Bitty Broccoli

broccoli
Top: Greensgrow
Below: PODgrown

Maybe it’s time to admit defeat.

Earlier this month we received our first winter CSA share from the good people at Greensgrow. It was gorgeous. And the ensuing lemon chicken with broccoli was delicious.

Speaking of broccoli, the broccoli was especially envy-making…given that POD’s broccoli is in a pretty pathetic state.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of fateful kale…

Waaay back in August, a shopping spree at that very same urban CSA mecca resulted in a deck full of cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Oh, my.

But what the CSA gods provideth, the nursery demons taketh away: just days later the starts proved themselves to be crawling in loopers. Squish, squish. Problem solved.

BUT then, a couple weeks after that, a particularly nasty-looking aphid took over. All new for 2012, people: Cabbage aphids! Which, apparently, tend to be more problematic in fall crops. Good to know. These nefarious boogers were regularly sprayed with heavy doses of a Dr. Bronner’s soapy water solution  but to no avail. Deck decimation.

(SIDE RANT: So, not only did this organic “magic all-one” soap fail to kill off the aphids, but the funky-smelling unscented variety stings toddler eyes, and when the screaming toddler flails the offending suds into a nearby adult’s eyes, it stings theirs, too. Like a lot. And it leave a nasty residue on one’s skin and a milky scum on brand-new jet black vehicles. Both the human and vehicular test subjects required two non-Bronner’s scrubbings to remove all traces of ickiness. Which clearly, POD has time for.)

Defeat admitted.

It’s Been a Tough Summer

whitefly damage to tomato
Whitefly Destruction

In case the recent string of posts about garden pests hasn’t tipped you off, it’s been a tough year for the plants on deck. So tough that it’s too depressing to post the monthly update photo. So tough that the only remaining cherry tomato is the Gold Nugget, heretofore referred to as Champ. On the bright side, it seems that blights and fungi were largely avoided this year.

Anyone who says container gardeners don’t need to worry about bugs live  a charmed life.

Let’s see, a random nutrient deficiency finally slaughtered the Isis Candy (maybe copper, maybe iron, maybe potassium, maybe all of the above) and whiteflies took out the pampered Black Cherry (pictured left). Next year I’ll make up a batch of yellow sticky traps and see if that doesn’t do the trick. Aphids have taken over and samples of the brown marmorated stink bug have been collected. And oh, yeah, it’s been hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry.

And guess what? The rescued Black Brandywine isn’t looking so good.  Its calcium deficiency may be terminal but it’s got one lonely fruit that I’m unwilling to sacrifice just yet.

Whitefly close-up
Whitefly close-up

Each year I resist the urge to buy a pH kit to test each container’s soil as it seems just a little too garden-geeky, but let’s face it, the little blue deck has had a blog devoted to it for over a year. If that ain’t geekdom, what is?

Now, all hopes are pinned on the currently thriving Greensgrow Mr. Stripey. Cross your fingers, please.

More Stinky News

From Rutgers:

Thank you for posting a sighting of BMSB on our website. We are collecting specimens for research on the spread of this invasive species. If possible, please send live specimens to the address below (Attn: BMSB Sightings). Containers such as plastic medicine bottles or film containers work well.

For answers to many common questions please see our new FAQ Section:

https://njaes.rutgers.edu/stinkbug/faq.asp

For control recommendations please see the link below. If you have any further questions feel free to email them.

Thank you

http://njaes.rutgers.edu/stinkbug/control.asp

Bug Mystery Solved, Unfortunately

Thanks to Plants on Deck’s gardening buddy BH and the magical Rutgers Cooperative Extension, the mystery has been solved.

BH commented, “They also look not unlike the malicious Brown Marmorated Stink Bug which Brendan Skwire over at Brendan Calling wrote about for City Paper earlier this year. If so, sound the alarms!”

POD’s little pesties looked precisely like the creepy crawlies featured in Skwire’s CP article and hatched forth from a clutch of precisely 28 eggs…just as Rutgers suggested.

Consider the alarm sounded. The sighting has been reported and photos have been forwarded to Rutgers. Sigh.

Interloping Loopers

cabbage looperSurrounding the ailing Black Brandywine tomato were a few ailing arugula and chard shoots. (They’ve since been yanked). Clearly something was eating them, and it wasn’t us.

One of the great advantages to roof deck container gardening is the relative absence of pests. No snails, no slugs, and only the very occasional tomato hornworm. Strangely, though, these tell-tale holes began appearing. Hmmm. After some close communing with the undersides of leaves, this lone worm was discovered.

What is it? Although it’s impossible for this gardener to say for certain, it sure looks like the larva of a cabbage looper. But it could be something else, who knows.

This looper was extinguished (and no others were found) and a close eye will be kept on the rest of the garden.

cabbage looper worm
Let me at it!