Nearly summer and time for bio-warfare

I had Monday off, and the last forecast I had seen called for it to be cold and wet.  That seemed a perfect day to run some errands and then dispose of the accumulated pruning clippings and the pile of fallen silver maple sticks in a bonfire.  Accordingly I dressed for a day of cool weather activity, put on my coat, and headed out the door.  It did not take me long to realize that the forecast had been wrong and instead of a coat I needed short sleeves. Not quite the day for a bonfire.

One of the stops on my round of errands sells plants, and blueberries caught my eye.  My preference is for the small wild blueberries found in places like Maine so I had always walked past large berry plants before, but today it seemed like a good idea.  I ended up with a plant each of “Jersey” and “Hardiblue” in order to cross-pollinate.  “Jersey” was a $5 plant in a biodegradable pot made from recycled paper that looked like it needed a good home that day or else it would dry out.  “Hardiblue” was a $10 plant in a plastic pot that looked content, healthy, and ready to wait for the right home. Looking at the other plants in the paper pots (including grapes, raspberries, and several others)  I noticed they all looked weak and dry, and my guess is that while paper pots may make a lot of sense in the nursery and in their final location, they do not do as well when sitting out in store displays.  In any case, my experience today was that the $10 plastic potted plant was more than twice the plant of the $5 paper potted plant.

Once home, I planted the blueberries.  The ground seemed perfect for playing in the soil, so I pulled out the tiller and worked on the garden.  The soil was indeed perfect for playing in, though the tiller may well have performed a little better had it been a touch drier.  In any case, after tilling and raking, the garden is now ready for planting as soon as the weather stabilizes enough to believe that there is no more danger of frost. Having just spent some time picking rocks from the surface, I was surprised to find the tiller bringing up another good harvest of them, including some fairly substantial (softball sized) rocks. 

As evening approached the wind started to die down, which seemed a good time to use another of today’s purchases: Milky Spore powder.  This heralds the start of bio-warfare in the orchyard; in this case against Japanese Beetle grubs.  Milky Spore is a bacteria that is applied to the soil and infects grubs, causing them to die before they leave the ground. No grubs leaving the ground means no beetles above the ground meaning no beetles laying eggs to turn into new grubs… Though of course it takes time, and there will always be beetles flying in from elsewhere.  Japanese Beetles have been a consistent issue in the orchyard, and althougth they are usually quite effectively handled with conventional pesticides there is something appealing about the idea of such a targeted biological approach.  I applied it at the recommended rate of 1 teaspoon on a 4 foot by 4 foot grid and was surprised how much area I was able to cover – all of the orchard and vineyard as well as some areas in the rest of the yard which seem to be popular with grubs.  I am prepared for it to take several seasons before it is fully effective, but it seemed something best tried now and then see how the results turn out.

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