Cool Weather Gardening

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We greatly expanded our growing area this spring and summer at the Armstrong Education Center and have been reaping the fruits of our labor, both in the organic vegetable garden and in our native plant gardens.  These gardens are used to demonstrate sustainable land use concepts such as local food production for humans, honeybees, and other wildlife.  

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The plants have enjoyed our lovely fall weather and produced a late abundance of fruit and blossoms.  This summer was persistently cool and cloudy, which allowed for an extended planting season but also delayed or stunted blooming.  It also encouraged plant predation by insects.  Our vegetable gardens sustained heavy damage early on from Colorado potato beetles and the Squash vine borer (see my earlier blog post about how to keep squash producing into fall).  Later, we had difficultly controlling the Mexican bean beetle and caterpillars on the cole crops.  Not even our resident bull frog, pictured here, could keep them in check.  Because we strive to strike a balance with insect populations as part of the web of life, we use only organic methods in our gardens and attempt to deter them mainly through crop rotation and mulching.

IMG_20140901_192513898_HDRWhen things get out of hand, my tried-and-true method for organic pest control in the garden is to make "bug juice," also known as "sick juice."  I collect as many of the offenders as I can in a small jar with a lid.  I puree these in a little water in an old blender that I have reserved for this use.  Then I strain this liquid through a fine sieve and pour it into a spray bottle.  I use the rinse water from the blender jar (after it has been sieved) to dilute the liquid further.  Then I spray this on plants that are affected by that particular insect.  This is basically biological warfare: the premise being that one of the bugs in the mixture will carry a disease that then quickly spreads through the entire population.  This works on insects that have become overabundant on any kind of plant, including this native milkweed that has been infested with aphids.

milkweed with aphids

See our website calendar for a list of events you can attend for hands-on education on how to manage your own property with a Living Lighter on the Land mindset.  Learn how your activities can support the Pound Ridge's efforts to become a certified Community Wildlife Habitat, and please join our mailing list or like our facebook page for news and updates related to local conservation initiatives.

Chores still to be done at this time:

  • Plant winter rye as a cover crop, or mulch beds with shredded leaves covered by straw.
  • Plant trees and shrubs, and consider adding support until roots are set next year.
  • Create a leaf pile for a steady source of Fall mulch and Spring seed-sowing medium.
  • Harvest fall crops such as spinach, lettuce, and kale, and keep those beds covered at night.