Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Cotton and collards - troubleshooting

Problem:  Aphids on my cotton

Observation:  This year is my third year successfully growing cotton.  Well, I say successfully as in it didn't die right away.  It looks like I'll get a harvest (second year in a row!).  The thing with cotton is that it does not grow north of the 47th, end of story, full stop.  Of course, I'm at 48 and a little bit North, so it's completely impossible to grow cotton here.  This is probably why I'm doing it.

Last year I got the bright idea to grow the cotton in the greenhouse.  It worked!  The cotton didn't grow as big or as vigorous as it does in pictures, but I got a harvest which was a fantastic victory.

This year, there are these little black aphid-like creatures being put on the cotton by ants.  Since it's in the greenhouse, it's kind of difficult for the predators to get in, so I tried this spray made of garlic and chili pepper tea with a bit of biodegradable dish soap.  It seems to have no effect.  Next step is to try blasting them off with the hose.

Last year we had no bugs bothering the cotton.  Last year they were in the same greenhouse with the hot peppers.  When I go in the greenhouse with the hot peppers, I have trouble breathing because the air is so spicy.  Peppers and cotton seem to have similar timing, water requirements and temperature likes.

Solution?:  Planting peppers and cotton in the same greenhouse to prevent bugs.

Problem: collard crop fail

total harvest of cauliflower so far this year

Observation: Last winter, we were lucky to find cauliflower in the shops and when we did, they were $10 a head (instead of $2).  Is this a sign of things to come?  The thing is, these cauliflower were being imported from far away when it was the usual time of year for local cauliflower harvest.  How rich I could be, I thought to myself, if I had a cauliflower harvest to sell.

I'm sure everyone thought that, and most local farmers are growing cauliflower this fall.  Which is fine, I'll just grow enough for myself and friends.

The thing is, I've never grown cauliflower before.  We decided to grow lots of different collards, from kale to brussels sprouts.  We planted them in flats in the spring, sifting garden soil and topping it off with seed starting soil from the shop.  This worked well.  Then we planted out the collards.  This went okay.  A lot of work so far, but it would be worth it to get my very own cauliflower.

With a major bug attack and me not understanding their water needs, the only real benefit that came from this early planting of collards was that it attracted bug eating birds to our garden.  What did come to a head bolted really quickly.

I'm thinking the big problem is we got the time of year wrong.  Up goes the spring crop and feed it to the goats.  I hope to plant a bunch of seeds this week and when they go out in the garden, they will have some protection from bugs.  Maybe we can have a winter harvest of delicious brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

Solution?:  Plant main collard crop after summer solstice.  Only plant cabbages and kale for spring.

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