Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fighting with BUGS.

The other day, R said to me “You are becoming a real farmer.”

I hope to become a farmer – I know I can work in our garden only summer tho.

To become a professional farmer, the person required to have knowledge of chemistry, bugs, relationships of all kinds of bugs and plants, weather, etc, etc! I do not understand why farmers tend to be looked down upon as a occupation. Their knowledge is practical and useful as well unlike people who deal with non-practical ideas and get high salary. It does not make sense.

R and I discussed briefly having a chicken in the garden as a patroller of pests and I would love to, but it is not our reality now, maybe next year or a few years later. Right now, we have Que to find rodents. She seldom attacks them, just watch, though, I really do not want her to have a contact with rodents since they carry diseases, but it is good to have a cat to discourage them to live in our garden. It is amazing she seems to scan her environment very quickly and detects small movement on the ground that humans are not aware of.

We found a vole thanks to Que. I have not seen any voles after that, and have not had any damages. Just in case, I ordered peppermint oil to repel voles or mice.

Since I am popular among mosquitoes, I minimize to expose my skin as much as I can. Only my hands and face are exposed in my “farming” style. I wear long pants, long socks, T-shirt + arm covers, a towel on my head + hat. It is really hot, but as long as taking water often, no problems. I found it is very nice to feel breeze in soaked T-shirt by sweat. It takes me to a refrigerator from sauna within a second, and I can look forward to the next breeze. Exciting, isn’t it.

Arm cover (below).

And, cotton snood around my neck.

I found this is very useful to wipe sweat. Unlike a towel, it stays around my neck while working and just rotate it when the part attached to the neck get wet. I thought this is an excellent idea, so made some for sale and listed on etsy :) They are made with Japanese tenugui, cotton face towel. Cute, isn’t it?

My morning begins with a morning coffee served by R, Que, and R. Que often stays around the backyard and watches me working.

She often stays inside of the sun room as well. I cannot blame her since it’s so hot outside.

A few days ago, we had R’s birthday which is the day of harvesting the pumpkins being ready to cut.

The sizes of pumpkins are smaller than the one we had last year. I think it is because the one last year naturally began to grow from compost at where the pumpkin determined as the good place and the good time, but this year’s ones were planted where and when I liked. In other words, the last year’s one chose where and when to grow, but I chose the environment for this year’s ones.

I have some tomatoes this year that came out naturally and they are growing much better than the ones I planted. Even in the same bed, naturally growing ones and planted by me ones are growing differently. So, I expect to have a good crop from butternut squash and melon that came out from compost as well as the tomatoes this year. It can be said the same for flowers as well. It may be interesting to have a garden next year that is totally unknown what will be growing, but only the compost knows :)

So, about fighting with bugs as the title says.

I have an acquaintance who has a PhD with stink bugs. When I heard about her some years ago, people including me wondered “why stink bugs”? I see stink bugs in a house every winter but I did not mind it since they are harmless. They sometimes surprise me by flying loud or walking on my desk, but that’s it. This year, I realized stink bugs are pests for gardens.

Vegetables come from gardens and there is no garden without bugs. Bugs are everywhere, and millions of kinds of bugs are playing their roles in the ecosystem. We cannot live without bugs even pests since beneficial bugs feed on pests (adults or larva). Many people just do not realize how bugs are important for our life. But at the same time, we need to protect our food from pests. Using pesticide is not an option at all from the beginning of my garden life since it screws up the balance of the ecosystem by killing beneficial bugs and bacteria together, which makes the soil dead. It is just like a lie – one lie generates another lie to cover the first lie -, once the ecosystem balanced off, it keeps falling apart and the system itself collapses.

I do not control the population of the pests in my garden until I see the warning sign of my crop is destroyed. See first if beneficial bugs can take care of the pest and if not, I have to do something. I noticed that there are not many wasps around our garden this year. Wasps are necessary in a garden as they are predators that feed on many kinds of pests.

Tomato Hornworm that was able to grow large without a presence of wasps. This guy was really big as it reminded me of a pig. It intimidated me when realized to be attacked by swinging its body and the dance was strong enough to shake the tomato plants itself. It also sounded teeth to threatening me.

Harlequin stink bugs can destroy entire crops if not treated, in the turnip green and mustard green bed.

I was initially picking them by chopsticks and drop them into soapy water. But it appeared to me the population is large and I need to do something else. I did some research and learned the best trap for stink bugs introduced by Virginia Tech university research group as the best trap.

According to the research group, stink bugs are attracted to the light and dive into the soapy water in the pan directly. Unfortunately, it did not work for me. Since I realized stink bugs do not bite or sting, I started to catch them directly by my hands. Also, every time I pick the vegetable to eat, I often found a group of eggs on the back of leaf, so I was able to eliminate 50-100 future harlequin bugs every day. I now think their population is under control.

I did not know I actually took a good strategy without knowing about the harlequin bugs. Many farms seem to plant turnip greens and mustard greens for the bugs to protect the main crops such as kale, tomatoes, and squashes. Apparently, they eat most of plants, so giving them a home to stay and burn the bed when the population becomes large.

Another bug – Squash Vine Borer.

They live inside of vine of squash family such as pumpkin and zucchini. I did surgeries three times to take the larva out from pumpkin vines.

One of the plants survived, one is still alive, and one was dead but still left a pumpkin.

This is my second year of managing the vegetable garden, and is bringing me a lot of new experience. I hate to see my plants die due to these bugs, but this is merely a process of wild nature. There is a reason for plants to leave a lot of seeds for the next generation, that is because most cannot make it. I admire a plant that was able to grow big after so many possibilities of being abused by the environment.

I would be able to do better next year with my new experience from this summer, and I look forward to the next year already.