Ladybug in Pupal Stage

Potato Beetle in Larval Stage

Hello Everyone!  Step back in time with me to….April 29th.  That was our insect and disease management workshop taught by Grow Appalachia Director, David Cooke.  We had to cancel two workshops before that due to weather and health, so we’d not seen all our participants for at least a month and as always it was lovely to see them.  David talked about some really valuable stuff, all with a good sense of humor to keep folks engaged.  The biggest lesson I learned from the workshop and that was well impressed upon our participants was that you ought to identify what bug you are dealing with before you make any decision to fix it, or leave it.  To an untrained eye, potato bug larvae (bad) and lady bug pupa (good) may look a lot alike.  Or, often times people will talk about “the blight” not knowing that there are different blights that need different treatment.  Some of the other important lessons David encouraged us to remember apply to any garden, anytime.  These are 1) rotate crops, use cover crops, and succession plantings 2) mulch with straw, paper, wood, etc 3) choose disease-resistant varieties 4) use enough spacing and keep weeds down for air flow and finally 5) prune and sucker plants that require it.  David’s Insect Arsenal includes products that contain Spinosad (widespread application), Insecticidal Soap, Copper Fungicide (to prevent, not treat, blight), and Sticker Spreader to help products stick to waxy plants.  Some of the extension services David recommended to use besides the University of Kentucky included the offices of North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Tennessee.

Now, come back to the present.  Or, nearly so.  Last night we had our Canning and Preservation Workshop at the Rockcastle Extension Office.  The workshop was taught by County Extension Agent, Hazel Jackson.  Hazel did a wonderful job of covering the basic mechanics and safety of home canning.  A lot of our participants already (or have in the past) can, but it is always good for a refresher!  After the workshop we had our first peer-to-peer session about home-gardening.  This project involves neighbors partnering with neighbors to discuss and work in each other’s gardens.  Many of our participants already know each other and are often close relatives or distant cousins, so community is something that is ever-present in the program.  However, we are hoping to foster a greater tie between neighbors who may or may not know each other, so that they may come to rely on each other for help and guidance in the long run without having to leave their region of the county.

The gardens here are looking beautiful!  It is a pleasure to work in this garden.  For me, this garden provides a daily lesson in livings things’ desire to grow and flourish, which a couple of volunteers and I match with attempting to provide the best care and environmental conditions we can.  We have lettuce, that I thought would die away due to being a bit long-legged and the hot temps, that is big and beautiful.  We’ve already enjoyed a few successions of radishes and more are planted.  I consider radishes a confidence booster for new gardeners, because they grow so quick and are so easy to enjoy in the kitchen.  We have fava beans fruiting (a veg I’ve not had experience growing) and strawberries ripening.  Greens are leafy and big.  Perennial flowers are blooming.  I saw a swallowtail butterfly dancing above the comfrey flowers this morning.

Happy Gardening!