Snails? Nails? Puppy dog’s tails? What should your raised beds be filled with? On this week’s You Bet Your Garden, host Mike McGrath will reveal why the answer is definitely NOT tilled-in leaves. Plus your fabulous phone calls!
Question of the Week:
I’m making raised beds for my veggies; four feet wide, as you’ve suggested. I’ve filled them with soil and was wondering about amendments. Thus far I’ve added peat moss and composted cow manure. Do you recommend adding perlite and vermiculite? I’m also tilling in some double-shredded leaves. Is this OK? – Henry in Ambler, PA
Cindy from Topeka, Kansas is concerned about squash bugs damaging her plants. They crawl on her squash and leave much of the vines wilted.She would like to get rid of them, but without using chemicals.
“One of the problems with squash bugs is that they transmit disease to the plants”, Mike says. This disease can be worse for the plant.
Cindy is growing plants in raised beds, as well as flat earth and starts planting seeds in February. Mike suggests she not rush the season by planting so early and “start out with the healthiest transplants and don’t put them outside until the night’s temperature are in the 50’s consistently.” He also recommends placing row covers with hoops on her plants early in the season until the flowers form on the plants.
“The plants will be much stronger, much bigger and much better able to resist attack.”
Another non-chemical alternative is attracting toads to her garden. “Toads are a voracious predator.” Mike strongly recommends Cindy read YBYG’s article on attracting toads to your garden.
Ken from Berks County, PA wants to alert residents in the surrounding counties of the Spotted lanterfly. This “invasive insect”, as described by Mike, was imported and has been in the US since 2014.
Ken provides an in-depth description of the insect. He informs Mike that it looks like a butterfly, very colorful, and goes after fruit trees and grapevines. When these insects nest for the winter, the adults die.
Mike cautions people not to transport wood around. “It is imperative that people not move firewood around and inspect your plants and look for egg masses.”
Barbara from Malvern, PA recently moved into a new house and was left with four lacecap hydrangeas in the garden. The first year they bloomed, but she is wondering whether or not she should begin to prune them?
“Do not prune anything in the fall,” Mike tells her. He informs Barbara that pruning stimulates growth and that the plants “need to send that energy down to the root system to survive winter.” Mike also warns that new growth may be damaging to the plants if they receive a harsh winter. This past winter was one of the warmest winters in history, with plants not going as dormant, so she is off to a good start.
Barbara tells Mike that she has a mixture of compost and manure for her plants and he advises against using manure on flowering plants. He recommends using just compost.
“Your plants will green up at the normal time and start to produce flowers,” he says. “Then that is the only safe time to prune hydrangeas.”
Flat Earth Garden
Bradley from Morehead City, North Carolina is concerned with his church’s flat earth garden. The church grows vegetables and donates them to a local food bank. They fertilize with horse manure and Bradley suggests they should consider using hardwood leaf shredded compost as an alternative.
Mike suggests that if they are having success with their garden, let their vegetables continue to thrive.
“If somebody is doing something and they’re having repeated success, I don’t see any reason to change that just because philosophically or ideally it wouldn’t work for other people.”
Mike thinks that maybe there is a symbiotic relationship with the horses and sandy soil in North Carolina, or that there are nutrient differences based on what the horses eat. It could also be that while the soil doesn’t hold nutrients well, it does drain well and contains minerals.
Mike suggests to “congratulate them on their success and not to change a thing.”
“This is good advice for me as well,” Mike said. “No matter how much I believe something is going to happen, nature and physical reality will always throw you a wild card.”