News from the Cooks’ Gardens, August 8, 2018 , by Thomas Bolles

On Tuesday, we found caterpillars attacking the leaves of the sunflowers in BB6. I have seen these on sunflowers I’ve grown before but not in the numbers we found. They appear to be thistle caterpillars (painted lady butterfly) – a common pest of commercial sunflower growers. They also like zinnias and other asters, but we didn’t see any in BB7. From what I discovered, the economic threshold for treatment is when the crop averages about 25% damage on each plant. Looks like we’ve spotted them well before they could do serious damage, but we do need to keep an eye on both the sunflowers and the zinnias in BB7 over the next few weeks.

Interestingly, in looking up pests of sunflowers I came across this pub from Extension in Georgia: https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%201118_1.PDF. Sunflowers (and sorghum, and okra) are common trap crops. If we could only find a trap crop for the groundhog…

The groundhog continues to find a way over the fence around the Shed Beds. We’ve inspected for holes in the fence the last two weeks and haven’t found any. Looks like he’s going over the top. Barring the arrival of a ravenous pack of dachshunds or an eagle with night vision googles, I am thinking we may want to try an electric fence. If we could figure a way to run it along the top of the fence, it might discourage the varmit from climbing in general. That may keep it from giving up on the Shed Beds and moving on the Blueberry Beds.

In the Shed Beds the damage continues from the groundhog who has developed a taste for the okra as well as the sweet potatoes and zinnias. There are volunteer pea sprouts coming up in and around SB2 which the groundhog has yet to attack. The tomatoes were also given the usual rodent ‘take one bite and move on to the next one’ treatment but we were able to get several tomatoes from the nuns. Some of our supports are now leaning as the plants are heavy with fruit, though very few are ripe. The rye and sorghum planted in SB4 is starting to poke up through the straw. The crimson in SB1 and SB2 is coming up nicely. Ellen planted vetch by the eggplant last Saturday which hasn’t come up yet. Volunteer potatoes continue to pop up in SB1 and 2.

Cooks Gardens8.9b

volunteer potatoes in SB2

In BB3, the vetch (it was vetch wasn’t it?) Ellen planted has started to come up. Ellen had also put two rows of kale in BB1 on Saturday which hasn’t germinated yet. We talked about cutting down the Vietnamese cilantro later in the season and trying to overwinter in under straw and a row cover after we transition BB1 into Brassicas this fall. In BB2 it looks like the Japanese beetles are finally gone. The sorghum is continuing to mature. The sorghum in BB5 is a little behind BB4 and not all of the plants have fully tassled yet. In BB7 the Mexican sunflower is trying it’s best to cover the entire collumnbarium side of the bed. In the depression between the actual blueberries and BB6-7, we planted 2 tumeric and 3 yaro plants (courtesy of Virginia State Univ). Should you be in the garden and wondering which is which, the taro plants are the ones that look like elephant ear (they are in the same family).

Vegetable Planting Guide for PWC (check dates for fall planting!):

Cook’s Garden Planting Dates (2013)

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