Archive for June, 2008

Bring ’em on!

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Wisconsin has seen some record rainfalls in the past month. We are in the drainage basin of the Rock River, which eventually empties into the Mississippi River by Rock Island, Illinois. The huge rains contributed to flooding of the Rock and its tributary rivers and creeks, a lot of the flooding was extremely severe and damaging. Many of the farm fields around us still have acres of new ponds, three weeks after the worst of the rains.

What the rains and floods also brought were an onslaught of mosquitoes, really thick hordes of mosquitoes. They are pretty nasty when one walks out the back door, but much worse in the garden. It would be suicidal to try to do any garden work without protection.

I refuse to use the chemical insecticides. If you are not aware, the science for commercial chemical repellents came out of development of poison gas. The stuff that is banned by the Geneva Convention, and is a true crime against humanity, like most things related to war. Commercial repellents have been known to give people shakes and tremors, so why risk it?

I’ve tried the natural/organic type repellents and even tried home made formulae, but when you’re sweating in the garden, the mixtures lose their effectiveness pretty quickly. And with the heavy infestation this year, the repellents aren’t good enough. So I depend on mechanical protection as the best way to allow me to get some work done.

The picture is me just coming in from picking two and a half quarts of strawberries. Long pants, a light-weight, hooded windbreaker snugged up tight, a baseball cap with a visor to keep the mosquito netting from touching my skin. Netting does no good if any part of it is up against the skin. The impermeability of the windbreaker helps a lot. Mosquitoes bite right though T shirts and other cotton shirts. It’s not the most comfortable get up when it’s hot, but it works very well. I don’t cover my hands when I’m picking. Just brushing them through the strawberry plants offers quite a bit of protection.

People like to discuss who has the worst mosquitoes. Minnesota is famous for theirs, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan cranks out some notoriously bloodthirsty types, and in almost any place that produces mosquitoes the locals will try to tell you that theirs are the worst. I would have to say that the meanest, biggest and most numerous I’ve encountered were in Alaska. I got a free summer vacation in Alaska while I was in The Army. The mosquitoes were very large and they traveled in huge clouds. I’ve never seen any as bad, elsewhere.

Up until the advent of the West Nile virus, upper North American mosquitoes didn’t pose much of a health threat to most people. That’s changed, a little. I think the threat is still pretty small, but I don’t let myself get bitten if I can help it.

Spotty Boxes's Gravatar Wow! And I moan when I have to put up with a drop of rain whilst collecting strawberries.
# Posted By Spotty Boxes | 7/18/08 9:11 AM

All We Are Saying is Give Peas a Chance

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

It’s been gardening on the run for me, this year. Too many garden shows on weekends. I’m late on getting almost everything into the ground. I’m not giving up, however. While you can’t say it’s never too late when it comes to gardening, you certainly can push things well beyond normal guidelines and often get away with it.

When I was growing up in Warren, Michigan, an elderly widow named Rose Martin, who lived in Detroit, gardened a quarter acre lot behind my house. She would take the bus in the early morning from her house to Detroit’s famous Eight Mile Road (the dividing line between the city and the suburbs), and walk the last mile and a half to her property at 9 1/2 mile and Ryan Road. Sometimes one of her sons would give her a ride, but she took the bus more often than not. She worked her garden almost every day. She would haul water from our house and she would wash up at our house at the end of the day before heading back to Detroit.

She would not get started on her garden until around Memorial Day and she would take until the fourth of July to get her planting done. She had a huge productive garden, and she fed herself and her married sons’ families as well as quite a few neighborhood kids who filched tomatoes and cucumbers and other fresh vegetables from her unfenced lot. My brothers and I were not among the guilty kids, as we always had a pretty good garden of our own and we respected Mrs. Martin.

Mrs. Martin often told us that she could plant everything on the fourth of July and still have a decent garden, and she proved it year after year. I hope I’m ahead of that schedule this year but I still don’t have my corn in, nor my beans or potatoes, or lots of other stuff. But I’ve been late with all of those before and still had a good harvest.

I was over a month late on peas. I like to get them in mid-April, but it was May 23rd before they got seeded this year. If it doesn’t get too hot, I’ll be okay. Last year I changed my trellising system to what you see in the picture. I have 18 rows of peas going across the bed. I’ve got six varieties of peas, three rows of each. I have 9 rows of T-posts 26 inches apart. Today I strung up 24 inch fencing between the posts. It works extremely well. It’s easy to reach in to pick the peas, and the fencing offers plenty of grabbing surface for the pea tendrils. Most importantly, it’s very windproof.

This year I’ve laid down rows of greens between the pea rows. The plan is to get some lettuce and other greens and have the peas keep them somewhat shaded. Everything is looking good right now and I’m pretty sure I can count on some good salads well before the Fourth.

Linda MacPhee-Cobb's Gravatar Now that is a cool headline. Down here in Houston, the peas have come and gone for the year as have the tomatoes. Nothing to do now but water and wait for cooler weather.
# Posted By Linda MacPhee-Cobb | 6/15/08 6:26 PM
Noel's Gravatar I don’t expect Texans to be envious, but it’s 67 degrees F at 2 PM, wth highs in the upper 70s for the rest of the week. It may stay cool long enough for the peas set up okay.
# Posted By Noel | 6/16/08 3:44 PM