flower looks quite different, and behind/below the female flower is a bulbous shape.
I pollinated by tearing off a male flower and some of its petals and making rubbing the dusty pollen onto the center of the female flower.
Here's a wide view of the growing area. There's shiso and kabocha vines everywhere...
A grasshopper, also known as spider food
I found some self-seeded daikon radish. It's getting chewed on by komatsuna beetles, but still growing anyway.
My mandarin orange tree is finally growing! It took a long time before it decided it wanted to grow up.
I had planted out a bunch of sweet potato slips by our garden structure/fort. Yesterday I turned all the vines toward the structure, I might tie them up it in the coming days to make getting around there easier.
I love seeing garlic coming back. Perennials make me happy - some taro is also growing up nicely among the weeds.
And I will lastly leave you with my favorite, a lizard spotting!
I have quite a few winter squash still on the vine, and I'm leaving them there as long as I can, hoping for higher sugar content. The vines are still flowering and making new fruit, I doubt all of them will make it to full maturity, but I can harvest them early.
This was my first time successfully growing eggplant from seeds and they're doing well. Hopefully I get a few more before I have to cut them back for winter. I'll see if I can prune and over-winter them this year and have them grow back next year. The eggplant are especially exciting since the seeds were over 10 years old and I managed to save seeds from one of them. Good genes!
I pruned back my okra and two of them are still producing. Okra must be my favorite crop because of how easy they are to grow, harvest, save seeds, you can eat them raw or cooked, and they're very healthy! I'm up to my third or fourth generation of self-saved okra seeds now, and I'm still adding in some diversity as I go. I may mix in some red okra to my breed next season.
My green peppers that have survived this long are also doing very well. I have one green pepper plant that is producing some 20 peppers or so. I think that's a record for me.
My malabar spinach has grown quite a lot and is fruiting now, I have no idea if you can eat the fruit or flowers, but it's interesting to see. I'm going to transplant this one to another area of the garden in the winter.
I'm almost done with my winter planting. I started komatsuna mustard greens, lettuce, and chinese cabbage in the greenhouse and planted out as many as I could find space for. I got peas in the ground around the supports I made for the PEP twig construction BB. I made these out of sunchoke stalks and jute.
I still need to plant another two or three supports worth of peas, but I need to make the supports first. I have a lot of mulberry poles ready for the task.
My lettuce starts are getting eaten to bits by something, maybe snails, but I can't find the culprits. I have a few starts that are still growing and one direct seeded lettuce that's slowly growing in the garden bed. I was late getting my broccoli started, and as a result I only had one grow out of ten modules. I decided to buy a couple starts from the local farmer's market and planted those two, which are doing well enough.
I'm only planting in three of my beds because I'm intending to remove two-three that don't get as much sunlight in favor of opening up a little yard space for the kids to run around and kick a soccer ball, or pitch a tent. The hope is that we spend more family time near the garden... haha
Finally, I'll leave you with a hummingbird hawk moth, one of my favorite critters.
Well I have to say I'm pretty satisfied with my summer garden this year. I have now harvested almost everything except some green peppers, a few eggplant, and the sweet potatoes. Today I decided to harvest all the winter squash. I still probably have two more weeks until the first frost, but I don't have the time or energy to micromanage the harvest anymore and I needed to plant out my remaining lettuce, komatsuna, and Chinese cabbage starts. Which I did today. All I have left is a few Chinese cabbage starts to find a home for and I need to get more peas in the ground.
I mulched the last bed with squash vines and leaves more to deter cats than to help the plants, though I expect the soil life will be happy for the coverage. Those squash vines are spiky!
I also collected as much of the remaining vines as possible to make chopping them into compost easier later. I've found that if I don't chop them up pretty small it makes turning the compost pile nearly impossible, which is undesirable.
I got a lot of squash! I'm very happy about that! I look forward to trying to add more diversity to my squash in the future, but this is the only variety that has grown for me so far.
Soon I'll be doing some landscaping work and redesigning a lot of this back garden. You can see the left three beds are empty. They will be deconstructed, sifted, and rebuilt as some sort of keyhole garden or terrace garden where the black landscaping cloth is currently holding back the bindweed. Probably primarily perennials and flowers and plants cats hate.
If you can't tell I have a bit of a grudge against cats these days... I'm very tired of scooping up cat droppings.
L. Johnson, try giving the cats a relatively secluded area with sand. Dig down about 2 inches and pour in any kind of sand. Plant some catnip away from the garden. Theyll find both and will use it, probably preferring it to the garden soil. Depending upon how many cats you may still have to scoop some poop but at least it won't be in your garden.
If any of those cats are intact males, consider getting a live trap and find a vet who is willing to give you a discount to neuter them. You'll have far fewer cats in the immediate future that way.