Greens, protected!

Brassica greens under row cover

Floating row cover, weighed down and made semi-transparent by water, is all that stands between fine young brassica greens and the scourge of the flea beetle. The cover is placed right after seeding, weighed down by rocks every 12.5′ feet, briefly rolled back for weeding, and progressively loosened as the greens grow—we use 14′ wide sheets on 10′ wide beds. This medium-weight cover has worked as a good all-round solution, offering a few degrees of frost protection, and more durable than a lighter, insect-only weight, which would allow better light transmission (this medium weight one is 85%) and better air circulation, but also be more likely to tear.

In the greenhouse: bok choi vs flea beetle

Bok choi vs flea beetle

[From 29 Apr 2016] Everyone loves the greenhouse! The warmth, the wind break…crops, weeds, all plants love it in here. Now it seems flea beetles have acquired the taste as well. For whatever reason, the FBs usually stayed out of the (much smaller) little greenhouse, but here in the new big house—munch, munch, munch—bok choi is under attack. Hoped for a free pass on FBs in here as well, instead, it’s row cover. Learning as we go…

Weed ID-ing in the Digital Age

Weed ID app photo

Wormwood of some sort, this weed from the greenhouse, according to our best guess from a selection of possibilities offered up by the smart smartphone plant identification app I’ve been playing with/trying out. There are several such apps for Android: this one’s called Like That Garden—”See a plant, take a photo, and find out what it is – instantly!” It got the highest ratings, and is free, so I grabbed it.

Like the advertising says, it’s that simple to use. With the app, you take a snapshot of the mystery plant that’s saved as a low rez image (above) and sent off into the ether where it’s checked against a vast plant photo database, several possibilities soon return, with multiple images for each, and you pick the one most likely (I suppose in some cases, only one choice comes back, but so far, that hasn’t happened). The technology is all about advanced image recognition and visual searches, very…digital. Trying it out on a few plants, it’s worked quite well.

While this app is doing fine, I have a great (effective) weed book as well. Is the app a novelty toy, or a serious tiny farming tool? Or will the smartphone be accidentally dropped in a puddle and destroyed before we get a chance to decide? Only time will tell…



Pre-squish: Brand new Colorado potato beetle, larva about the size of a match head, on eggplant. Around the leaf edge, older damage done by bigger CPBs. Recently, for whatever reason, they’ve been around but not in numbers enough to be a big problem. The crazily erratic weather of the last few fears seems to have obliterated regular pest cycles, so we just see ’em and pick ’em…whenever.

Praying mantis visit

Praying mantis

It came with the greens. A praying mantis perched on the edge of a lettuce mix harvest basket and took the ride in. Kool kat, with a wraparound look. Friendly, too, if insects can be, calm at least, let it walk on my hand to transfer it to a fence post. Don’t see them often, so I looked ’em up and…yikes! “Sexual cannibalism is common among mantises in captivity, and under some circumstances may also be observed in the field. The female may begin feeding by biting off the male’s head (as they do with regular prey), and if mating has begun, the male’s movements may become even more vigorous in its delivery of sperm.” Kinky and kinda brutal. But reading on, it seems this behavior may be induced by the distractions of being constantly observed in the lab, and not a normal practice. There we go again, messin’ with stuff. Well, this one got away. In the wild, it’s considered a beneficial insect for the veg patch, a massive hunter that eats “most pest insects, mites, eggs, or any insect in reach.” Nice. And it’s apparently the only insect to hunt moths at night, and the only one fast enough to catch flies and mosquitoes. Go, mantis!

Drizzly days

Weeding onions in the drizzle

It’s been cloudy a lot this season, but the rain has kept pretty much to a reasonable number of rainy days and single downpours—it hasn’t been too WET. So, not that much fieldwork called for rain. Today was an exception, with a steady on-and-off drizzle from early morning that kept things watered down.

Lynn came out around 8:30 am to weed. Since it didn’t look like the sun would be showing up to dry things out, she finished a bed of onions (these are the last-planted onion seedlings, a fair bit behind the rest) and we called it a day for weeding.

In general, we try not to handle plants when they’re wet so as not to spread any sort of disease. This is a common caution for, for example, beans, and I’m not sure how it applies across the board to all garden veggies.  Still, since wet work in the field is seldom fun anyway, it seems like a good rule in general: No weeding when wet!

Another rainbow

Evening rainbow

It’s almost “yet another rainbow,” but not quite. We’ve seen a good collection so far this season, including quite spectacular horizon-to-horizon double rainbows two nights in a row. Which means there’s been lots of rain, and all the cloudiness that goes with it. It’s nowhere near as miserably wet as last season, though—rainfall this year has actually been great, averaging around the golden inch-a-week (2.5cm-a-week)—but 4-5 mainly cloudy days out of 7 is slowing things down.

How slow? The first summer squash that should’ve popped in size in a few sunny days, has been slowly expanding for well over a week. Root crops like beets, carrots, potatoes, aren’t affected as much, and seem to love the rain. But toms, peppers, eggplant and the whole cucurbit family (squash, melons, cucumber) are in slow motion, maybe a week or two from where they’d be with lots of sun.

Still, all in all, everything is growing along well enough, and we’re bound to hit a sunny stretch. Right?

In the photo, a third planting of green and yellow snap beans, with scare ball in place to scare off birds (it seems to work). To the right, a freshly tilled section, waiting for a third planting of spinach… This weather’s great for summer spinach!