Outdoor pests DEER

The biggest problem with deer is that they eat POUNDS of vegetation every day, and they like to try new things to eat, especially fawns.  One thing I have used to keep deer away from my plants and I know others that have too is a fishing line fence. The deer don’t see the fishing line and it spooks them. This fence is cheap, easy and is great if you don’t like the look of a fence or don’t want to block any sun light on your plants. This won’t work if you have very high numbers of deer and they are near starving of course.  I do know someone that used it and the deer did break the line a few times, but apparently that still spooked them, the veggies were not eaten. He just put up new line and the garden made it through the summer.
I have heard if you spread garlic powder or use milogranite deer won’t come around. However, I know that deer get spooked when there is something new in their environment, which is why it seems so many products work at first.  For exapmle, I freaked out deer with a wheel barrel for two days this summer, I put it under my apple tree in the garden and they snorted at it for ½ an hour each evening before leaving. Two days later they were eating in the garden again, not next to the wheel barrow but they were in the garden.

Something else I hear works is if you have motion sensor sprinklers; this will spook the deer repeatedly and may work all growing season. Get a sprinkler with the longest spray stream and longest sensor range. Another idea is to provide other forms of food, I know deer eat yarrow flowers so I don’t pick (weed) yarrow, I leave it for them to eat instead of my other flowers. This year with lots of apples on my apple tree the deer are not eating the bee balm or other plants that don’t have a fence, but they still are nipping the yarrow flowers

Deer like most people are creatures of habit, so if you start to deter them early you will have better luck, but once they get a taste for your garden and they like it, they will be back. Dogs, or cats can scare off deer, and of course an electric fence will work great too, a couple shocks and the deer will be conditioned to stay the hell away. Just be careful.

Good growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers


Pests- Snails and Slugs

I have written about some indoor pests, like aphids, root aphids, white flies, spider mitessoil/root gnats but there are others that often don’t get in your house but can be a pest outdoors. Most plants can be a meal to snails and slugs. Slugs and snails can rasp (eat) a hole in leaves or sometimes they eat everything but the veins of a leaf. In severe cases they will eat whole leaves leading you to think it was a larger animal. For a while I could not figure out what was eating my plants, it looked as if a deer had jumped the fence and eaten the plant leaving only the main stem. Problem was there were no deer tracks in the soft garden soil. Slugs generally are more active at night, so they don’t dry out and often go unseen. I had a friend once that went out to check on his garden at night with a flashlight for fun and was FREAKED out when he saw his beloved plants COVERED in dozens of slimy slugs eating away at the leaves. This was a wet year, and you too will find more slugs and snails in wet years or moist areas.

The best thing about slugs and snails is that they are easy to control. You just need to use sluggo. This is iron phosphate in pellet form which in the soil actually is a fertilizer. However, when a slug crawls over the pellets their soft bodies absorb the iron phosphate which interferes with the slugs calcium metabolism so that it stops eating and starves in a few days.  You can use as directed and even if you don't have slugs/snails it won't harm your plants and will provide some nutrients, so  if you see slugs in your garden, why not give it a try? 

If you don't use sluggo and have a random slug or snail you can control them by hand picking them off your plants and put them in salt water or soapy water or just stomp them. If you have a lot you should order some sluggo but should pluck them off with a tweezers or even chop sticks, if you use your hands you will get all slimy. You can use salt water to kill slugs but NEVER put salt on the soil, don’t get me wrong it will kill slugs, AND YOUR PLANTS. Salts make it hard for plants to take up water and nutrients so they dehydrate even in moist soil.

I have read you can surround individual plants with a copper barrier which keeps the slugs out. I’d like to hear if anyone has ever used this. I have tried egg shells and either I did not use enough or they did not work. I scattered the shells on the ground since they are supposed to cut the slugs and snails. I think you may be better off if you make a solid ring around your plants’ stem. Bonus is that eggs shells release calcium as they breakdown which is an essential nutrient for plants.

Here is my favorite  You can also use beer as a trap for slugs, Yep they come running like frat boys to free beer. You need to get a container that is deep enough so the slugs can’t climb out, put it in the ground and put in a bit ‘o’ beer. I drink Pabst in the summer myself and slugs love it too. Slugs will come crawling for any beer for meters around and then will drown in the beer. IMPORTANT If the container is not filled deep enough (several cm or inches) they will just have a drink and leave.

Good Growing
Dr. E.R. Myers


Speed up Flowering Outdoors

If you took my advice and started an outdoor garden early indoors or grow outdoors already or know someone who does, you may benefit if you read this.

I suggested in past posts ways to speed up the growth cycle vegetatively and  during flowering . Here is a neat trick I learned this summer to speed up flowering outdoors that maybe you can still use this summer or remember it for next. If you are growing plants that flower the end of summer i.e. in response to long nights (12 hours dark) you can speed up the flowering by placing something over the plants to fool them into thinking it is later in the season. The person I spoke with used a 5 gallon black bucket (which can be sent to your house from HTGSupply.com). You just put the bucket over the plant a couple hours before dark and take it off in the morning. Make sure first that the plant is not going to be bent and broken (you must do this when the plant is small). If the ground is uneven, make sure that you put dirt around the base so that light does not get in. Then a few hours after sun rise you take off the bucket. This will fool the plant into thinking it had a 12 hour night and it is much later in the grow season. This will speed up or start the flowering response. ONE WARNING: Do not let the direct sun hit the black bucket when it is on the plant, you will cook (kill) your plant in an hour or less. If your plants get early morning sun put the bucket on early in the evening and take it off at night and if they get late day sun, put the bucket on at night and leave it on longer in the morning.

How this works is due to the way that plants measure day length; they use a molecule called phytochrome. There are two types of phytochrome light and dark. Light (energy) from the sun or your grow light turns dark phytochrome into light phytochrome and without light, light phytochrome turns to dark. Plants that flower end of summer flower when the dark phytochrome is in a high amount. So, when you put the bucket on the plant it will have 12 hours of dark (make dark phytochrome) which will cause the plant to being to make hormones that signal it to flower. (One ‘night’ might be enough but you can do a couple more to really speed up the process)

Do this after the summer solstice the longest day of the year (around June 21 most years) and your plants will fully develop flowers sometimes weeks ahead of schedule. This works because as the days get shorter, more dark phytochrome accumulates. Normally it would take weeks to reach the critical amount of dark phytochrome but since your plants had a 12 hour (bucket) night, they have the critical amount of dark phytochrome and with the ever shortening days the dark phytochrome will stay in a high concentration and continue to signal the plant to flower. I say this because after the solstice the days get shorter so there will be less and less day light (light phytochrome).

This won’t work for light insensitive plants, or plants that will be very tall after the summer solstice, but you could use this before your plants get big and it should still speed up the flowering rate. You could also use this trick early in the summer (before the summer solstice) to see if plants have the flowering characteristics you want. You can cause your plant to flower, and then it will revert back to mostly vegetative growth until end of summer. Using a bucket to induce flowering in May or June may stress the plants and may reduce plant size, but can make sure you don’t grow any plants that have negative flowering characteristics. Anyway, I thought some of you might be able to use this trick to speed up flowering outdoors this year or next.

Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers



Cloning Your Outside Plants

If you took my advice and had an outdoor garden as well as your usual indoor garden (start outdoor garden  indoors link) then hopefully you are enjoying good growing outdoors and you can now try another way to enhance your growing. Now that we are in August, your outdoor plants should be in full growth mode, maybe beginning to flower/fruit. If you want you could take some cuttings of your outdoor plants and get ready for another indoor crop over the fall/winter. This has some advantages, you know the plants qualities, male or female, red or blue petals etc. Another nice thing is that plants grown outdoors are usually bigger so you can take a few cuttings without harming your outdoor yield too much. Pruning an outdoor plant may make it branch a bit more. The draw back is that when you bring plants from the outside in, you risk bringing in pests like aphinds, white flies, root aphids, spider mites and more.  After you take the cuttings watch your outdoor plants to see if they develope an infestation.  If they have one already don't bring cuts indoors.

Another potential problem, plants tend to form roots with less success when flowering or beginning to flower, so if you are going to try this, take a few more cuts than usual since you will lose a few. The reason it is harder to get cuttings from a flowering plant is that the hormones that promote flowering often interfere with the hormones that promote root growth. If possible I would recommend removing flowers as the cells of the flowers and the tips of the branches are where hormones are produced. Depending on the type of plant species you are growing you may want to leave some small flowers since new growth (stems etc.) will come from the flowers. Keep in mind, the further the plant is into flowering the less the success you will have getting cuttings.

For cuttings, I usually recommend taking the tops/tips of growing branches with a couple of leaf nodes. I like to remove the lowest set of leaves and put rooting hormone where the leaves were growing (node) because this node where you cut the leaves is often where roots grow from. I know people that also take the lower smaller branches for cuttings. They say they get good results with cuttings. Moreover, the branches usually would lose leaves and die or at best would produce next to nothing as far as flowers or fruit, so why not use them to make a whole new plant? It might be something you want to try indoors or out.

As I have said I really like to use the starter plugs from HTGSupply.com but I have used soil and soil-less rooting mediums as well. One thing I did when I made my grow shelf  for my cuttings is that I build it so that there is a slight angle away from the wall. I did this so that when I spill water it will roll off the shelf and not seep into the wall. When I take cuttings I notice that the starter plugs at the back of the shelf (high end) dry out first. You notice they start to get a lighter shade of brown as they dry, a great visual cue telling you to attend to the plants. I like the plugs because like rockwool you can let them sit in a tray with a small amount of water and the plants still have enough air around the stem to grow roots. (Roots need air and water which is why many plants don’t sprout in standing water). I have noticed with a heat mat that when the tray has some water the dome tends to be covered with condensation. The dome gets less condensation when the tray is dry, something else to key you in that you need to attend to your cuttings. I notice as over a few day that in the morning that the dome is not coverd with water which tells me the plants are drying out over night and I should give them a bit more water than the day before.  You should wipe off the done each day, you want to crease a humid environment since the plants can’t take up water without roots, but you don’t want to have a lot of areas for mold to grow, since it too likes a humid environment. I often mist the plants with a hand mister the first few days. If you have had problems with mold or stem rot in the past you may want to skip this. The idea is to keep the air humid so the plant cells in the leaves don’t dry out (and die) before the plant can form new roots to take up water.
There will be some more tips on cuttings on the next post, with more pictures.

Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers