Grape Leaf Skeletonizers 1 The Prudent Homemaker

Temperatures are climbing back up to normal this week and we will see 100º by Saturday. Therefore, my garden work needs to be done early in the week.

I worked hard last week to remove caterpillar-infected leaves from the grape vines, but I still have many more to tackle. I read on the local nursery’s page that BT is highly effective in getting rid of these, so I’m thinking I mixed the spray too thinly last time. It can’t be sprayed when temperatures are above 90º. I tried with temperatures near that last October and I lost every leaf on my vines. It is supposed to be 90º today, but the infestation is so bad that I will try this evening when the temperatures go down.

I visited a neighbor’s garden this week that I have never seen before. Her tomato plants were big and beautiful–the result of wonderful dirt. She had 5 foot tall plants in earth boxes, loaded with tomatoes. Meanwhile, my plants are not growing well at all, even though they have been in the ground for months. I am positive now that my soil is worn out and needs more fertilizer. I plan to do lots of fertilizing this week. I will also be adding soil sulphur to lower the ph to allow the plants to take in the nutrients from the fertilizer.

My white hydranges, which I have read are never supposed to change colors, are turning pink! Our soil and water are highly alkaline here. I will add soil sulphur to the ground around these to lower the ph.



1. Spray BT (an organic spray) for caterpillars on grape vines

2. Continue to remove caterpillar-covered leaves from the grape vines

3. Fertilize tomato plants

4. Fertilize fruit trees

5. Fertilize roses

6. Fertilize blackberry bushes

7. Give soil sulphur to hydrangeas

8. Plant more basil seeds

9. Cut lavender flowers from the garden to dry



1. Sew one item from my Pinterest project board. Last week I only managed to wash the fabric for the project.

2. Mend at least 3 items of clothing

3. Sew pajama shorts for Ezrom



1. Buy Cyrus some new glasses from Zenni Optical, going through Ebates first for cash back.

2. Order new geography workbooks (see my fifth and fourth grade pages for what I am using)

3. Order new spelling workbooks for the same grades

4. Trip to Winco for milk and potatoes

5. Write shopping list for June



1. Straighten one drawer

2. Put away out grown clothing items for the children



1. Take photos for upcoming blog posts

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  1. Hi! Maybe consider using compost instead of more fertilizer. I recently read an article about a California farmer that uses all compost, that he makes it home, and he’s producing more than commercial farmers and using about three quarters less water per acre.

  2. I recognize those caterpillars! They’re in our garden, too, and my grandchildren were happily shaking them into jars last weekend. My tomatoes are slowly growing, but I have a tomato-loving golden retriever. Although he’s pony-sized and weighs 90 pounds, he’s never tried to jump the knee-high railing around my herb garden. He just didn’t seem to realize he could. This year, we decided for various reasons to try putting tomatoes in there, consolidating the plants we use most often in that bed. Our now ten-year golden stood flatfooted and jumped over that railing as nimbly as a deer to get to those tomatoes, so I doubt we’ll get many. Oh, and he and all the coyote around here love the figs, too. Our neighbor snapped pictures of two of them standing on their hind legs, pulling figs from our tree last summer. We’ve seen them do it, too. And we discovered a snake looking back at us when we reached into the tree at about shoulder height. For some reason, my silly husband refused to continue picking, while I just moved over to the other side of the tree. it was a bull snake.

    Now that I’ve brought up snakes, I want to offer a special warning to those so busily working their gardens this time of year. Last month, a man a street over from us stepped out his front door and was bitten by a rattlesnake. He was Lifeflighted to a nearby town and did survive. In our town, we usually have about one person a year killed, usually after they’ve reached into brush or plants. My husband killed two coral snakes last week. In the last two years, snakes have bitten dogs in the backyards of our three nearest neighbors. Fortunately, our golden has escaped that fate since he’s an inside dog and only ventures out for play or pottie time.

  3. Oh, I know that’s the answer, but I cannot possibly make enough quick enough. If I could I would add compost every time I have something new to plant. I usually add manure (I did this year) but the soil needs more humus. Right now, since things are already planted, I am going to try fertilizer. Usually I just work to improve the soil but I can see that it is now tired, and my compost isn’t ready.

  4. Linda,

    I don’t let my children anywhere near these caterpillars. Every part of them will leave you with a stinging welt that lasts a week. It doesn’t matter if they are dead or alive; the touch of them is awful. They are highly destructive and can ruin your grape vines; I hope you can get rid of yours.

  5. I’m a big believer in adding all sorts of things to the bottom of tomato plant holes. I also bury my plants DEEP- it makes them bigger and stronger in the end. To the bottom of each hole I add, used coffee grounds, banana peel pieces, one aspirin, epsom salts, worm castings, and rock dust/azomite. It makes a huge difference- my plants are always bigger and far more productive than any others in my community garden. Rock dust does wonders for worn out soil! I get my using Swagbuck for free on Amazon. Actually, if you have extra, it’s great to toss (lightly the way you would flour a board to roll pastry) leaves infested with pests. To us it feels soft like flour but to them it’s coarse and they hate it.

    KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

  6. Our village composts all the leaves it collects in the fall and gives it away to all the villagers for free. I wonder if there is some type of program like that in your area? Might be worth looking into. We just got several truckloads this week. I know that you can buy bags of compost around here.

  7. I just worked in my garden this morning – what a pitiful attempt it is. Last year we had such a productive one. I’m not going to point fingers, but I did let my 17 year old plant it this year – he was so enthusiastic that I let him take over…all that has survived is 4 tomato plants and 3 okra plants, despite the fact that onions, garlic, spinach, more okra, and something else that I can’t remember was planted. Regardless, the weeds need to be removed and I harvested about a dozen tomatoes this morning. (I’m telling myself that biblically the soil should be rested every 7 years, so that’s what we are doing this year).

    We have about an 8 foot long row against the garage that is partially shaded, but I’m wondering if planting blackberries would work there. Thanks for writing about them – you’ve given me something to consider.

  8. Too bad you do not have any chickens. They would make fast work of those caterpillars for your. Our friends have had those in their garden, so she let her chickens have free run in the garden for a day. BUGS gone. She has just 4 hens. She told me she shook the taller plants to knock the caterpillars down. She plans to do this once a week or so. Mary’s garden is beautiful too. Her chickens are fat little things that know their name and come when they are called. The 4 birds give her more eggs than they can eat. (there are 3 of them in the house) Mary brings us a dozen eggs when we meet for dinner on Friday nights. For the past 8 years we have done a Bible study as a group on Friday nights. It is fun and I have learned so much.

  9. I added epsom salts, bone meal, and soil sulphur to my holes, plus I buried them deeply as well. I considered the banana peels and was thinking last week that I should have done those, too. I haven’t bought worm castings in a long time (they are quite costly) but I buy worms to add to the garden every few years to make sure we’re getting plenty of worm castings that way.

    Normally they do so well and grow 8 feet tall. Last year they struggled, and this year they are doing worse than ever. I think compost and worm casting would be ideal; perhaps I can do worm castings next year.

    I’ll check out the rock dust on Amazon.

  10. I wish they had a green compost collection here. Unfortunately, the city does not collect these. If they did I wouldn’t need so many trash cans 😀 I think it’s because most people have rock landscaping–but there are still leaves!

    The nursery sells something like compost, but it’s quite expensive at $5 a cubic foot. Adding it in is ideal, and probably quite needed now. The cost has prohibited me from buying it very often. It’s not quite the same as homemade compost (peat moss is one of the ingredients), and for my garden I would need quite a bit; it would cost me $500 a year, so I have stuck with manure, which is $1 a square foot. I am certain the soil needs more than that, though–as evidenced by my tomatoes.

  11. I did for a while until my neighbor turned me in two weeks after they started laying 🙁 I wouldn’t give these to them, though–they sting your skin for a week as soon as you touch them. I can’t imagine the chickens would want those on their tongues. The chickens also wouldn’t hesitate to eat the grapes, even unripe-we had a few get out of the run and they ate them.

  12. We had a dog who loved strawberries.

    We have a large plum tree in our back yard. One year my husband was picking some plums off it and nearly stood on a brown snake. I’m pretty sure that year we let the birds help themselves to the rest of the plums. Not as scary as the time we had a brown snake inside playing around my toddler’s feet – she thought it was great fun and was just about to reach down and pick it up when I stopped her – but still too close for comfort. (She still loves snakes. I have heard her say, in all sincerity and without a trace of fear, “Oooh, look, a baby tiger snake! Isn’t that adorable?”)

  13. My goals for this week: Sew a valance for the bathroom window. Take some photographs of the new bathroom, and the hallway which was also created when we put in the bathroom, and e-mail them to family. Weed the garden. Put down new bark. Arrange for some scrap metal to be picked up. Buy some exterior paint – we’re replacing all the weatherboard on our house and want to paint it before it goes up (that way we’ll just have to do some touch-ups once it goes up). Freshen up the grout in the shower. Price new mattresses for the guest room – our old mattress (which was second-hand to begin with) is smelling a bit mildewy.

    On the mattress front, does anyone know if it’d work if I bought a feather bed type thing to go above the old mattress? Or would the mildew transfer to the feather bed? I’m asking because the person who uses the guest bed the most, has a bit of an incontinence problem; so my fear is that we’ll get a new mattress and it will soon be ruined. (We can get a coni pad but this person sometimes leaks through them.) But my parents are coming out next year and I’d like for them to have a decent mattress to sleep on. I thought maybe if I got a feather bed type thing, I could leave it off the bed until they come; and it might be cheaper than getting a new mattress. I’m open to advice if anyone has any.

  14. That surprises me. I understand if you have roosters (our neighbour is a long way away but her rooster still wakes us up sometimes) but if you just have hens, why should your neighbour care? I thought most municipalities allowed hens these days, anyway. Sorry you had to get rid of your girls.

  15. I am hoping to make it to our town’s free compost pick up this coming weekend. You just have to bring your own containers and shovels and you can help yourself.
    I’m also hoping to plant another round of seeds for a second crop, hem some jeans that are worn out on the bottom into capris, finish the homemade picture frame that my son will give to my husband for father’s day, ride to work at least once this week and use up some of the baking mixes I seem to accumulate in my pantry instead of buying any treats this week.

  16. My goals this week are to finish all the items on my to do list from last week. ;). And cook all our meals at home! Also, I went to the grocery store this afternoon and noticed the crazy high price of eggs. I know the bird flu has affected the chickens but hadn’t seen any price changes until now. One dozen eggs was $4.50. Gees. I found 18 for $3 and bought it figuring they will last me until hopefully the prices come down. I researched a bit and I can’t find an estimate of when prices will come back down, guess once they grow new chickens who start laying. I can’t find any data if chicken prices themselves are due to increase. I would expect so but aren’t seeing any information about it. Anyone know?

  17. We recently purchased a 4 inch thick memory foam topper for our mattress on Amazon. Our mattress was horrible and the topper makes it feel like new.

  18. I would highly recommend having your soil tested, if you haven’t done so recently. It is difficult to tell what to add and how much without knowing what is already in your soil. Tomatoes are heavy feeders of potassium and phosphorus. I generally add bloodmeal when planting my tomatoes to give them an extra jumpstart. If your pH is too high it doesn’t matter how much fertilizer you add it still won’t be available to your plants.

    I hope you win against those catepillers! Goodluck I am cheering for you!

    This week I am working on replanting the parts of the garden that did not survive this weekends freeze. The weather channel said a low of 32. It reached 24!!! Our last frost date in may 15 so I was not expecting a freeze on May 22. Oh well! At this there is still plenty of time to replant and get a nice crop!

  19. I blend my kitchen scraps in the blender then pour on my quick compost. Do you think your need to rotate where you have your tomatoes planted?

  20. I got a featherbed and ended up not being a fan – too lumpy, got rid of it. You can however get mattress covers that are completely waterproof. I’ve used them and just put a regular mattress pad you can wash on top, then sheets/etc. It’s worked out well for me. I got mine at the mattress store when I bought my bed, I’ve spilled a glass of water in my bed and it didn’t leak through.

  21. Compost is a great addition to the soil, but mostly adds tilth to the soil and does not release a lot of nutrients quickly. Vegetables require quite a bit of nitrogen, so you should add fertilizer before planting, every time. Chicken manure is higher than most of the other manures. Read the back of the bag to ensure you add enough, most people tend to under fertilize. Good luck, I use a pelleted chicken manure, fertilize before planting every season and have more tomatoes than I can use.

  22. Brandy I have the same problem with tomatoes, three years ago they took over the garden, last year they were barely producing and this year they are total failures. I composted like crazy but they still look sad. Oh well, my squash and strawberries are really great this year so that’s a win!

  23. Mae,
    I have a feather bed pad on our bed with a waterproof pad over that (because offen our small children crawl into bed with us ad I worry about their frequent bed wetting) I also have their beds covered with plastic mattress covers with mattress pads over that, I wash the pads and sheets when they wet the bed and the mattress always stays clean under the plastic.

  24. Those caterpillars look and sound nasty…ick! I thought tent caterpillars were gross, but these ones sound far worse. As for the snake conversation, we only have one poisonous snake in Ontario, the Massasauga rattlesnake, and they are rare to see in Southern Ontario. Glad I don’t have to deal with poisonous snakes while gardening here!

  25. Thanks Kim!

    One of the challenges with growing tomatoes here is that I have a limited time for fruit to set before it gets too hot for the plants to flower. Usually they do most of their flowering in May and a bit in June before it gets too hot and they stop flowering. We have a week in July where storms pass by (we get rain on one of those days) and the plant often flowers again that week, and then it doesn’t flower again until late October, when temperatures finally cool down. I hope I am not too late. I do know they need some nitrogen right now as they have not gotten much taller at all from when I bought them. What they need most is likely a 4-year rotation, but I can’t do that, and it could be disease that is doing them in. I only really have one good space for tomatoes. I grew fewer plants last year and then rotated this year with that spot, but I know every other year isn’t enough. Still, even the ones that did the best last year (which were in a spot where no tomatoes had grown for 4 years) didn’t do very well, either, so I think nutrients are still lacking. Last year I added a basic vegetable fertilizer in the hole with each plant when I planted them, as well as the bone meal. I still lost two plants to disease last year and had two others that never grew at all! I even started with the larger plants last year!

    I am going to scratch the vegetable fertilizer into the soil. I already put some epsom salt at each plant. Hopefully those two, along with soil sulphur, will help. Our high alkalinity and high salts are certainly a challenge; even though I brought in new dirt, the water is still quite alkaline.

  26. I know they need a 4-year rotation, but I only have one good spot in the garden for tomatoes, as everything else has more shade from the many permanent fruit trees. Last year I planted fewer tomatoes and this year planted where those were not, but I know a every other year rotation is not enough. I am certain that I lost two plants to disease last year, despite planting a disease-resitant variety, and I think that lack of rotation is why.

    I have two plants that are going okay right now, and those two are where i dumped my first batch of compost last year. . . . so that is somewhat telling!

    I lost one plant to wind damage this year And most of the others have sustained a lot of damage at the base from the month of high winds we had. My neighbors had their tomatoes very blocked from wind with lots of metal fencing. I have never seen anyone grow them like that before. It seems to have made a big difference, though!

    How long does your compost take?

  27. I neglected to mention that when we discovered the grandchildren shaking those caterpillars into jars, we stopped them and told them that some caterpillars could sting. I even brought them into my office so we could use a program to help us identify it. (There was no accord reached on whether we had found the correct identification, but at least they were able to participate in the search and probably will not forget in the future not to touch caterpillars they can’t identify.) However, on behalf of my grandchildren, I do appreciate that warning in case I hadn’t known. I also can confirm that it’s hard to make enough of your own compost to serve the entire garden. We usually barely have enough for the herb garden. We’re vegan and add no extra oil to our foods other than what they naturally contain. That means that every bit of food scrap we don’t use for eating or making veggie broth goes into the composter along with other items such as shredded non-shiny paper, of course. Of course, using veggie scraps to make our own veggie broth cuts down on the scraps we put into the composter, but it’s a choice we make.

  28. I never saw caterpillars like that. I am assuming they morph into moths?
    The next 2 weeks we have family coming in to stay from each side. I decided I “needed” to paint the guest room before they all arrived (one set arrives and then leaves the day the other set comes in). So far I have one coat on, will have the second coat on tomorrow. This room has the original paint from the previous homeowners (23 years).
    I will again scrub the house down as if the queen is visiting.
    I started a tea/tisane garden and have an old tea cup/saucer that I want to glue together to make a pretty garden maker.
    The fridge freezer needs to be organized so if quick meals are needed the next two weeks can be found by guests or my husband.
    I am going to make your granola this week – I usually use the Better Homes recipe, but want a little change.
    My tomatoes – the ones I planted in containers are doing well – but the one 5 in the ground could use a growth spurt. I rotate my “crops” yearly and amend the soil yearly so I am not sure why they are still stunted. I am hoping fish emulsion will help.
    I hope to get the plants I divided this weekend into new beds.
    Hope everyone has a productive week!

  29. You might consider compost tea. You can pour the water through the compost and then pour the liquid on your soil. It works very well. We struggle with getting our compost to break down complete and this way allows us to use it faster.

  30. This week I need to bake more biscotti for my husband’s lunch box, he liked the batch I made Friday so much that only one survived til this morning. Lol.
    I have to get the children’s hair cut, my son looks like David Bowie.
    We have a lot of gardening to do so much husband and I are going to be night gardening, it’s the only time without “help.”
    That’s probably all I’ll get done this week, the weeds are atrocious, we have some new one that spread like crazy.

  31. I could very well be wrong, but those look just like the caterpillars that Mary had in her garden. They did sting Mary’s fingers when she tried to pluck them off that is why she let the ‘girls’ as she calls them in. What Mary does is pick anything that is ripe that day, then turn the hens loose in the garden while she is in there. She has to worry more about deer than most anything else eating her plants.
    Shame your HOA will not allow a few chickens. To me that is silly, if you own your home you should be able to use your yard as you see fit. As with a clothes line, a few chickens, or a veggie garden.
    My friend Mary and her husband Hank live in a very ‘swanky’ addition in Salado. They have a big HOA too. The HOA gave them problems too at first, but Hank is a lawyer and proved that some of their ‘rules’ are not legal. They have a huge property. It takes a tractor with a shredder to mow. Yet, the HOA was trying to tell them they could not have a motor home unless they build a big garage addition on. (they don’t want to see the motor home from the road) They are not supposed to have chickens but the people next to them have donkeys and horses. Hank filed a lawsuit against the HOA and got a few rules changed. He is also on the board.
    I understand about some things, who wants to live next door to someone with 3 broken down cars in their yard? But something like a few chickens in the back yard? Give me a break. Mary’s chickens are like pets to her. They know their name and come when called. They are very sweet birds and used to being held. Mary got them when they were very tiny, her grand daughters handled them from day one. No one was pecked or hurt. Now the girls are tame and give an egg every day.

  32. My children also played with inchworms last week–destructive to crops but they don’t sting 😀 I didn’t know if you knew and when you said your grandchildren did that I was amazed that no one got stung! I wear long sleeves and gloves and have managed to get stung more than once. I had half a dead one go down my shirt once and boy did it hurt! Everyone was asking me about it later in the week at church (the rounded neckline of my church dress was below where my higher shirt had been where pruning)–it was that big of a welt! I am so glad no one got hurt!

  33. I do what I call a cold compost. I’m blessed to have a VitaMix, but think any blender would do. I blend my green kitchen scraps that normally would go in a compost pile (I don’t really create enough yet to get one going) with some water till they are a very wet smoothie, pull back the mulch around my plants and water with this, then put back the mulch. I figure the blender breaks it down to such tiny pieces it will rot quickly in place – Ruth Stout style.

    Just wanted to say I’m a long time follower, but since you moved your blog here just now realized I can comment! Such a thrill, thank you for all you do! I’d love to see you do a post on your garden layout and how you plan. I’m new at trying to do more than a small veggie plot, your edible yard is my dream yard and due to drought here want to redo. I’m in zone 9b so can do much the same as you.

  34. That’s a great idea! I need to get the compost wet in the summer anyway since it dries out here. I will have to put something underneath it to catch it when I do that and use that for my plants. Thanks! I had forgotten all about compost tea!

  35. Most of my compost is grass and paper scraps. I do add in banana peels and my mom gives me her coffee grounds (I often put those directly in the garden, but they usually go in the compost, along with the filter. I have done some trench composting in the past but I haven’t done that in a while. I don’t seem to have many kitchen scraps of late. We have eggshells, but those also increase the ph, so I don’t usually include those.

  36. Brandy, if you can’t rotate in the garden, could you consider planting the tomatoes in a pot instead. The pots can be moved to wherever the plants would do best (more shaded during really hot spells, and sunnier locations when temps drop). It would allow you to use that garden patch for another crop that might put nutrients back into the soil. I found an interesting article that might interest you. Here’s the link:

  37. I haven’t done cover crops, simply because I have to grow my cool season crops during the other part of the year (tomatoes can grow from February to December here).

    I did decide to grow fewer tomatoes (I used to do 20 plants and now I have a third of that) and rotate those every other year. It’s not ideal, but better.

    In French intensive gardening, composted manure is added each time to the soil (and crops are grown and harvested all year, which I do). I have had better success with this, but I haven’t added as much this year as I apparently needed to. Last week I put epsom salt and manure at the base of the tomato plants. I went out this morning and they are already greening up! I think that, along with some vegetable fertilizer and some blood meal, should help jump start some growth.

  38. It sounds like you need more green in your compost…apple cores, any veggie peels/ends that you don’t eat (even if you have boiled them for broth), dandelions and other weeds that have not gone to seed, the remains of broccoli plants after you eat the florets, etc. When you thin you fruit trees, all the fruit you remove can go in the compost bin, as well; most garden waste is compostable, unless it is diseased.

    Cold compost piles take around six months, but with the desert heat, you could have finished compost in six weeks.

  39. I have never commented on your blog before. I read it and must say that you do a lovely job with your home and family as well as the blog.
    I recognize the grubs on your grape leaves. They are grape leaf skeletonizers. The grubs have a hydrogen cyanid compound that causes the burn.
    I also wanted to let you know that if you grow comfrey, that you can make your own fertilizer with it. It is comfrey leaves that are steeped in water. I put it in a home depot bucket with a lid on and let it go for about 10 days . It will stink but it is very good for the plants and you can make as much as you need. I live in Phoenix and we have had no problem growing comfrey here, so I think it should do well in your area as well.

  40. Have you tried short season tomatoes? They mature in 70 days or less. If you planted March 1, they’d be done before June. Then you could rip them out and plant a summer crop in that spot or a cover crop that would improve your soil. If you planted all short season crops right after your last frost date, you could let your soil rest in the summer and work on rebuilding it with trench composting, then plant again in the fall.

  41. Brandy, if I may ask, why do you believe in the 4 year rotation for tomatoes? I was taught that any break in the cycle is good (1 or 2 years or maybe even 3 years if you have that luxury in the home garden), but that there was only a need to avoid an area for several years if there was a major disease.

  42. I read it several places in the last few years. I’ve never practiced it, though, until last year when I limited my plantings.

    I am really curious about my neighbors’ tomatoes–they’ve grown them in pots for several years. I wonder if they put new dirt in each time or not. I want to get to know them better so that I can find out.

  43. Andrea, I grow Early Girls primarily. Even though I put plants out in February, I usually harvest in June. I know it says 49 days, but it takes time for the plants to grow and start flowering. My neighbors are going to have red tomatoes this week; this is the normal time I start seeing them ripen as well (I do have a couple that will be ready this week-but just tow tomatoes). Sometimes I get them in summer as well; if we get a cool spell (that second week in July when the storms pass over) they flower again and I get tomatoes later, though they are much smaller–often only the size of cherry tomatoes because of the heat. In October they flower again and I have had a few years where we harvested a good number of tomatoes in December, but it depends on when our frost comes; if it comes two weeks earlier, close to the end of November, I don’t get as many.

    I have thought about pulling them out in summer, but it would be hard to plant a cover crop, such as peas, in July or August. It is much too hot for those to grow even a little bit, even if they germinated. Most seeds aren’t going to germinate when the soil temperature is above 80º and it’s over 105º. I have had them die and then let the soil rest on occasion, and then planted in fall.

    So I’ve chosen to plant fewer tomatoes and try rotating them out each year. This year I am trying to grow zucchini in one spot instead of tomatoes. I have chard in several spots that used to have tomatoes, but the trouble with that is that they grow all year, so no rotating 🙂 Zucchini is like tomatoes, too–they flower when it is cooler. Ideally I would be harvesting next month.

  44. Do people remember to rotate the location of tomatoes, if possible, each year? I do that, and I also plant nitrogen fixing cover crops to till in. We don’t put epsom salts in the hole, but do top dress around the plant.

  45. I am having trouble getting it to break down that quickly. It took about 6 months last year–it worked, but slowly. I need to turn it more than I do, though!

    I didn’t think about the thinned fruit! I will have to try that next year.

    Most of my garden waste is branches, which are too big to break down in a trash can and take too long. I have found that bolted chard stems are as hard as branches. I also clip the hedges–but again, they are very woody branches. I have a LOT of grass in summer, but everything I’ve read says you need more brown than green. I could fill both trash cans in one week with grass, but then there is no brown. In summer I cannot compost all the grass unless I have more cans.

    I also need to water it; it dries out so easily here.

  46. I had a neighbor who would store her grass clippings in black plastic garbage bags and save them for months. The contents smelled really bad after a while, but were really helpful in her composting efforts.

  47. My week didn’t start off too well. I had been experiencing some very intense pain and a visit to the ER (Saturday and not by choice) revealed an infected gallbladder with many stones. So surgery was scheduled and our OOP will be about $2200. Not counting the ER visit and ambulance. We have a number of friends who will bring dinner for the rest of the week and I am so grateful as that will save a bit that can go towards medical bills.. Had signed up for Memorial Day hours at work since it would have been triple pay and overtime today but couldn’t work.. Now I have to use my vacation hours since I had to call in. Guess I have to see it as a blessing before my gallbladder burst, it was that be and I had been tolerating the pain for a while now.

  48. yuck, so sorry about your catipillar problem. I am actually shocked we have had no bug issues in the garden this year, fingers crossed it stays that way.

    I don’t even want to post my to-do list…it would make me sad (it is very very long and I am very very tired :)). Maybe one day I’ll get it all done…but for today my one goal is to pinch off the suckers from my tomato plants 🙂

  49. Brandy, have you tried piling your grass clippings ’til they dry out and then using them as mulch? Not as pretty as things like shredded bark, but it might be a good use of all the clippings. Also, we rarely catch our grass clippings as one of the best forms of nitrogen for the grass is to leave the clippings in place. That way we don’t have to give the lawn additional fertilizer. It also sounds like you have too many brown compostables before and after you have all the grass, which would make it hard to layer. Do you have room to store branches until you have the grass to layer in?

    RE your white hydrangeas: Your new blooms should be white, but as they age, hydrangea blossoms will take on a tinge of pink or blue depending upon the cultivar. If it’s just a matter of your alkaline soil, you might try adding coffee grounds, at least as a top dressing.

  50. I bought one of those also. I like our super-firm mattress and my husband thought it was too firm. The foam topper has made him happy and it still gives me enough firmness so my back is not a problem.

  51. I grow morning glories every year in four porch boxes, and have been using Miracle Gro potting mix, getting new potting soil about every other year. It works pretty well for two years.

  52. Brandy and others, there is an older couple at our church and they grow all their tomatoes in 5 gallon pails. They have one pail inside another for drainage, they have a circle drive on their property and put them in the drive. I know they do at least 24 every year and I am thinking maybe even more. Because we had 24 last year and I feel he told me they had more than that. It is easier for them to get to and tend and they are walking on concrete rather than uneven ground, no weeding at all, easy to water with the garden hose right there and they get a very good quantity. They do put in new dirt every year, but it is not boughten dirt. Each fall their son dumps the buckets back out in to their garden and then in spring refills with new dirt, from the garden. I do know they add some perlite or vermiculite, one of those soil lighteners. Their old garden is now a pumpkin patch for the grandchildren.

  53. Ewww, I read about the caterpillars and I am glad I have never had a problem with them. The article said when dealing with them to even wear a dust mask as the hairs can become airborne when you are cleaning them out. Double ewww. Our problem here for a pest right now is Emerald Ash Borer, more than a pest as it is killing trees in huge amounts. My husband had two large ashes taken down, kind of pre-emptively, they were back of the property but beautiful trees. He had them sent to the lumber mill and they will cut and dry for him until he is ready to use it. Ash is nice wood. Also, I am glad the only snakes we have are garter snakes aka garden snakes. They eat bugs and aren’t poisonous.

  54. I just read somewhere recently about burying the plants rather deep as it increases the root system.

  55. Have you thought about planting black-eyed peas or purple-hull peas? (You may know these as “cowpeas”.) They are a wonderful cover crop in that they “fix” nitrogen in the soil and they do very well in the heat.

  56. Laure, so glad you found the cause of your pain before it became an emergency! Also, thankfully, you have the vacation hours to use. How wonderful you have such good friends who will step in and give you a hand with meals! Such a blessing. Hope you feel much better soon.

  57. Our dog does that too Susan! One year I was picking the higher fruit (and wondering why there was nothing on lower branches) and I came across one that was half bug eaten. I threw it into the compost heap. The dog gave me the weirdest look and then jumped in the compost bin, retrieved the peach and proceeded to lay down and eat it!
    After that I knew what had happened to my low hanging peaches!

  58. I use Epsom salt when planting my tomatoes and watering them with it every 2 wks. Actually plants tom sticks as there was no leaves left on the plant and they did wonderful and ran me over with tomatoes. Don’t know if it will help.

  59. Yes I have–and then our strong winds came and blew them [i]all over[/i] the yard. It was horrible. That is why I only do them in the trash cans now. For the same reason, we can’t leave them on the grass. 35mph winds are pretty common here, and even the lower winds ended up with them blowing all over.

    I don’t have a place for branches. I have over 40 trees that we prune every winter. They would take years to break down as compost, especially in a dry environment. That’s why I wish the city composted them, or chipped them. It would be great if they did that!

    Soil sulphur lowers ph, which is why I use it here and am putting it on the hydrangeas. They are turning more and more pink–even the new blooms–which is disappointing. Hopefully the sulphur will help. I do get coffee grounds from my mom on occasion (I don’t drink coffee) and I will be trying those, too.

  60. We compost but also use our grass clippings separately. My husband places them in huge clear thick bags. Fill the bags, secure them tight and let the sun go to work. It will break the grass into a hot mess, literally, but the result is a compost tea that our garden loves, it smells. But it is effective and cheap, we even reuse the bags. You will have to work on your soils Ph regarding your hydrangea, their color is usually reflective of the Ph of the soil they are grown in. I have even added a few drops of bleach in the water that I have arranged blue hydrangeas in and turned them shades of pink and purple.

  61. We use dust mite covers on all our mattresses. If you decide on a new mattress it would be worth the cost. If you get the deep one it could go over a thin memory foam if you wanat to try it out on your old mattress. The benefit is it is waterproof. I Can you bring the mattress outside and air it good in sthe sunshine for a day or two?

  62. I dump all my fallen leaves, grass clippings, old potting soil, coffee grounds, tea bags, rotting produce, you name it into a pile , nothing fancy, just mix it up every once in a while and have great compost every year. I keep this up year round depending on what is available and always have a ready supply of compost.
    I am sorry about the caterpillars. Here where I live in Western NC it is mainly squash bugs and ware worms .

  63. I know about hydrangeas changing, but everything I have read said that white ones do not change color based on ph. This is why I was so delighted to try them! Yet they are still turning pink, so I’m working to lower the ph as much as possible.

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