Ugh! Japanese Beetles!

Japanese Beetle

Ugh it is a terrible Japanese Beetle year!! Well, good for the beetles I guess!  Here is a video I pulled together with some ideas in controlling and dealing with Japanese Beetles in your yard.

I think the most effective way to deal with Japanese Beetles is to simply gather them up and kill them by hand. It seems time consuming, but you can make a real dent in the population.

I use a tub with a lid like a Chinese food container. In the early morning, the beetles are slow and drowsy so they are rather easy to just bonk into the tub. I give it a little shake as I gather them to keep them disoriented so they don’t fly out as I open it to bonk the next group.

And another thing to remember is that Japanese Beetles have a rather short adult life span. And at this point, their time is almost up.

So don’t despair. Most perennial plants and vines and bushes will recover just fine even if their leaves are very holey or laced.

Besides simply gathering them, you can also allow some very common weeds to grow. Smartweed or any of the Polygonums are particular favorites of Japanese Beetles. They are easy to weed out and if you let some grow around your garden, you will see tons of Japanese Beetles on the smartweed and very few on the other garden plants.

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Polygonum or Smartweed – a great trap or lure plant for keeping Japanese Beetles off your other garden plants

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The flower of the Polygonum or Smartweed

Another common weed that attracts Japanese Beetles is Pigweed or Pig Amaranth. If you have it in your yard or garden, at least you can feel that it is luring Japanese Beetles off other plants. I wouldn’t purposefully plant these or knowingly let them set seed in your garden though! They are tough weeds.

Pigweed or Pig Amaranth - another lure plant

Pigweed or Pig Amaranth – another lure plant

I don’t think the kelp powder I recommended for the Flea Beetles would work very well to repel Japanese Beetles – they are bigger and stronger and seem to just brush the kelp aside…. I don’t think the Kaolin Clay will work very well either for that same reason – although if you apply enough of either you probably could hide the plant pretty effectively.

Diatomaceous Earth is a powdery substance made up of the tiny bodies of an ancient type of algae. It is very effective on soft bodied insects – it basically acts like little razor blades on a microscopic level … but on a big armored beetle like a Japanese Beetle, I don’t think it would be very effective.

Milky Spore is a bacteria that you release into your lawn in the fall – it attacks the grubs or larvae of the Japanese beetles during the course of the winter and spring. So it can lessen the amount of beetles that emerge and eat your plants in the summer. I used it once and thought it worked. It is a long term plan – supposedly the best results can be seen in 2-3 years. I don’t know though – I think there are natural things currently in your lawn – especially if you have been treating your property naturally – that control the Japanese Beetle population. I find that they go in phases – one year lots of beetles the next year not so many … so now I think maybe the Milky Spore didn’t do anything – or at least I don’t know how one would prove it or know for sure it did something … maybe worth a try, maybe not worth spending money on…

So anyway – luckily, we are getting close to the end of the Adult life cycle so in a week or two they should be gone….

And Chickens love them…. another great reason to get chickens!

A Great Recipe for Enjoying the Abundance of Summer Swiss Chard – Swiss Chard and Gulf Shrimp

IMG_7976In this recipe the ‘bite’ or leafy sharp-quality of the chard truly complements the seafood flavor of the briny Gulf Shrimp. If I ever opened a crab-shack cafe at the shore, this is definitely one of the dishes I’ll put on my menu!

IMG_7916To begin, you’ll need:

1/2 cup chopped onion, shallot, or scallion
1/2 cup olive oil and/or butter
salt and black pepper to taste

IMG_7943Start with sautéing some shallots or onion (about 1/2 cup chopped) in Olive Oil or Butter (1/4 cup fat in all).

1 chopped fresh sweet pepper
1 bunch of fresh Chard (could be any color or combination of colors)

Add some chopped bell pepper or ancho pepper to taste – I used one smallish poblano from the garden. Also add the stems of the Chard (save the greens), chopped like celery. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

about 4-5 slices of bacon (This is optional, but really adds a smokiness and earthiness to this dish.)

IMG_7945In the meantime, slice the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. Then saute the bacon in a separate pan. Let it get crispy. Pour into a strainer over a pyrex. Spread bacon pieces out on a paper towel. Reserve the fat in the pyrex.IMG_7951

And start a pot of water to boil for some pastas. I used the Radiatore Organic Pasta from Shoprite. It is really lovely. It has gluten, but the wheat is organically raised.

You can use any shape of pasta – just cook it according to the directions. Because this recipe will have a looser styled sauce, I like to use a pasta with some extra nooks and crannies to hold it. When the pastas are ready, slightly al dente, drain them and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

IMG_7948Once the onions, pepper, chard stems are soft, add the shrimp. I used about 1 pound of medium sized Gulf shrimp. It is important to use wild caught shrimp for this recipe. Wild shrimp have a deeper seafood flavor than the dirty farm raised shrimp.

IMG_7946Coarsely chop the chard leaves. And add them to the pan just as the shrimp start to turn pink. Add some extra salt and pepper now too.

IMG_7954Once the green have cooked down and the shrimp are fully cooked. This takes minutes! Add the pasta to the pan and toss with the other ingredients.

IMG_7972Add about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the pasta water, about 3 tbsp of the reserved bacon fat, and a dollop of heavy cream (optional but really is wonderful). You want a sauce that moves fluidly yet is tasty. Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

IMG_7978Finally add the bacon, give it a final stir and enjoy!

Using Kelp Powder on Eggplants to Prevent Flea Beetles!

IMG_7431For years and years I’ve been frustrated and distraught dealing with flea beetles destroying my Eggplants. Flea Beetles cause the millions of tiny holes that can be-speckle eggplants seedlings to the point of killing them.

Mild Flea Beetle damage on an eggplant leaf.

Mild Flea Beetle damage on an eggplant leaf.

Flea Beetles are tiny and jump very far – I guess that why they are called Flea Beetles… even on cool mornings when insects tend to be a bit slower they are hard to squish.

This past spring I almost accidentally discovered something that really made a huge difference and kept the flea beetles off very well! I was using kelp powder as a soil amendment and decided to sprinkle a little over the still-damp leaves of my eggplants that were starting to get holey. Well – it worked – there was a huge decrease in damage to my eggplants!

So here’s a quick video of what I did … really simple! And safe and healthy for your garden at the same time!

A kelp-sprinkled Eggplant

A kelp-sprinkled Eggplant

There’s more gardening advice and workshop info on our website! Visit us now! 

Wildcrafting Yarrow in Mid-July

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Achillea millefolium

Now, in mid-July, is when wild yarrow is starting to bloom.

Here is a video of my morning wildcrafting session today – harvesting yarrow. I hope that this video gives you a clear idea of how to find yarrow yourself and gather it for your herbal usages! Click to watch!

I try to pick the flower heads just as they start to flower – when the plant is at its peak. I harvest in the early morning after the dew has burned off or right before.

I spread out the flowering tops in a wide basket or tray. You want to provide space and airflow so they dry fully.

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A week or so after you harvest, more blossoms will come up – Yarrow will keep providing blossoms for about a month. And you can keep collecting. I do always make a point of leaving some blossoms for butterflies, who love yarrow.

Leaving some areas of your property unmowed can often reveal volunteer native plants and herbs, and yarrow is actually quite common.

Besides encouraging wild yarrows to pop up, I also plant yarrows in the garden. Yarrow is a dynamic plant – biodynamic – and a classic companion plant. Its presence next to other plants and especially herbs – stimulates essential oil production so your other herbs will be more nutrient dense and scented and flavored amazingly.

Medicinally, Yarrow has a long and complex history. It is one of those herbs that can address a whole gamut of issues and make life as a human so much better. I use it mostly in making salves, which is why I dry most of the yarrow I wildcraft. But I also make a jar of tincture every year as well.

Yarrow can be used in a salve for external healing – like for cuts and rashes and such. Or it can also be very effective for internal healing as a salve – for things like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and joint issues, etc. It also has many uses as a tea! Yarrow is an easy to grow, easy to harvest, and easy to use medicinal – it makes a fabulous and important addition to any home herbal apothecary!

Yarrow in the pasture

Yarrow in the pasture

If you’re interested in using herbs consider our Building an Herbal Apothecary Course:

We are now accepting registrations for our current Apothecary Course starting Friday, July 24th!

Feel free to email me with any questions or register using Paypal online:

Yarrow can look a bit like Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota). But when you take a look at these pictures, I think they are quite clearly different and easy to distinguish.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

—-Always Wildcraft Responsibly!!!—-

Growing Dependable Lettuce – Even in the Summer!

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I just posted a new video called Growing Dependable Lettuce up on our uTube Channel.

The Oakleaf lettuce seed variety I was planting in the video is called ‘Panisse’ and the Red Romaine variety is “Red Rosie.’ I have had great luck with both! I shot that video and seeded that tray on June 17th. And here’s a shot of that seed tray yesterday (July 6th):

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Here’s a pic of the other seed tray that had just started coming up (I took the cling wrap off on the video):

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Here’s a shot of the transplanted ones from the video:

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And here’s how the ones I transplanted into pots look today:

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They are all set to get planted out into the field. They have a very good chance of getting through any storms or heat waves we may experience and still form good sized, harvestable heads. And they’ll be delicious!

HARDENING OFF    All these lettuce plants have been kept out of direct sunlight and evenly moist. A couple days before I plant the mature ones out to the field, I’ll leave them in the full direct sun, but under a light layer of floating row cover. You could also just place them in direct sun in the morning and put them back into indirect light in the afternoon for two days. They don’t need a dramatic hardening-off program, but a little can really alleviate transplanting stress. I’ll also plan for a cloudy day for transplanting the mature ones out to the field. Or you can cover them with row cover for the first couple days after transplanting.

Be sure to water your new transplants well.

Never transplant seedlings after 11 am on summer days. The best time of day for transplanting is 6 pm to 11 am.

Video can be accessed here too. Or visit our Midsummer Farm uTube Channel.

Just Loving Marjoram!

close up shot of marjoram growing

I have decided that this year my favorite herb is marjoram! I am just loving it – it is an easy to grow herb and a classic flavoring. We’re talking about Sweet Marjoram or Majorana hortensis not Wild Marjoram or Origanum majorana. 

I pulled together a short video as I was transplanting some of my marjoram plants last week. Watch it here.

Lots more info and herbal and gardening info on our Midsummer Farm website!
Here’s the recipe:

Potato Leek Soup as a Base Soup for Tasting Herbs

One of my student at a workshop mentioned making a simple soup with Potatoes and Marjoram. And it haunted me – I had to try to make it myself and wanted to try it a couple different ways. As I experimented, I couldn’t help but think that this could be used as way to really get to know the flavor of a particular herb. Marjoram is a perfect example- it is a rather rare herb- often herbs labeled marjoram are actually oregano. Many recipes that call for marjoram state that oregano can be substituted… but it really can’t in most cases and one of the bets ways to learn this and get a clear feeling of marjoram’s flavor profile is through a soup like this!
Ingredients
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek – finely chopped
3 large russet style potatoes – cut into 1/2 inch cubes
a big bunch of fresh marjoram or any fresh herb – chopped
salt and pepper
a tbsp or 1/4 cup of heavy cream (optional)

Start with heating your olive oil on medium-low heat in a medium sized pot. Add chopped leeks, add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and cook them until soft.

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Add the potatoes and cover with water. Cover pot, but leave a bit ajar. Simmer potatoes until they are tender, about 20 minutes or so.

Take off heat and using a masher or immersion blender to mush up the potatoes. You don’t have to be veyr thorough here – I like to have a creamy and thick soup but with some chunks of potato still.

Add marjoram or other fresh herb, stir it in and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. You can add a dollop of heavy cream at this point too.

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And enjoy! This soup can be reheated just fine too!

Here’s a before-after set of photos of the Marjoram plants that I took about 3 weeks after they were transplanted in the video:

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marjoram – young plant just after transplanting

3 week old marjoram plants

marjoram plants – much bigger – just 3 weeks later!