Organic Pesticide with Tobacco

Tobacco Field and Barn of Yesteryear

When I was a child we’d make annual pilgrimages to South Carolina for family reunions. The trips from Virginia, along Interstate 95, were grueling for a girl, but one of my fondest memories is of the acres and acres of tobacco—as far as you could see. Those tobacco fields are all but gone now but the footprint of that heritage remains.

I began growing tobacco years ago, here in Pennsylvania, and loved seeing my few plants surge in growth in the warm months, finally giving way to a delicate blossom.

David cut the mighty stalks and hung the plants, inverted, to dry in the smokehouse over the winter months.

When I first mentioned I wanted to grow tobacco, I was met with the “why??” almost out of the gate. Hmmmmm. Had to act fast—I was about to take up a row of precious garden real estate with a plant I “just wanted to grow for the fun of it.” I researched the other uses of tobacco and came upon (drum roll, please): Organic Pesticide.

Nicotine in tobacco is highly toxic and will kill or repel the pests on flowering plants, fruits, and vegetables. It’s inexpensive and organic (but double-check your source).

Steeping Tobacco Juice

To make your “pesticide,” combine a handful of tobacco leaves, a tablespoon of dishwashing soap and a gallon of warm water. Cover your mixture and let it steep overnight. Strain off the solids and add to a spray bottle. Coat your plants you’d like to protect—remember the underside of the leaves as well!

The cucumber beetle which wreaks such havoc tore into our pumpkin plants during it’s first life cycle (see the Cucumber Beetles blog).

Either the beetles were on the backside of their first cycle in this photo…or the tobacco juice went to work….or both.

See the new green, baby shoots?

Pumpkin Plant Coming Back

Cucumber Beetles

Cucumber beetles…. mere mention strikes fear in the hearts of vegetable gardeners, countrywide. Or, at least, it should.

They attack flowers and ornamentals as well as cucumbers. In fact, over 270 plants in 29 families fall prey to this little trouble-maker.

To learn more, I consulted Golden Harvest Organics online library. It was fascinating to learn (among other things) that the beetles actually transmit bacterial diseases which overwinter in their intestines, infecting plants in their earliest of stages.

According to ghorganics.com, the striped cucumber beetles do the most damage to the cucumber families or cucurbits, appearing a good four weeks before their spotted relatives.

Aside from hitting potatoes, squash, asparagus, tomatoes, fruits, and melons, they go after corn with a vengeance. Larvae infestation will impact the root system so forcefully, the corn appears to be drought-stricken. Adult beetles burrow into the silks when pollination is due to occur—resulting in “poor grain set.”

There are repellent plants which could be planted to deter the beetle and various other organic methods. (Try placing aluminum foil beneath plants to reflect light—the beetles prefer the underside of leaves because of the shade.)

David prefers the route of “integrated pest management” (IPM). Which is our very next blog entry….

Stay tuned.

Pretty

Pretty INVASIVE, that is!!

I’m talking about “Gooseneck Loosestrife.”

I purchased the perennial at a favorite greenhouse four years ago when I was “constructing” my flower beds.

I always read the description of the flowers I’m purchasing and I don’t remember the description suggesting “contains roots,” or “spreads quickly.”

For the past three years, I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to yank it out of the flower bed. It has spread so voraciously that it chokes out other tender perennials vying for the smallest of growing areas. The stem reminds me of a succulent; it’s always full of moisture. If you try to pull it out, it snaps at ground-level, leaving the root to begin a path elsewhere.

I’ve had the worst time ridding my flower beds of it. I pull new shoots constantly throughout the summer months.

I believe the only way to completely rid the flower beds of this dastardly villain is to turn over the topsoil and pull the roots, once and for all.

For now, I’ll pull the new shoots to allow the others their rightful sunlight and rainfall allowance.

It is pretty though.

The Three Sisters

More than 800 years ago the native American Iroquois people developed and employed a “cooperative” way of planting their three main crops:  corn, beans and squash—known as “Three Sisters.” 

If planted close together, the corn would provide a stalk upon which the beans would climb.  The beans would provide essential nitrogen to the soil and the large squash leaves would provide a ground cover to prevent the growth of unwanted plants and weeds.

We’re pairing two of the three sisters together this year. 

We grow rows and rows of butternut squash to allow proper garden space (after growing butternut for more than 10 years, I am still amazed at the amount of space the squash will eventually require).

The beans are nestled close to the corn, and once trained, will likely be very happy to hitch a ride on the cornstalks. This saves us the trouble of arranging a trellis of some sort and is a connection to history we’re happy to make.

‘Three Sisters” was all about maintaining an efficient garden, and environmental harmony as well.

Florida Weave

Over the years, we’ve grown hundreds and hundreds of tomato plants.

It all begins innocently enough: nothing beats the sweet smell of a little tomato plant on one of your first trips to the greenhouse in Spring (we just don’t bother to start tomato plants by seed—just a preference).

The thick, sticky little leaves…the bright green signaling the approaching summer…the visions of bulbous, red orbs packed into quart jars. Before you know it, you’ve got a row of 50 tomato plants. Cute, right? Until they’re waist-high, uprooting the tomato cages that were, at one time, way too big for the tiny plant.

Staking tomato plants. You name it; we’ve tried it.

This year, we’re going with the “Florida Weave.”

David has hammered wooden stakes 12 inches into the ground between every other tomato plant. The twine you use should be resistant to weather (obviously) and “grip” the stakes. We’re using baler twine.

Begin your twine about a foot off the ground, wrapping around the end stake and continue down the row “weaving” between plants—the object being the course of a figure 8 in twine supporting your plants. It’s recommended the figure 8 support is necessary only on the first level. From then on, you can just run straight down the row, attaching to stakes.

Many thanks to our friends at the Penn State Cooperative Extension website for posting this and many other helpful suggestions. Remember, there is a wealth of information available through your Cooperative Extension offices and websites!

Winter Rye

Tracy offers a few wry comments as she and Dave discuss the benefits of planting and harvesting Winter Rye.

Interpreting Your Soil Test Results

The soil test results are in. Join Tracy in this webisode to learn how to interpret them.

How to collect soil samples for testing

Join Tracy and David in the garden as they collect soil samples for testing.