Monday, September 22, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I grew up in these parts. I comfortably told anyone engaged in a conversation about mosquitoes that where I grew up, mosquitoes came out in force at dusk only. Sometimes, though rarely, they chased us in. In our urbanized region, mosquitoes were never as prevalent as in the north woods and dry summers made them even less frequent. This was my mosquito experience until Brooklyn 2001, when everything changed.
These new mosquitoes were day travelers, preferred shady spots, and didn't have any noticeable water to breed in. I thought maybe a sump or drain had some water in it, but it never seemed enough to promote the quantities of mosquitoes I was seeing.
Leap forward to now. My tomato patch is an incredible reservoir of the Asian Tiger Mosquito. None of our common mosquitoes anywhere to be found. Yet, when I walk into the vegetable garden I am assaulted by tens, maybe 100 little black and white striped mosquitoes. They are aggressive and the welts itch immediately. My friends with vegetable gardens are chased out of them regularly. Many have come to using Deet where before they did not.
I have noticed that I do not get one mosquito while tending to the super sunny front flower garden. Never a bite until, maybe, the sun goes low behind the trees. I have noticed that in the shady afternoon of the vegetable garden I get swarmed like crazy. I get drilled by them in the sunny morning too, but not nearly as much as the shady afternoon. It is worse now that the tomato plants are full and lush. I've seen the mosquitoes sitting on the leaves before they realize a meal has just stepped in. They hide under the canopy of leaves, I do not think they like the full sun. I do not have standing water in the garden, but I do have planter boxes that get watered. I now question whether it is possible for the Asian Tiger Mosquito to breed in wet areas without standing water. I think it may be.
My Mosquito notions:
Asian Tiger Mosquitoes like shady sites
They only need wet soil, not standing water to breed
They feed at all hours of the day
They are present where other mosquitoes are not
Roost in plant canopy
Do not tolerate full sunshine
- In 1985 the mosquito turned up in Houston, Texas. By 1995, it made its way to Southern New Jersey. At this time it is in most of the Eastern United States. So my 2001 time frame seems to make some sense with this time line.
- The mosquito apparently lays its eggs in dry containers (tree holes, tires, pots, etc.) and those eggs are hardy enough to wait until water arrives. So maybe for me it is not the damp soil, but dry planter sides that then get inundated every few days or so with water from the watering can that promote the breeding. Another hot spot maybe the water runoff grate at my street corner, just four feet from my garden.
- The mosquito apparently was a forest dweller in its home range. This may explain the attraction to the shady afternoon garden. Strong sun may be a bit too much for it (?).
- It feeds heavily in the late afternoon. Well, that crosses over with the shady part, so...
- Municipal mosquito spraying doesn't work because they do this at night and the Asian Tiger is active in day. The Tiger is also very localized, never traveling more than 200 yards or so. This means that every person who has the bugger would have to spray. But then you would kill everything else active in the day, like bees and dragonflies. Plus, who likes spraying?
- The only solution is to eliminate containers that might hold the slightest amount of water. For me, this may mean my vegetable planter boxes! Oh, no! Watch me move to raised beds in two seconds!
Friday, September 19, 2008
While walking in Prospect Park this morning, looking at all the white-flowered Snakeroot, Ageratina Altissima, I thought of my dear garden variety Eupatorium. I thought, what a wonderful plant blooming so blue at this time of year and filling up its space so well that I can divide it and give it to others and its native to North America and so on. Snakeroot used to be called, botanically speaking, Eupatorium rugosum, and so now it lives a double life until those who care about such things can figure it out.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
- For green beans, the box worked out excellent. Ten to twelve inches wide and the same in depth, I was able to get an amazing amount of bush beans in a small planter. The longer the box, the more plants. I planted mine with two parallel rows down the length of the planter. A great success.
- My 12 x 12 x 12 parsley box has worked quite well too. Similar sizes work great for basil.
- Twelve by twelve by fourteen inches deep is not enough soil space for a rapidly growing large tomato plant like the San Marzano, Brandywine, or German Stripe I planted. These plants have meaty stems and grew 5 feet tall in one month's time. The plant's roots went through the planter bottom and tapped the ground. If you are growing on a rooftop, or concrete pad, or wherever, the roots may not be able to do this and the large plants will suffer during hot, droughty periods. They may also succumb to disease due to stress or become stunted.So my judgement is that large tomatoes, like those indeterminate heirloom types, require larger, deeper boxes. What depth? I can only guess at this point to say at least 20 inches, maybe 24 inches deep. The depth seems to be more crucial than the width.
- Smaller tomatoes, like cherries, grapes, and anything labeled "Patio" should do fine with 14-16 inches of depth. But stay on top of the watering. These boxes dry out sooner than the earth and the bushy plants shed water around them, not into the planting box.
My planting was very dense, 7 tomatoes in less than 40 square feet. The more room you can give them, the better for air circulation and light penetration.
I had some questions about whether or not to line the box with plastic. I do not do this anymore because I do not want to grow in plastic. I prefer to have the soil hold the moisture, then let it drain out. The plastic may prolong the life of the wood planter on the interior. But I don't think it is a significant increase in life of the planter to warrant it. However, the plastic may increase resistance to blossom-end rot and cracking of tomatoes by maintaining a steadier moisture level. So this is a matter of personal choice, although you do want to be sure there is some drainage in your planter. Over wet soil is as bad for plants as drought.
For a reason that has remained a mystery all season, my cilantro has been sickly. I think this is because the soil has remained wet no matter what the weather conditions. I do not understand this, there is drainage in the planter (is it clogged?). Not until I empty the planter will I find out.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Save the dates:
Soundview Facility (Bronx) October 4th & 5th -8 am - 2 pm
Fresh Kills Facility (Staten Island) October 18th & 19th -8 am - 2pm
There are still no give backs at the Spring Creek facility (Queens/Brooklyn)
From the DSNY:
Unfortunately, Still No Compost Givebacks in Brooklyn
At present, DSNY doesn’t have an operating compost site in Queens or Brooklyn, so we are unable to provide more convenient giveback locations for residents in these boroughs.
DSNY is awaiting final approval from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for a permit to operate the Spring Creek Compost Site, located near the Brooklyn/Queens border by the Gateway mall.
DSNY currently has only two permitted compost sites (Fresh Kills on Staten Island and Soundview in the Bronx). To keep composting programs operational, DSNY needs additional sites. To address this problem, NYC’s Solid Waste Management Plan created the Compost Siting Task Force comprised of representatives appointed by the Mayor, the five Borough Presidents, and City Council.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Citibank looms over the P.F. 1 garden
The underside of the structure
All the paper tubes are tied together with 2 x 4 lumber and bolts
The growing media is supported by a plywood base
A graphic representation of the growing media system called GaiaSoil.
The growing media is primarily Polystyrene, with a layer of jute and then a thin layer of compost on top. In this photo you can see the polystyrene coming through. This spinach is not doing so well, although I cannot say it is because of the growing medium or some other problem- like summertime.