It has been a full 3 weeks since I have posted, and let me say it has indeed been a FULL 3 weeks! Work, family, teaching math, fun with my sweetie in Asheville, and trying to keep up with the garden, let alone write about it.
I think I will start where I left off last time.
Purple leaves… They are doing fine!
Last post I had shown some pictures of my seedlings, disturbed by their leaf color. A lot of them were purplish, yellowish, bluish… just weird-ish. I had read about it being from nutritional deficiencies, but I really suspected the new grow lamp. It was the only new factor. It has eight bulbs and I had them all turned on. With my newer seedlings after that, I turned off the middle four lights. So far, no repeat of the purple leaves! Anyway, below are a few pictures of their progress after transplant. Yes, I know, they all look the same, but there are subtle differences. I will add to the descriptions when I started the seeds and when I expected them to be theoretically harvested, based on the growth rate I pulled from our local garden schedule. I do think that their growth was impeded/slowed by the too intense light, and that I could have (should have) had them transplanted sooner. All good experiential knowledge. But, they are growing and look healthy!
In the middle of August, I decided I was going to give Neem Oil a chance. Now is the time to figure out what works to keep the pests away. At the time, I had a lot of rutabaga and turnips maturing for October harvest, and I knew I need to either cover them with an insect barrier, or use a pesticide (or lose them to the insects!). I want it to be organic. I am still not certain about the insecticide soaps and how effective they are. So I bought the Neem oil, blasting it out on Instagram with pictures of some of my “babies” (i.e. plants…).
Neem oil is absorbed by chewing and sucking insects, and it acts like a hormone and disrupts their systems. The signals don’t get through and so they “forget” to eat, to mate, and their eggs don’t hatch. I sprayed every seven days for a few weeks. I did see some holes where insects had nibbled, but I had to accept that. They have to eat to get the oil into their systems.
After our trip to Asheville, I came out to check on the rutabaga, and it looked like it had been eaten a little bit more. After some inspection, I saw that I had caterpillars eating my plants! Uhg! Neem oil is supposed to disrupt caterpillars, and so I wondered if this was going to work…whether I was going to lose all my plants because of some marketing ploy. I also turned over my rutabaga leaves and was horrified. I like watching the Walking Dead and this horrified me more than any zombie. It’s the hard work, really – when you realize all your hard work may just be for absolutely nothing. I like to sometimes imagine that what I grow is all I have to eat, as it was for people for thousands of years. They didn’t have supermarkets and the Coldscape that preserves and provides food for us whenever we want it, in or out of season. People today really do live harvest to harvest.
One thing I had to acknowledge, though. Was I careful in spraying under the leaves as directed? Was I fully saturating the leaves and area? I had to say No. So I mixed up some more and sprayed immediately. The next morning I mixed up some insecticide soap for caterpillars and sprayed that as well. A week later and I checked the rutabaga. The leaves actually looked a little better. I lifted one and turned it over. There were still some little bugs there, but they looked dry and maybe dead. So, I think the Neem oil indeed worked, and that all those bugs above were just hanging out, waiting to die. Again, good experiential knowledge.
I did find some very beautiful looking caterpillars munching on my carrots. Yes, they are monarch butterfly larva, and for that reason I did not squish them outright. I should have kept one or two and fed them some lettuce from the store or something, but I just threw them over the fence. MY carrots.