Grasshoppers & NOLO Bait

A nasty little beast eating the Kale
A nasty little beast eating the Kale

I once read in a gardening book that grasshoppers are usually present but don’t do much in the way of damage.  I thought, “You have got to be kidding!  There is a place on earth where grasshoppers don’t do damage?!”  If there is a place- it is certainly not in Texas.  Here, grasshoppers give a very living example of the plague that Moses sent on the Egyptians.  The grasshopper will eat any vegetation in site and leave nothing but skeletal stalks behind.  And once the grasshopper has matured, poisons will not kill them.

So what to do?  I have found NOLO Bait to be very effective.  NOLO Bait is bran flakes coated in Nosema locustae- a microbial agent that infects only grasshoppers and either kills them or makes them too sick to eat.  This is awesome! Then, the healthy grasshoppers move in and eat the sick ones (grasshoppers are cannibalistic) and then they get sick further spreading the disease.  All the while, no other good bug or bee or humming bird is bothered by this illness.

So how is this accomplished, exactly?

From the website: http://www.goodbug.com/nolobait.html#HowWork

How exactly does Nolo Bait™ work?

Once the Paranosema (Nosema) locustae spores are ingested by the grasshopper they become activated in the grasshopper’s mid-gut. The spores germinate or extrude a filament from the cell wall. In the process of extruding this filament, the spores pierce the mid-gut wall of the grasshopper and in very young grasshoppers death usually occurs very quickly. This is due to septicemia or bacteria invading the grasshopper and causing death. In more mature grasshoppers the spores continue to reproduce, utilizing the fat body of the grasshopper for energy. As the Paranosema (Nosema) locustae population increases inside the grasshopper it becomes lethargic, reduces its feeding and has lowered reproduction capability. In addition, grasshoppers are quite cannibalistic and healthy grasshoppers will feed on their slow, sickly companions. This enables the Paranosema (Nosema) locustae to spread throughout the population and infect other grasshoppers that migrate into the area. Infected female grasshoppers can also pass the infection along in the sticky substance that surrounds the egg pods. As the newly hatching grasshoppers chew their way out of the egg pod they also become infected and will mostly likely die before reaching the first molt.

The grasshoppers love the bran- it’s like crack cocaine for them.  Once you spread the bait out on your plants you will see them feeding heavily.  You will also see a lot of damage in that area to the plants at first.  The picture above is the first area I spread the bait this year and the grasshoppers have fed there the most.  I am now starting to see some damage and more grasshoppers but this bed is just about done, here in Texas is is now hot and the kale is turning bitter so I am leaving it for the grasshoppers to feed on knowing that the sick ones are there and any new comers will eat the sick ones and then spread the disease.  When you garden organically you have to get used to the idea that it is a process, one that takes time to turn the tide.  This is the first year for us at this new place so I may have some problems with grasshoppers, but by being patient I can kill them at the root of the problem while not harming our bees, birds, or other good bugs.

It is best to spread NOLO Bait at the first sign of grasshoppers- when the are about 1/2 inch to an inch long.  At this stage the grasshoppers will be killed by the infection.  However, if you feed it when they are larger you will still infect the population with the disease that will continue to spread for several years.  As you can see, if you start using this bait and your neighbors start using this bait and you put it out 2-3 times per season, you can really do some damage to the populations of grasshoppers in your area- for the long term.  Spraying poisons just kills what grasshoppers are there (if it kills them at all) but does nothing to stop the cycle of the grasshopper.  The use of broad spectrum poisons is a bad process and not an effective management tool.

Kale and grasshoppersThis bed of Kale looks like an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet to the new arrivals, but it is like a loaded gun.  “Come and eat my pretties” it says, but all the while death awaits.  I may seem a bit dark in the way I enjoy death and destruction of the grasshoppers- but once you have watched your gardens be invaded and every leaf stripped bare you realize its you or them.  Nature is a tough place to live.

Add NOLO bait to your arsenal this year, you will be glad you did in the long run. NOLO Bait can be ordered on line or purchased at a feed store or garden center that carries organic gardening supplies.

What is your biggest problem in your gardens?

Just To Be Straight With You..

If you are growing your own greens, such as Kale, Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, Or Chard, I am going to level with you- at some point you are going to find a worm in your pot.  No matter how many times you wash them and how thoroughly you pick over the greens at some point you will miss one.  Don’t worry, the meal is not ruined, just fish the little guy out and dump him in the compost bin. I just want you to know what you are getting into when you start growing your own organic greens.

Probably 95% of the time, the worms on your greens will be cabbage loopers.

Common Name: Cabbage looper Scientific Name: Trichoplusia ni (Hübner) Order: Lepidoptera cabage looper

Description: The caterpillar (larva) grows to be about 2 inches long, is light green and has three pairs of “true” legs behind the head plus pairs of fleshy “false legs” (prolegs) on the 3rd, 4th and last or 6th segments behind the segment with the last pair of true legs (the abdominal segments). This arrangement of legs causes the caterpillar to crawl with a “looping” motion, similar to that of inchworms. Some specimens are marked with light stripes along the body. Adult moths are mottled grayish-brown with a 1 1/2 inch wingspan. Each forewing is marked near its center with a pair of characteristic silver markings: a spot and a mark resembling a “V” or and “8” with an open end.

 

This article from Texas A&M goes on to say that the worms are “medically harmless” meaning that you can boil them in your pot and be fine.  You could even eat one and be fine.  I must say that unless I find myself in the Outback of Australia with Tom Selleck having just been saved from death by the Aborigines, I am not eating worms on purpose.  But, it is nice to know that no one will die if it happens while eating organic Kale from my garden.

You can control the worms organically with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).  This is a bacteria that makes the worms sick and either kills them or causes them to stop eating- which will result in death.  This bacteria only effects worms, so the lady bugs and other “good guys” in the garden are safe and will not be harmed.  But, of course, this should not be used in a butterfly garden as it will kill all worms, caterpillars included.  Bt will also kill tomato horn worms and other pests like these.  Chickens will also control the worms but the downside to this program is that the chickens will eat more Kale then the worms.

Also, you need to know that just because your Kale or other greens may have been chewed on by worms, it is not ruined.  Just pick the munched on leaf and chop it up as usual.  Once cooked, you will never know the difference.

You should be growing greens, by the way.  They are nutrient dense, easy to grow and like cool weather.  This means that in Texas, we can grow the from August/September until May or June.  I have greens such as Chard, Kale, and Spinach in my garden almost year round.  So, put them on your “must have” list for the seed order. You will be glad you did!

KaleDon’t worry about a few holes.  If you garden organically, you will have some.

So, it’s Wednesday or Maybe Eggsday

Which came first- the chicken or the egg?
Which came first- the chicken or the egg?

With all the eggs we are getting these days, egg salad sandwiches seemed like a good choice for lunch.  While I had a carton of eggs out making pancakes and sausage for breakfast I dropped a dozen in the pot to boil.  Jonathan makes a great egg salad, he also is good at deviled eggs and happily eats them straight up boiled.  Of all my children, Jonathan is the most advanced cook for his age.  Savannah is great at pastries, but that is as far as her interests really go.

You would think with all these eggs stacked all over the place- I have 10 dozen in the fridge at this time- that Jonathan would have been busy making such tasty egg dishes.  However, if you have ever tried to peel a boiled farm fresh egg then you would know what a huge challenge this can be and by the time you get it peeled the only thing the egg is decent for is egg salad.  A few months back I began following a gardening blog- Garden Betty- and she posted the most fabulous post about this very subject.  In it she stated that if you poke a whole in fat end of the egg with a thumb tack that the shell will pull away from the egg itself allowing for easy peeling.  I tried it today and it worked great!  To read all about it click this link- Perfect Boiled Egg.

To those who read this I may sound simple minded, but whenever I am cooking and I reach in the fridge and pull out our eggs it just brings me such pleasure!  In their own right, they are beautiful.  With the mixed flock of hens, I have a very mixed assortment of eggs.  The colors range from white to dark brown, speckled and green, small and large- they are all so pretty.  However pretty the outside is, nothing compares with the beauty of the inside.  The yolk sets up nice and high, the color is bright yellow with some being almost neon orange.  The nutrition value of eggs from free range hens is beyond comparison and the flavor is amazing.  It is a very satisfying thing to feed your family with food that you have produced.

Farm Fresh Eggs
Beautiful Eggs

During the course of the day, Tony and I wandered through the gardens.  It looks pitiful now.  These very cold nights have turned the 4 o’clocks, egg plants, tomatoes, and citronella among others to green mush.  The growing season is officially over.  Now it is time for clean up and prep for spring.  Once things are cleaned up I will feel better.  At that time, it will look like a blank state full of possibilities for next year instead of the ugly mess telling me that this year’s fun is over.  I did find it interesting that the Texas Tarragon did not melt.  Looks like it might not only take the heat but maybe the cold as well, we shall see.  The chickens were busy in the garden.  Scratching up a storm, they are busy eating the bugs trying to take cover under the leaves and the larvae for next year’s pests.  What a win/win situation- the chickens eat the pests in the garden and all that bug protein makes for some really great eggs!

Today was the first day Tony has been off in a while.  Urgent Care in Tyler Texas is experiencing a very busy season these days.  It was quite nice to spend the day at home.  Tony, Sierra, and Jonathan had a Mario Kart competition and then we all played a game of 13.

As they hooted and hollered their way through Mario Kart, I prepped the shopping list for our Christmas Dinner that will happen on Saturday.  Our Christmas celebrations usually run for several days.  Many years ago due to Tony’s work schedule and other family traditions, we moved our immediate family celebrations to another day leaving Christmas Eve and Christmas Day open for the extended family celebrations that we all love.  With the Hobbit coming out in theaters this weekend we decided to move the fun up real early and make the movie part of the day.  So, we are really excited about this weekend.  I am excited to get some really large presents out of my closet I can’t hardly get to my socks these days.

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Chickens cleaning up in the Garden
Chickens cleaning up in the Garden

Compost Tea

Compost Tea
For blooms like this, all you need is compost tea. It makes great vegetables, too!
If I had to pick one thing that was essential for a good garden, aside from the soil, it would be compost tea.  Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer, mild insect repellent, and a mild fungicide.  The ease of application and production makes this potion hard to beat.
Everyone should have a compost pile going somewhere on their property.  Even if it is just a pile back in the corner that you add to when the leaves fall, you bag the lawn clippings, or you have veggie scraps from the kitchen.  If you would like more information on composting, see the gardening category at the side.  Down at the bottom of this pile will be finished or almost finished compost.  To make the compost tea, you simply take some of this finished compost and soak it in water. Then you pour off the water in a container, discard the old compost into the garden and you have compost tea.  That is the basic process and it is that simple.
To be more specific, I use a 55 gallon drum, these can be found at feed stores, on craigslist or from folks selling them on the side of the road.  In the bottom of the drum I dump about 3 inches of almost finished compost.  Almost finished means that there is still larger pieces of leaves and hay, but a lot of brown crumbly stuff also.  Then the drum is filled with water and the lid is put on.  Once this sits for two weeks, the tea is done.  This is the basic recipe for compost tea and it will work great.
To enhance the power of the tea, there are a few simple additions I like to put in the drum when I fill it with water.  First, I add a bag of Epsom Salts.  The salt adds trace minerals that are essential for good plant health and blooms.  Next, is a can of beer.  The beer feeds the microorganisms that are doing the work of breaking down the compost and making the nutrients usable for plants.  The more microbs, the more work gets done, the more beneficial to plants the tea will be.  Molasses is also good for feeding the microbs. There are many other things that can be added, such as alfalfa meal, fish meal, bone meal and those are all good, but not essential.  Basically, there is no wrong way to make the tea, so tinker around with it and find what works well for you and your plants.  If you google compost tea, you can find some really complicated recipes and “rules” that must be followed, however, I have been using the above recipe for  several years with great results.  Complicated is not necessarily better.
Once the tea is made it can be applied in several different ways.  You can simply dip it out of the drum with a bucket and pour it on or use a watering can.  My favorite way is to strain the tea through a screen- an actual window screen works fine- and put it in a pump sprayer.  Eight ounces of tea will dilute into 1 gallon of water.  Please remember to dilute the tea, concentrated tea right out of the drum can burn new growth and seedlings.  The 1 gallon sprayer I use is just right for the job.  It is not too heavy to carry and it holds enough to do my flower beds and nursery stock for one week. The fine mist that lands on the leaves is excellent for the plants.
As you can see, one batch of tea in a drum will last the average gardener all growing season.  All that the tea costs you is what it cost to fill the drum with water.  Compare the cost of the tea with a liquid fertilizer you would buy at a garden store and you will see that the effort to make your own really pays off.

Compost Tea

For blooms like this, all you need is compost tea. It makes great vegetables, too!

If I had to pick one thing that was essential for a good garden, aside from the soil, it would be compost tea.  Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer, mild insect repellent, and a mild fungicide.  The ease of application and production makes this potion hard to beat.

Everyone should have a compost pile going somewhere on their property.  Even if it is just a pile back in the corner that you add to when the leaves fall, you bag the lawn clippings, or you have veggie scraps from the kitchen.  If you would like more information on composting, see the gardening category at the side.  Down at the bottom of this pile will be finished or almost finished compost.  To make the compost tea, you simply take some of this finished compost and soak it in water. Then you pour off the water in a container, discard the old compost into the garden and you have compost tea.  That is the basic process and it is that simple.

To be more specific, I use a 55 gallon drum, these can be found at feed stores, on craigslist or from folks selling them on the side of the road.  In the bottom of the drum I dump about 3 inches of almost finished compost.  Almost finished means that there is still larger pieces of leaves and hay, but a lot of brown crumbly stuff also.  Then the drum is filled with water and the lid is put on.  Once this sits for two weeks, the tea is done.  This is the basic recipe for compost tea and it will work great.

To enhance the power of the tea, there are a few simple additions I like to put in the drum when I fill it with water.  First, I add a bag of Epsom Salts.  The salt adds trace minerals that are essential for good plant health and blooms.  Next, is a can of beer.  The beer feeds the microorganisms that are doing the work of breaking down the compost and making the nutrients usable for plants.  The more microbs, the more work gets done, the more beneficial to plants the tea will be.  Molasses is also good for feeding the microbs. There are many other things that can be added, such as alfalfa meal, fish meal, bone meal and those are all good, but not essential.  Basically, there is no wrong way to make the tea, so tinker around with it and find what works well for you and your plants.  If you google compost tea, you can find some really complicated recipes and “rules” that must be followed, however, I have been using the above recipe for  several years with great results.  Complicated is not necessarily better.

Once the tea is made it can be applied in several different ways.  You can simply dip it out of the drum with a bucket and pour it on or use a watering can.  My favorite way is to strain the tea through a screen- an actual window screen works fine- and put it in a pump sprayer.  Eight ounces of tea will dilute into 1 gallon of water.  Please remember to dilute the tea, concentrated tea right out of the drum can burn new growth and seedlings.  The 1 gallon sprayer I use is just right for the job.  It is not too heavy to carry and it holds enough to do my flower beds and nursery stock for one week. The fine mist that lands on the leaves is excellent for the plants.

As you can see, one batch of tea in a drum will last the average gardener all growing season.  All that the tea costs you is what it cost to fill the drum with water.  Compare the cost of the tea with a liquid fertilizer you would buy at a garden store and you will see that the effort to make your own really pays off.

This pump sprayer is perfect for the home gardener to apply the compost tea.