Friday, September 19, 2008

September Plant Friends

One curse of digital photography: I took 200 photos on our trip to Monterey. 200 photos take a while for me to sort through, improve if possible or necessary, and generally decide what to do with. So long that I'm just not posting about the trip itself. I just don't like posting without the evidence. Soon.

But now lets get to the plants. Before we left I had a lot of time to get our place settled and think about the garden. My last Plant Friend Update mentioned some spider mite incursions, which didn't really fall back after the second neem treatment. I also started to have problems keeping the basil bug-free. So I pulled out the big guns, the carnivores.

These little beauties were just $6.99 for over 1,000 at Walter Andersen's. They have a variety of carnivores to chose from, and their staff will help you choose. I went with the Ladies because they love spider mites, but also eat a variety of other pests. Mark helped me release them on well-misted foliage at dusk, and they just went to town. Plant happiness ensued.

So with such healthy little guys I felt okay leaving them on their own for four days, and it was a perfect opportunity to try something I'd read about a while ago on thekitchn. All I needed was some jute twine (and if you know me well you know I've got twine), a big tub, and gravity. Cut a bunch of twine and soaked it in a large (preferably orange) tub of water, placed higher up than the plants you intend to keep moist. Soak them until they sink.

Then cut off lengths of twine long enough to string them from the bottom of the tub to each plant, plus a few inches. I used a little ramekin to keep the twine in place at the bottom of the tub, but I'm not sure that's necessary. Sting the twine from the tub, burying the other end a few inches in the soil near the base of each plant.

Chopsticks helped me get the twine down without disturbing the soil much. There are a few variations. You can double-up for plants that want more water and push the string down deeper for plants that have deeper root systems. I hooked this up for each strawberry, basil, the thyme, brussels sprout, and the tomato. And it worked great! When we got home the plants were happy and the twine was still wet.

I gave everyone a good watering when I left but the cilantro seemed to be officially done. Since I was going to harvest the seeds for spice, I let it stay in the ground 'till it was a little crispy. I didn't want it to start seeding itself while we were gone, though, so I cut the whole thing down. Now, I had to find someplace to dry it AND collect the seeds in our overstuffed apartment. Enter more twine.

Mark had this great box from his last trip to the alcohol emporium, across which I stretched one of our few remaining plastic bags (oh! sometimes they're useful), which I taped in place. A few pieces of bamboo provided a frame from which to hang the cilantro. It's not gorgeous, but it's kept everything neat and fit right on the very unused fireplace hearth. Yesterday I went through and squeezed off all the remaining seeds. Delicious.


Sunny Day Tag Girl said...

This post makes me think of your Mom... you guys are so clever!!!
Are those lady bugs???? Around here they are a HUGE problem!!! We get infestations of them each FALL and battle them until the first hard frost. Somehow they manage to ooze into the house and man do they STINK!!! I could have sent you a million of them for FREE!!!!

Love you guys...Kori

Steve and Kelley said...

Well, as your resident engineering geek, let me just say BRAVO! Perhaps you're a closet engineer geek? You demonstrated not one, but two great examples of profound civil engineering. My personal favorite, the siphon! Often done in large scale via pipes traversing hill and dale (or sucking out of your gas tank), this is just a brilliant example of everyday use which I will absolutely be setting up next time we're out of town. I love the use of twine allowing the slow movement of water. And #2 was the construction of the frame. I didn't do so hot in these classes, so let me just say that if it was standing when you get back, then success! This mentality is why I'm not a structural engineer, which is to the benefit of all really. Good post!