As a homeschooling parent, it is always a bonus to have an unexpected learning experience come to you by way of Mother Nature. Before organizing the deck for growing, we noticed some pine straw in a pot; the next day it was formed into a nest, and the next week there were 5 little wren eggs and a mama bird sitting on them. We have happily cohabitated on the deck together for several weeks. The mama wren is used to us and trusts that we won’t disturb her nest. We leave food for her and she drinks the rain water in the deck bin. Hopefully, we will soon be posting pictures of baby wrens in that nest!
As I mentioned in my last post Gardening "Decks-periment" - Part One, we use our deck as a potting shed, plant lab, and incubator for seedlings. The deck is old and in need of repair…it was not in great shape when we moved to NC a couple of years ago, and it had declined even more during the time we were away. The plan was to rebuild it this year, but I filled it up with plants and now the construction will be postponed until the growing season is over. (I’m compelled to share this disclaimer with anyone who views pictures or videos made on our deck - also, I am working to improve the upload quality of the video below.) This video shows our bin garden progress at 5 weeks.
Things were looking great, though one bin had a clogged overflow hole after a heavy rain which almost drowned our iceberg lettuce. The lettuce has recovered with minimal signs of stress and the offending large perlite particle has been removed. I would recommend checking each overflow hole each time you fill the watering tube just to make sure there are no blockages.
A few weeks ago, I noticed a moth hovering over the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower for a couple of days, and was concerned that cabbage loopers or cabbage worms would follow. I garden organically, so man-made insecticides are not an option, especially when my family will be eating these vegetables. Sure enough, an army of cabbage worms made an appearance. When I made the video, the damage was minimal and I thought that slugs might be chewing small holes in the leaves. Within two days, several leaves were almost skeletonized.
I found the small green worms and their droppings on about 75% of the Brussels sprouts leaves and on 50% of the cauliflower leaves. My daughter and I picked off as many as we could (dropping them in soapy water), and in some cases, pulled the entire leaf off the stalk. This slowed down the damage and the plants now seem to be doing okay, though much less photogenic. In retrospect, I should have had some Neem oil on hand to eradicate the pests at the first sign of leaf damage. Neem oil is an organic biopesticide made from seeds of the Neem tree. For the ambitious gardener who would like to grow and process his or her own Neem oil, here is a link to instructions on growing a Neem tree in an indoor container: http://www.discoverneem.com/how-to-grow-neem-trees.html. For more info on readily available Neem products, check out the Greenlight website http://www.greenlightco.com/products/neem/.
In the past, I have not had the best of luck in trying to grow celery from seeds, but have recently read on several different gardening blogs about a method of re-growing celery using the bottom of the stalk that usually gets cut off and thrown away. I put two of these bottom pieces in a shallow jar of water and in a few days saw new leaves emerge from the center of the stalk as new roots began to form at the base of the stalk. When more roots appear, I will plant this to see how celery grows in the bin garden. It will be interesting to see how many times one can re-grow from the same stalk! (The bottom picture below shows new root growth.)
My last two blog posts have summed up how we use our deck for gardening and aquaponics projects and experiments. I have really enjoyed sharing these with you, and would like to close by sharing a couple of pictures I took last week of my favorite bridge at the The State Botanical Garden of Georgia http://botgarden.uga.edu/.
Blessings on your gardens,