Thursday, June 22, 2017


I am not a fan of just randomly killing insects.  I think you can have a well balanced ecosystem that allows some give and take between the insects and your crop.  After all they were almost directly responsible for pollinating your plants.
These perfect little cuts are just little leaf cutter bees taking their little cut out of your plants and they will fly them home and wrap them up in little tubes and make homes.  You can't spray anything on your plants to stop them, they aren't eating anything so they will never ingest the poison you spray,  they won't kill your plants.  If you are out for perfection in your garden and can't handle a little bit of their "cut" of the production process you will drive yourself crazy trying to stop them when they are doing no damage to your crops (fruit production).

I have had them cut zucchini leaves and some cuke leaves but mostly bougainvillea leaves.  I'm not eating the leaves so if they happen to pollinate something on their way I will save my money and time and let them take whatever they want.  They have never killed a plant I have ever had so they pose no threat to my crops (fruit production).

I guess I am a big fan of the insects that live in my garden.  Ants are not stealing from me, leaf cutter bees are not destroying my plants, praying mantis are the guardians of the realm, lady bug larvae are horrible looking spiked nasties that eat 10x their weight in aphids in a day, lace wings are magical looking little creatures that are waiting to eat whiteflies, aphids, thrips, scale, and spider mites. Why spend all the money killing everything when you can plant some plants to attract the good guys and let them kill all the others?

Plant dill and let it go, the lady bugs will lay eggs in the umbels and when the aphids start going crazy the larvae will show up and pillage the aphids. Once the ladybugs show up it seems everyone else joins in.  If they don't you can usually find the good guys at a good nursery in the spring.  Once you get some ladybugs, mantids etc you will be a harbor for them and they tend to stay.

I guess I like letting nature work with me rather than fighting it the entire time.  It has been around a lot longer than I have and been working just fine without me.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Done for the summer

I guess I posted the title as "Done for Summer" but really I am just celebrating putting away my pickling equipment.  I did make it to 62 quarts, not my best but considering I feared the new Queen Creek virgin earth garden would fail me the first year I am satisfied with its performance!

So for the summer I have my pumpkins and watermelons in with a soaker hose running along both rows, this will help with the summer water bill since the water can run underneath the canopy and directly onto the soil.  Remember to keep the two apart since they are both curcubits like the cukes and can crossbreed and become some combo of the two (pumpmelons? waterkins?)

I'm also really going to add stuff to the soil all summer, moving all compost activity directly to the garden area and till multiple times until the melons cover everything up or burn up in the summer heat and die, I have never had much luck with either two crops but experimentation is a huge aspect of learning so I keep trying.

I have been being asked more about the watering of the fruit trees throughout the hot AZ summer too.  Remember to always water deep!  More water/less often.  Established fruit trees love a deep drink once a week until fall.  Think of it more like irrigating a field, they don't do it as often but when they do they dump a good amount of water into the soil.

Basil is another question I have been getting.  This weed loves our summer and the more you use it the faster it grows.  Do try to keep the flowers cut off and if its in a pot it tends to get root bound and need more frequent watering than if its in the ground somewhere.  As you can see I need to spend some more time with mine and clean it up, been busy pickling!

While we are on the subject of herbs, I have had a lot of spittlebug activity on my Rosemary.  Luckily
they are pretty easy to get rid of.  Its a little bug that gets in there and basically makes a foam around itself that looks like someone spit on your Rosemary plant.  Just hose it off with a good stream of water and it leaves the insect exposed and most of the time ends the problem.

For the last part of this post I will hit on insecticides a bit.  I really try hard to not use them but sometimes they are absolutely needed.  When I do need them I try to start with the weakest and move up the chain if the first one doesn't work. Pyrethrins are made from a chrysanthemum plant and are generally not as hard core but pretty broad spectrum.  If they don't work I would move to a Permethrin which is more of a man made version of the pyrethrins and a little more potent.  From there you can go into the deltamethrin, cypermethrin etc.  There are other organics to use too such as the spinosans (A&B) and for caterpillars I love Bt which is a bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis) and only really harms caterpillars like the ones that get in the cabbages, texas mountain laurels and passion vines.  Carbaryl (Sevin) is a good one for the veggies that isn't horribly toxic too. Just try the version that might not destroy your soil microbes, the bees or any other beneficial organism first.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


So I have been busy,  I am up to 45 quarts of pickles! I have had a couple days that I put up 10 quarts of pickles each day. Everything started slow here in Queen Creek but ramped up quite quickly.  I fear the 108 degree temps are going to stop most of the production because cucumber pollen usually is not viable in this extreme heat but I find myself with a successful pickle production where I feared nothing would happen.

First things first

8 cups water ( not softened- at least use RO)
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup PICKLING salt

this is my brine, you can add whatever you want to the mix.  I like to add hot peppers, garlic  and a tiny bit of pickling spices and of course...dill!  The dill crop is doing phenomenally!

I have also been canning some dill green beans.  They are really nice to sink into a bloody mary or just grab one out of the jar, need a little more vinegar for those but great use of the dill.

I have planted the pumpkin seeds which have sprouted, and the watermelons have too, not sure how those two crops will do as I am not the best at keeping stuff watered in the summer but will try my best and see how it goes.  I still feel the best way to learn how to grow the stuff you want to grow is try to grow the stuff you want to grow and keep a record of how it went and what you think you could do to make it better.  With the weather getting weird and unpredictable us gardeners are going to have to be flexible and really be ready to change stuff up to get the crops we want.