Thursday, April 19, 2012

White grubs attack my blueberry bush

Hardy Jersey bush

Stunted Blueray

Oh no! I found yet another insect species in my garden recently. We added blueberry bushes to our crops last summer. Last week, I was poking around the pots, wondering why our Jersey bush is far more robust than the Blueray. And there in the soil of the Blueray was a wiggling worm-like critter. My first instinct was to ignore it. After all, creepy crawlers are abundant on our terrace. Somehow worms, ants, centipedes, bees, lady bugs and a host of other harmless insects find their way to our 20th floor urban garden. But then, I thought about those nasty horn worms that attack our tomatoes and decided to take a closer look. I plucked the bug out of the pot and as I did, I noticed another. And another. And, well, you get it, a regular infestation. So, I stomped the ones I pulled from the soil and stuck the last one in a yogurt cup, brought it inside and found the culprit on the computer. White grubs. They eat roots and live on a three-year cycle. We're in year two. The last year in the cycle is when they become Japanese beetles. Getting rid of them requires chemicals that could harm bee populations. I'm not going there. Another option is a bacteria called milky spores that kills white grubs when they ingest it. But it can take years to entirely eradicate the grubs. I've been inspecting the pot and pulling out dozens of them. The good news is that each day I find fewer. The bad news is that I've got to dig deep into the roots where they attach themselves for a feast. If they're not gone in a few weeks, there's a good chance we'll just dump the plant and dirt and start over with a new bush. The last thing I want to see next summer is a terrace full of beetles that eat everything in sight!

Culprit: White Grubs eat Blueberry roots

Gruesome collection

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to get rid of aphids

Aphids shimmering in the sun

Last week I got a real unpleasant surprise when I was marveling at the buds already blooming on my rose bushes. Upon closer inspection I noticed some shiny spots on the leaves. And then, looking further, I saw clumps of green blobs, shimmering like emeralds on the stems. I went to pick at them, and squish, squish they went. Ugh! Aphids. Loads of them. With the unseasonably warm temperatures, bugs are coming out in force. There is no alternative but to attack! I quickly got out my spray bottle, put a few squirts of dish soap in it and filled it with water to create a sudsy solution. I then lathered the leaves liberally, especially at the tops where the aphids were concentrated. The simple solution does a lot to get rid of the dreaded insects that will sap the life out of your plants. I followed up with a few more spray-and-washings and then I used Safer Tomato and Vegetable insect killer, which is good against beetles,caterpillars and aphids. I know a rose bush is not technically a vegetable, but I have gotten positive results nonetheless. I have a feeling this season is going to be full of such unwelcome surprises. My advice for gardeners: be vigilant; be very very vigilant. Check your plants daily. Infestations happen overnight.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

This terrace is for the birds

Morning doves in the afternoon
Springtime always brings out the birds. Though morning doves (left) visit us all year long, last week brought the enthusiastic singing of a pair of mocking birds. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will recall my posts about how those chirpy critters stole my blueberries last summer. I think they stopped by just to see how the bushes are doing -- which is actually quite well, already full of buds. We have our bird netting ready for this season, though the birds are pretty good at poking their beaks in and plucking out the berries. They are nothing if not persistent. Another spring visitor, a handsome blue jay, stopped by at about 7 a.m. in the morning. I was startled by his boisterous caw. He took a break on our railing and just had to crow about it, I guess. The Jays usually head further north by May, and so, they don't compete with the mockingbirds for berries. One of nature's small mercies...

Blueberry bush blooming

Friday, April 6, 2012

Urban farming on a grand scale

Urban farming is getting a major boost in Brooklyn as a giant operator makes plans to produce tons of fresh food. Bright Farms will create a massive, 100,000 square foot hydroponic greenhouse on the above rooftop in Sunset Park that will yield a million pounds of produce! It's not alone in farming NYC. Green rooftops are sprouting like, well, lettuce, carrots, radishes and tomatoes. Read the New York Times article for more details.