Friday, May 13, 2011

Plant Parenthood: Flea Beetles! AH!

The epic wrath of this adorable pest is upon us.  Yesterday, my kale and arugula seedlings were sad looking with tiny holes in the leaves, so I leaned in for a closer look and saw my tiny enemy.  They look cute especially since they jump like little sprites but make no mistake - They. Will. Kill. Kale.  And many other things.  But that kale of mine must live!  

So I found some solutions using the trusty interweb:
  • Water and Fertilize - enough water and the right conditions give the plant the best chance of surviving and overcoming the stress of a pest.  Some research has shown that flea beetles may not like leaves after they've been treated with fertilizer, so a sprinkle of dilution of sea kelp and water could do the trick.
  • Trap Cropping - interplant what you're cultivating with Giant Mustard or Radishes.  The beetle will eat them instead.
  • Row cover - reemay or the like
  • Sticky tape . . . super high tech.
  • Nematodes
  • Infuse water with garlic, onion, and mint and spray on plants - another potential repellant

They will not win.

Plant Parenthood: Sheet Mulching

From what I understand, organic gardening is really all about the quality of the soil, and when it comes to our garden, the soil is our biggest challenge.  Clay soil abounds in urban gardens in this county and our yard is no exception.  The dirt is heavy, mostly lifeless, and full of large-ish rocks and walnut shells from the Black Walnut tree in our yard.  Black Walnuts are an amazing thing to have at your disposal, if you have the motivation to harvest them and crack them open, but after struggling with our tomatoes, we found out that walnut shells contain juglone, which is poisonous to tomatoes and many other plants.  The largest concentrations of the toxic substance are in the nut hulls, roots, and buds, so even though our garden is not directly under the tree, our plants are still susceptible because the squirrels carry those walnuts around everywhere and like to drop them into the garden for safe keeping (jerks).

Pesky black walnut hulls.