What’s Bugging You! (In the Garden)

The sky is just starting to lighten, enough for me to see my way into the garden. The coolest part of the day in a week of 90’s with little chance of rain. Of course, dawn (and dusk) are also the times when mosquitoes and other garden bugs you don’t want to see are out doing their daily dance. Bees and other pollinators won’t be up for a little while, so it is the best time to get your watering done and any organically-approved spraying you are going to do.

I like to water my garden by hand. As I hold my hose low to the ground to soak the dry earth around each plant I can keep my eyes on leaves, stalks and flowers to see what might be attacking my plants. You will not get this important information by turning on a sprinkler. Then, when my watering is done. I can come back with my organic-approved insecticidal soap spray and get those areas that need such attention. Of course, if I see any Japanese beetles or Stink Bugs, I just get those by hand, squishing them with appropriate scorn.

But mosquitoes have always been the one thing I hate about gardening. They are annoying and now we understand just how dangerous they are. They don’t bother my precious vegetables, herbs and flowers, but they can spread Malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, various types of Encephalitis, Chikungunya, West Nile Virus and now, Zika. And of course, for your pets, mosquitoes spread Heart Worm.

I have chickens who eat mosquitoes. I also do all the usual things to keep skeeter populations down: Keeping my grass mowed very short, eliminating standing water including turning over all unused flower pots, cleaning my bird bath every couple of days, and sprinkling some all-natural repellant granules in the grass (really helps), but I have neighbors who are not necessarily doing those prophylactics, so inevitably, if unprotected, I will get a few bites.

DEET, though effective, is not without negative health implications. According to the journal Scientific American, “Duke University pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia, in studies on rats, found that frequent and prolonged DEET exposure led to diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes, and concluded that humans should stay away from products containing it.” I don’t trust Bayer’s Picaridin because, well, its made by Bayer — a German chemical/pharma giant which got its start producing Xyklon-B for Nazi death chambers and who now produces bee-killing/environment poisoning neonicotinoids for your garden.

So I have been using a very good natural formula I worked up for keeping mosquitoes at bay and will be offering it for sale at the Warren County Farmer’s Market. It is made with ALL ORGANIC ingredients and I believe it confuses the skeeters’ detection system long enough to protect me out in the garden for a couple of hours at a stretch before reapplying. The active ingredient is Organic Lemon Eucalyptus Oil (OLE) which was recently recommended by the CDC as safe and effective. It works by blocking mosquitoes’ chemical receptors so they do not “see” you.

I will be offering 4 oz spray bottles of CherryGal’s Organic Skeeter Spray for a modest price. I hope you will give it a try — for yourself, your family and your pets!

Happy Gardening,

Deborah / CherryGal

 

Matthew Stew

I am totally with Michael Pollan on the sensuality of having a pot of something aromatic and delicious cooking all day. This is heightened, I think, when the weather is particularly nasty — a huge snow storm or, as today, the push off from Hurricane Matthew. So I took my usual African Peanut Stew recipe and revised it somewhat to accommodate what I had in my fridge. The result is awesome and will have you daydreaming while it slowly stews for hours in the other room.

Matthew Stew

Sirloin Chunks (I am using approximately 1 pound) cut in 1″ cubes, sauteed on high heat in a dutch oven (preferably a cast iron one) in olive oil with two large bay leaves and a teaspoon of salt and fresh ground pepper until the meat is browned.

Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and sautee one onion and some celery stalk, finely diced. A minute or two later add two cloves of smashed minced garlic. To that, after a minute, add fresh roughly chopped ripe tomato and chopped collard greens. After a minute, return the beef & bay leaves to the mix. Add about a quart of water. Cover and simmer for an hour or so.

Add Chunky Peanut Butter to thicken sauce (I use the same organic brand I use in my Lucky Like Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits). Taste and correct seasoning if necessary, cover and simmer until meat is falling apart. Then it is ready. Enjoy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spring Has Sprung .. the grass has riz

VintageSeedsSalzer

I wonder where my schedule is! Seriously, we go from blizzard to Spring pretty darn fast here in the Piedmont NC! It’s been 80+ this week and I am scrambling to get starts in the ground, knowing that we could still experience a late frost. ALL my time is devoted to gardening right now. When I’m not gardening, I’m thinking about it. I am planning what to put in tomorrow, and how best to utilize my shrinking garden. Since I brought my four Buff Orpington beauties into my life, my garden has shrunk substantially. I now can only utilize about half the garden I used to … the girls get the rest, either by design (they need the space) or cuisine (they eat anything edible left open to them). I don’t mind. I have wonderful pop-up garden toppers for my six raised beds, so that is where my strawberries, greens, and other veggies go.

Last year I devised tomato cages that defied my girls long enough to grow the tomatoes tall enough so that they survived and prospered. My dilemma this year is that I need to rotate, and I have little room to do that in. So I am getting creative in the “mixed garden” style. Putting rhubarb among my herb bed (transferred outside the girls’ compound because rhubarb leaves are poisonous); and horseradish next to the roses, which they leave alone.

Everything is greening up now to my delight. My oakleaf hydrangea is leafing out; my much desired Bartzella peony has popped through; my blueberries are loaded with bee-attracting blossoms, despite the girls’ having nipped the bottom branches clean. My dwarf cherry, newly potted, will blossom soon.

Inside, I have had mixed and delayed germination on some old tomato and pepper seeds I wanted to propagate. Because so many of my prior suppliers have been gobbled up by Monsanto, making them undesirable for future supply, I am trying to germinate some old seeds from prior years so that I can offer these wonderful varieties free of GMOs, and organically grown. However, I purchased a new germination system which I do not have complete faith in. I followed the instructions and got about 20% germination. So I threw out the instructions, took off the cover, added some organic fertilization solution, and now things are starting to pop. Thank Goodness! Some Springs you just need to push it!

I hope your Spring is going well. Please blog and let me know how you are faring.