Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On The Hill Again

While the teaching, demonstration and community space on the top patio is looking fabulously green and exploding with happy plants, the hillside could use a little TLC in the next couple of weeks.

While we have intentionally allowed many cover crops to go to flower and attract beneficial insects, we have been keeping a close eye on pests and pulling invasive and problem vegetation with a quickness. Last week, we discovered a few rogue tomato plants and cosmos that had self seeded and popped up through the vetch and grasses. Since we've got a few months before formal construction on the next phases of the garden, we're going to go ahead and plant a few things in the flattest areas. So far we've put in a flat of pumpkins (courtesy of our friends at the St. Mary's Garden Club) and some Sungold Cherry tomatoes.

The areas of the hillside just below the top patio are growing dense with parsley and sprinkled with a few happy apple trees. Closer to the base of the hill, we've got some strong strawberry plants and berry bushes. All these hidden treasures could use a little help in terms of clearing weeds from the immediate areas around them so if you are hanging out this summer and looking to break a sweat, stay tuned to the blog for additional volunteer sessions and plantings. Right now we are looking at getting an early start this Thursday May 31st at 2:00pm.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Harlequin Bug = Pest

While we appreciate biodiversity and interesting insects, this particular one - the Harlequin Bug, Murgantia histrionica - is one of the top pests in our area. Bad news bug. So if you  happen to pass through the garden and see an adult (pictured), eggs or nymphs (visible on the Grow It Eat It site here) please feel free to relocate them to the farthest dumpster! 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Summer Hours?

Hooray summertime! For those of you who will remain in the College Park area during the summer months, we would love to continue hosting volunteer hours to keep on growing the garden. Last summer we had so much work to do, we met twice a week. This summer we may be able to manage with just one session. What works best for you guys? Weekday evenings? Or weekend mornings? Sticking to the same Thursday hours?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Good luck on finals!

It sure has been a beautiful spring semester at the garden! We'd like to wish all of our volunteers good luck on finals this week and thank you again for your regular support, hard work, and time contributions that helped the garden grow into what it is today. The project and plants flourish because of the nurturing spirits of College Park students like you!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thursday Volunteer Hours

We have a lot of work to do during our Thursday (May 10th) work hours this week but we've also got a lot of ripe strawberries for our hard-working volunteers to pick and eat! Come on over between 4:00-6:00 pm to help us weed the rain garden, stake tomatoes, snuggle praying mantises and prepare a bed, and then enjoy a little spring harvest with us. We've got dill, chard and cilantro to share too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Square Foot Gardening

Gardening Infographic
Source: http://frugaldad.com/

Beneficials Wage War on Aphid Army

After losing nearly our entire squash crop to a blanket of squash bugs in the summer of 2011, we here at the Public Health Garden always keep an eye out for "bad bugs" and work to manage their populations quickly and carefully by hand.

We've learned that the sooner you see these little buggers, which at this time of year in our garden are mainly aphids, the better chance you have at keeping them under control. We've also learned that we have quite a few allies in the war against aphids.

One is our dear friend Jon Traunfeld, State Master Gardener Coordinator, Director of the Home and Garden Information Center and Extension Specialist. When we sent him some photos of our aphids, he shared his expert advice on how to cope with the infestation and put up this informational blog post.  

Another ally in the management of aphids are the beneficial beetles commonly known as Ladybugs (Coccinellidae). The Grow It Eat It blog recently posted a few interesting factoids regarding the Lady Bird Beetle, one of our most beneficial insects. During their larvae stage they are very focused on gobbling up aphids! See one in action in the photo above.

So how do you get beneficial insects in your garden? For starters, if you have aphids, they will come! According to Traunfeld (and our own observations at the garden) the ladybugs will find their own way:

"Several species of lady bird beetles are native to MD. There is no need to buy them; they will come find your aphids. Plus, purchased beetles often disperse from your garden instead of making it their new home. Adults and larvae eat aphids but adults also feed on nectar and pollen so plant a bed of some of these beautiful flowering plants to attract and conserve the lady bird beetles in your area: mountain mint, anise hyssop, thyme, oregano, basil, dill, yarrow, aster, marigold, zinnia, alyssum, phlox, bee balm, milkweeds, borage, salvias."

Read the full post here. And come on down during volunteer hours, every Thursday from 4:00-6:00pm to witness this exciting battle of the bugs!