Garden Update: Week 22 (2021) A few pests.

Happy Victoria Day, Patriot’s Day or regular weekend, depending on where you are. What a weekend it was for the garden. Sun and warmth until Monday when we got overcast and – I hate to say it – some much needed rain.

First, a few pests to mention:

My cherry is unhealthy to begin with, being planted in crap soil and sharing a root zone with the neighbour’s arborvitae. So, it’s no surprise that the Black Cherry Oat Aphid has come in explosive fashion. But, as usual, there are signs of predators.

Below my thumb and woefully out of focus is a hoverfly egg. Remember, a single hoverfly larva can eat 2200 aphids in one week.

This is a particularly damaging aphid as it weakens the growing tips on the cherry. Despite the predators, I may release some Aphidoletes aphidimyza to tip this infestation in my favour. I know, I usually preach “do nothing and wait,” but tolerance always has a limit and this Cherry is growing in a terrible shape so I had hoped for a year or organized shoots to prune it back to something useful.

Now here is something unique: I watched a bumble bee landing on this infected cherry – long since flowering. It had just rained so I don’t know if it was drinking water trapped in the curled leaves or if it was drinking honeydew. (Or a combination of both). Bees are known to feed on honeydew so it isn’t out of the question. Of course those red balls on the plant are common on prunus and stone fruit trees and can be extrafloral nectaries – also common sources of food for pollinators. I have little to add about this other than it demonstrates how interconnected your garden is.

Bumble bee drinks water or honeydew from aphid covered cherry.

Check out this caterpillar!

caterpillar on asparagus

I found the perfect solution to caterpillars……tell your kids they can keep them as pets. We did exactly this. It was eating the asparagus flowers so we took some and a lettuce leave and put it in a small insect cage. We saved the plant some damage and the kids get to see if it’ll pupate into a moth or butterfly (and I’ll get to see if parasitoid wasps burst out of it’s dying body.) I don’t ID caterpillars well, so I’ll leave this one up to you folks.

Hopefully you’ve found the time to establish companion plants or at least add lots of flowers. If you have then you’ll likely be seeing many signs of predators. Below is a parasitoid wasp on the edge of a poppy that is in my tomato bed. It is zoomed in, but species ID is impossible at this range. It is likely Aphidius or another aphid parasitoid. Luckily tomatoes rarely get aphids, but it’s nice to have this little sentry kicking around anyways.

Here are some bigger pests:

My little garden princess

On to the update:

Everything is planted. Black beans are sprouting and pole beans planted amongst the corn should be popping up soon. I managed to get some complete and aggressive weeding done before laying mulch in most of the beds. This year I’m using a straw that is clean of weeds and chopped into finer bits. For crops like lettuce and brassicas, the mulch will help keep the roots cool and (maybe) prevent them from being heat-stressed or bolting. For other crops I mulch to retain water and suppress weeds.

Above you see some of the corn. It’s still going slow, but I’m happy it’s survived since going out at the beginning of April. I could have started it later, even direct sowing now, but I like to live dangerously.

Below you’ll see my mulched indeterminate tomato bed. On the right, in two rows are two different potato types. Then there are two rows of tomatoes and some tomatillos. There are four varieties and three of each indeterminate tomatoes. My goal this year is to string up just one growing tip on each type like I normally do, but use one of the others of the same variety to try two or three growing tips. I’ll do the same with tomatillos. Apparently, with tomatillos, one growing tip produces fruit the fastest, whereas two growing tips increases the yield. This makes sense, since all leaves are generating food for the plant – the more the better. So, I’m hoping this translates to the tomatoes. And yes, there is alyssum and poppies in there too. The alyssum I’m fine with. The poppies I had hoped would be finished by now.

I’m still pinching growing tips off if they are low on the plant. I’ll let the two or three growing tips identify themselves later and at a greater height. I’m also pulling all leaves off that are in the “splash zone.” This is because blights often come from spores being splashed up onto leaves during the rain. I prefer a garden with a natural look (at least in terms of plant growth) but nice and tidy is the way to grow tomatoes.

On that note, I have another tomato bed. It has potatoes around the outside, lots of poppies and 8 determinant tomatoes (two varieties). In the picture below the two “structures” are what my tomatoes will be tied to. The one on the right, above my dog, is my determinant bed.

One of my two dogs, Thor. Too old to chase rabbits, but he tries.

I know you can’t grow determinant tomatoes the same as indeterminate – by confining growth to one or two growing tips. HOWEVER, I’m going to try it…or something similar. I’m fed-up with tomato cages, even the big ones. The weight of branches fall upon them, break off or cause dense canopies that encourage blight. So this year I’m going to support growing tips along a string. I’ll still allow all the other growing tips, but my goal is to keep the plants growing vertically and open. If it works, I’ll let you know. If it doesn’t, you’ll only see one of those structures in pictures next year. PS, check out the black irises in the foreground!

All the peas are flowering, but no fruit yet. We have begun harvesting strawberries already! Only enough for the kids to have one or two per day, but I’ll take it.

We spent most of Sunday enjoying a low tide and walking along beaches that aren’t easily accessible. It’s always fun seeing mansions from the water side!

I spent the rest of that day moving rocks. Yep. Boring, but all the ones moved from installing garden beds were just piled. We had never decided what to do with them, so I decided just to pull the trigger and line a fire pit (which I had tried planting flowers in). It might only be temporary while we wait for a better solution, but in the meantime, it’s good habitat for critters.

And I’ll leave you with this: the view from the fire pit looking back up across the garden to my house. Taken just as the sun broke through after a day of rain. Next update will come quick, when I collect photos of each bed for the first of June.
Lettuces and peas in the foreground.

Previous Update: Week 19

Or see how far we’ve come this year: Week 11

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