Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Deer... I do not love you!

I know deer eavesdrop on my conversations.  I thought I won the battle against deer, but they must have decided  I was too sure of my victory against them, and they started eating my garden as if the electric fence that surrounds my property did not exist.  Almost daily, now, I see deer in the yard, and I see their white mop-like tails defiantly wave at me as they clear the fence in one jump. 

My poor apple trees!  There should be leaves all the way down the  branches.



Deer aren’t the only pests attacking my garden, and even if you don’t have deer, you probably have six-legged critters that munch on your plants.  I saw no potato bugs this year, and harvested 84 pounds of nearly perfect potatoes a couple of weeks, but they usually try to destroy my potatoes. 

One of my helpers.  Digging potatoes is a treasure hunt!
If you have potato bugs, which are little orange bugs that defoliate potato plants, knocking them into soapy water is a great way to dispose of them safely.  Knocking almost any insect into soapy water will kill it; just make sure you correctly identify it as a pest first. 
My other helper.  These girls know where potatoes come from!


I giggle to myself as I knock Japanese beetles off my blackberries, grape vines, apple trees, and roses into a bucket of plain water to give to the chickens.  I call it “chicken bobbing for apples” because I set the bucket of water in the midst of the hens, and they gleefully consume the Japanese beetles so they can, later, turn them into eggs.  See a video of this here. It’s best to pick Japanese beetles and other insects that fly to escape capture in the morning, when the dew remains on the plants, because they can’t fly well when their wings are wet.
 
I avoid using chemical pesticides, and I never apply pesticides to the entire garden.  Whenever I apply pesticides, chemical or organic, I apply them to kill a specific pest that I have identified correctly.  Whatever pesticide I apply can also kill bees and other beneficial insects, and spraying the entire garden will kill all insects. 

Most of the time, pests I attempt to control with pesticides are eating the leaves of the plant, not the blossoms, and bees visit the blossoms of the plant and have incidental contact with the leaves of the plant.  I can also wait until the plant has stopped blooming, because bees will stop visiting the plant when it has stopped blooming, and apply pesticides then. 

Japanese beetles are devouring my grapes.  The plants aren’t blooming anymore, because the deer ate the blossoms and many leaves.  The poor plants began to grow new leaves and now Japanese beetles are eating the new growth.  The chickens have enjoyed several episodes of “bobbing for apples” with those beetles, and I applied diatomaceous earth, a naturally occurring pesticide made from fossilized diatoms that works by dehydrating insects, to the leaves.  If the Japanese beetles persist in their attack on my grapes, I may apply a chemical pesticide, because if I don’t stop the beetles the plants may die.
 
I use Sluggo® and containers of beer to drown slugs and snails, and I use Bacillus thuringiensis, or BT, to kill caterpillars.  I pick off large tomato hornworms, the scary-looking, but harmless to people, green worms that can defoliate tomatoes and feed them to my chickens.  Correctly identify caterpillars; Monarch butterfly caterpillars eat parsley, but I allow them to eat my parsley so that I can enjoy butterflies later. 

How is your garden?  


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