Tuesday, September 20, 2011 0 comments By: David Velten

Got Rodents? Get A Harrier


The past couple of years we have been fortunate to have a pair of Eastern harrier hawks nesting in our backyard. Why us, I do not know. It can’t be because our neighbor raises homing pigeons and flies them every day. Harriers prefer juicy, furry critters to bony birds. We have had an explosion of squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks. Now with the harrier couple and their three fledglings in the neighborhood, the few chipmunks left seem to neurotically run from bush to bush.

As far as birds go, the harriers have shown an interest in wild turkeys. We apparently also have a nest of turkeys somewhere in the back. One morning a giant ruckus erupted in the trees as a large turkey hen clumsily chased a hawk through the tree tops, sending a shower of pine needles and dead branches raining down out of the trees. The hawk retreated, leaving the angry turkey perched precariously in the tree tops. Who knew they could fly like that? Moral: don’t mess with a turkey hen who has chicks.

Some more photos below. Sorry for the quality of the pictures. They were taken with a compact camera on full optical zoom so they are a little fuzzy.

UMass Extension Vegetable Program

The Agricultural Extension Program at UMass Amherst has a Vegetable Program for growers of vegetables. While the Program is aimed at commercial growers of vegetables and herbs in Massachusetts, their web site has lots of useful information of value to home gardeners throughout New England. For example, they have a page on the halo bean blight that hit my pole beans after TS Irene.

In addition, they have an email newsletter called Vegetable Notes that is well worth subscribing to. It provides an update on disease and insect prevalence in New England and suggests what measures can be taken to protect your garden. The advice is oriented toward commercial growers and is not necessarily suited for organic growers, but is still useful to us home gardeners.

The September 8 newsletter provided a lot of useful information on how to deal with the effects of storms Irene and Lee, which included flooding followed by outbreaks of disease and insect infestations. Certainly in our community garden, we have seen many of the problems described in the newsletter. Fortunately for us, flood water in the garden was only a few inches deep and was clear and not full of mud, but we still got the mildew and rot that followed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 0 comments By: David Velten

Halo Bacterial Bean Blight


I reported on my discovery of this bean problem in my Harvest Monday post. Unfortunately, I was not able to identify the problem plaguing my pole beans (picture above) using the nifty Visual Diagnostic Aid I posted here. So I turned to “teh google” to find what appears to be my problem: a bacterial bean blight called Halo Bean Blight. I have documented what I found below.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 0 comments By: Bolton Community Garden

Art or Swiss chard?

Lynn Dischler shares some photos of the Swiss chard in her garden, remarking how much they look like stained glass:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 0 comments By: David Velten

Tropical Storm Irene

Below are some photos I took of the Community Garden on Sunday night, after Irene had passed through. There was flooding but at least the stream did not overflow and inundate the garden again.










Monday, August 8, 2011 0 comments By: David Velten

More Garden Views

Things are starting to look pretty lush in the Bolton Community Garden.


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Saturday, August 6, 2011 0 comments By: David Velten

Visual Diagnostic Aid

I visit the garden almost daily and one of the first things I do is check all of the plants for signs of problems. This is how you find you have a pest or disease problem before the damage becomes too severe. With experience we learn to recognize many problems, but there is always something new attacking our plants. The trick is to figure out what is causing the problem from the visual clues we get observing the plant.

I learned of a really great visual diagnostic tool from the High Mowing Seeds blog. The tool is the Landscape Problem Solver from the Home and Garden Information Center of the University of Maryland. The site works by starting with a description of the problem, then offers a list of possible causes. Select what you think might be the cause and you get a page with detailed descriptions and photographs with information on how to treat or prevent the problem. The advice includes information on organic and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques.

This was a fortuitous find because I have just noticed a problem with my zucchini. I have my summer squash under floating row cover to hopefully ward off the squash bugs and borers. The downside is I have to check each day for female flowers and hand pollinate them. I have already harvested two zucchini and have two more successfully pollinated. But now I noticed a lot of leaf damage I am not familiar with. I took the photos below so I would have a reference to use when I go research the problem.


The leaves seem to have lots of small yellow/brown spots. Some of the leaves are starting to yellow and wilt. I looked under the leaves and around the raised bed for evidence of some kind of insect pest but found nothing. Using the HGIC website above, it seems like this type of damage is typical of squash bugs, which suck juices from the leaves. I suspect the bugs are capable of crawling under the row cover. I didn’t find bugs or nymphs or eggs under the leaves. Following the site’s advice, I will lay down some trap boards under the plants and check them each morning. Meanwhile. I sprayed the plant with insecticidal soap. And I decided to remove the row cover so I don’t have to hand pollinate. Hopefully it is late enough that the threat from squash pests is diminished.

Thursday, August 4, 2011 0 comments By: David Velten

Community Garden Update

It is now August and the garden plots in the Bolton Community Garden are looking green and healthy, despite the weather, insects and disease we have had to put up with. Below are some pictures of the Garden.


Saturday, July 16, 2011 1 comments By: David Velten

Interesting Plant Supports

At Tower Hill Botanic Gardens in Boylston, MA yesterday I spent a lot of my time staring at the ground, intrigued with the varieties of garden plants, and wondering how their eggplants seemed to be untouched by flea beetles. Not even one hole in the leaves. How do they do that? It took me a while to look up and realize there was an interesting variety of innovative and attractive plant supports in the garden. Below are some pictures and descriptions that might give you some ideas for your garden.

Black Pearl Pepper

We did a trip to Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Worcester yesterday. Of course, my biggest interest was in the displays of vegetable plants, both in the kitchen garden behind the Farmhouse and in the Systematic gardens. One particular plant caught my eye because it was such a knockout. It was the Black Pearl hot pepper, useful as both an ornamental and edible pepper.

The leaves of the plant are broad and flat. New growth starts green but the turns black and shiny when mature. The pods appear in clusters of small, round fruits that are shiny black when immature and cherry red when mature. Apparently the flavor is very good as well. Plants are also said to be vigorous, fairly disease and drought resistant, and heavy producers. The plant is OP and was bred by the USDA. It was an AAS selection in 2006. I didn’t see plants of this variety at any of the local garden centers I visited this year, so this one is going on my seed list for next year. Seeds are available from Johnny’s and Pine Tree among others. You can also read a discussion on the pepper on the GardenWeb forum.


Thursday, July 14, 2011 0 comments By: David Velten

Squash Pests

With some sunshine and warmer weather, a lot of the squash plants in the garden are looking very healthy. But you have to look closer to see the trouble coming ahead. The squash bugs  have arrived, as well as striped cucumber beetles. And the slugs are feeding on the lower leaves.

Squash bugs are ugly brown bugs you will find crawling around in the lower parts of the plants on the stems and undersides of the leaves. They can do a lot of damage and even destroy the plants. I couldn’t find one to photograph. You should check your squash plants daily for both the bugs and the orange/copper colored eggs and destroy them.

Below are photos of a cucumber beetle, squash bug eggs on top of a leaf, both eggs and a beetle on the flower, and a pretty healthy looking slug.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011 0 comments By: Bolton Community Garden

New Members of the Community Garden

Just a few weeks ago, Rona installed some bird houses at the garden. Within a day, one of them was occupied. Soon thereafter, three tree swallows bickered over who was going to take ownership of the second house. Their aerial acrobatics was accompanied by loud arguments. Nothing came of it, though. It looked like that house stayed empty. The owners of the first one were quite secretive. It was not until a couple of days ago before they could be identified: chickadees, now quite busy feeding their brood.  That same day it became clear that a couple had moved into House #2; one of them neatly maneuvered a piece of salt marsh hay in through the entrance down into the living room. The occupants, Mr. and Mrs. Wren, also were busily gathering food for their youngsters, not quietly like the Chickadees, but singing all the while.  Part of their shopping they do at the garden, together with robins, goldfinches, cowbirds, swallows and orioles. Most likely, other species frequent the garden as well. We welcome them very much. The busier they are the better; the bugs are bad this year. The birds, the toad and the garter snake all are part of our community.

--from Ada Woolston

Female cowbird