Life Stages of the Aphid-Eliminating Ladybug

ladybug larvae and eggs 3

If you find praying mantis, spiders, parasitic wasp, lacewing larvae, ladybugs or ladybug larvae in your garden, let them be. They are all assuming the role of “live biological control”.

Of the beneficial insects listed above, the majority of us are most familiar with ladybugs. But….. would you recognize their eggs or larvae? The larvae are very ugly, as you can see in the above photo, but this stage of ladybug development will harvest lots of aphids from your plants. If you see a cluster of little yellow eggs on the underside of your plants, now you’ll recognize them as a good thing.

There is one stage missing from the picture above. In order for the larvae to grow larger, they must shed their skin called the cuticle. This molting will take place four times before they reach maturity. If you see an odd looking small black or orange, seemingly lifeless, sometimes vertical, bug as shown in the photo below, you’ll know not to kill it.

Ladybug pupal - shedding skin

Ladybugs are very good addition to your garden. A single larva can consume dozens of aphids per day. Larvae feed on other soft-bodied plant pests as well, including scale insects, adelgids, mites, and insect eggs.

For more information and photos of the other beneficial insects mentioned above, click on the “Resources and Downloads” tab at the top of this page and download the document entitled Bugs and Stuff. If you’d like to receive my posts, please click the ‘SUBCRIBE’ button near the top of the right hand column.

 

Oops… Large Plant, Wrong Place

Tower Garden instructions indicate it’s best to place herbs and large plants in the bottom rows of the tower. After a year of tower gardening, we’ve learned the reasons behind this directive include what can happen both outside and inside the tower.

Blocked Water Flow:  For example, the photo below shows how the root system from a Tuscany kale plant, grown at the top of the tower, wrapped around the inside blocking water flow to the plants below. But what you can’t see is how the roots extended down 4 levels!

Kale Roots

The kale root system is small compared to what you see in the following photo. One tower gardener discovered just how aggressive mint can be when the roots of two plants completely blocked the flow of water within the tower. Another tower gardener had a similar experience with purple basil planted near the top of her tower.

Too much mint

We usually have mint growing in the bottom row but have learned to remove the plant once it reaches a certain size, regardless of it’s location.  How can you tell it’s time to pull it out? Remove one of the plants in that row so you can see what’s happening inside the tower. When there’s a thickness of roots wrapping all the way around the inside, pull out the mint. Dry the plant for tea, plant it in a pot, or give it to family or friends.

A few weeks before that point, start more mint. Fortunately propagating mint is quite easy. Cut about a 3-inch piece off the top of the plant, remove all but the very top 4 leaves, place the stock in rock wool that has been soaking in water for 30 minutes, and transfer the rock wool to the tower.

Blocked Sunlight:  Large plants growing at the top of the tower cause another problem…shade. Take a look at this huge brussel sprout and thriving parsley. Seedlings placed in lower net pots will struggle to receive the proper light, whereas reversal of the top and bottom plants in this tower would solve that problem.

Brussel and parsley

Now you know two reasons behind planting the Tower Garden like a pyramid…smallest at the top and largest at the bottom. Remember, young plants can be moved around. If you think a plant might do better in a different location, don’t hesitate to change it.

What are those Caterpillars on the Parsley?

Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar 1 Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar 2

These beautiful caterpillars are sometimes mistaken for the Monarch variety, but in fact they will become Black Swallowtail butterflies. Of course, that’s after they consume all the leaves off your parsley, dill, or fennel plants. (The lower photo is the same caterpillar after I touched it. The two orange tentacles pop out of their head when you do that.)

eastern black swallowtail butterfly courtesy IFas - Donald Hall of U of F

I was willing to sacrifice our potted parsley plant for the good of these little guys. After all, they will turn into striking butterflies that pollinate plants and watching the tentacles pop out of their head several times was pretty entertaining. If you’re willing to sacrifice your parsley plant, I have good news….it can regenerate. Here’s a photo of ours making a surprising comeback a couple days after the caterpillars disappeared.

Parsley coming back

To save the foliage on your plant, just remove the caterpillars. No need to spray anything. Since they only consume parsley, fennel, Queen Anne’s lace and dill, they will die without these food sources. Another option is to give them their own food source, perhaps a second plant or fresh herbs from the grocery store placed in a narrow container of water. A narrow container prevents the caterpillars from falling into the water and drowning.

As garden pests go, these are good ones. Providing a food source for butterfly caterpillars, other than the plants you want to eat, is a win-win for insect, human and the environment alike.

How to Prune Tomatoes for Greater Yield

As mentioned in the previous post, indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow throughout the season. Trimming is necessary to increase your harvest, reduce disease stress and keep the plant within a manageable size. Because determinate varieties are bush type tomatoes reaching a maximum size of around 3 to 4 feet, trimming is not usually necessary.

This video by Johnny Seeds does a good job of identifying the parts of a tomato plant (first and second leaders, suckers and axle) and showing how to trim.

Choosing Tomatoes – Indeterminate vs Determinate

Tower-with-tomatoes

There a two types of tomato plants…indeterminate and determinate. Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow throughout the season. For example, the above photo shows one of our towers containing a couple indeterminate black cherry tomato plants. They’re planted in two of the bottom net pots. After growing inside the cage to the height of the second rung, we trained them to drape over the rung and grow toward the ground. They will grow far beyond the space available, if left to their own devices.

On the other hand, determinates grow to around 3 feet tall and do not require much (if any) pruning or trimming.

This differentiation is particularly important if you’re tower gardening. How much room do you have? How would you trellis an indeterminate variety? Do you want to put in the time to trim and prune?

Although the black cherry tomatoes we’re currently harvesting taste incredible, we plan to switch to determinates starting this fall.

 

Great Bug Book

Good Bug Bad Bug BetterGood Bug Bad Bug Inside

I love this bug book entitled simply Good Bug Bad Bug by Jessica Walliser. Each pest or beneficial bug is pictured along with a description, explanation of damage, list of susceptible plants, live biological control options (good bugs that eat the pest bug), preventative actions and organic product controls. (click the pictures to enlarge)

The spiral binding allows the book to stay open to the page you’re reading. If you can’t find it locally, you can pick up a copy from Amazon, Good Bug Bad Bug on Amazon. Enjoy!

Sticky Trap Garden Pest Control

Sticky trapI mentioned sticky traps in the previous post, so I thought I’d give you a bit more detail on this product. Controlling flying garden pests can be enhanced via sticky traps as shown in the above photo from our garden. Although these traps are definitely not attractive, they obvious do their job.  Non-poisonous and weatherproof, sticky traps attract a broad spectrum of flying insects including: aphids, whiteflies, thrips, leafhoppers, leaf miners, and moths. This inexpensive product comes with a wire twist to easily hang on plants or branches.

If not carried by any retail stores in your area, a search on Amazon will reveal multiple suppliers.

 

Spinosad Stops Leaf Miners in their Tracks!

Leaf Miner

Leaf miners are hard to control since they begin their life existing within the leaf.  As an organic gardener, I’ve been searching for a natural means to effectively control this pest (when the sticky traps just aren’t enough) and have discovered a wonderful product called Bulls-Eye offered by Gardens Alive.

The active ingredient, Spinosad, is a microbial insecticide derived from a species of Actinomycetes bacteria; Saccharopolyspora spinosa, discovered in soil samples. It is a fermented product, much like the more familiar Bacillus thuringiensis, but lasts longer than B.t. It will move through the leaf cuticle to reach leaf miner larvae and provide a full week of protection for most pests listed on the label. Spinosad is both a nerve poison and a stomach poison, so it kills pests that it contacts and those that consume it on the foliage they eat. It does have a negative effect on bees before it dries, so take care to spray in the early evening after the bees have returned to their hives.

Spinosad will not persist in the environment. It’s classified as an organic substance by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) and OMRI listed for use in organic production. You’ll also find this ingredient used in pill form as a more natural means to control fleas on dogs.

 

 

Welcome to Endless Harvest Towers!

Featured

Welcome to Endless Harvest Towers! We’ve created this site to provide gardening tips and a location to register for Tower Garden workshops. We’re excited to share all that we’ve learned (and continue to discover) as we grow, cook and preserve our own produce. Gardening is an adventure and we love having you along for the ride!

Questions? Contact me, tracy@endlessharvesttowers.com

For more information on the Tower Garden® Growing System or to place an order, visit EndlessHarvest.TowerGarden.com, or click the banner to the right.

Take a look at this PHOTO ALBUM for pictures of produce grown in the Tower Garden. Did you know Tower Gardens are revolutionizing commercial gardening all over the US? Plus they are being used as educational tools in pre-schools, colleges and more. Here’s another PHOTO ALBUM showing various Tower Gardens in commercial and educational forums.

Garden - self feeding

  • Join us for one of the upcoming Tower Garden Workshops taking place on Saturday, October 31st and Saturday, November 14th from 10am to noon.

Location: Commercial Tower Garden farm, 19621 Lake Lincoln Lane in Eustis, Florida.

It’s free for anyone who has already purchased a Tower from us or who is considering doing so, (otherwise the cost is $25.00 per person or $40.00 per couple), so be sure to click on the “Tower Garden Workshop” tab above for more details and to register.

Find out how to start growing organic, pesticide-free, nutrient-dense food for your family. This is the easiest “plug and play” way to garden there is….self-watering, self-feeding, no soil, no weeding! Gardening offers a wonderful education and skill for your kids too. Plus, when kids grow vegetables, they’ll eat vegetables! Click the Tower Garden Workshop tab above for more details and to register.