Friday, August 28, 2009

Garden Pests: Web Worms and Bag Worms

Two common garden pests that make their presence known this time of year are bag worms and fall web worms.

In the Baltimore area, the fall web worms are out in full force this year. You see their huge webs hanging from almost every tree in some parts of the county. The good news is that as ugly as they are, fall web worms are not particularly destructive. They will eat all of the leaves within their web, but they don’t threaten the overall health of the tree.

Still, they are incredibly disgusting:
fall web worm, garden pest and gardening tips from 2 Green Acres
Fortunately, control is pretty easy and does not require chemicals. One option is to remove the branch with the web on it, put in a garbage bag, seal the bag, and throw it in the trash. A better option lets nature do most of the work and does not require the use of plastic trash bags. Simply tear open the web and let birds and animals feast on a tasty snack! I used this approach last year and it worked great – my yard has very few webs this year. For more information on web worms, check out this useful guide.

Bag worms are another pest that is making its presence felt right now. Unlike web worms, these guys are hard to spot because they are small and their “bags” look sort of like little pine cones.
bag worm, garden pest and gardening tips from 2 Green Acres
Although these worms are often found on pines and other evergreen trees, I found one on a crape myrtle. They can do significant damage, so it is important to remove them if you see them. The best method for getting rid of bag worms is to remove them by hand and dispose of them in a sealed plastic bag. Bag worms are about to start their mating season (sounds exciting doesn't it?), so now is a great time remove them, before they have time to reproduce. More information on the fascinating life of a web worm can be found here.

Bag worm photo credit: Justin D Miller

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fall Vegetable Gardening Failures

Maybe I am not cut out for Fall vegetable gardening. I am not sure I have the right personality for it.

I am a bit of a procrastinator. Or, perhaps a nicer way to put it is, I spend a lot of time thinking before I actually get to the doing.

That is not as much of a problem in the Spring. First, I am so excited to finally get outside again, I can’t wait to get to planting. And, if for some reason, I am slow to get moving, I have a lot of time ahead of me. Who cares if the peppers go in a couple weeks late? There is still plenty of growing season left and I will get my peppers sooner or later.

Not so with Fall gardening. Now, I am racing against time. Get the plants in the ground early enough so that you can harvest before the first major frost. If you delay a couple of weeks, you better hope for a late frost.

In early August, I decided I needed to start thinking about my fall garden. By then, I was already overdue to plant broccoli and some other plants. Oh well, no matter, I don’t really like broccoli that much anyway. So I put together a list of vegetables I would plant. On that list was peas, which I have never grown, but my husband loves.

So on the day that the peas are to go into the ground, I go to my local nursery. Guess what? The middle of August is not the best time to buy vegetable seeds. So no peas this year.

Still, I planted lots of spinach, some lettuce and some radishes.

Last year, I also tried a Fall garden. The seeds would sprout, but then would die because of the brutal August heat combined with not enough watering (the mature plants were fine, but the seedlings were much more sensitive).

Now we get to my second personality defect – laziness. I can water the garden once a day, but more than that? I just don’t have it in me. And these little seeds need more than that. Unlike last year, the seeds didn't even seem to sprout (except the radishes – thank goodness for radishes). After a couple of weeks, it was clear that they weren't going sprout. So what happened? Laziness and procrastination got together and let things go for a couple more weeks.

No seedlings in the fall vegetable garden at 2 Green Acres

Finally, this weekend, I decided to try starting the seeds indoors. I had all the supplies, so there was no reason not to wait so long, but….

When I looked at the planting charts again, I realized I have now missed the window for lettuce, and so now, I am down to planting spinach. My hope is to grow the seedlings inside for a few weeks and then transplant them. It will be my last chance at a fall vegetable crop this year.

Second attempt at seedlings for the 2 Green Acres fall vegetable garden

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bay-wise garden tour - September 19

native plants and native flowers in the garden
Bad gardening practices can have a significant (negative) impact on the Chesapeake Bay. To address these issues, the Maryland Cooperative Extension developed a "bay-wise" gardening program that is designed to teach people how to garden in a way that helps protect the bay.

Individual homeowners can have their yard certified as bay-wise, gaining points for employing appropriate watering and fertilizing practices, using native plants, etc.

On Saturday, September 19, a Howard County family will open their bay-wise certified garden to the public. While touring this 5 acre property, you will learn principles of low-impact, bay friendly gardening. In addition, Chesapeake Natives will be on-site selling native plants.

And did I mention it is free? I think it will be a great event - here are the details of the tour and more information on bay-wise gardening.

Be sure to check it out. And don't forget the Native Plant Seminars at Irvine Nature Center later this month.

Photo credit: Randy OHC

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dinners from my garden

This is a great time of year for eating local food. I thought I would share some of the recent dinners we have made from vegetables that came from our garden. Although none of these dinners was entirely from our garden, all of the main ingedients were grown right here at 2 Green Acres.

First up is Baingan Bharta, an Indian Dish made primarily of eggplant, tomato and onion. The eggplant and tomato are from our garden. I look forward to making this dish every summer. Delish!
Next is a tomato onion tart that we took to a neighbor's house for a mid-week potluck. It was a huge hit! The tomato and basil are from our garden.

We also took a cucumber salad to the potluck. Unfortuantely, I don't have link to the recipe, but it is from the cookbook, Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley

And finally (do you sense a tomato theme in this post?), we made gazpacho. No specific recipe here - we started with a recipe from Jaleo, a great restuarant in D.C. and then improvised from there. Terrific!

What are you making with the produce from your garden?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Got cucumbers? Make pickles!

cucumbers from the vegetable garden
This is a great recipe, courtesy of my husband:

If you like good crispy pickles, the kind you find in a good Jewish deli (that are never found in grocery stores), here is a fantastic recipe. It is super easy, and they are great with just about any sandwich. Pickling cucumbers are best but regular cukes work great, too.

The recipe is based on a 32oz jar that you have already eaten the just ok pickles already. Make sure the jar and top is clean.

1. Fill the jar just less than halfway with water.

2. Put in the microwave for 1.5 minutes or so just to get the water hot.
3. Meanwhile cut your cukes the long way into 4 sections. Make sure they are not too long to fit into the jar!

4. Peel and crush 3 garlic cloves.

5. Add 1 and a half tablespoons of kosher salt to the water and stir until it is dissolved.

6. Add ice cubes to the salt water in the jar and stir until the water is cool. The jar should be just less than 2/3 full.

7. Add the garlic, and if you like, fresh dill to the water.

8. Then put the cukes in and put the top on. The jar may overflow somewhat when you put the cukes in depending on how many you put in, so you may want to do this in the sink.
Local food - cucumbersPut the jar in the refrigerator for 2 days and give them a try. They will keep for at least a week. Let me know how you like them!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Native Plant of the Month - Joe Pye Weed

Maryland native Flower - Joe Pye Weed I want to start profiling native plants that are great for use in a backyard and also have wildlife value. August isn't the best month to start such a profile - there are few plants that shine in the dog days of August.

However, Joe Pye Weed is an exception. A tall, graceful plant, Joe Pye Weed has beautiful purple flowers, and is loved by birds and butterflies. Some varieties of Joe Pye Weed can grow up to 10 feet tall, but there are smaller varietals (such as "Little Joe") that are only 3 feet in height.

When I see Joe Pye Weed in its natural setting, it is usually on the edge of woodlands, in partial shade. However, it also grows well in full sun. Different varieties can have different water requirements - pick the one that works for your yard.

Maryland Native Plant - Joe Pye Weed
These pictures were taken at a golf course, illustrating that Joe Pye Weed (despite it's unfortunate name) can be perfectly at home in a manicured yard.

I want to include Latin names with all of my native plant recommendations, because the same plants might have more than one common name. Of course, the first plant I pick has a complicated and evolving naming structure. Most commonly, Joe Pye Weed is any purple flowering plant that starts with Eupatorium. For more details on its Latin names, check out this article.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Look - a bunny in the garden

Earlier this week, my husband called me and said there was some sort of animal in our vegetable garden. Now, this was surprising, because we have the entire vegetable garden fenced. The fence is primarily to keep deer out, but we thought it was also keeping everything else out.

Unfortunately, he could not get a good look at the critter, which was hiding in our pumpkin patch, but he guessed it was either a baby ground hog or a baby rabbit. How sweet, I thought, but it better not be eating my food!

When I got home, we went to the garden and looked for the animal, but it was nowhere to be found. Then, on Friday, I was working in the garden, trying to clear out some of the pumpkin vines which are threatening to take over the garden. And guess what I saw - a baby rabbit!

baby rabbit in Maryland home vegetable garden
To give you some perspective, these are small pumpkins about 6 inches across. After taking a few pictures, I did not have the heart to kick it out of the garden, so I decided to let it stay.

baby rabbit enjoying local food in Maryland organic vegetable garden

The next day, however, it was gone. Clearly it has figured out a way to come and go as it pleases. So far, it does not seem to be doing any damage to the garden, so I am willing to let it stay.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why native plants are important

Native Flower - Echinacea - Purple ConeflowerOver the last several years, I have become more and more focused on native plants. In some ways it is hard for me to explain - even to myself - this relatively new passion. But when I think about it, there are three primary reasons I am so committed to native trees, shrubs, and flowers:

Native Plants support biodiversity. Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home (one of my new favorites - see this blog's side bar) has done some amazing research on how plant life supports insects. What he has found is that natives support exponentially more insects than non-native species. Although many of us could do without insects, we need them if we are going to have butterflies, birds and other "cute" wildlife.

Native Plants are easier to grow and maintain. Natives are perfectly adapted to our climate, and so they need less care and maintenance than most non-natives (invasive plants might be an exception). Unfortunately, that doesn't mean native plants require no care - they still need to be planted where they can get the right light and water requirements, but they are easier.

Native Plants give us a "sense of place". Just as I like to eat in new restaurants and shop in new stores when I travel to a new area, I also like seeing plants and gardens that are unique to an area. I don't want to live in a world where every place looks like everywhere else. Using native plants in our yards is one way to preserve our sense of place and make Maryland look like Maryland, and not California, or Maine, or Georgia (although all of these places are lovely).

What about you? Why are you interested in native plants for your garden?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Baltimore Sun article on local food

Check out this great article in the Baltimore Sun on local food. It includes one of my favorite resources for local, humanely raised meat, Springfield Farms.

Some of these people go to extraordinary lengths to buy local food - including one woman who said she has not been in a conventional grocery store for years. I am not sure I will ever be that "pure", but it is great to see more and more people interested in local food.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Saturday at the Farmer's Market

Lettuce, local food at farmer's market
Colorful tomatoes - local food at farmer's market
Squash, zucchini, watermelon, local food at farmers market
Rasberries, blackberries, peaches, local food at farmer's market My favorite time of year - so much great produce at the Waverly Farmer's Market.