Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cucumber Vine Supports

A number of you have been curious about the supporting structure of my cucumber vines shown in the last post.   This is an easy way to save valuable garden space when growing something like cucumbers that have many long vines that can quickly overtake a large area in the garden.  

The supporting structure is a 16-foot-long cattle panel.   My husband cut one section of horizontal wire off both short ends of the panel, which allows about a foot of wire to be pushed down into the edge of my raised bed and the other end pushed down at the base of our game fence.  The panel is carefully bent over... definitely a two-person job because it wants to spring back straight.  We have it wired to our game fence in several places to make sure it is securely attached.  

I have had this set-up for several years now and it works great. It allows me to plant the cucumbers at the very inside edge of my raised bed, saving most of the remaining bed space for other plants. The cucumber vines stay off the ground and there are no problems with stepping on the vines trying to get to all the cukes.    

Notice the cattle panel bent down on the right, next to the game fence.  The ends of the cattle panel are stuck down into the ground and the cattle panel is securely attached to the game fence by wires.

It is easy to pick cucumbers from underneath the structure. 

The vines grow up on the game fencing.  It is impossible to get anything to grow down... growing down is NOT the way things work in the plant world!

One of many nice, round, lemon cucumbers!

I will have an organic pest control and fertilization workshop this fall.  Come on out and we'll be happy to show you this set-up in person and answer any questions you may have.  Workshop dates should be posted on the "Classes and Events" page of our website late September or early October, and will also be posted in the September or October monthly email newsletter.    

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Power of Beneficial Insects

An organic and sustainable garden/landscape/farming operation can take care of itself. Mother Nature has crime fighters that are ready, willing, and very much able to take bad bugs down.    

It is extremely rare for me to have any type of pest or disease problem.  I've been gardening organically since the late 1980's, and here at the herb farm since 1996 when we bought the property.  The longer someone grows organically the less likely they are to have a problem, but last year my cucumber vines developed a big pest problem.  Within just a few days my cucumber vines went from lush and green to this:

Lots of dead and dying leaves... a very sad sight

I have so few problems with pests that I don't know a mite from an aphid, so I can't tell you what attacked my cucumber vines.  It was something almost microscopic because I couldn't really see any bad guys.  I couldn't see them but their damage was painfully evident.  

I don't use any sprays or pest deterrents at all, not even those labeled organic.  I let nature take its course and I'm prepared to lose a crop if that's the course nature wants to take. Even though the damage was severe I was fairly certain that justice would prevail and the many beneficial insects I have around here would come to my rescue.  To be totally honest I wasn't 100% certain in this case because of the severity of the problem, but I was probably about 90% certain.  So I kept my fingers crossed, my camera ready, and within a couple of days here come the troops:

Beneficial insects to the rescue!

Lady bugs (lady beetles, actually), dragonflies, green lacewings, flies, and more came in droves to take care of the ugly situation.  And take care of it they most certainly did.

It was a period of 18 days between the picture at the very top showing lots of damage to these two pictures directly above and below.  Lots of new leaves have filled in nicely where the damage was done.  

The beneficial insects moved in and completely took care of the problem.  I did absolutely nothing except document it in pictures.  

I have had people tell me they are organic unless they have a bug problem.   If you spray, dust, or apply pesticide in any way you are NOT organic!  Furthermore, not only are you killing the bad bugs but you are also killing the good bugs that kill the bad bugs!  

Organic growing is not an overnight solution.  It takes time, it takes patience, and it takes the knowledge that at some point (almost always within the first couple years of swearing off pesticides) you will lose a crop to bugs.  But don't give in.  Giving in will take you back to the beginning of your organic journey.  Be patient and be kind to the beneficial insects that will make the journey worthwhile.   Trust me.