Mary's Veggie Garden

April 21, 2020

4/21/2020 Late April in the mid-Hudson Valley Vegetable Garden

Spring is progressing. Forsythia is starting to leaf out and loose its color. The valley forests show the red or yellow of maple flowers and swelling leaf buds. Fruit trees are in full bloom. Tulips are now open.

This spinach was planted 4 weeks ago.

The last week of April is a busy time in my vegetable garden. I have vegetable seed to direct sow and the brassica transplants are ready for planting outside.

I’ve often been asked if I consider moon phases when I plant. NO! We have good weather forecasts and I study them closely, considering both rain and overnight temperatures in combination with the type of vegetable being planted.

The temperature forecast for the next 2 days is highs in the low fifties with overnight lows below freezing for the next two nights. It is raining today, and more is forecast for Thursday night into Friday.

The brassicas that were ready for transplanting are broccoli, kohlrabi, kale, Napa cabbage and green cabbage. Broccoli and kale are the most cold tolerant of the group and the broccoli was quite large – it was transplanted outside Sunday 4/19. The kale is smaller and can wait.

I like to give the rest of the brassicas a few frost free days to establish roots and fully acclimate to outdoor conditions. I will transplant the kale, cabbages and kohlrabi on Thursday, just before it rains again and when above freezing temperatures are forecast.

Broccoli planted 4/19, collared with a strip of thin cardboard to protect against cutworms, and mulched up to the collar.
Brassica bed. I use a super light weight insect barrier row cover to protect against several pests – flea beetles, cabbage maggots and imported and cross-striped cabbage worms. The broccoli is underneath and will soon be joined by Napa and heading cabbages.

I have several garden jobs to accomplish before the Thursday transplanting.

  • Prepare the areas that will receive transplants or seeds. First I clear any weeds. Next I loosen the soil with a garden fork. I use garden beds and walk only on the paths between the beds so the soil in the beds stays loose and forking is easy. Finally I use a garden rake to break up clods and smooth the surface.
  • Plant seeds of Swiss chard and carrots. They will appreciate the coming rain and won’t mind an overnight freeze.
  • Weed and mulch the late March plantings of peas, spinach, radishes and lettuce.
4/20 Swiss Chard planted. After preparing the soil, I mulched a narrow strip along the fence on the right side. One row of seeds is an inch to the left of the mulch and a second row runs 4″ in from the left edge of the bed.
Snow peas planted 4 weeks ago. They are tall enough to mulch.
Mulched snow peas. The next job is installing the wire fence used as a trellis between the two rows of peas. The trellis must be in place before the pea plants twine together.
Transplanted outside in very early April, this romaine lettuce is now well rooted and growing vigorously. Note the tiny seedlings of ‘Red Giant’ mustard sprouting among the lettuce plants.
Lettuce after mulching with mown leaves. I tried to avoid covering the mustard with mulch.

By doing a little bit every day a lot can be accomplished in a vegetable garden.

I just checked the 10-day weather forecast – 4/29 just might be the last frost this spring!

March 7, 2020

Cross-Striped Cabbage Worm – Life stages

I first noticed cross-striped cabbageworm damage in my vegetable garden in the early 2010’s when my kale crop was completely devastated in the fall. Unfortunately all I found was the devastation, I could not find the culprit. But now I was warned. The following years I kept a much closer watch on my kale and captured this image in 2014.

2014 Evergestis rimosalis Cross-stripped cabbageworms feeding on kale. This pest had recently arrived in the Hudson Valley Poughkeepsie area.

At a 2016 Master Gardener meeting I was bemoaning the fact that there are no good pictures of Evergestis rimosalis eggs on the internet so I was still unsure what they looked like. One way to reduce a pest in an organic garden is to smash or remove their eggs.

The trick to getting that picture Evergestis rimosalis  eggs is to find some eggs on a Brasssica leaf, mark and photograph them and tag or pick & maintain the leaf until something hatches from the eggs, then identify whatever emerged.

Fellow Master Gardener Volunteer, vegetable gardener, and retired biology teacher JT took up the challenge. The following pictures are from JT and are published with her permission.

9/19/2016 Evergestis rimosalis eggs on underside of a kale leaf.
9/19/2016 Evergestis rimosalis eggs on underside of a kale leaf.

JT marked the leaf with a Sharpie for tracking. The next picture contains a human hair for scale.

Two days later nine caterpillars emerged from the eggs and ate their first meal consisting of the bottom leaf surface in the area adjacent to where the eggs were located. The larvae are almost transparent and that first meal is visible in their gut. Note that the larvae have a ridged surface, a characteristic that is retained as they mature and they gain color.

9/21/2016 Evergestis rimosalis cross-striped cabbageworm caterpillars dispersing immediately after hatching and feeding.
2016 Evergestis rimosalis eggs and larvae of different ages on a kale leaf
2016 Evergestis rimosalis eggs and larvae of different ages on a kale leaf.

Evergestis rimosalis eggs are a medium-yellow mass laid on the underside of Brassica leaves. The eggs look like a yellow smear about a quarter inch across. The adult is a nondescript brownish moth. The caterpillars may not be noticed until they start feeding on the top leaf surface.

Controlling cross-striped cabbageworms:

  • Harvest leafy greens such as kale frequently – at least twice a week. This will remove many of the egg masses.
  • If you are growing a brassica that will be in the garden for a long time – such as cabbage, Napa cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower, plant under an insect-barrier row cover. The row cover will also eliminate problems with flea beetles, imported cabbageworms, cabbage maggots and white flies.
  • Spray with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which also eliminates imported cabbageworms. Bt can be used in organic gardens. I often choose this solution for cabbage because I don’t eat the outer leaves and for kohlrabi whose leaves are edible but tough.

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