Spooky Action Ranch Report | Week Twenty-three 2015
June 1st to June 7th, 2015
Blight on the Cowpeas
The wet cool spring is continuing to negatively impact the garden. Our tomato plants are struggling with brown spot, which seems to now have spread to the cowpeas. These cowpeas are Good Mother Stallard Cowpeas, an heirloom variety which gets high praise from gardeners generally. You can see that the plants have been doing quite well, they have grown quickly and overtaken the trellising system I installed (6 foot tall a-frame). The plants are putting on fat pods that look like they contain about six beans each. I was very hopeful for a good harvest of beans this season, but then the yellowing of the leaves started.
The yellowing begins close to the ground, and is apparently the result of a fungal or bacterial infection similar to or possibly the same as the brown spot on the tomato plants. It most probably infects the plant when raindrops splash on the ground and strike the lowest leaves with the fungus or bacteria. The infected leaves must be removed and steps should be taken to delay the spread of the infection. There are many methods to use to try to slow the movement of the infection, but all of them contain some risk either to the health of the plant, the over all garden, or those who might later eat the beans! Obviously we won’t even consider the later options which fall in the category of chemical fungicides and would be most decidedly not organic or sustainable.
Other options include spraying the infected and surrounding leaves with a solution of wettable sulphur or the insecticidal soap water spray. They also have their problems. The sulpher, of course, is poisonous to human’s too, although the amounts used to make a spray are pretty small. The real problem with sulphur is the same as the reason it will work to keep the infection in check, it is an indiscriminate fungicide. It will stop the fungus growing on and killing the leaves of the cowpeas, but it will also damage or kill the fungal life in the soil which supports good soil health and the health of the same plants. The same basic problem arises with the insecticidal soap spray, which will kill any soft-bodied insect you hit with it, good or bad. The effect of the insecticidal soap, however, is short lived, as it is only effective while wet, which makes it a better option, especially if you seek and destroy your pests, rather than spray universally. In the case of the fungal growth on the cowpeas, however, it is the weakest choice and will only be marginally effective and therefore require multiple applications.
For these reasons I have decided to forgo any spray and will go with a removal technique in hopes of staying ahead of the blight.
Remember the Stink Bug?
I found a bundle of Stink Bug Eggs this week, while examining the brown spot on our cucumbers. Apparently the female stink bug can actually alter the color of the eggs depending on location to help them blend in with the surroundings. Stink bug eggs on the underside of leaves will be light or white and those on the upper more green side of the leaves will be darker. I haven’t seen this personally. This picture shows the eggs pretty well, which are laid in neat little rows. I never like to destroy eggs I find until I can positively identify them, since I don’t want to inhibit any of the beneficial insect populations. If I don’t immediately know whose eggs they are, I will bring them inside and either find a way to identify them or wait until they do hatch in a controlled environment and hope to identify the larvae or nymphs when they come out.
Ladybug eggs, by the way, look like little yellow footballs stood up on end together and the Lacewing leaves little fuzzy eggs on the end of thin web-like stalks. Those two beneficial’s eggs are pretty easy to identify, and most other eggs I might find in the garden will turn out to be pests. This can make egg hunting a pretty rewarding experience, since I can make sure they have a happy little accident before they even start to do damage to my plants.
Our farm cats Zoe and River are pretty lucky cats, even if I do say so myself. We brought them home from a friend’s unexpected liter and raised them together to be our companions and keep pests away from the house. They are just over two years old now, and you will notice that they are frequently featured in my photos. They like to chill in the garden with me while I work, which I let them do once the plants are big and strong enough to survive an occasional lounge (seedlings don’t bounce back from a cat nap too well!) and they will complain to me the whole time when I keep them out. As they have grown, the differences in the personalities of the two sisters have become much more pronounced. Zoe is clumsy and curious while River is shy, graceful and very cautious. Once they hit their ‘teen years’ this started leading to squabbles and fights, although none of them too serious. They continue to have occasional disagreements, but mostly they chase and wrestle for fun, these days. Still, its now relatively rare to see them snuggle together, so I just had to capture and share a picture of them napping together this week.