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Springtime Gardens

By James Parker, April 30, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by James Parker
Second bloom sweet peas on my desk Every year in late April my spring garden starts producing. After weeks of chilly nights, heavy rain and gusty coastal winds, most of my fragile seedlings and plant starts have grown into sturdier adolescents. Some of the earlier plantings are even starting to bear as young greens and pea shoots (sautéed with green garlic) are showing up on the home menu and sweet pea blossoms on my desk at work. Springtime gardens are both a wonder and a worry — capable of great things and susceptible to many dangers. Casa Parker- vegetable and fruit garden The April rains in my part of the world were intense this year. El Niño springs are always unpredictable and this one is no exception as growing areas in and outside the U.S. get hit with varying degrees of heavy weather. Roger (AKA Rock Daddy), our office weather tracker who reports every Monday, said we will see the last of the major spring storms for California this week but I’m not so sure — neither are the producers who grow on the coast and central valley who nervously track the spring weather systems. For our state’s tree fruit producers the fear of early bloom damage is behind us, only to be replaced by a myriad of wet weather related problems like mildew or wind damage. For row crop producers who are putting successive plantings in every week, the fear of heavy rain and wind damage on young plants will remain with them throughout the spring. Curly leaf Bloomsdale variety spinach- a few days from harvest Another question as the days get longer and warmer is what to grow where. Large scale growers on both coasts will start the spring growing on land in the southernmost parts of the U.S. and transition production to land further north as the weather warms. Others will simply transition from winter to summer hardy plant types. I use the second transition method at my home (since I don’t have a garden in Southern California!) and try to plan my plantings accordingly. My cherry tomatoes will eventually go where my shelling peas are now since they tend to finish in the early summer. Summer squash and eggplant will go in my greens bed. Even my cut flower garden will transition from snapdragons and poppies to sunflowers and dahlias. Shelling peas with a bamboo apricot branch support in between potatoes Supporting the growth of the plants is also something to consider at this point in the spring. The raspberries along my fence line got a more sophisticated wire support trellis similar to the ones used on commercial farms, but I use my peas and beans to help me control the little patch of bamboo in my yard. If you have fruit trees to prune in the winter, the straight branches are also useful in the spring and summer to help prop up all kinds of plants. My friend Amy in Southern California even found an inventive use for old umbrellas — the inside frame can have a second life as a plant support. Young Raspberry canes and the first strawberry of the spring Pumpkin seedlings from the Halloween mystery bag of seeds My biggest worry in the spring is pests – the abundant rains have brought robust plant growth and with it an insect population boom. Slugs, caterpillars, pill bugs and the dreaded king pig of all insects (the earwig) have all invaded my vegetable beds and the food fight is about to escalate to an “all natural” but deadlier phase. My weapon of choice is beer — in small cups buried to the same level with the soil. I don’t recall where I learned this but it seems to work pretty well, and it also satisfies my sense of insect compassion (to drown in beer may not be too cruel a fate). My co-blogger and fellow gardener Kate suggests crushed eggshells as another line of natural defense, but we both need more ideas. What’s your best non-toxic springtime plant protection? My precious seedlings need your help!
Category: Trends & New Stuff




Barbara says ...
Try white vinegar soaked rags!!! I'm going to try that this year. Heard it works great.
04/30/2010 11:40:14 AM CDT
Betty Ballard says ...
Personally, I’ve not tried this, but my mother used it all the time. Pest do not like nicotine. She made a nicotine tea and sprayed all her garden. She would buy a cheap can/bottle of snuff tobacco, and mixed it in a 1-2 gallon container of water, then used the nicotine water to spray. Also, a cheap pack of cigarettes will do; pour the whole pack in a gallon of water; let it steep for days, making a spray.
04/30/2010 6:42:52 PM CDT
screwdestiny says ...
Insect compassion. Puh! I'd drown those earwigs in acid if I could. I suppose slugs, caterpillars and pill bugs are not deserving of such a thing, but I *loathe* earwigs.
05/02/2010 9:04:20 PM CDT
Mary says ...
Here is a good website that is devoted to companion planting: http://www.companionplanting.net/ I have used marigolds around my tomato plants to keep pests away. I've heard planting basil around them is beneficial also.
05/05/2010 2:39:40 PM CDT
Colleen says ...
Blessings! Boil garlic to make a tea, then dilute it as you water. Marigolds have an especially repugnant fragrance; plant them inbetween your garden delights. smiles
05/05/2010 2:48:27 PM CDT
Sandy says ...
Diatomaceous Earth works well. You can sprinkle it directly on the ground and also dilute it in water and spray the plants. Make sure you buy food grade.
05/05/2010 5:46:46 PM CDT
Jeanne Jamell says ...
The crushed eggshells as a line of defense against insects sounds interesting, but I would like more information on how to handle the situation. Do I make a "line of defense" around my plants with the shells?
05/05/2010 5:51:54 PM CDT
Gail Summars says ...
Please someone tell me when is a good time to prune my meyer lemon tree. Also, tell me a little bit about how to prune.
05/05/2010 7:32:37 PM CDT
Lynn says ...
Hi To protect seedlings from being lopped over, we used to cut toilet paper cardboard and put around. Also used other items that might go into the trash/recycle for this. For example, if I had a fast food cup, would grow seeds in it till large enough to survive bugs and the top part would help protect as it was planted in the ground. Less compost on top meant for less earwig,pillbug type creatures. Now we mostly plant in pots on the patio. Good luck enJoy Lynn D
05/05/2010 7:48:35 PM CDT
EmilyFlowerChild says ...
If you would like to get rid of presky bugs in a animal friendly way, there are little bags that you can buy at any Lowes or Home Depot that little bugs are simply, attracted to. There is some scents that bugs specifically like: Vinegar, Floral, exc. And then you can release the bug out of the bag unharmed.
05/06/2010 11:12:44 AM CDT
Chick says ...
coffee grounds surrounding raised beds work for snails and slugs
05/06/2010 12:19:16 PM CDT
Tesa Laviolette says ...
My favorite insect repellent is a mixture of dishwashing soap diluted with water in a spray bottle. Any time I notice any bug of any kind on my potted plants, I just spray the plant with this solution (leaves and top of soil), and no more bugs. The plants seem to love it very much also. This works especially well with fighting ants. I figure it can't be too toxic since this is what I use to clean the dishes I eat off of.
05/06/2010 2:08:42 PM CDT
Eileen says ...
Add dishwashing soap to water, spray on leaves. May not be considered natural, but it works on many pests in S. Florida. A spray bottle with rubbing alcohol also works. And Epsom salt diluted in water as well.
05/07/2010 9:06:37 AM CDT
parkerj says ...
This is great! I am armed with lots of great new ideas- thanks everyone! Gail Summars, here is what I got from a comercial Meyer Lemon grower: Now (May) is the perfect time to prune your lemon trees- or anytime after the danger of frost has passed. You should remove any dead wood (without leaves) and suckers (branches coming up from the trunk by the soil). She also recommends you remove any branches that cross over another- this will help the fruit size well and mature evenly
05/07/2010 4:38:57 PM CDT
Sylvia Stone says ...
I saw Lady Bugs and Mantises at tha hardware store
05/08/2010 1:51:52 PM CDT
bombon says ...
hi i want to know if us have nardos narsiso i donk know the name but is something like that!!
05/08/2010 2:38:25 PM CDT
Val Jaroszenko says ...
I have used Diatomaceous Earth for almost 20 years, it is totally eco-friendly for all over your garden or lawn. I even just found out you can use it in your home. It works on all kinds of crawling pests. Good luck!
05/09/2010 6:58:39 PM CDT
Wendy Menghi says ...
Diatamaceous Earth!
05/11/2010 3:12:51 PM CDT
Angela says ...
I have tried Chile powder and have good luck with that. The worms explode!
05/11/2010 4:04:56 PM CDT
Larry Lee says ...
Diatomaceous earth works well and lasts a long time, but doesn't work while wet. Does recover potency after it dries out though. And be sure not to inhale it. Use some kind of respirator to filter your air while spreading it, and, as mentioned elsewhere, be sure to get food grade. Some of the others may be more toxic when inhaled. Wear gloves since it is a dessicant and will do a number on your skin. The soapy water spray in my experience only works on bugs which are hit directly with the spray. No effective residual effect, but I guess that's OK too. My best solution thus far is the 2nd edition of Square Foot Gardening whereby I have eliminated a huge amount of pest problems by not allowing dirt anywhere near my plants. Grow them in a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and compost. Still have to watch for flying pests though and use light row cover to minimize those guys. The battle continues yearly. It's us or them!
05/12/2010 11:31:45 PM CDT
Deanie says ...
I've had problems with aphids on my iris and my columbines. However, planting garlic around them controls the critters. And you have nice garlic whenever you need some for a dish!
05/13/2010 9:04:24 AM CDT
Christopher Hayes says ...
Yeah, I'm going to say that nicotine counts as toxic.
05/13/2010 10:11:54 AM CDT
kridi says ...
I sprinkle sawdust or shavings at the base of the plant which keeps slugs and snails out of the garden. they don't like to crawl on it.
05/13/2010 9:28:26 PM CDT
Giganto Pithecus says ...
DO NOT USE NICOTINE on plants of the Solanum type. Always research your plants before hitting them with anything, organic or not.
05/29/2010 7:52:56 PM CDT
Jake White says ...
Yeah I totally agree with the comment above. <a href="http://buy-epsom-salt.com" rel="nofollow">Epsom salt in the garden</a> is a great way to chase away pests and to keep plants healthy.
09/27/2011 3:47:14 AM CDT