It’s been a little over a year since the Winter Bounty Project got underway. We’re now back to where it all began: watching things that we planted in the last month begin to sprout and grow, and helping them to mature so that when the days get short, we’ll have a larder of fresh greens and root vegetables under the protection of the greenhouse and fabric row covers that will feed our five households (up from four last year) all winter.
So much seems familiar from last year, and in many ways, this season has been easier, because we’re not building a greenhouse from scratch (although we are creating new beds) and because the excessive rain from Irene and the remnants of Lee have soaked the beds well, giving our seedlings a good start.
But one thing is markedly different from last year: caterpillars and grasshoppers. This morning, I picked at least a dozen caterpillars off tiny tender kale plants, and that’s after both Marsha and Miriam performed this task yesterday. We have no mercy for the voracious critters, and our garden gloves are sticky with caterpillar guts.
While I was helping Marsha police the caterpillars yesterday, we noticed a large number of grasshoppers exiting the leek bed, which was heavily mulched with straw. Guessing that the straw might have hosted grasshopper eggs, we removed it from the leeks. Most of the grasshoppers eluded us, though.
Already, we’ve had to replant carrots, kale, and spinach, because the seedlings were completely consumed by insects. Today I also applied a fresh batch of Bt to the crucifers; it’s an organically-approved pesticide that controls caterpillars and other bugs.
This need for bug control is way different from last year’s experience; then, we had minor skirmishes but not the need for everyday vigilance that we’re experiencing now. Even while appreciating this latest blast of summery weather, I find myself hoping for a really chilly night or two to knock back the bugs. According to the forecasters, we just might get those conditions by the end of the week.