The Return of the Squash Bug! (Cue Horror Film Music)

Here in Central Indiana, there is one thing that is a near-certainty for every garden: the inevitable infestation of the squash bug. Each year it never fails: your summer squash plants are gigantic and producing like crazy. And then one day, you might notice a handful bugs. The next: a few more.

The next day? Your once-beautiful squash plant is crawling with bugs, and the entire plant has died, apparently overnight. Not only can they do a crazy amount of damage to squash plants, but they can also attack other cucurbit varieties (cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins).

 

Photos courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension

So what can you do about these evil little jerks? We decided to take a very scientific survey* to find out what area organic farmers and gardeners do to beat squash bugs into submission. Since this issue will likely befall your garden at some point, we thought we’d share everyone’s feedback here for future reference. Enjoy, and may your squash plants live long and prosper!

Tips for maintaining your squash plants – and sanity – against squash bugs, straight from Central Indiana farmers and gardeners:

  • “So far its daily physical intervention, inspecting leaves, removing eggs, and adults, and treating with Diatomaceous earth around base of plants where they hide. Dr. Bronner’s castile soap with peppermint will work mixed with water and sprayed directly on insects. You can also use floating row covers early in season (you will have to pollinate yourself).”
  • “I pull all leaves with eggs or midges on them and throw them in the trash. The chickens seem uninterested. I second, or third, the drowning them in soapy water method. Hand picking seems the best way.”
  • “I recently purchased a book called “The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener.” The author, Tammi Hartung, is great and one of the ways she suggests repelling squash bugs is to sprinkle black pepper around the plants. I haven’t done this yet but did spray the plant with neem oil mixed with dish soap. That has helped.”
  • “I have a spray bottle filled with soapy water and cayenne pepper and spray the leaves. So far it’s kept them off this year. If I find one I just squish it. Same with the eggs.”
  • “Transplant as early as possible is my tip. Squash bugs are inevitable.”

Have you had issues with squash bugs? What’s your favorite method of saving your plants?

 

*”Very scientific” means we asked our Facebook friends – but, hey, many of them are organic farmers and gardeners with extensive firsthand squash beetle experience.

Advertisements

Hello, Soil. Pleased to Mulch You!

This morning, we were lucky to have a visit at the garden from Kevin Allison, urban soil specialist with the Marion County Soul and Water Conversation District. Kevin is a wealth of knowledge, and we are looking forward especially to doing some fun things with cover crops this fall at the garden, using his guidance and expertise.

Yes, we get excited about things like cover crops around here. Hey, they are really cool! Cover crops = happy soil = happy plants = less work for us = more delicious veggies.

Kevin also had a really great, really simple tip for our gardeners and anyone growing their own produce: add a light layer of straw to any exposed soil in your garden. As your seeds and seedlings go in the ground, the straw keeps moisture from wicking out of your soil and has a moderating effect on soil temperature. Both of these things limit stress on your plants, make your life easier, and help your plants focus their energy on growing awesome produce for you and your family. It also adds more organic matter to your soil.

And as temperatures broke 80 degrees here in Central Indiana, conserving water and protecting plants from heat will be increasingly important!

18194747_1936161073328256_3441717121288637003_n

Kevin will be leading a FREE educational workshop, “Healthy Soil, Healthy Garden,” for us in conjunction with the seed library at Glendale Public Library on Sunday, June 11 from 3-4pm. Please come geek out over soil health with us!

18199111_1936161093328254_6687329257380452246_n

18058021_1936161109994919_4092022576652910311_n

And Just Like That, the Garden Is READY… Thanks to Our Neighborhood Friends and Supporters!

Did you know that 10 cubic yards of compost would equal somewhere around 120 wheelbarrow loads? Now can you imagine the backbreaking effort it would require to move all of that from the parking area at Arsenal Park through the grass to the garden?

IMG_20170323_172533_711

It is impossible to overstate how much two amazing neighborhood partners helped us out this weekend. For the second year, local landscaper Robert Sickle and neighborhood business partner Hoosier Tools have lifted our load immensely. Thanks to them, our gardeners who finished the job, and some beautiful weather this morning, our garden beds are now ready to be planted!

Please help us thank our neighborhood partners who made all of this possible: 

  • Huge thanks to Hoosier Tools, who for the second year in a row donated the use of a Bobcat, allowing us to move our load of compost from the parking area to the garden. They even covered the gas, which was incredibly kind. Thanks to Stephen Lee for this generous donation (317-466-5060). Hoosier Tools has all kinds of items available for rent, especially for all your spring garden and home projects.
  • Local landscaper Robert Sickle (317-224-8184) spent his Friday afternoon commandeering a Bobcat and moving 10 cubic yards of compost to the garden, which saved us from the backbreaking labor of moving it my wheelbarrow. Robert does beautiful work and provides free estimates – call him today! And thank you, thank you, thank you again.

IMG_20170325_190539735

  • GreenCycle not only provided us with absolutely gorgeous (and slightly discounted) compost, but they also were gracious about our need to move our delivery date back a week due to weather.

We simply could not have created this garden without the help and support of people like Robert Sickle, Steve Lee at Hoosier Tools, and the fine folks at GreenCycle – not to mention the gardeners who came out this morning to get this beautiful stuff into all of our beds! What a beautiful way to spend the day. Thanks to all!

IMG_20170325_125421_679

IMG_20170325_125246_429

IMG_20170325_125013_486

 

 

 

GARDEN 101: Decode your seed packet and begin planning your spring garden

Spring has sprung, the grass is ‘ris. I wonder where the birdies is!*

It’s the first day of spring, and here in Central Indiana, the buds are popping out on the trees, and we are itching to dig in the dirt! But when should you start? What should you plant? And hoe? I mean, how?

DECODING YOUR SEED PACKET:
The secret to finding out when and how to plant your garden? The seed packet.

Here’s an example of the amazing amount of information contained in just one little seed packet. Key things to pay attention to:

  • Days from planting to harvest and recommended season (front of package)
  • Planting information (depth, spacing)
  • When to plant and recommendations for indoor seedling starting vs. outdoor direct seeding (really, this and the depth/spacing information tells you everything you need to know to get started)
  • Date packaged (the germination rate, or the number of seeds that will successfully sprout, decreases with age, but don’t chuck your seeds from the last season or two! Just plan to plant extra seeds)

For those new to gardening, sowing seeds directly into your garden beds can be such a beautifully simple, rewarding way to plant. You might be surprised at how many crops grow wonderfully just from dropping seed into soil (and actually prefer it), particularly some of the more cold hardy crops planted in early-spring or later in the fall.

Some of our favorites, which we will start seeding sometime in mid- to late-April:

  • Lettuces
  • Greens like kale, spinach, chard, and collard greens
  • Root vegetables like carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips
  • Cabbage
  • Peas

THE NEVER-ENDING HARVEST
The cool thing about lettuces and greens: once they start growing, you can harvest them forever (or in the case of lettuce, until it gets too hot and the plants bolt, or go to seed). With lettuces and other delicate greens, just give them a “haircut” when harvesting, trimming off what you plan to eat and leaving the bulk of the plant and center leaves in tact. Come back a week later, and you won’t even be able to tell you trimmed them.

With greens like chard, kale, and collard greens, harvest the outermost leaves, breaking the entire leaf and stem off from the primary plant stalk. Always leave several of the innermost leaves in tact, and your plants will continue to grow and produce. These types of greens are cold hardy, but they will also last through the heat of summer!

(This is maybe one of the dorkier things I’ve ever searched for on YouTube, but if you’d like to see the technique for harvesting chard, kale, and collards, check it out).

BUT WHEN DO I PLANT WHAT?! MEET YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND, THE GARDEN CALENDAR
Okay, so we’ve identified some cooler weather crops above, but what about our heat loving plants, like tomatoes, squash, peppers, delicate herbs, and other more exotic plants?
The biggest thing: you’ll want to learn your average last frost day (in the spring) and your average first frost day (in the fall) to understand your growing season. Here in Indianapolis, we’re looking at the following:

  • Average last frost day (in the spring): Area C – April 26-May 5
  • Average first frost day (in the fall): Area F/G – Anywhere from October 6-October 25

Again, a good place to start is your seed packet OR check out the following amazing references:

ONE LAST THING…
One of the funnest things about gardening is uncovering your own gardening philosophy and seeing how it aligns – or differs – from what you consider to be “you.” 

For a beginning garden, consider purchasing some of your plant starts. And on that note, here’s your shameless self-promotion warning:

  • The Keystone-Monon Community Garden is hosting a seedling sale on 4/23 from 10am-4pm at Indy Urban Flea, 1225 E Brookside Ave, Indianapolis!
  • Come pick up a few of these beauties, grow your own food, and support the garden, a completely volunteer- and community-driven endeavor!

*Every spring, this pops into my head. It was one of my late, great grandmother Mildred’s favorite quotes each spring. Grandma Farm, as we called her, also had the most amazing backyard garden in the south suburbs of Chicago when I was a kid!

Meeting Minutes and ONE MORE BED Available at Arsenal Park!

Minutes are now available from last week’s organizing meeting! What a productive, awesome get-together: not only did everyone get as many seeds as they could use, we made huge strides in getting ideas for our educational workshops and community gatherings. We will post a full calendar of events soon!
16730407_1895512140726483_7527977347671576969_n
JOIN THE FUN THIS SPRING – Join a work group! To accomplish our goals in 2017, we need your help. Any in our community are welcome to join our planning team, even if you aren’t gardening with us! Contact us at kmcommunitygarden@gmail.com to be part of our community.
  • Education and Community Gatherings Team: Plan social gatherings and educational workshops throughout the growing season. Work with lead organizers to line up speakers, set calendar, and advertise events to the community.
  • Construction and Site Maintenance Team: Make design suggestions and plans for future site development (must be approved by IN City Parks). Work with volunteer team to establish regular work days and bigger construction events as needed.
  • Fundraising and Partnerships Team: Seek out funding sources, donation drives, and in-kind partnerships with assistance from lead organizers.
  • Volunteer Management: Organize volunteer days to work in the garden and serve as point of contact on work days (will likely work with construction/maintenance team closely).

16640694_1895512154059815_7050948159572851094_n

APPLICATIONS: We have one more garden bed available! 

  • All garden beds will be assigned by early March 2017. If you are interested in gardening with us, submit your application and waiver ASAP to be added to the waitlist!

Garden With Us This Summer! Applications Now Available

The time has come to apply for a garden plot at the Keystone-Monon Community Garden’s future location at Arsenal Park!

Please note that this is a PRE-REGISTRATION; by committing your interest, you also commit to helping build the garden this year, whether that be building beds, moving soil/compost/mulch, donating to our fundraising campaign, or helping with raising funds and building partnerships.

Full details, including application form, waiver, and garden rules, can be found HERE.

Not only will your interest help us identify who can help build the garden, this will also inform our first-year garden design by giving us a clear picture of what the community demand is for garden beds. 

A few key points:

  • The garden is still in the planning stage; we hope to begin building the garden at Arsenal Park (46th and Indianola) by the end of June. We will need everyone’s help to accomplish this!
  • Garden plots will be FREE this year since our timeline for completion is dependent on a number of external factors. In lieu of a small season fee, you commit to assisting with building the garden (building raised beds, moving soil/compost, building partnerships, etc.)
  • Those who help build and care for plots this year will have first priority next year. 
  • Garden plots will be assigned on a first-come first-serve basis.
  • Be sure to also complete the participant waiver (one for every member of your family) and review carefully the rules and regulations.
Please submit your application and participant waivers by June 14 to KMComunityGarden@gmail.com. Let us know if you have any questions, comments, or ideas; this is our first time doing this, and I am sure there are many things we will change and tweak before next year as we learn and grow together.
Let’s get growing!
Christie, Sara, and the entire KM Community Garden design team