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Spotted in the Garden

April 12th, 2010

One morning last week, Mr Chiots yelled through the office window, "hey you’ve got to see this HUGE slug". I looked out and saw it and decided I must take a photo, but I needed something for scale, otherwise it would look just like a regular slug. Since I happened to be working at my computer I grabbed the first portable thing I saw, my magic mouse. Mr Chiots said, "The highest life form and the lowest life form side by side."

This guy was the biggest slug I’ve seen in the garden so far. We mostly have small black slugs, I see them often around the gardens. They live under leaves and munch on plants. When I saw this big guy I thought, “Some toad is going to be so lucky to find him!”

Slugs are big garden pests for many people. People go through all kinds of trouble trying to get rid of them. I simply let them be and allow the toads that live in the garden to take care of them. This means I have slugs munching on my plants at times and I lose some foliage and a few seedlings. When we first moved in we had tons of slugs, they were eating everything. Then the toads came and now they keep the population at a decent level. So I’ve made peace with the slugs and let them be just like every other garden pest. Every year I spot big toads and little baby toads at different time of the year. I know that because I don’t kill slugs they will stick around and multiply!

I have a few boards in shady spots around the garden because toads love to live under them. Toads also love it if you leave a few piles of leaves around for them to hide under. place a few plant saucers in the garden filled with water and rocks (make sure to change water regularly to keep mosquitoes from breeding), this is beneficial for toads, salamanders and insects.

What do you do when you spot slugs in the garden?

Chipmunks, A Small Problem?

June 4th, 2009

The eastern chipmunk is the same size as the ground squirrel, but is found in more woodland or woodland edge habitat and has only two light stripes. Absent only from the northwest corner of Iowa, they inhabit neighborhoods with mature trees and shrubs, rock and wood piles and retaining walls. While they may live in holes dug in the ground, they are more likely to live in the retaining walls, beneath decks or even in holes in trees. They do not hibernate in the winter and, though they sleep for days at a time, can be seen raiding bird feeders on warm winter days.
I’ve got a big problem, chipmunks, or grinnies as some people call them. They’re cute as can be really, but destructive little rodents for sure. They have been digging up my seedlings on the back deck and eating the seeds that I plant (although the ones that ate my castor beans seeds are taken care of).
We used to have a pair of owls that kept the population under control, but I haven’t seen them this year. Aside from getting a pet falcon, I’m looking into easy ways to deal with my overpopulation of chipmunks. I’d love to get rid of them without letting my cats outside (I don’t want them to get worms or eat birds). I really hate to kill them, however they’re starting to dig holes around the foundation of our home. I’d rather not deal with drainage issues from that, so it’s time to wage war on the grinnies. I’ve heard good things about chipmunk swimming pools, anyone tried them?

Anyone have any great tips on getting rid of chipmunks?

The Balance of Nature: Bugs, Good and Bad

April 30th, 2009

The insects world is quite an amazing thing, there are so many of all shapes, sizes and colors.
Insects can be good or bad; spiders are good, aphids are bad (I realize spiders aren’t technically insects, but we’re going to include them). The good insects are predatory and they feast on other insects, these are the kinds of insects you want to have around.
Some bugs are very beneficial, but they creep us out – spiders are the main culprit here. I have made peace with all of the big wolf spiders that live around our home (and boy can these guys get HUGE). I have to remember that they eat tons of bad insects.
You can order beneficial insects from various dealers and release them on your property. Certain insects can really help deal with an infestation of another insect. For example: Ladybugs LOVE aphids. If you have an aphid problem, order some ladybugs or some green lacewings. Here is some great information about the best predatory insects for your gardens.
Insects are also beneficial to the gardens because many of them are pollinators. Pollinators are great in the garden because they increase your crops.
There are all kinds of pollinators you can encourage in your gardens without actually having to keep bees. The easiest way is to buy a Mason Bee house to encourage these little orchard bees to reside on your property.

Do you welcome bugs into your gardens?

The Balance of Nature

April 27th, 2009

I saw this ladybug in my garden this past fall, so I snapped a photo. I thought it would be a great reminder of how all things in the garden work together.
Our garden health is like our personal health: maintaining a healthy foundation limits problems now and down the road. When you maintain healthy soil in your garden you’ll have healthy plants and you won’t have too many problems with insect infestations or plant diseases.
When bad insects come they are usually followed by the beneficial ones that prey on them. This is the balance of nature, and it’s important to keep that balance.
When we step in trying to fix things we perceive as problems with chemicals and quick fixes, we often only do further damage. Plant disease and insect infestations are often symptoms of a deeper problem. If we resort to the quick fix spray, often our problems will persist or multiply because we aren’t fixing the actual cause, we are only treating the symptoms.
Even so called green, non-toxic, and all natural products often kill the beneficial insects along with the bad ones. So what are we to do if we don’t want to upset this natural balance? We’ll be exploring this all this week here at Chiot’s Run.

Are you an organic gardener, or do you use chemical fertilizers, herbicides & pesticides?

Destructive Beauty

July 30th, 2008

Tomato Hornworms are HUGE (this one was 5 inches long)!!! I found 2 on my tomato plants the other day (and the biggest one I’ve ever seen on my pepper plant). Before smashing him I took a few photos. They are really beautiful worms, such vibrant colors and detailed markings. They will however eat through a tomato plant faster than you can believe.

How can you tell if there’s a hornworm on your tomato? You’ll see evidence of eaten plants and fruit, you’ll also see “castings” on the leaves below the worms. You have to look hard to find them. They are perfectly camouflaged on the vines. One of my tomato vines is about a foot shorter than the others and one of the tomatoes was half eaten.

This is what a casting looks like.

If you happen to find a tomato hornworm that has little white things on it’s back that look like tic-tacs, let it live. Those white things are the eggs of a beneficial wasp, they’ll hatch out and eat the worm. Last year I had these on my hornworms, I haven’t yet this year. Beware when grabbing them (I usually just cut off the branch they’re on), Mr Chiots tried to get the one off the pepper plant with a stick and the worm started attacking the stick.

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.