Week 8: June 25, 28

Topics:

  • Identifying pests and weeds
  • Noticing things that are unusual
  • Edible weeds
  • Green Mountain Compost

Summary of week’s activities”

  • Mulching the garden beds with hay
  • Potato beetle massacre
  • Weeding, weeding, weeding
It has been a pretty difficult week in the community teaching garden.
It is typical for gardeners to encounter pests and bursts of weeds at this time of year. As young plants begin to establish themselves, they must battle to survive against the competition against weeds and insects. In the CTG we found the marks of flea beetles on our cabbage family greens. These small beetles are common in early summer and feed on radish greens, mustard greens and other brassicas. Because of the profusion of flea beetles, we discussed organic remedies: mint, soap sprays and trap crops. A good preventative is a mixture of organic peppermint castile soap.
We also identified the yellow orange striped cucumber beetle. Cucumber beetles can cause extensive damage to leaves of young cucumber plants and serve as a vector for bacterial wilt, a serious disease of cucurbits. The larvae feed on roots, causing further damage. Management of cucumber beetles can be difficult as the larvae occur in the soil, and the adult are very fast moving.
The last major pest that gardeners are encouraged to stay on top of is the potato beetle. We found the orange clusters of potato beetle eggs on the undersides of potato leaves as well as young larvae, which we put into a jar with soapy water. If you are feeling especially vengeful, you can just squish the larvae, beetles and egg clusters, but sometimes the soapy water is a bit less gruesome. The best defense against these pests in a small scale garden is frequent inspection of the garden for pests, hand-picking and killing those that are found, and keeping an eye out for unusual holes in leaves or growth of your vegetables. Planting certain herbs and flowers around the perimeter can also act as a pest deterrent, such as basil, marigolds, onion/allium family vegetables. For more information: http://www.pallensmith.com/articles/pest-control-plants/
Students learned how to identify between weeds and young plants, harder said than done!
Gardeners also sampled the two most common edible weeds, purslane and lambs quarters.

On a more tragic and out-of-the-ordinary note, gardeners all around Vermont were struck by the unfortunate news that bulk batches of Green Mountain Compost are contaminated by an herbicide which may make vegetables grown in it inedible. Testing is being done to determine which herbicide is involved and concentration levels in the compost. This is the compost which we used in the CTG, and so we will have to wait to hear back from the results. When we surveyed the CTG, we did find plants with this distorted growth, gnarly tomato leaves and the edges of eggplants curled up.  Until more is known, the VT Health Department is recommenindg that no-one eat food from gardens where this compost was used.

More information can be found here, including pictures showing the growth deformation: http://www.greenmountaincompost.com/all-about-compost/compost-persistent-herbicides-fact-sheet/
Also, if you have used Gr Mountain compost in another garden, please let them know if you see distorted growth in that garden:  http://www.greenmountaincompost.com/contact/report-abnormal-plant-growth/
And a message from Denise:
I know that this is heartbreaking and frustrating, but FBG will find an alternate way to complete the gardening season, if the tests do indicate that we should not eat what is in our current beds.  Jess is looking into container gardens for the CTG.  Also, the peas, first planting of potatoes, garlic, rhubarb and raspberry beds did not have compost added, so those crops will be safe.
I think that this contamination is also thought provoking in terms of thinking about the societal acceptance of herbicides and pesticides in lawn care and the impact that it can have on food producers. In the CTG we are fortunate that we are not dependent upon the production of this food as our livelihoods, unfortunately other farms may not have been so lucky. I hope that our community can come together and find resiliency in response to this frustrating occurrence. Stay tuned and be strong, collaborative and hopeful.
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