Monday, June 28, 2010

tomato umbilical cord

The tomato. Also affectionately called the love apple, by whom I don't know, wikipedia told me this fact. My little cherry tomato plant has popped it's... eh. It's sportin' a little baby bump with the wilted flower umbilical cord still attached. I swear these were not there yesterday.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

tater tots

Got these in the mail today from Burpee... if you order potato tubers, they send them to you when it's time to plant! This happens to coincide with me having to consider the possibility of moving out of my unusual urban garden home, which makes me very sad. I'm sure digging up these sweet potaters will make someone very happy, even if it's not me!

Pictured above is the tubers arriving in their "live plants" box and the subsequent photo shoot with the new JCrew catalog!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

pushing through

The wildflower seed I scattered in my containers around the urban garden are already pushing through the dirt. You can literally see dirt mounds moving above these persistent little seedlings! The morning glories have reached their peak vine height and are forming dozens of little ice cream cap, green tips spiraling towards the sun. The cucumbers are taking flight - or growing their grown-up leaves - and the experimental soybean plant is pushing through and on the up and up. 

Summer is here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

bzzzzzz plzzzzzz

My friend Viv gave me some gardening stuff that she can't utilize in her new apartment. I hung these little metal ikea "pots" from the edges of my planter boxes packed with wildflower and bee mixes to attract some honey beeeez.

You can tell from the pictures that the morning glories are loving the diy zig zag rope and have wound up the rope since last week. And in the last photograph you can see my cukes have sprouted kitty corner from the husky cherry tomato plant. (Which, by the way, is a midwestern way of saying "catercorner" but really, isn't it just diagonal?!)

diy pest control sprays

 Lacewings love to eat aphids...
...and so do Ladybugs

If your bugs aren't eating fast enough, consider these do-it-yourself remedies... use thoughtfully and directly on affected plants. 

DIY dish soap spray   
Controls: aphids, leadfhoppers, thrips, scales, and mealy bugs
Benefits: non-toxic to people and pets, dehydrates the buggies
Cons: harmful to beneficial insects, use carefully and directly on affected plants; careful not to use too much on fruit bearing plants or vegetables as it can interfere with fruit production
DIY: mix 1 to 3 teaspoons organic/biodegradable liquid dish soap or castile soap, like Dr.Bronner's, with one gallon of water. Spray directly on affected areas

DIY soap and oil spray 
Controls: soft bodied bugs such as aphids, mites and mealy bugs
Benefits: non-toxic to people and pets, oil smothers the bugs
Cons: can burn the leaves of sensitive plants; harmful to beneficial insects, use carefully and directly on affected plants
DIY: mix one tablespoon veg oil and a few drops of biodegradable dish soap into a quart of water. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. 

Note: Apply them early in the morning or just before dark. Re-apply after a rain. Wear protective clothing when spraying insecticides. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

ladybird love

The Organic Solution
In doing my research on my aphid farming ant problem in the garden, I read about many, many organic solutions. To name a few:

1. Squishing the aphids with your fingers.
2. Diluted oil/dish soap spray
3. Ladybugs or The Cute Pesticide
4. Neem oil (also recommended for the cockroaches we urbanites are familiar with)
6. Insecticidal soap

To elaborate. 

I'm all for trying to squish the aphids but there are a lot! I used to love the snails and caterpillars in my yard, still do, just stay off the vegetables! There are a billion other green things to feast on in the urban garden! Now, I pick anything I see off the leaves, be it baby caterpillar or little tiny slug things. I will toss you snail.

I don't think introducing thousands of ladybugs is the right choice for my garden. Once the lady bugs eat the aphids, then what? Where will they go, what will they eat? I just picture hundreds of out-of-work lady bugs on the street corners of Crown Heights begging for food.
Pest control sprays, even organic remedies, have the potential to kill beneficial insects as well as the harmful, annoying insects. Use homemade remedies selectively and do your research. Apply early in the morning or just before dark. Re-apply after a rain. Be careful that it's not going to harm your plant (ie. garlic oil remedies seem harsh and not for me.)

[Image via Apartment Therapy via Tanakawho's Flickr with a Creative Commons License]

Thursday, June 17, 2010

hey fatty, get outta here

Back up 2 weeks. Let's sum it up by saying I haven't been home much... the past week I was out of town for work. Fast forward to today. 

I went to check on the plants as soon as I wheeled my suitcase in the door, kissed my man and gave mica a squeeze. In the garden I pulled 20+ caterpillars off my vegetables, but not before they DEVOURED my kale and collard greens. The aphid situation is still a disaster - I squished close to a million. I did see ladybird hanging around the aphid feast which made me happy!

So, my months of gardening have resulted in some fat caterpillars and some green stalks. At least someone enjoyed the green goodness!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

plant lice & farming ants

Aphid giving live birth

I am running into my fair share of gardening mishaps during my novice gardening experiment... my big battle right now is aphids. And neglect - I haven't been home much during the daytime hours to give the garden love, just some early morning or late night watering. But yesterday I noticed some ant action on some plants and some hardcore feasting, resulting in swiss cheese leaves.

Aphids are plant lice. Enough said. Gross.

Aphids are gnarly little creatures - disgusting and destructive, but really interesting. They are a small, plant eating insect. There are thousands of different species (over 4,000), but the ones that attract ants have symbiotic relationship with the ants. These ants are referred to as "dairying ants" because they come and "milk" the aphids - meaning they stroke the aphids with their antennae to collect the honeydew the aphids produce. Weeeeird. 

Some farming ants go as far as to store aphid eggs over the winter. Aphids are sometimes sexual and sometimes asexual - they also sometimes lay eggs and sometimes give birth. They are very confused about their identity, which is why they need so much creepy ant love.

Organic solution:
1) I remember when I was younger that my mom mail-ordered some aphid-eating lady bugs, also known as ladybirds, for her garden and 2) I have read about spraying a diluted dish soap (organic/bio-degradable, of course) solution to fend off aphids - so I am researching these two options. Hence, my intense aphid description. More later.

Photo credit: Wikapedia via Creative Commons

Saturday, June 12, 2010

bee's knees

My sister is visiting this weekend from Chicago - she just finished her finals and is celebrating with me here in Brooklyn!! Yay!!

Today we went the the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens centennial celebration - BEE DAY!! Their bee themed birthday party was filled with lots of fun things to do... music {the Django Experiment}, gardeners, honey of course {New York City rooftop honey}, art and lots of fun things for kids. 

We spent hours there learning about keeping hives from the local bee keepers (bee keeping just became legal in NYC in 2008, which is really exciting!!), looking/smelling the flowers, listening to music, etc.

Pictured above is my lil' sis Annie by the centennial birthday sign, who has a really cool blog, winged correspondence, check it out; some pollinatin' bumbles; a bee display; a display of seeds from local flowers that attract beez; me having a moment with some tropical flowers; lil' bug takin' a snooze in the leaves; obligatory antennae pic; sister's being sisters; and more tropical flowers.

Photos by Annie/Liz