Start Scouting for Harlequin Bug

Hocking County had a serious problem last growing season with Harlequin bug damage on crucifers.  Any plant that was not monitored with hand picking or treated with insecticide was severely damaged up to complete loss of product.  I have not seen this pest up in Columbus where I garden although I am sure it is on its way.  It is normally a southern pest but has been moving north with the temperatures like all the rest of the bugs. When I did the garden walk at The Logan Community garden last year I noticed that all the brussel sprouts had been chewed to bits by this guy:

August 2016 pic

Scouting started in mid-May with the first bugs noted at The Urban Farm on June 13th.

Feeding damage from the bugs is noted on the leaf in the form of white stippling. Large holes were caused by feeding of Cabbage White larvae

Hand picking was used to remove the several bugs noted instead of insecticide to allow harvest of the remaining broccoli.  The planting beds will be rotated out of broccoli within the next couple weeks and no other cruciferous vegetables will be planted until August, but scouting will continue.

In your gardens, especially if you have a long season brassica like brussel sprouts, you will need to do extensive hand picking as well as monitor for egg cases.  Consider using an insecticide as well.  More pics and treatment options in the links below.

Harlequin bug (Murgantia histrionica) –>  Profile: Journal of Integrated Pest Management

Factsheet: University of Maryland

OSU Vegnet photo identification

Weed Control Using Cover Crops

I hate weeds.   In most gardens they are a nuisance.  In my community garden they are overwhelming.  I garden in an extremely old Victory Garden remnant that might be the oldest community garden in Ohio.

That means the weeds have been there for so long they have naturalized to the place and the seed bank it unreal.  Last year I put a third of it in Sorghum X Sudangrass as an experiment to see how well it would help smother weeds.   I did not see a decrease in weed germination after that but I did find the ground easier to work this year in that spot.  The plow does spread the soil around so that did not help with weeds.

Here is what I have to deal with.  This is the next door plot.  The owner has not done any work yet.

cocklebur, bindweed, thistle, lamb’s quarters, morning glory, smartweed, ragweed, etc…….

It is all about two feet tall and going to seed.  Here is a better picture to give you an idea of the weeds.

I tilled residue under after mowing last week to make a seedbed.

Normally I would have planted buckwheat in this spot, just like what was done at the Logan Community Garden last year, but I had some winter rye left over from last year and that is what I used.

One patch of thistle in the middle of this pic needs dug out. I will mow the rye to keep it from going to seed through the season.

The rye cover crop will smother weeds and add organic matter to the soil.  It will be much easier to manage and frequent mowing will eliminate annual weeds as well.


Vertical Gardening Experiments

One of the best ways to increase harvest as well as maximize garden space is to grow upward.  Fencing, trellis material, bamboo poles, etc all have a small ground footprint but allow plants to use the vertical instead of just the horizontal.  In the various gardens here in Hocking I have some small experiments going on that I wanted to share.  Hopefully these give you some ideas to take home.

First up is The Urban Farm:

One of my favorite trellis items is cattle panel.  It is not expensive,  will last longer than me, and I am not sure I can break it.  I cut a 16 foot length in half.  I can do a four foot high trellis 8 foot long or an 8 foot high trellis four foot long.  Here is a couple ideas.  The trellis is zip tied at the top in a steep triangle shape.

Sugar snap peas almost completely covering the cattle panel. I thick plant pea seed way past recommendations. This is possible because I know the compost medium I planted in has some serious fertility to handle the nutrient need

Same concept with tomatoes. Can reach through the panel to harvest tomatoes easily. Will bear a ton of weight without any problems. Clip the zip ties at the end of the season to store the panel.

Next up is Bishop Educational Gardens:

If you missed last week’s Edible Landscaping – Beauty and the Feast workshop you did not get a chance to see the amazingly cool raised beds constructed by a relative of our Hocking County volunteer superstar Andy J.

Seriously. Raised beds made from hardwood facings from logging. Genius. Why did I not think of that?

It is tough to tell from this pic but there are three tiers of height. From L to R, eggplant and peppers, tomatoes, then planted pole beans. This will grow up to be a wall of colors, shapes, and textures that are edible. It is a one side view when standing on the road at the left. The trellis will be bamboo poles sourced from the grounds.


Last up is The Children’s Garden at the fairgrounds:

I showed you recently how I am doing tomatoes planted with espalier technique on chain link fence.  That will be dynamite I am hoping.  My other vertical experiments are with pole beans using two types of support; one living and one telephone.

Pole beans, var. Christmas Lima, from my friend Sarolin from saved seed here in Logan. They will be able to grow up the telephone pole support wire freely. I am curious to see how high they get.

This is a sunflower plant. I planted pole beans around the base of the plant. They will have a symbiotic relationship. The beans will use the flower as support while providing nutrition to the flower from nitrogen fixing.

I have two support wires for the telephone pole in front of my office to use. This one is getting seeded with pole black beans from Hocking County saved seed from my gardener/chicken friend Beth M.

Lastly. This is a mouse melon plant. It produces grape sized fruit that look like watermelon. This plant is in the ground by the telephone support wire that have the lima beans. This plant will also benefit from nitrogen fixing from the pole beans.

Hopefully you get some ideas to use in your garden.  The trellis/support will allow me to use limited space for maximum harvest over the course of the season.


Introducing Butterfly Ridge

Butterfly Ridge Butterfly Conservation Center is a 5 acre slice of the Hocking Hills being developed as a habitat for the butterflies of south eastern Ohio.   I met the folks who are developing this project during while working on the event at the container garden at Hocking Valley Community Hospital.


I had an opportunity to tour the grounds this past week and it looks like it will become a nice asset to our county.   The developing grounds will be 5 acres of trails that wind through planted habitat of native butterfly pollinator and forage species as well as wooded mature hardwood forest.


A nature/educational center is almost complete to allow meeting space and educational programming.

I am looking forward to their completion and opening, targeting July of 2017.   We will be partnering together for some educational programming on butterfly and pollinator topics.

Tomato Planting Time

I took the opportunity to plant tomatoes at two different locations that I help maintain here in Hocking.   My target date for tomato planting is usually around Memorial Day.   That avoids almost any chance of a late frost as well as allows the critical soil warming tomatoes need.  Tomato plants will stop uptake of nutrients from their roots if temps are too low.   That is also why I told folks to hold off planting in April even though we had some great weather.   The past week had very high temps for most of the week(perfect to warm soil), then moderate temps with rain for the ten days following.  Perfect to plant and then have a good source of water for the new transplants.

First up was the Children’s Educational Garden here at the fairgrounds.  Here is the spot:

Four raised beds filled with compost. Great sun exposure, up against chain link fence.

Last year I planted a couple cherry tomatoes and then trellised them along the fence.  It worked great.  I tied the vines horizontally in a modified espalier technique.  It allowed tremendous production and I was able to keep the vines at kid level so they could easily harvest.

Building on that I started seedlings for six different colors of cherry tomato in my seed start grow station.  That will give us way more that can possibly be eaten but I was looking for a colorful effect.   I am a little worried about following tomatoes with tomatoes in back to back years and not following correct rotation.  I will only be able to do an every other year rotate.  I do heavily mulch and we reapply compost.  I will keep a close eye for disease.  Cherry tomatoes have shown they can out grow the blight so I am not super worried.

L -> R: White, Red, Chocolate, Orange, Green and Yellow.

The mulch is mission critical.  It smothers weeds, keeps the soil cool(not cold), prevents moisture loss as well as provides a barrier to the fungal spores in the soil that splash on the leaves and cause most of the tomato diseases.  That is why I had to wait until the soil warmed.  The mulch would have slowed warm up.


Next up The Urban Farm:

We are planning to use 2 of our 6 beds in tomatoes.  One of each of the two different growing media.  I want to see how they do in comparison.  The trellis method here is different.  I am using cattle panel that are zip tied into a steep triangle.  This will allow easy harvest and the panel will last years.

dark soil is a mark of lots of organic matter.

Tomatoes are one of the only plants that should be buried deeper than where they were growing in their container.  This is because they will grow roots off the stem below the ground which makes a stronger plant. I pinched off the lower branches and leaves and planted them in 10 inch deep holes.  Then comes the mulch.  I put about 3-4 inches deep hay around the plants.  I will add more as the plants grow.

14 plants per bed, 28 tomatoes total.

The asphalt next to the right side bed will keep the heat in.  This might hurt the plant in high summer heat.  I put cherry tomatoes in that bed as they do less blossom drop due to heat.  Now I just need to get my home plants in.

Butterfly Garden at Hocking Valley Community Hospital

I was able to participate in a fun event at HVCH this past Friday.   The containers from last years container vegetable garden were planted with a mix of plants that are specific attractors to butterflies, either for nectar or forage.   Rick Webb from Webb’s Perennials kindly donated the plants,  Thanks Rick!

The butterfly knowledge was provided by Butterfly Ridge Butterfly Conservation Center which is located in Hocking Hills.  They have some land they are developing with plant species specific to butterflies and other pollinators.

Here is my favorite species of butterfly

It was a fun event.  The plan will be release of butterflies over the season into the protected courtyard so they can eat and then lay eggs.  Then after the caterpillars hatch they have forage to eat to mature into butterflies to continue on their journey.  The courtyard is a pleasant place for patients and staff to relax and this will make it even better.

I am looking forward to helping care for the butterfly garden this season and you will see me there periodically.  I also look forward to partnering with Butterfly Ridge to host programs at their center to provide educational programming later this summer.  I will let you all know about that once we get the details finalized.

Urban Farm Spring Update

It is amazing to me to see the old pictures of when we first started the raised beds.

Now we have some fertile growing media and are in full swing for spring harvest.  The cover crops have been terminated and mowed and are getting ready for tomatoes, beans, and peppers.  It is still too early to plant those, but not too early to get the space ready to go.


I got the trellis up for the sugar snaps and if the deer do not eat them we will have a fine harvest.  I am using cattle panel as my trellis as it will last for many seasons.  I am going to do the same when I trellis the tomatoes.  I mulched with hay to keep the weeds down and the soil moist for this cool season crop


Carrots take quite some time to germinate and get started but they are coming on now and will be part of the produce boxes for the seniors in a month or two.  I will start lots more later in the season.

Senior Farmer’s Market voucher season starts this week and I am hoping to add radishes to the spinach, lettuce and broccoli.

The Urban Farm – April Update

So my last post back on April 2nd showed snow on the raised beds.   We had planted about 40 or so transplants to take advantage of an early warm up then put some row cover season extension over the plants for protection.  Lettuce and broccoli are generally cold tolerant but the weather was in the teens for an extended period of time plus I did not have time to set my low tunnel up correctly so I was thinking we would have some loss.  And we did.  But not too bad.

First week of April after hard long hard freeze period


No worries.  We pulled dead plants and put in new ones.  That is why you have a seed start grow station at your house and you plant every two weeks.  Having a dozen plants ready each week or two ensures a steady stream of produce.  We had nice weather with decent rainfall and it shows.

Here is that same bed a couple weeks later.

Lettuce is interplanted with broccoli and cauliflower.  We will harvest the largest heads to allow the smaller heads to get bigger as the broccoli and cauliflower grow to maturity.  We have about 30 heads of lettuce going in a separate part of the farm for later on.

I need to find a few hours this week to work at the farm.  The peas are coming up and if the bunnies and deer do not eat them they will need a trellis in a week or two.  Targeted harvest for sugar snap peas is early June.