Sow There! Organic pest control and mounds of free earth, 6-02-16

Do you want some free topsoil? Is that a rhetorical question?
Do you want some free topsoil? Is that a rhetorical question?Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

Last week I let myself wallow in melancholy.

I write a garden column and where is my garden?

I have a patio covered with potted plants, a mostly dead lawn and a few rosemary plants.

My vegetable garden is a black plastic truck bed liner, containing tired spinach and kale.

Then something amazing happened.

A neighbor who usually keeps to himself asked if we wanted to help ourselves to a giant mound of topsoil. I did not ask questions. I grabbed a five-gallon bucket.

My boyfriend was also inspired. He called me at work to reassert his love for eggplant.

Normally I would be hurt that he went plant shopping without me. Yet, in this case, I saw his solo spending as a time-saver.

When I came home there were a pepper plants waiting. He picked out a six-pack of beans because he loves me and knows I love beans. Of course we planned to plant squash and zucchini, a topic which did not merit discussion. He also bought two six packs of gazania flowers, which have doubled in size in less than a week.

Quite a workout

While the plants were still fresh in their six-pack containers, I personally hauled 80 gallons of soil from the neighbor’s front yard to our backyard vegetable area.

Anyone who says gardening is not hard work is invited to my house next time I need to haul 80 gallons of soil.


My how a mound of dirt can change your outlook on life.

My black plastic truck bed liner was no longer a poor-man’s solution to a terrible gopher problem. My raised bed is actually a great example of how to recycle and reuse. The bed liner had previously been about a third filled with soil. Now our growing area has doubled.


The hard part of all of this was tearing out the spinach and kale, which have served me so well since November. I hated to let it go when there might be one or two handfuls of leafy greens in the future.

Yet, the more I looked, the more I realized these plants were heavily infested.

My method of pest control has been hand squishing. Specifically, when I found clusters of eggs on the back side of the leaves, I squished the eggs between the leaves.

When I found worms, I cut them in half with the garden clippers. Earlier in the season these were fuzzy, green worms, which I determined to be cabbage worms,

This past week the worms I found were the same size, the same color, but decidedly not fuzzy.

I sent a photo to the ever-helpful Bob Scoville at Glenn County Master Gardeners. Scoville, the super sleuth, determined these were larvae for the diamondback moth. The distinguishing feature is the “prolegs” at the end of the worm, forming a distinctive V-shape. Bob referred me to the University of California IPM website:


I will give myself a big pat on the back for hand-picking pest control. However, now that I see more clearly what I’m battling, I’m bringing on the soapy guns.

Rodale’s Organic Life website,, talks plain about killing creepy-crawly with soap suds. The reigning organic writers also provide recipes for garlic water spray and using milk or baking soda, vinegar to kill without harsher chemicals.

One quickie recipe even is said to help deter deer: 1/4 cup milk, four drops natural dish soap or liquid castile soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s. Spray on the new leaves deer love to browse. Repeat every 10 days.

Paradise friends, let me know if this works. If it does, it’s new worth sharing again.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.