The battle with the bugs of the leafy greens has begun. I see my defeat on the horizon. I am outnumbered. Even if I continue to kill the critters each time I turn over another leaf, more will be on their way. The next generation and the next, will fight to the death to defend their homes.
I harvest kale and spinach and smash eggs that reappear faster than a regenerative foe in a video game.
I shouldn’t be surprised by the bug cycle. It happens each year around this time, just when my cool-season greens have reached their prime. You can’t blame the bugs. The weather is cool and inviting. I leave the food sitting out all day and all night.
Unlike years in the past, my plan is to not continue to fight. My plan is to quickly strip all of the spoils of the war and fill my freezer with bagged spinach and kale.
So far, I have managed not to eat too many bugs, although I have stopped eating directly from the garden. I check each leaf at harvest and smash eggs if I find just a few. I realize I may be eating some bug goo, even if I wash carefully. Luckily, this doesn’t bother me that much. What I don’t want to come across at the end of my fork is a stinkbug.
So far, I have only killed one helmet-shaped critter among the greenery.
Stink bug patrol
We should all be on the lookout for stink bugs, by the way. I wrote about them three years ago when the county ag commissioner said the garden invaders are here to stay. They like to make winter homes in piles of leaves and under our houses, ready to emerge in the spring. My neighbor has reported the critters crawling up the walls in her living room. So far, the stinkers have kept away from my inner sanctum.
Our ag commissioner, now retired, said that chemical control does not work on the bugs, which emit an offensive odor when squished. In January, Laura Lukes, a Butte County Master Gardener, provided some tips of stink bug control, https://tinyurl.com/y7mu6wdl. If you check Laura’s helpful hints you will note these tips sound like a lot of work. My best advice is to learn to enjoy squishing them, and to be thankful that they move slowly.
This week I planted my tomatoes in the raised bed, with the aforementioned stink bugs likely looking on with joy. One trick for planting tomatoes is to bury the plant more deeply than the container in which they were purchased. This means burying the lower leaves under the soil. Tomato plants will send out more roots from the submerged stem and become established more quickly. This year I opted to bury part of the stem sideways, so that the plant stem was horizontal for several inches, with the largest leaves above the soil.
My plan was to water the new plants sufficiently. I set the hose on drip and set the timer on the my microwave. When the dinger alerted me, I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to remember.
The next morning I heard that microwave dinger in my head. I had left the hose running all night. Two days later, the tomatoes were still alive and I’m hoping the long soak in the raised bed will also cause the cucumbers and zucchini seeds to sprout. I bought fresh seed packets for summer veggies and planted them the same day I forgot to turn off the hose.
If you still intend to plant veggies by seed, the UC Davis seed planting guide suggests cucumbers, lima beans and melons planting by seed for the month of April.
Garden enthusiast Heather Hacking can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and snail mail, P.O. Box 5166, Chico, CA, 95927.