Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bugger off!

Last year at this time I wrote an entry about my beloved dog, Black Jack, who died at age 16.  He was a chow. Three years before that I lost my little Lhasa Apso, Honey, to Cushings disease.  I thought I would never get another dog but a few weeks ago I met Sweetie, a young healthy Lhasa Apso who was without a home.  So, now I have Sweetie - and fleas!  In spite of putting her on very effective flea treatment from the vet's she is a tender little thing and all we have to do is visit the dog park once and she comes back with a few hitch-hikers.  So I wanted something that would be safe to put on her that would repel fleas, not just kill them once they bite her.

Why am I writing about this here in my garden blog?  I'll tell you why: stink bugs, grasshoppers, beetles, moth borers and a host of other bugs that want to eat my garden.  So I need something that is organic for my garden and safe for my Sweetie.  Neem oil promises that and more.

Neem oil is well known in India, where it is made from the neem tree, and other parts of the world know it, too. Here in the U.S. it is sold mostly in health food stores.  There is no FDA approved uses for this but that only means they have never looked at it.  So I purchased some yesterday and am declaring war on the little suckers.

As neem is an oil, it is not water soluble without adding a little detergent.  I find that Dr. Bonner's Peppermint Soap works well and is milder.  The way to apply it to plants is by adding a squirt of soap or dish detergent to a little water then adding the neem, about 3-4 teaspoons per gallon. Add water to make one gallon and spray directly on plants and soak the soil around them. Reapply after a rain.  According to everything I've read, this is not an instant kill; it works over time.  So we'll see.

Back at home I added a few drops of the neem to some vitamin E oil and rubbed Sweetie down with it. She's still pretty itchy but that might be from previous bites.  I couldn't find any fleas on her but they are easy to miss.  Tonight I'll bathe her with it in her doggie shampoo.  I'm thinking that should do it!

I will report back here on any results both on Sweetie and in the garden.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just a note

Everyone who sees the Hope House garden wants to know where I got my raised beds.  I've mentioned it before but for those who are interested I'll mention it again here: Earth Easy These are the "Farmstead" beds. Also, I created the tents with the Super Hoops from Gardeners Supply and Lil curtains from IKEA.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Tented tomatoes
Last year I was so focused on avoiding the tomato blight I missed the danger posed by stink bugs and I lost most of my crop to them.  This year, I vowed to outwit the little stinkers.  I have two Roma plants, four heirloom (pink, black and purple) one cherry and one Better Boy.  All are thriving.  At the sign of the first stink bug I tented the entire bed. Yes, I know it looks a little like a wagon train, but inside those tomatoes are getting all the sun and water they need and I have some mighty frustrated stink bugs that can't get to them.  I'm hoping they just give up and go away.

I knew about stink bugs as their little shield-like bodies are no stranger around my house.  But they seemed harmless. I didn't know they could inject tomatoes and suck out the juice, leaving them mottled and inedible.

The only problem with this arrangement is, of course, the bees can't get to the plants, either.  So, the flowers and fruit I have now are fine and well pollinated but as new flowers bloom I will have to hand-pollinate if I expect fruit.  Small price to pay for fine tomatoes, I say!

After the last couple of days and much shoveling, I now have 11 beds, all double-high; nine are 4'x8' and two are 4'x4'.  We're going to give pineapple a go this year in one of the small beds.  I've never grown pineapple before so I hardly know what to expect.  I'll be planting zucchini, too, and giving it the tent treatment to stave off the wasps that lay their eggs in the roots, ruining the plants.  The peas and beans are done so I have more room for summer plants.  And the heat is here, full-force, so I will be looking for heat-tolerant varieties in everything.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Safe from vampires!

It's impossible to stay in a funk when you harvest armloads of just about anything!  Today all conditions were right for harvesting the garlic.  It had dried out just enough, the bottom leaves were browning, indicating all energy was going into the bulbs, and the tops of the leaves had died back.  It's supposed to rain tonight so I wanted to get it all out so I wouldn't have to wait for another dry spell.  It's beautiful! See for yourself!  It took two trips just to get it all back to my office which now smells like an Italian deli.  While I was at it, I also harvested the rest of the red potatoes and the first batch of radishes.  Can you hear my contented sigh from where you are?

The women here were astonished and so excited that the garlic was such a success.  They had never seen garlic grown before.  Or potatoes for that matter.

Now I'm free to move the bed the garlic was in to make room for another large bed.  I got the dirt for it last week, thanks to a co-worker who let me use her truck.

Oh!  Another activity we do here with the ladies is knitting and crocheting. Right now we're working on market bags like the one shown here that I made as an example for them.  If the garden keeps going like this they won't need market bags!