Children’s Vegetable Garden Program (CVGP): Week 6 (March 26th, 2016)

By now you already know that we start out with our maintenance:  weeding and doing a health check on our existing plants which includes looking for bugs.  This week we found some signs of bugs, so let’s start out by talking about them.

Cabbage Loopers. This tiny but active caterpillar that Sandra is holding is a cabbage looper. It’s very small but it and its friends and relatives can easily put a dent in a cabbage. Squish them if you see them. Or, if you’re squeamish like I am about hand squishing 🙂 put them on the ground and step on them.



Aphids. These were a little hard to see, but you can see the signs of aphids in the picture below… the sticky honeydew excreted by the aphids and possibly some of their shed skins. Did you know that they shed their skins as they grow?


While we didn’t find any bugs on our potatoes this week, click here for an interesting Texas Crop Profile article on potatoes which also mentions some of the bugs you (and we) may find on our plants.

But it’s not all bad… there are some artichoke beds at the CVGP and they have a lot of ladybugs in three development stages…let’s have a look at this beneficial insect.

This ladybug larva has hatched from an egg and sheds its skin as it grows. It’s hungry and eats aphids, mealybugs and other harmful insects:


The larva next will go into the pupa stage and not move for a few days.  Here are two larvae:


Finally, it will emerge as an adult ladybug:



Ladybugs do vary in color (orange, red, pink) and markings (number of spots) —the adult pictured above is an Asian ladybug. These ladybugs will help manage the bugs at the CVGP.

The ladybugs were also joined by bees (see pic below), because the plants also had aphids and they were attracted to the honeydew.  The ladybugs tend to lay eggs near the bugs they eat so their young will have a nearby food source when they hatch.


OK, now that we’re done debugging for now (yes, I work with computers and couldn’t resist that), let’s talk about TOMATOES! Yes, tomatoes. There are small tomatoes on the BHN 968 plants in addition to the flowers that were on both tomato plants. Yay, first fruit!!!!



We unwrapped our tomato cages partially while we were there, but wrapped them up before we left. We will leave the wrap on a little longer since the weather is still a bit cool and unpredictable.

Let’s have a look at how a few of our plants are doing. The cabbages are starting to form heads, and the broccoli looks strong.


This squash has formed its first true leaf:


The portulacas are full of blooms – remember to remove spent flowers like our gardener is doing in order to maximize flowering:


The potato plants continue to grow vigorously:



We did have to replace some of the Alternanthera and begonia plants…the strong (and drying winds) were not kinds to the young plants.   We also replaced any of our squash seeds that had not sprouted.

This week we planted three transplants: ‘Ichiban’ Japanese eggplant, ‘Genovese’ sweet basil, and ‘Sweet Success’ Burpless cucumber. If you’ve never grown Japanese eggplant, it’s a slender eggplant rather than a plump one, and ….   Basil is an easy to grow herb for your garden, and wonderful to use in cooking.   Every year my mom plants a pot of basil from seed in her New Jersey garden, and it is enjoyed until frost.

The eggplant was planted near the three peppers (top right in the pic below). Notice the wet soil around the plant from the careful handwatering. Our gardeners practice watersaving techniques like watering where and when a plant needs it:



If you look at our cucumber transplant below, you’ll see that we’ve leaned a bamboo stake against the trellis. This will encourage the transplant to grow towards the trellis, and latch onto it with tendrils. By the way, ‘burpless’ cucumbers have a thinner skin, fewer seeds, and are called burpless because they are thought to cause less burping.



A few planting tips (see the full details in the Week 6 agenda located under the Agendas tab):

  • Use cages for your peppers to support the plants when they start to bear fruit. It’s much easier to start out a plant with a cage around it, than to try to put one around a larger plant.
  • Remember to soak the plant, still in its nursery container, in water up to the top of the container, until the air bubble stop.
  • In general, plant your plants even with the soil line…do not bury the plant. Although some plants can benefit from a deeper planting, most do not, and you can never go wrong planted level with the ground.
  • If there is a peat pot, don’t remove it–that would damage the roots which you can see growing through the peat. You can fold back the top edges a bit so they do not show above ground. (If they show, they will act like a wick.)
  • Gently but firmly tamp the soil down around your planting and water it in. This will ensure that the settled down soil is level with the plant, and that there are no large air pockets in the soil.
  • When fertilizing, keep the fertilizer off the leaves unless it is mixed at a strength to be a foliar fertilizer. (Read the instructions on the bottle.)

A look at our garden at the end of the day:




Lyn Komada, Bexar County Master Gardeners

Bonus Picture!

The wildflowers are lovely this time of year, and right by us at the Botanical Garden the colors were beautiful!  (Remember you can click on any of the pictures to enlarge it.)

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