PO Box 2458, Tijeras NM 87059

Mountain Gardens--finding success with plants for the high desert and East Mountains of New Mexico

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sphinx Moth

Aly discovered this beautiful Achemon Sphinx moth caterpillar, Eumorpha achemon, dining on one of the Virginia creepers. The adult is a large, attractive pollinator. [http://galleries.northoftheridge.com/galleries/5_Insects/2_Moths/].

They are horn worms but this one is in its final instar and has shed the horn leaving an 'eyespot'. They feed on grape, Virginia creeper, and woodbine. The mature caterpillar is two or more inches in length, and the adult moth's wings can span your palm. The adult, like most hawk moths, feeds at night, sipping from flowers, pollinating as they go.

When disturbed, the caterpillar can retract its entire head. (bottom photo)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Addendum to the Wildlife Talk: Voles & Bio-bugs

Couldn't squeeze everything into the Wildlife talk last week, so here are a couple of interesting tidbits.

Just when it seems like every bug is a bad bug (or the only good bug is a dead bug?), some new research comes out reminding me that there are lots of beneficials out there too. One of the most pernicious weeds we have in the East Mountains is bindweed, an exotic invasive morning glory; anathema in field crops, a terror in flower beds, there hasn't been much that could be done to defeat it. Birds plant seeds that can still germinate after 50 years (!); roots 20 feet deep laugh at herbicides; every bit of root left when digging it out--becomes a new plant. It's the cockroach of the plant world.

But now, according to Organic Gardening, hope has arrived in the form of the bindweed mite. After 14 years of testing, the mite is being distributed through a variety of programs (I'll let you know when I find it). The mite doesn't feed on native morning glories or other desirable plants. It is effective at controlling bindweed in lawns and gardens, as well as in fields.

 This next is not a problem we've had at the farm, but we have had a few clients pulling their hair out over voles. These tiny rodents can do a lot of damage in orchard and garden, and can be very difficult to control. An article in The American Gardener magazine (the American Horticultural Society) made a good case for using expanded aggregates, particularly shale to keep voles out of beds. The product name is VoleBloc, and a two inch layer below the root ball effectively blocks voles. The material is used to backfill the planting hole, and 'mulches' the top too. Wonder how it works on gophers?! Got to be easier than making a basket from hardware cloth.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pre-sprouting Experiment Continues

    The corn is almost two feet tall, so we pressed on with our pre-sprouting trial. Put turnips, radishes, and two kinds of snap beans on the heat mat, and in a few days the seeds were sprouting, turnips first. Started transplanting them at about an inch.Also did some radishes. They all did well, then things got crazy--a couple of days without watering--the inevitable. Lost at least half the seedlings. Still had lots on the heat mat., but they were way overgrown--most of the turnips and radishes were over two inches, and very fragile. The beans all looked good. Went out today and put all in the garden with fingers crossed. Off the next couple of days so hopefully the new seedlings won't get neglected!
   Picked the first kohlrabi and made a very tasty slaw for dinner. Am increasingly impressed with the kohlrabi. It's tough in cold or heat, fast to mature, adds a pretty touch in purple or green, bugs don't seem to care for it, and it's versatile in the kitchen. I also like it sliced for a bit of crunch in salad, or in stir fry. Going to try a puree next.
   The garden looks great overall. Ahhh, zucchini.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Aphids Again

Just a few aphids....

Thought we were done with aphids for the season, but they're baaaccckk! We've tried just about everything, but always fall back on mechanical methods--blasting off with water, or squishing if there are just a few.

Keep reading in the journals that aphids and other insects that are real nuisances in commercial growing are becoming resistant to many products that have been used in the past. Some growers are maintaining stocks of "wild" non-resistant aphids to breed back into their greenhouse pests. 

This is becoming the year of the bug...
....multiply overnight

Friday, July 6, 2012

More Bugs!

Harlequin & squash bugs have joined the host of aphids and flea beetles that have been plaguing my garden. They're easier to deal with--the adults are difficult to kill with sprays, so this is one of those times the organic approach works better. I spent an hour dropping them into a bucket of soapy water. Then I combed through my squash looking for eggs. Only found a few squash bug eggs, but there were plenty of eggs of the Harlequin stink bug (most of what's floating in the bucket).

Both bugs feed on veggie foliage, leaving telltale white blotches and wilting leaves.
Squash bug eggs

Harlequin stink bug eggs.

After the carnage, I sprayed the garden with Garlic Barrier, an OMRI product I've heard a lot about and am trying this summer. Don't expect much regarding the squash bugs, but am hopeful about the aphids. Will post if it's effective.

Recommendations for squash bugs include good end of season sanitation--clean up so the bugs don't overwinter in garden debris.