Round 2 with the Garden Pests

It’s not to the level of Ali-Frazier, Cubs-Cardinals or even Nicki Minaj-Miley Cyrus, but the battle is on. The garden pest I struggled with last year is back. In case you need a refresher, here’s last year’s post on the pooping bandit.

Rocks in Hole

Not so foolproof plan

At the beginning of the Spring, the ground near the garden was sunken in from the tunnels or home the pest had dug next to the garden. I figured we outsmarted it when we (okay Steve) filled in the area with stones and multiple layers of dirt. Problem solved!

It took most of the summer but the holes and sunken area have returned. I have a feeling the pest will keep coming back so I’m not sure whether to just worry about protecting the garden or to try eliminate the pest completely.

NC Garden SpiderAnother pest I’ve been dealing with late this summer in the garden and around the house is the guy to the left. It looks very scary and dangerous and possibly even poisonous, right? That’s what I assumed when I saw it camped out over the garage side door a couple of weeks ago. The web got so big and thick that we could no longer use that entrance into the house. We had to use the automatic garage door instead.

After a few days of not being able to enter the house where we wanted, one evening I turned the hose on and pointed the jet and all my fury directly at the spider for several minutes. Finally it fell out of sight. I was proud I had taken use of our door back. Later I did find out the spider was harmless.

Sam was staying with us and the next morning when he came out of the side door he asked where the spider was. And he asked again that evening. I told him the spider had found a new home. He concluded it was just out hunting for prey and would be back. I was impressed that he knew about the predatory habits of spiders but felt bad about lying to a small child. Who knows, maybe spider did find a new home in my garden.

Four Gardening Lessons from My Father-In-Law

My in-laws came to visit from the U.K. a couple of weeks ago. We had a great time in their week-long visit. They enjoyed seeing the small towns in central North Carolina and even attended their first baseball game. I think my proudest achievement is converting half the family into baseball fans.

Steve and Steve 25 years from now

Steve and Steve 25 years from now- Photo by Michael Torbert

My husband likes to say his dad knows everything. I didn’t believe him for years, but after this visit, I’m finally starting to think my husband is right. Even though I’ve improved nearly everything I’m doing over last year, there are things my father-in-law said I should have done or should do differently.

Compost pile- I thought my compost pile was the correct dampness. According to my father-in-law, steam should rise from the pile when you turn it in summer. It turns out mine was bone dry. I’ll need to purchase a compost solution or a worm farm to get the decomposition going.

Strawberry plant with offshoots and new roots

Strawberries- My strawberries are still growing even though there isn’t actually any fruit. I should pinch off the new growth and replant the growth and its root so as not to take energy from the original plants. This means twice as many plants or more for next year!

Tomato plant two stalks

Tomato plants– I wondered why my tomato plants weren’t growing any fruit on the bottom half. While they were first growing, I didn’t pinch off the new shoots. I ended up with at least two main stalks on each plant instead of one strong one. If I had  known what to do while the plants were growing, I could’ve gotten twice as many tomatoes. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about it now.

Deeper roots– All of my plants need deeper roots. The garden boxes are about 12 inches deep, but that is not enough. A winter project will be to build up the garden boxes so I can add more dirt and plants can have deeper roots for next year.

I was disappointed to find out I’m still doing a lot of things wrong. But on the bright side, year two is better than year one. Year three will be even better than this summer.

I hope my father-in-law’s never ending reservoir of knowledge will benefit you as it has for me.

The Gardening Struggle is Real

Basket of garden vegetables

Basket of garden vegetables

My basket is getting full! The cucumbers and tomatoes are producing consistently now. Looks like the perfect makings for a cuc and tom salad.

Sadly, I may not get many more cucumbers after this. Someone in the household who is not me or the cats (but shall remain nameless) staked poles in the ground so the cucumbers could grow upright. I thought the cucumbers would do better growing on the ground where the vines would have room to spread out.

Well, after getting to full size, the cucumber plants didn’t have enough support and started buckling. One plant shriveled like 50 Cent’s net worth, another is barely hanging on and the third appears to be holding it’s own.

It seems I have problems keeping everything in the garden healthy at this point each summer, once the weather really heats up. And to be honest, keeping my interest in the garden as well. Believe me when I tell you the struggle is real. Relaxing with a beer in the AC vs. tending to the garden. Luckily the garden has won each time.

The Best Laid Plans…

You probably noticed a break in posts in the second half of June. Or at least my 10 dedicated readers did. (And I appreciate you all!) I was on vacation late in the month and had the best laid plans of blogging while I was away.  You know how it goes when you bring workout clothes on vacation telling yourself you’re going to use them and never do? Well, I did that as well. But now I’m back on track with working out and gardening.

Apparently it stormed a lot in North Carolina on my 10-day BBQ road trip across the deep South and Midwest. I had someone coming over to water the garden on days it didn’t rain. I assumed the plants would be fine because they had plenty of water but I came back to this on my cucumber and tomato plants:

Cucumber plant leaf damage

Cucumber plant leaf damage

Spoiled tomatoes

Spoiled tomatoes








I’m not sure what happened to the cucumber plant in the time I was away. I sprayed more organic pesticide on the leaves since it looks like pests were eating them. I figured the tomatoes stayed on the vine to long. So that’s an easy fix.

If you think the holes in the leaves could be the result of something else, let me know. I’d appreciate your advice!

Slugs Aren’t Picky About Their Beer

In looking for ways to get rid of slugs, I found out something very interesting. Slugs love beer! Their fondness for the alcoholic beverage has something to do with being attracted to the yeast. Even though I find slugs repellant; I found them slightly less so when I realized we have a love of beer in common.

The organic pesticide spray I used a couple of weeks back wasn’t quite doing the job. It didn’t do anything to prevent slugs from chomping on my strawberries, so I had to find a new strategy. This is where the beer comes into play.

Someone needs to learn how to pour a beer properly

Someone needs to learn how to pour a beer properly

I dug two holes deep enough in the middle of my rows of strawberries for small plastic cups. I filled the cups with beer we had in the fridge that Steve and I had both refused to drink. So oatmeal stout it was for the slugs.

Apparently, slugs aren’t picky about their beer. When I went back a couple days later to see if the the cups of beer worked, I found several dead slugs in each cup. Success!

When I informed Steve of my victory, he asked if the slugs were drunk or dead. I told him the slugs probably got drunk before they drowned. I felt a little bad for the critters, but it means that I get to enjoy the strawberries in my garden instead of them.

Below is a picture of the slugs post-bender. Don’t scroll down if that kind of stuff grosses you out.

Cup full of beer and slugs

Cup full of beer and slugs



Blame it on Flat Stanley!

Flat Stanley in downtown Raleigh

Flat Stanley in downtown Raleigh

A good friend of mine asked for help with her daughter’s class project on Flat Stanley. My role involved taking pictures of him in various locations and sending the pictures back. I admit that I had a great time with the assignment.

Flat Stanley in the garden

Flat Stanley in the garden

Flat Stanley even helped me in the garden. Unfortunately, since he was so new to gardening, he made a fatal error with one of my tomato plants.

Tomato plants need extra support when they get to a certain height or they won’t grow upright. My plants had flopped over so I knew it was time to get out the stakes and anchor the tomato plants with string.

In his excitement while tying the first support, Flat Stanley stretched the tomato plant a little too much and snapped the plant in the middle. So my pretty tomato plant ended up looking like this:

Broken tomato plant

Broken tomato plant

Blame it on Flat Stanley! If you don’t want the same thing to happen to you:

1. Be very gentle when pulling the plant towards the stake.

2. If you feel any kind of resistance, stop.

3. Hold the plant very carefully with one hand and tie with the other. It’s even better if you can get someone to help you either hold the plant or tie the string to the stake.

4. Don’t let Flat Stanley help you garden.

Predictably, the top of the plant died. I had to cut it off, so now it’s half the size of the others. I’m hoping the plant will grow back or at least produce some fruit from what’s left.

Veggie Gardening Virgin lesson learned.




I’m Blaming It All on the World Cup

I took an unplanned break for the garden. I didn’t intend to, but between going out of town, my birthday and some fabulous World Cup games, the garden fell by the wayside for a week. Now I’m regretting it. So yes, I’m absolving myself of any responsibility for the state the garden is in and placing the blame squarely on the World Cup.

It only happens every four years! How could you not stop to watch the 32 best football teams on the planet, especially come the knockout rounds? I’ve chosen to use the correct term for the sport instead of the American term for anyone who may be confused. The announcers are rubbing off on me.

So this afternoon I visited the garden for the first time since early last week. It ‘s rained a few times since then so I wasn’t concerned about the garden lacking water. But one of the watermelon plants was completely withered and sitting on top of the soil. A couple of areas in the large box had been dug up. Once I poked around, I discovered ants, maggot like creatures and small, round balls which I guess are eggs of some kind. Weeds are starting to proliferate in the smaller box.

I’m down to two watermelon plants, three cucumber plants and either a few carrot plants or weeds. I have to admit the garden is looking rather sad. SJ showed me one of his friend’s pictures of their garden on Facebook. It was lush and green. And I was green with envy. (Bad pun intended.)

I’m going to look at this unintended break as halftime and use it to regroup. I’m going to do a better job of staying on top of what’s going on in the garden and tending to it. The fence around the garden is still in the works. I sprayed the ants and other bugs with a vinegar and water mixture I found online. So hopefully that will help get rid of them. I’m going to do a second planting to see if that produces better results. I’d really like to have some produce to enjoy out of the garden this summer.

We’ll see how the second half of the summer goes with the garden. If you have any advice to share, please send comments, ideas, etc. my way!

Gardenin’ Ain’t Easy

Much like pimpin’, gardening ain’t easy. At least for a beginner. Well, remember when I said that the garden wasn’t much work at this stage? I was wrong, very wrong.

I’ve been watering the garden regularly and monitoring plant growth. I think most of you know about the pest that’s been visiting. I’ve come up with a solution for that problem. The next free weekend I have, I’m going to build a fence around the garden.

The other issues I’m having are an ant invasion, possible drainage issues, and soil erosion in the smaller bed.

I was fixing a hill that had been dug up this weekend. When I was turning the soil, I noticed something that looks like larvae crawling around. I’m guessing it’s ant larvae, but I could be wrong. One non-harmful solution I’ve found is a mixture of vinegar and warm water. You spray it at the edge of your garden and on any mounds you find. The mixture doesn’t affect the plants and is supposed to get rid of the ants. I plan to try that this week.

Late last week I found something funky growing at the edge of the larger bed. I was pretty grossed out by it so I pulled it up before I thought to take a picture. I thought it could be a fungus. We’ve been getting a lot of summer storms and rain lately so the garden bed is pretty much saturated. Whatever it was hasn’t popped up again, but I’m keeping a close watch. If the bed isn’t draining properly, I’ll have to create a drainage system.

Since the heavy rains last weekend, the soil in the smaller bed has become compacted. The mounds are much smaller and I’ve discovered rocks that were hidden under the hills previously. When I first set up the garden, I put most of the purchased soil in the new bed. The smaller bed mainly had the original clay-like soil. I meant to go back to the store and get more soil and compost, but never got around to it. I’m adding that to my to do list as well.

On the bright side, the cucumber plants in the smaller bed and the watermelon in the larger bed are growing well. Take a look:

Cucumber plants in smaller bed

Cucumber plants in smaller bed

Watermelon plants in larger bed

Watermelon plants in larger bed