first encounter with cabbage worms

Just now, I took my daily walk of the garden. Normally, my walk is very calm. Lots of “yay! another onion sprouted” and “finally! the radishes appear” etc., etc. But today, I did a double take next to the leafy greens bed.

Cabbage Worms 1

What the **** is going on here?!

Yesterday, no holes. Today, the leaves look like swiss cheese. And not just on my red cabbage, but on my broccoli, cauliflower, and even the collard greens!

A bit of Googling “holes in brassica leaves” helped me figure out that perhaps cabbage worms were to blame. Still not sure, I ventured back to the garden with a heavy heart.

And then I spotted these little bastards.

Cabbage Worms 2

I mean, look at this. FIVE worms on the underside of my poor red cabbage.

It was not my finest hour, let me tell you. I said many words that I will not repeat here.

It’s good there were no children around.

Cabbage Worms 4

As promised, I spied both the hatched bright green caterpillars and their yet-to-hatch, bright yellow, oval-shaped eggs. (Which you can barely see if you click on the picture of collards below – the bright yellow spots on the underside of the leaf in the center, near the stem.) I still have yet to spy any white moths fluttering about the garden, though.

Regardless, there were many, many deaths. But it was quick – the swift but sure squish-them-against-the-wooden-side-of-the-garden-bed method.

I’m still hoping that my plants will be able to pull through. But I’m still on the lookout for these little *****.

Cabbage Worms 3

.

In the end, they ran from me. I think they knew the end was coming.

gardening, fish or cut bait edition

Fish or Cut Bait Gardening 1

So remember what I said earlier? How I have no experience with ANYTHING having to do with gardening? Keep that in mind. Because of my insane nerdspaz tendencies, I own FOUR gardening books. FOUR. I had yet to plant anything (beyond the seed of doubt in my mind that any of this will be remotely successful, of course) until this past Sunday. I’ve probably spent more time on Google in the past few months than the people who WORK at Google. If there was a show for information hoarders, I would star in the first episode.

As I mentioned, last weekend I dug up all four of the garden beds, and also spent a few hours looking like an uneducated stalker at the local Southern States and nurseries. Seriously, I went to TWO local nurseries, and TWO different Southern States. And I asked for people’s opinions at every single place I went. At one of the nurseries, a woman implied that I might be biting off more than I can chew for my first year of gardening. (Actually, there was no implication. She straight just said, “you’re biting off more than you can chew.” I left after that.)

I stopped asking people for help after that.

Thus, my “fish or cut bait” title — which is really the Politically-Correct-Food-Blogger Version of another less-than-popular colloquialism that I decided not to use because I’m too classy because I was afraid people would be offended. Basically, I figured it’s time to stop asking questions and just DO SOMETHING.

Fish or Cut Bait Gardening 2

I think, out of sheer terror of not having a plan of attack, I’m going with the Square Foot Gardening technique this year. It’s good for newbies like myself, and it keeps you organized and such. I figure later on, once I get my bearings, I can change it up if I see fit. So at 4 beds each measuring 8 feet by 4 feet, I have… 132 squares to fill with plants.

My first thought was something along the lines of, WOW THAT’S A LOT OF SQUARES. Which was also my husband’s first thought, although our interpretations were somewhat different in a very men-are-from-mars-women-are-from-venus way.

Me: “Wow that’s a lot of square feet. Shit, I hope I can grow at least ONE tomato or else I’m going to look like a total ass.”

Brad: “Wow that’s a lot of square feet. I bet we’ll grow so much, we can sell the extra tomatoes to the neighbors for $6 a pound.”

Um, no, husband. You can go inside now. Go sit inside with your high expectations. Go sit inside where I can’t see you.

Anyways, here’s what has gone in so far:

1 square of lacinato kale (planted from seed on Sunday 3/4/12)
1 square of spinach (planted from seed on Sunday 3/4/12)
1 square of red cabbage transplants (planted Thursday 3/8/12)
1 square of mustard greens transplants (planted Thursday 3/8/12)
1 square of cauliflower transplants (planted Thursday 3/8/12)
1 square of broccoli transplants (planted Thursday 3/8/12)
1 square of arugula transplants (planted Thursday 3/8/12)

Have you ever heard the phrase “fake it till you make it”? I’m thinking I’m going to officially name my garden the “Fake It Till You Make It Garden” since I basically have no idea what I am doing. Case in point – transplants, how do you plant them? I heard somewhere you were supposed to tease the roots away from the ball of soil, so that’s what I did.

It’s been a week, and theoretically my spinach should have sprouted, but we did have a two nights with below-freezing temperatures this week, so I’m just going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’ll show up soon. It makes you wonder about using wooden greenhouses sometimes. The transplants look much the same as the day they left the nursery, except now they’re in the ground.

Tomorrow I’ll plant beets, radishes, leeks, peas, turnips, and rutabega. And then after that will come carrots, lettuce, onions, and even some seed potatoes… whenever I figure out when to plant them.

thoughts from early march

One of my goals with the new house was to start a garden. We’ve never lived in anything but an apartment, and sadly, those two apartments came sans backyard, sans front yard, sans balcony for pete’s sake. The extent of our gardening experience was receiving one of those Aerogardens for a wedding gift.

So, back in October, I guilt-tripped my father and brother into coming over to help me put together four raised garden beds. I would have done the beds all by myself, but I own neither an electric drill (yet) or enough muscles to screw two large pieces of wood together (probably never). For the record, I ended up using non-toxic-pressure-treated wood to make my raised beds. I mean, I would have loved to use pure cedar or some other naturally-non-toxic-won’t-warp-in-Virginia-monsoon-season wood, but I would prefer to only have my name on ONE mortgage document this year. I know everyone harps on never using pressure-treated wood because the chemicals will leach into the food that you’re growing, which makes perfect sense. But the wood we bought apparently doesn’t have the crazy chemical that regular pressure-treated wood has on it, and it was only like, $1 more per foot. It will totally suck if one day I wake up with an extra arm and you guys will be all, I TOLD YOU SO CARTER. And I will be all, you’re right, but think of all the awesome things I can do with an extra arm, you know?

Next: Dirt. We needed dirt. I ordered 6 cubic yards of a 50/50 topsoil/compost blend, which was delivered to my backyard, and which I shoveled into each of the four beds. Shoveling 6 yards of dirt makes you freaking ripped, by the way. Also sore. I think I barely moved for a week after that.

Of course, after all this work, it was the end of October and therefore too late to plant anything for the fall season… I think. (In hindsight, this winter was so mild I probably could have at least planted some mixed lettuces and they would have been fine but, hey, you live and you learn.) So I basically let my beds sit untouched for about 4 months until this past week, when I dug them up. Theoretically I could look at those 4 months of doing nothing as a waste of time, but I opt to think of it as time to let the nutrients of the compost and topsoil work. (Read: I am rationalizing my laziness. So what.)

So I dug up my raised beds. Added compost and composted cow manure and mushroom compost and something called “greensand,” per the local nursery’s recommendation. I moved around lots and lots of dirt. I’ve been asked how to become a real estate agent. I listened to music on my headphones while I moved dirt. I got blisters on my thumbs from where I moved dirt. I ordered gardening gloves so I could move dirt more effectively.

And I enjoyed it.

Sort of crazy when you think about it, I guess.