Category Archives: Garden Advice

Quick Pickled Dilly Snap Peas

For those of you who don’t know, “quick pickling” is making refrigerator pickles instead of canning them. Refrigerator pickles don’t take as long to make and they’re quite tasty and extra crunchy!

Even though they aren’t canned refrigerator pickles can still last for months. Think about how long you’ve left an open jar of pickles in the fridge. The cool temperature combined with vinegar’s acidity is pretty great at keeping the bacteria at bay.

We’ve got a lot of snap peas coming in and while I freeze some I thought pickled snap peas would be a great idea. The savory dilly flavor mixed with the sweetness of the peas is actually pretty perfect. I didn’t want to can them though because I’m afraid they’d lose their crunch.

Supplies

1 1/2 cup white vinegar

1 1/2 cup cold water

1 TBS pickling or kosher salt

1 TBS white sugar

2 good sized garlic cloves

2 sprigs of fresh dill (or 2 tsp dried dill)

other seasonings *optional*

non-reactive pot

1 quart or two pint jars

canning funnel *optional*

First harvest and wash your snap peas. It’s best to use peas that are as fresh as possible and if you’re harvesting to do so in the morning or evening, not under the afternoon sun.

In a non-reactive pot heat the vinegar, salt, and sugar until dissolved. Remove from heat and add cold water. Let it sit until it’s about room temperature or cooler (I stuck mine in the freezer for a couple minutes).

While it’s cooling pack your jar(s) with the peas and your preferred seasonings. Then pour your mixture into the jar(s) to cover the peas, add a lid, give a good shake and toss in the fridge.

Let your pickles sit in the refrigerater to marinate for at least 3 days. This will ensure they soak in all that delicious brine.

A few notes:

Non-reactive cookware is made from stainless steel, glass, or enamel coated metal. It’s prefered for pickling because other types of cookware like aluminum or copper might react the acidic vinegar and give your pickles and off flavor.

The seasonings for this recipe can safely be played with. You could try adding some spice with a hot pepper or red pepper flakes or go for some bread and butter type pickles. I added some chives to mine. Feel free to play around.

If you have extra brine or just want to try something else this works with many vegetables like cucumbers, sliced radishes, or onions.

12 Strategies for Battling Cabbage Moths

Premium Late Flat Dutch Cabbage

For many gardeners planting brassicas in anything but the very early spring or fall is asking to be devastated. Cabbage moths can quickly colonize a patch of brassicas leaving tons of eggs which seem to grow into caterpillars and strip entire plants in the blink of an eye.

Don’t give up on summertime brassicas just yet though! There’s many ways you can fight off the cabbage moths to reap bountiful harvests.

Pick the worms off by hand.

It’s certainly not fun but it can be effective particularly if you only have a few plants. Drop worms into a bucket of soapy water to kill them. Be sure to check the undersides of leaves. If you see a cabbage worm with little white cocoons on its back leave it be. The cocoons will hatch into parasitic wasps, killing that worm and eventually others.

Note: Know your worms! Species that also have a green caterpillar stage include Luna Moths, Black Swallowtail Butterflies, and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails.

Swat the moths.

Some gardeners swear by the tennis racket method. When the cabbage moths show up in the spring they head out with tennis rackets to swat them out of the air. If you go this route be sure avoid killing other non-harmful moths and butterflies.

Use your poultry.

If you have a backyard flock it may be worth letting a few birds into your cabbage patch once the plants have gotten big enough. Both ducks and chickens have been known to enjoy cabbage worms.

On the subject of birds, try to attract songbirds to your garden.

Many songbirds will eat cabbage moths but they need to be visiting your garden regularly to take notice. Make your garden more bird friendly by planting varying heights of plants for them to perch on or adding feeders, houses, and/or bird baths.

Try companion planting.

Red Acre Cabbage & Wormwood

There are several crops that can be planted in your cabbage or broccoli patch to deter pests. Wormwood, thyme, marigolds, tomatoes, tansy and peppermint are all believed to help keep the cabbage worms away. You can also use companion plants like buckwheat and yarrow to attract beneficial insects to fight the cabbage worms for you.

You may also consider interplanting single brassicas throughout a garden. Unlike a monoculture bed having a plant here or there is much harder for cabbage moths to find.

Be sure to read our other post, The 7 Benefits of Companion Planting.

Try moth decoys.

While we haven’t tested it there’s a belief that cabbage moths are territorial and will leave your plants be if you hang decoy moths on and around your brassicas. Check out this article from The Good Seed Blog for more information and printouts.

Make your own plant spray.

Some people have found that tansy tea or oil deters cabbage worms when sprayed on the plants because of the volatile oils it contains. Others have had success with sprays made from dish soap, crushed garlic, or blended hot peppers.

Plant a trap crop.

Have you ever noticed that cabbage worms or another garden pest really love a specific variety? While you might initially think you should avoid planting that crop the opposite is really true. Plant the offending variety and then the pests will be less likely to go after other varieties you planted. Some people also choose to burn the trap crop with a flame weeder once it’s covered in pests to eliminate many of them. If you choose the burn method make sure your fire doesn’t get out of hand and you follow local regulations.

You may want to try organic pesticides.

Before you think we’re advocating the use of harsh chemicals know that there are organic and natural substances that are considered pesticides. Probably the most well known example is diatomaceous earth which is a powder made from crushed, fossilized, prehistoric crustaceans. This powder will cut insects (but not people or animals) as they crawl through it but it does need to be re-applied every time it rains. If you want to be sure whatever you buy is organic look for an OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) certification label.

It’s also important to note that pesticides affect all insects, good or bad. Consider what beneficial insects may also be harmed by your pesticide choice before you choose this strategy.

Practice crop rotation and cover cropping.

Both crop rotation and cover cropping are important to a healthy garden for a couple of reasons. First they help lessen disease and pest problems by ensuring the same crop isn’t planted in the same area helping to break pest and disease life cycles by moving their food source. Second they help ensure plants receive necessary nutrients and stay healthy which makes them less susceptible to pest and disease issues to start with.

Remove and compost any leftover plant material at the end of each season.

Cabbage worms overwinter in dead plant material so it’s important to remove and compost it. Alternatively you can till it under.

Use row cover.

If you can’t find another solution that works for you, row cover will do the trick. Cover the plants right after you get them in the ground and cabbage moths will never get to your plants to lay eggs.

Gardening is never easy but it’s especially difficult when you have to deal without a lot of pests. Hopefully among these tips you’ll find a strategy that works for you and your garden.

How do you deal with cabbage moths? Did we miss anything?

12 Easy Ways to Help Your Garden Thrive in Hot Weather

Beck’s Big Buck (Snapping) Okra

So far this summer is promising to be a hot one. With the temperatures climbing and much of the east coast worrying about droughts like the ones they faced last summer a productive garden may seem like a mere dream. However there’s several easy tricks that can keep your plants cool, productive, and even lessen your water usage.

Install windbreaks.

Wind tearing through your garden can not only damage plants but also causes soil moisture to evaporate. The easy solution to this is to install or grow windbreaks in your garden. Windbreaks don’t need to be solid and stop all the wind. They can be quickly made from snow or pallet fencing. If you’d like living wind breaks consider tall annual crops, shorter perrenials that won’t shade your garden too much like berry bushes or dwarf fruit trees depending on your space, or hedge species. These should be placed perpendicular to the direction of the wind.

Invest in or diy some shade cloth.

Shade cloth can be super helpful for keeping those cools seaosn plants like peas and spinach producing longer. It can also be used over new new transplants that are adjusting to field conditions or seeds like lettuce that prefer cool soils to germinate.

Use a lot of mulch.

Mulch is one of the easiest ways to keep soil temperatures cooler and moisture levels up. Plus mulch cuts down on the weeding. Great mulch options include grass clippings, straw, hay, or old leaves all of which can be combined with cardboard or newspaper.

Water your garden consistently.

Your watering schedule will obviously be unique to your garden but you sould work hard to maintain moist soil conditions. Waiting for plants to start wilting before you realize it’s time to water harms your plants’ health and reduces your harvest.

Water at the right times.

Watering consistently is half the battle but you should also try to water at the best times of day. The early morning and evening are the best times to water. Less water is wasted waisted to evaporation because it has a chance to soak into the soil before it’s exposed to the mid-day sun and heat.

Practice interplanting.

Growing vining plants like watermelons, cucumbers, gourds, squashes, sweet potatoes, and nasturiums under taller plants like corn, sorghum, and sunflowers can help you make the most of your space and keep the soil cool. The vining plants will shade the soil, block weeds, and hold moisture once they’re mature enough.

Check out our The Three Sisters Garden Guide.

Build a shade trellis.

Create a trellis for climbling plants like cucumbers or runner beans and then plant a cool weather loving crop in the shade they create. These trellises are often set up so they’re slanted to provide maximum shade.

Learn more about trellising from Vertical Gardening: The Beginners Guide to Trellising Plants.

Use intensive planting. 

Intensive planting is a principle of biointensive gardening. Plants are grown in beds, not rows and are often planted hexagonally. This style of planting maximizes space. Mature plants may touch leaves but still have plenty of room for their roots. They shade the soil reducing moisture loss and blocking weeds.

Note: planting intensively will work best with healthy soils as you’ll be growing more plants on less space.

Transplant at the right times.

If you’re transplanting crops into your garden it’s best to avoid the heat and sun as much as possible, for your sake and the plant’s! Transplant in the early morning, late evening, or on a cloudy day for best results. The plants will suffer less transplant shock that way.

Catch rainwater around your plants. 

For transplants dig your hole a little extra deep and create a basin around each plant that extends outwards a little beyond the edges of the plant’s crown to funnel rainwater towards the roots.

For planting seeds dig your trench slightly deeper than necessary so that rainwater stills runs down into it even after you’ve covered your seeds.

If you’re feeling really productive go ahead and install some rain barrels on your gutters too!

Choose crops wisely.

Early Moonbeam Watermelon

If you live in an area with hot summer temperatures it’s a good time to start direct seeding crops that can handle the heat. These include plants like watermelon, okra, roselle, lima beans, and southern peas.

Learn about Direct Sowing Roselle.

Practice good soil and crop management. 

Whenever gardening you should be thinking about keeping your soil and therefore your plants healthy. Doing maintanence work like crop rotation, cover cropping, and applying compost will keep your soil and plants healthy. Well nourished, disease free plants will tolerate the stress of hot weather much better than those already struggling.

Gardening is never easy but hot weather can be especially tough on you and your plants. Follow these tips for a healthy and productive garden even in hot, dry weather.