Late June: When You're Thirsty Do You Take a Shower?
This week...tools for weeding, more watering tips and look out for those squash vine borers!
But first, we just wanted to thank all of you for your high praise for this blog. It's not exactly what we all expected to be doing in between our gardening jobs this growing season, but we all have enjoyed learning more about the world of gardening and sharing it with the Cape Cod community and beyond.
Last week we discussed tips for watering a veggie garden. There's one point we wanted to drive home since we see it so often forgotten. Whenever you can...
WATER THE SOIL, NOT THE LEAVES.
If you're thirsty, do you take a shower?
Plants drink through their roots, so put the water at the base of your plants.
- It's a more efficient use of water,
- Dry leaves discourage disease,
- The stomata or leaf pores stay closed when leaves are dry, retaining moisture.
For a veggie garden, we strongly suggest using drip tape or soaker hose irrigation or watering your plants at the base by hand.
Now let's talk shop.
Weeding: Tools and Timing
First, be proactive about weeds. Don’t leave your soil naked!
Like we mentioned in earlier weeks, mulching is really important for annual veggie gardening. Weed prevention is one of the big reasons why. Mulching around big plants and in between rows of smaller crops will cut back on weeds and conserve moisture. We see the consequences showing up now. Watch this quick video (called “Stop Weeding Your Garden”) for some examples.
The best time to remove weeds is before you can really see them. The most efficient way is to run a hoe thru the exposed soil to lift out tiny weeds just after they've sprouted. Weed seeds will sprout quickly so stay ahead of them. Make this a weekly practice and your plants won’t compete with weeds for nutrients and water.
What tools do we use? Our most used tools are collinear and trapezoid hoes. Both are small with very sharp edges to cut through weeds but delicately move around your plants. Elliot Coleman demonstrates its use here. Also, this farmer dude really likes his collinear hoe.
The collinear hoe is meant for a soft veggie bed, not hard path soil. For paths, you will need a flat-edged, sharp shovel or a traditional hoe. Keeping your hoes sharp is important to performance. You can sharpen with a file and some hoes have a replaceable blade for when your blade gets too thin.
Squash Vine Borer
Next up on our bi-weekly tour of common garden pests are squash vine borers. The squash vine borer is the larval stage of a moth who lays its eggs at the base of squash plants. There the larvae hatch, bore into the stem of the plant, and eat their fill. The borers restrict the flow of water up the xylem of the plant, often causing the whole plant to wilt and eventually die. If you start to see whole sections of your plants wilting away, you may be too late. However, if you keep a watchful eye there are ways to avoid this point of no return.
First, tip, if you have had issues with the borer before, don’t plant again in the same place. The borer larvae pupate and live in the ground all winter before emerging as adult moths ready to lay more eggs. So move your squash patch across the yard and give yourself a fighting chance.
Second, look for the parent moths (see below), which actually look more like wasps. They are attracted to yellow and can be trapped by placing a bright yellow pail filled with water in the garden. If you do find adult moths in your trap, there are few options. Row cover can be used for keeping the moths from laying their eggs, but remember to take the row cover off when the plant starts flowering to allow the bees to pollinate. Additionally, you can inspect your crop for eggs, which are usually laid at the base of the plant and are small, flat, and reddish-brown.
Finally, if larvae successfully hatch and enter your crop, remove those infested plants or the stems they are living in to make sure they don't return next year. You’ll see a moist sawdust-like residue at the plant base where the larvae have burrowed in. Sometimes, if they haven't bored too far up your plant, you can slice open the stem, dig them out and cover the wounded stem with a few inches of soil. If the damage wasn't too extensive the wound will heal.
For some great detailed information on squash vine borer check here. Also, this site shows what the eggs look like, so you can be on the lookout. If you have had problems with these bugs in the past you may what to plant varieties that are resistant to squash vine borer. Waltham butternut squash, Hubbard squash, Cucuzzi, and Green-Striped Cushaw are resistant to these pests, so you may want to give them a try.
Best of luck and in the meantime remember to enjoy eating your lovely squash blossoms (just the male flowers, not the females that turn into squash)! Raw as a snack, in salads or best of all stuffed and fried.
We wanted to remind you to pluck the suckers off of your tomato plants and cucumbers! Pruning your plants in this way redirects their focus to flowering and fruiting instead of developing more foliage. This video from a few weeks ago might be helpful again when looking at your tomato plants, and we have added this short clip for cucumbers. Just a few minutes of pruning a week can make all the difference in the yield and manageability of your crop.
Wishing you'd planted more peas or leafy greens this year? You still can! Come July and August, you can start seedlings for the second planting of crops that like cooler weather for harvesting in the fall. Remember this chart? So we are gearing up for seeding some stuff in July.
Just a friendly reminder to keep thinking a month ahead so you can keep your garden producing late into the summer and fall.
Another GREAT Learning Opportunity
Whether you've gardened for 5 minutes or 50 years, the Northeast Organic Farming Association Summer Conference is for you! This year it's entirely online, and you can join this welcoming community for live webinars or watch recordings later on your own schedule. No more choosing between two great talks at the same time!
Learn new skills like composting, foraging wild edibles, or growing garlic,
Get your homestead on with permaculture and landscape planning workshops
Dig into agriculture's connection to social justice, policy, urban planning and more
Workshops are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights, mostly from 5-8, over three weeks from July 20 - August 9. For just $60 you get access to all of the recordings once they're posted. A full registration ($125 with steep discounts for students and youth) gets you access to all live programming and webinar recordings to watch later.
Register here and we'll "see" you there!