Hi Guys, I have been working so much lately I haven't had much time to get on here. So I hope you are all doing well and your garden is blooming.
I just wanted to update you on a couple of things that I have learned of over this season of gardening - my first in Texas. We have battled 105 deg heat on some days and a little rain here and there and apparently it is the year of the locust. Small ones and really really big ones, like with bodies 3 inches long! And may I tell you now about the phobia, nay terror, I have of these creatures?. I can't stand them. Terrified of them. So you can imagine the odd screams that ring out from my yard from time to time, especially when I ask my partner to 'get that f@%#ing thing away from me and get it out of my garden' and he then squashes in between his thongs (flipflops - sorry I am an Aussie :) ) and he then chases me around the yard with it. Oh, yes... he paid dearly for that!
Earlier on I had battled with caterpillers, thousands of them. So an online search for organic pest control, I came across a very cheap, easy to make and effective 'Garlic Bug Spray'. Simply place about 3 whole bulbs of garlic, a tblspn of chili (powder, dried, fresh whatever you have on hand, I actually use more for extra bite) a tblspn of veg or olive oil, a squirt of dish detergent into a food processor, add enough water to cover the ingredients and whizz away until as mulched down as possible. Then strain the mix through a panty hose ( I find this the easiest method for doing this kind of thing, you may have your own) to extract the juice. Add 7 cups of water to the extract and pour into a spray bottle.
Spray it all over the plants and garden beds, your garden will smell like garlic - which is something I don't mind... the combined ingredients all help to deter all kinds of bugs, insects and prehistoric locustdactyls and of course is completely safe to spray all over. This worked so well on my garden, my neighbor literally cursed me because after I sprayed it all around the first time as his garden got annihilated.
My other golden nugget is my worms. I started out with 1 pound of worms which I purchased for about $30 in November last year. I place them in a rubbermaid tub, the 'average size' with peat moss and egg cartons as bedding. After my first harvest of about 20 pounds of castings, I split the worms into two tubs and now for my second harvest I have about 50 pounds of castings!. And just in time as I was able to add the castings to my garden just before the heat hit to help them. In the beginning I fussed way too much about what to feed them, learnt by mistakes, found what they like the best etc etc, and it is now part of my regular routine to set their scraps aside, when I am preparing food I have 2 containers on the counter and worm scraps go in one and compost scraps in the other. I mulch up all the worm food in the food processor as I find this breaks down easier for the worms to eat and gets eaten faster rather than having big clumps of food still hanging around in the bin. The worms are the best investment I have made into the maintenance of my garden and they are also the easiest pets I have ever had to take care of. 2 weeks after applying worm castings to my garden, I pulled out a 2 pound zucchini squash. Though I am not a fan of growing the largest of vegetables, prefering small and tasty over size, it certainly showed the magic that the worm poo has on growth. My next venture will be to make worm tea. There are a few different methods to make the tea so I will try out a few of them but the tea is supposed to be a better way of fertilizing as not only does it get into the soil but also on the foliage. I will fill you in on this as I go.
I have mulched, poo'ed and pampered my horrible caleche soil for just over a year now and am finally seeing results. I have only been able to top it with scraps of soil.. that is, all that my partner and I can physically shovel into the back of the truck, done like this because we get it for free this way, so I have only been able to cover it with about 2 inches of soil altogether. I also have spread mulched leaves, cow and horse poo. I have only used fish emulsion and epsom salts as fertilizer. Even though we are suffering very high temperatures right now, my grass (bermuda) is very healthy and the soil isn't drying out like it used to which also alleviates how much I have to water as well. After a lot of work, cursing and worrying, I finally have a nice area to sit in and look at my lovely garden. Now I seem to have a mole problem. The little bugger has left sand piles all over my lawn. I am not into killing animals, insects yes, but animals no, so I am looking for an humane way to remove him from my grass. Yesterday I say him poke his head up whilst creating another sand pile so I thumped my shoe over the hole a la whack-a-mole style!.
Luckily enough, we work in pecan orchards and my next golden nugget is the scrap pile. During the harvest season, as the pecans get sorted through a machine, all the scraps get carted off to piles set off the side of the orchard. These piles consist of leaves and twigs, small branches etc, basically anything that was on the ground that wasn't a pecan. These piles have sat here for years and are an excellent source of mulch and wood chip. I run it through a sifter, remove all the larger wood chips which get put on top of the garden, and the muclhy soil I am left with underneath is soft, silky and rich smelling soil. The other soil that we dig up from the orchard is from the burn piles. The same burn piles are used year after year. I was able to 'steal' the front-end loader one day and overturn one area of a burn pile. The soil I get from here is rich in potassium. Though I can't guarantee what chemicals etc have been used previously in the fields, I do know what we use now and am comfortable with the limited chemicals we spray and once it is in my garden it is treated organically.
Just on my little thong reference back there, I want to share my story: We went to the river on Sunday with new-made friends. So as we are splashing around in the tubes, my thong (flipflop) came off and started to head down the river in the current. So of course I yelled out "Oh no! my thong came off, quick grab it, it's floating away". Well needless to say that heads turned, people sat up and guys started swimming like it was the olympics!
Yes, I got my thong back and besides explaining the differences in language, thongs are an Aussie icon and having called them that all my life, it is a little hard to change how I say it. It was a good belly laugh for the afternoon at least.
Aphids. My next battle. I had a cherry tomato that I let grow wild in the middle of my garden. I swear if it stood up erect, it would have been at least 12 feet tall!. I had placed stakes in the ground and let it trail all over these so it was a very large bush - I couldn't place my arms around it, but I noticed that leaves were going brown very quickly and upon inspection... aphids. Unfortunately I had to pull the plant out as it was too infested however no great loss as I have plenty of tomato plants. I did spray my garlic bug spray around on my other plants and it seems to give the aphids something to think about as well.
Of course any hints, tips or tricks are greatly appreciated.My 2 pound zucchini
Good to know the scientific name of the terrifying grasshopper. Hehe :)
Hi Sandi, a great post. Sounds like you have many challenges. I like your pecan orchard compost pile. Real Gold.
Sandi, this is a wonderful update! Thank you!
I wonder if you need chickens. I bet they would make short work of the bugs and insects, and give you great tasting eggs in the process. Here in the Northwest, we haven't had a locust plague yet, hope we never do. But my hens love the humongous slugs we get here.
In the little town in Illinois were I grew up, so isolated in the corn fields I used to refer to the "Corn Curtain" which kept all subversive urban television and radio stations out of the pristine small town atmosphere, we also referred to those little plastic sandals as "thongs". Who would have guessed that Australians use the same word?
You are proving the main golden rule of gardening: first take care of the soil, and the soil will take care of you. Every great gardener learns this rule!
I would love to have chickens but at the moment have no place to house them. We may be moving house in the next few months as we are working out a deal with a farmer to caretake his property. If we do move there is already a chicken coop built at the farm and also a shed that I can increase my worm family in.
I do buy organic fresh eggs from a farmer down the road, he also sells fresh organic milk, so at least I am getting good food from him and I was buying a front-end bucket load of chicken poop from a farm for $25 a load but have since found out that it is a Tyson chicken farm and once seeing the condition that the chickens live in, I could no longer hand my money over to them. It wasn't by any means a cruel situation, but I don't like the mass production type farms.
Luv your thong story. lol
I love your garden!
Thanks for sharing!
Oh I just love zucchini!