Gardening Tips for Seedy Characters: Week 23

What to do this week

There are tricks to beating the pest cycle in the garden. Knowing the life-cycle of the one you want to beat and figuring out a work-around is critical. Having problems with cucumber beetle? They are expanding their range with climate change and are becoming an increasing nuisance. You can circumvent that nasty first generation emerging in the spring by starting your cucurbits in soil blocks and waiting to set them out until the warm weather has really settled — the beginning of July in Cape Breton.

Photo via Wild Birds of Widnes, Runcorn and Mersey http://www.wildbirdpics.moonfruit.com/home/4524594868

Photo via Wild Birds of Widnes, Runcorn and Mersey http://www.wildbirdpics.moonfruit.com/home/4524594868

The first beetles will have mostly emerged by then, found nothing to eat and starved. The plants will also be of a size and healthiness to withstand a light munching by late stragglers. The second generation in August will be small or even non-existent if you get your timing right. You can be extra sure by putting yellow plastic cards covered in Tangletrap around where the  squash bed will be during the month of June. The beetles will think they are the biggest and best squash leaves ever and die a sticky death. Take the plastic up in July so you don’t inadvertently trap pollinators.

Another pest and weather work-around I use is gel-seeding carrots. Normally, it is best not to wait too long to seed carrots as they don’t germinate well once the soil gets dry. But if you plant them early, you get them mowed down by slugs, and then decimated by carrot rust fly larvae. Gel-seeding lets you delay planting and once again miss that nasty first generation of pests.

Sprout the carrot seeds the way you would your alfalfa sprouts for sandwiches, in a mason jar covered with mesh and rinsed twice a day. Once you see 1/8 inch little tails on the seeds, they are ready to plant. Cook up a big pot of cornstarch and water until it is thick and gooey. I use a whole box of cornstarch to about 10 to 12 L water. Cool it down, obviously — you don’t want to cook the baby carrot seeds! Once it is cool, dump in the seeds and stir. You can use a pastry bag if you are fancy or just a large plastic bag with a little hole cut in one corner. Squoosh the furrows with a line of seedy gel. With a little practice, you may not even have to thin your carrots later! It is a messy method — I am always a little sticky afterwards, between the gel and garden soil — but it washes easily, is completely harmless and what fun is life without a little mess?

One more timely tip: all bean seed regardless of size should be planted 7 to 8 per foot. From little turtle beans to big red kidney beans, the number stays the same.

Featured image: Cucumber beetle. (Photo by Scott Bauer, US Department of Agriculture, via Wikimedia Commons)

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Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.

 

 

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