If you love spinach or Swiss chard, but hate the leaf miners who destroy the leaves, you do have a few control options available. Cover your plants with floating row cover, nylon net or sheer curtains from a thrift store to bar the little flies that are the parents of leaf miners.
Theyre small, but too large to get through the holes in regular nylon net. Just make sure any barrier extends to the soil all around your green leaves.
I found some net picnic table covers in a mail order catalog that protected enough plants for me to enjoy several green salads this spring without leaf-miner problems.
Stella Schneider grew five different varieties of spinach to see whether any were not attacked by leaf miners. She reported one variety was clean of leaf miners and their eggs: a Japanese spinach called Sharaku, from Pinetree Seeds.
While she looked for the seed packet, I searched for Sharaku online.
Oh. It isnt a spinach, but its a Komatsuna, a quick-growing mustard green. Bugs know the difference. Still, if you have no taste objection to mustard greens, its a good, fast-growing substitute for spinach or Swiss chard. Some komatsunas grow to harvest size within 30 days of sowing seeds.
Neem kills leaf miner and squash eggs, but its hard to tell which youve sprayed before. Leaf miners zap their tiny white lines of eggs so early, leaves may be only an inch tall. Leaf miners target spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens, tunneling between the top and bottom layers of cells before exiting to pupate in the soil.
Their tunnels look like brown papery squiggles on a leaf. Sometimes you can pinch that part, crushing the larva.
If youre one of those gardeners who have a hankerin to grow things big, heres your chance: the Western Idaho Fair is going to have a big pumpkin and big watermelon contest this summer, sponsored by Linder Farms.
All entries must be submitted between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., Aug. 15. There will be numerous prizes available, and master sculptor Russ Leno will sculpt several of the entries. To see examples of his work, go to http://www.masterpumpkinsculptor.com/Welcome.php.
For further information, go to www.idahofair.com or see the exhibitors handbook. Some big pumpkins weigh more than 800 pounds.
Years ago, many of us drank freely from our garden hoses, but wed better not do that any longer. Several toxic substances have been found in modern garden hoses, ranging from high levels of lead to phthalates, Bisphenol-A, cadmium and other chemicals dangerous to human health.
Most of the toxic crud was found in hoses made of PVC, even the handling of which may be dangerous. Were advised not to let the hoses get warm. What? In summer sun? Never drink from these hoses, and wash your hands with soap and water after handling them. Ive heard the stench will remind you.
A better choice is an all-rubber hose or a polyurethane hose, but be advised that their brass fittings might contain dangerous levels of lead, too.
Some tests indicate that the hose conducts those toxic substances along with the water when we water our food crops. Folks who have invested many dollars in organic certification should stay far, far away from these hoses.
Some needled evergreens send out candles at this time of year. Those are telling you thats how much the tree or shrub will grow this season. If you want to slow the growth, now is the time to cut off those candles before they become new branches.
Margaret Lauterbach: email@example.com or write to Gardening, The Idaho Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707