Picture Snob

Worms, Bugs & Gross Things

October 6, 2010

Mole, vole, or pocket gopher?

OK. It's getting serious.
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You remember I put out some caster beans as a preventative when I saw the mounds of garden soil slowly creeping further out into the garden. Now the mounds have gone past the carrots and our in the middle of the main garden. And I have to do something about this infestation. But the problem is, what critter is it. Moles, voles, and pocket gophers all live in tunnels.

The information I found is that moles leave round mounds connected by tunnels and they eat mainly worms. Voles or meadow mice ofter move into the tunnels and eat plants, often damaging bulbs or trees. Pocket gophers leave a C shaped mound with a round plug in the middle. So given that information, my problem is a mole, probably one or two and they have found the soil and earthwoms I have tried so hard to nurture.

Here is the tunnel.

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Now what to do? Since all I have at hand is the castor bean I"m going to pour a bunch into the hole and the mounds I just dug out and cover them back up while I study the myriad mole traps that are advertised on the web or try to find someone who can help me find the anti mole solution. I also think starting the tiller and going over the area of mole activity might be a deterrent. It's worth a try. Anybody out there have a sure fire cure?

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September 17, 2010

Celebrating Soil!

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My garden soil looks great this time of year. I just had visitors who commented on how rich it looks which pleased me immensely. It takes a lot of work to keep the soil friable and easy to work. I've put in fifty pounds of gypsum and plan to add fifty more. Then I'll start the ground cover so it can germinate and get some good growth before it freezes. What weeds havn't been pulled will be tilled under, but this year I've done a good job of keeping weeds out. The second self sowed row of cilantro is coming up nicely and the kale has geminated and is growing. The broccoli is putting out more "broccolini" than I can eat. I had to load up my visitors with it. And then there's the faithful corn and tomatoes, beans and peppers still pumping out vast amounts of ingredients for gazpacho, ratatoui, stirfry, grilling, and steaming.

And all of this is comes from the soil which I work so hard to maintain by adding compost and manures and tilling in green manures(which also includes the weeds I till under during the growing season). I was reading Organic Bytes and it had this quote from the book Vegetarian Myth

the living world is complex, and beholding it should leave us all aching with awe. So start with topsoil, the beginning place. Remember, one million creatures per tablespoon. It's alive, and it will protect itself if we stop assaulting it. It protects itself with perennial polycultures, with lots and lots of plants intertwining their roots, adding carbonaceous leaves, and working together with mycelium, bacteria, protozoa, making a new organism between them, the mycorrhiza that talks and nourishes and directs. "Defend the soil with your life, reader: there is no other organism that can touch the intelligence of what goes on beneath your feet. "So here are the questions you should ask, a new form of grace to say over your food. Does this food build or destroy topsoil? Does it use only ambient sun and rainfall, or does it require fossil soil, fossil fuel, fossil water, and drained wetlands, damaged rivers? Could you walk to where it grows, or does it come to you on a path slick with petroleum?"
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September 7, 2010

The corn earwoms attack!!!!

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This isn't the first time I've had these pests, but this is the first time they have actually gotten down into the ears of corn and eaten their way through the ear, effectively ruining it for me, who has been so loving corn on the cob fresh from the garden. So, what to do? Apparently the moth lays her eggs on the leaves early in the years, but later on, like now, leaves her eggs on the silks and so eggs become larvae who then start their munching.

The worm is about 1 or 2 inches long and greenish in color, although they can be brown. I wonder if the blue jays and crows who occassionally started eating corn at the tip of the silk was after these worms? But this year, the birds are not bothering the corn . Some research tells me to put mineral oil on the silk after it is dry. I don't have any in the house, so will have to wait until I go to town next week. Pesticides don't do any good anyway, once the lavae has hatched and entered the ear and of course would be very hurtful to honey bees who are all over my tassles of corn. The parasitic wasp, Trichogamma, layes it's eggs in the eggs of the earworm moth and thus is effective in stopping the infestation. So that's a possibility also.

At Vi-Jon Inc. S0883 Mineral Oil

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June 15, 2010

Earthworm castings have mulitple benefits for your garden

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If you are trying to reduce your dependence on chemicals and grow healthier garden crops, then earthwom castings will help you do the job. Earthworm castings are terrific fertilizers and also have some natural protection against fungal disease. A whole spectrum of nutrients are found in the castings that you cannot get with an chemical fertilizer.

The castings are usually made using red wiggler earthworms who digest organic material and excrete these tiny pellets filled with the right stuff. This end product is "super humus" which is extremely fertile top soil properly conditioned for best root growth, containing in rich proportion and water soluble form, all the elements required of the earth for optimum plant nutrition because they contain rich proportions of water-soluble nutrients. Worm castings allow plants to quickly and easily absorb all essential nutrients and trace elements in simple forms, so plants need only minimal effort to obtain them.

Another point in favor of earthworm castings is the high concentration of beneficial bacteria and microbes added to them by the earthworm in the digestive process. These microscopic creatures help different elements of the soil work in conjunction with each other to create healthy, working soil that provides the best possible atmosphere for optimum growth. Another benefit is the ability to improve soil structure. It allows for excellent drainage in soil so roots don't become waterlogged or develop root rot, while also increasing the soil's water retention capacity as they contain absorbent organic matter that holds only the necessary amounts of water needed by the roots and their shape allows unnecessary water to easily drain.

Worm castings are also an effective way to repel white flies, aphids and spider mites & any pest that feeds on plant juices. According to recent studies, applying earthworm castings to the soil around your plants increases the production of a certain enzyme that is offensive to these insects.

So what's not to like here. A perfect fertilizer, soil conditioner and pest controler!

At Wonder Worm Worm Castings - 10 liters

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June 14, 2010

The attack of the striped cucumber beetle

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They are at it again. This is about the fourth year in a row that these voracious little beetles have come to feast on the cucumber, squash and melon plants I've planted. I never had them until about five years ago when they suddenly appeared. Usually I would have a few spotted cucumber beetles who were polite and mild mannered and ate only a little and the plants grew big and healthy anyway. The striped beetle kills the small seedlings and awaits the next planting with the same unsated appetite.

It's really a discouraging problem. With most pests or plant diseases, I can just feed the plants and keep them weeded, and they grow through whatever attacked them, but the striped cucumber beetle is an exception. When I went to check on the newly planted lemon cucumber seedlings, the plant and the soil surrounding it, were swarming with the hungry mob. This is the result of their work.
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In desperation, I got out an old spray bottle of Neem and really soaked the soil and the plant and sprayed more lightly the seedlings still in pots that I had ready to plant in the garden. I was amazed! The beetles disappeared! I went out today to check again to make sure they hadn't just hid for a while and then would return, but they are still gone. So I have confidence enough to plant the rest of the squash and melons now that I know they can be saved from the striped menace.

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At Green Light Neem II - 24 oz Spray #07824

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April 22, 2010

Squirrel Wars will help you outsmart backyard pests

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As I mentioned in a blog about birdfeeders, there is no way to keep the seed off the ground which attracts the squirrels in backyards and drives homeowners crazy trying to scare the pests away. In the greater Boston area, squirrels are numerous and bold. When we put our birdfeeder up, there they were ready to eat. Since the feeder closes when a squirrel climbed up to the seed container, they soon learned they could just hit the pole and knock seed to the ground where they could easily munch away without strain or effort. It was absolutely maddening.

We went to the local five and dime store trying to find a sling shot as we imagined the satifaction of hitting them with a small stone and the delight in watching them run. To our dismay, we discovered sling shots as well as bb guns were illegal in greater Boston! The romance of the birdfeeder slowly waned as the squirrels were not content to eat bird seed, but began to dig and eat the bulbs we had planted. What to do?

There are a couple of books out that might help with the problem. The most extensive is Squirrel Wars. This book contains remedies for squirrel infestation, and a chapter each on other backyard pests and how to rid yourself of them without firearms. Harrison, the author, is a respected nature writer also known for his public television specials on bird watching. He describes the mammals, birds, and insects considered common backyard pests and entertainingly documents problems homeowners have experienced and offers sound advice to minimize the nuisances. Harrison addresses such topics as raccoons in chimneys, rabbits in the garden, and rats around birdfeeders and what to do about such intrusions into the backyard.

Outwitting Squirrels by Bill Adler, Jr. focuses only on his manic attempt to stop squirrels from eating his birdseed and is amusing as well as claiming 101 ways to stop squirrels. At any rate, it's comforting to know others have been bothered by backyard pests and to be given new hope of ridding yourself of them.


At Squirrel Wars: Backyard Wildlife Battles & How to Win Them

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April 7, 2010

SF Mayor discovers the difficulty of trying to be green

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Donning hazmat suits and carrying compost, activists with the Organic Consumers Association paid a visit to Mayor Gavin Newsom at San Francisco's City Hall yesterday. Their grievance? Since 2007 the city has been giving away bags of "organic biosolids compost" to residents to use in their backyard, community and school gardens. But it turns out that the compost is anything but "organic" if you go by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's definition of the word. The compost actually contains sewage sludge.

Biosolids is really just a clever way of saying crap, and the water that went down with it -- it is the byproduct of the water treatment process. And the compost that was given to San Franciscans came from nine counties, which are home to oil refineries, metal container manufacturers, foundries and electronics manufacturers, Jill Richardson writes. Which means there's the potential for the compost to be a noxious soup of chemicals, metals, pharmaceuticals, bacteria, parasites and more.

Definitely not the kind of thing you'd want to be planting your food in. Although using sewage sludge on farmland is not a new or uncommon practice. Richardson writes that in 1992 the Environmental Protection Agency reclassified sludge -- it went from being a hazardous waste to a fertilizer. Which conveniently helps out treatment facilities that are left trying to find ways to dispose of a whole lot of sludge after wastewater is treated. Currently about half of all sludge is applied to farm fields.

And while there are documented cases of animals dying and people being made ill from that very practice, it is still fine by federal and state laws. But it doesn't fly by with the USDA's organic standards. San Francisco's choice to label the compost "organic" has really got residents steamed. Richardson writes that the city claims they meant "organic" not to connote the USDA's program but that it instead "referred to the scientific definition of organic matter as in containing significant amounts of organic carbon." Hm, I'm guessing that might not have been immediately apparent to all the gardeners who hauled away sludge-laden compost. And in a city full of greens, the city almost certainly knew better.

Organic Consumers Association is calling on Newsom, who ironically was named the country's greenest mayor by Organic Style, to stop the "toxic sewage sludge giveaways."

At SF Mayor Green

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March 15, 2010

Garden's Alive has organic solutions for gardening problems

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I got my Garden's Alive catalog today and it has a $25 coupon which is good even if you spend that amount or less, so it's tempting to order something. Garden's Alive specializes in organic pest, disease and insect control and have many trademarked products that are enviromentally safe. The first 8 pages are concerned with lawn care.

For example they have a weed and feed lawn amendment which stops weed germination. One of the main ingredients is corn gluten which smothers seedlings. This corn gluten is a by product of corn starch or corn syrup and there are no restrictions on entering and using the lawn after application. I am not a fan of turf lawns; having a one specie lawn is hard to maintain; it's not natures way to just have one plant in a area. I like to let whatever wants to grow in my yard have a chance. Dandelions are some of my favorite spring flowers and when they go to seed, the goldfinches love them. But that's just me. If you are one of the people who love the soft turf of bluegrass for example in every corner of the yard, this WOW!® SupremeTM Pre-Emergent Weed Control And Lawn Fertilizer may be the answer.

One item that does interest me is the Enz-RotTM Blossom End Rot Concentrate Spray. Many of my tomatoes and some peppers get blossom end rot and this is a disorder caused by a deficiency of calcium in the soil. It typically occurs after rapid growth followed by a prolonged dry spell, or extended periods of heavy rain. They recommend spraying during periods of rapid growth or after excessive rainfall to restore calcium and prevent blossom-end rot. So this could be a good solution to a problem that has plagued me for years.

They sell fertilizers for particular crops, strawberries, vegetables, corn, root crops and herbs, all trademarked. They have soil activaters and fertilizers for trees, shrubs and flowers. it's really an amazing variety. They sell composters and compost starters and worms and beneficial insects. There are safe insecticides for both indoors and out and flea control for pets.

The Garden's Alive catalog is only 50 pages or so, but it certainly covers myriad garden problems and solutions. Their phone ordering system is outsourced to India which some people found to be a communication problem, but most of the reviews of service were positive. I'm thinking of a bat house to my grandchildren along with a mushroom its which should be fun for them to watch grow.

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At Garden's Alive

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November 9, 2009

The Experiment in Aphid Control Continues

41mw5vQT94L._SL500_AA280_.jpgAphids have an unfair advantage. I've just read the life cycle of aphids and discovered that if the food source dwindles, they can grow wings and fly off to find new sources. Furthermore, they can reproduce by parthnogenesis and give live birth to a smaller version of themselves. I think I have to take them more seriously!

So I sprayed one aphid infested plant with Green Light Home and Garden Insect Spray and indeed there are less aphids on the plant. Definitely a partial success. But now I'm thinking I have to do all the kale and the broccoli to keep the aphids from migrating to new plants. Freezing weather does not seem to be a problem for them.

Check it out - it will make you weep.

At Green Light Organic Bioganic Home & Garden Insect Contol Spray - 24 oz Spray #80224

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November 4, 2009

Green Light Organic Home & Garden Insect Contol Spray is tested on aphids

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This time of year, aphids attack the kale and broccoli which I have left in the ground to overwinter. The Russian Kale plants let me know they are suffering by curling over. Sure enough when I inspect, they are covered with grey aphids. Now I love this kale. It is one of the sweetest kales, and I can harvest it all winter so it's upsetting to loose plants to aphids now. I have pulled plants that seemed totally infested, but decided to try Light Green Organic Insect Spray on a few plants and see if it did the job. I sprayed today. I like the fact that this spray can be used up to the day of harvest. I'll report back in a few days to see if the spray worked.

At Green Light Organic Bioganic Home & Garden Insect Contol Spray - 24 oz Spray #80224

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October 26, 2009

Sleek Stainless-Steel Composter Keeper looks good on the countertop


41TGdYGeJ4L._SL500_AA280_.jpgHere's a good looking container to keep your compost odor free until you take it outside. It's stainless steel and very sleek so it can sit on the counter top or slide nicely under the sink. The lid fits tightly and it has a filter and three replacement filters to eliminate odors. The satin finish cleans easily with soapy water.

At Norpro GRIP-EZ Stainless-Steel Composter Keeper with 2-pc. Replacement Filter Set

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October 21, 2009

VermipostPro Red Wigglers for Organic Gardening and Composting

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One thing that will keep growing all winter are earthworms in your compost pile. If you give them enough water and food scraps, newspaper or even cardboard, they will double every 90 days. In the spring, you'll be ready to add them to the garden to keep the soil friable and fertile. They can also be used indoors with houseplants.

At VermipostPro Red Wigglers for Organic Gardening and Composting

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October 13, 2009

Compost Innoculant keeps your compost cooking in the winter

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If you are having trouble getting compost to heat up and decompose into humus, consider using a compost innoculant. Peaceful Valley Farms has this inoculant which contains 30 strains of aerobic bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, and other beneficial microbes. It will decompose straw, food, manures and other green matter. Sawdust, needles and hardwood will take more innoculant, otherwise one ounce should do well in a compost bin.

At Compost Innoculant

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September 14, 2009

Havahart Trap catches Squirrels and chipmunk size pests

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Recently, I had a ground squirrel problem in the garden. The little sucker was digging under plants and killing them. I don't use poison as it gets in the food chain so I used a Havahart trap which is a handy device for any gardener. Not knowing what bait to use, I used cheese, taping it down on the spring, and voila! two days later, I had my culprit. I then drove about five miles away and let the critter loose in the woods where he or she would not hurt anything. Problem solved! These traps are great tools and come in various sizes depending on the problem animal.

At Havahart 1025 Two Door Cage Trap for Squirrels 17.5 x 5.25 x 7.25

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