Mealworms in potato bed

chickencoupeMarch 28, 2012

I have three potato beds in tires (I know. I know.) One of them I've noticed meal worms. Since they're in the tire I can pull them out and replant them. Should I do this? Or should I leave them to attract predators?

If I pull them will it do any good? I don't see any adults; just young uns that probably migrated when I added compost. Come to think of it, I don't believe I have any plastic under that tire. It's sitting on the ground.

It's no loss if that bed goes to pot but I'd rather not contribute to more nasty meaworms if I can avoid it.


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I ignore mealworms in soil and don't see but a handful of them in early spring every year. They're not the most helpful beetle larvae to have in the garden because they will eat roots of living plants and some above-ground plant portions as well. However, they've never done any damage to plants that has caught my eye and caused me any distress. That's why I ignore them. You probably should be able to ignore them as well unless you have them in really huge numbers.

I wouldn't disturb the potatoes and the soil they're growing in at this point. It is getting hot early this year and the potatoes will produce better if not disturbed in the kind of heat we are having now. If you disturb them, it likely will set them back and decrease their productive capacity.

About the only things I know of that eat mealworms are birds, lizards and maybe some snakes, so I think it likely that if you have those around your place, they'll take care of the mealworms for you. If you have bluebirds they love mealworms. You can take any mealworms you find and lie them in a pan where bluebirds feed and they're fly down and get them and eat them. I will occasionally toss one into the driveway if I dig it up while working in the garden, but only if I have a bluebird sitting on the garden fence or power line waiting for a "treat".

Otherwise, the summer heat likely will take care of any larvae of the darkling beetles that are in the soil at that point in time. With the soil in those dark-colored tires and the tires exposed to sunlight, the soil inside the tires probably will heat up to the temperatures necessary to kill any larvae still there. It would need to heat up to 130 degrees at least, and unmulched soil in tires probably will hit those temps in the summer months.

And, you never know, maybe the lead, cadmium and other stuff in the tires will leach into the soil and take care of the little mealworms for you--if not this year, then in future years. I am not saying that to be mean, but rather to point out that the mealworms may not be that hard to get rid of if you just ignore them.

To keep mealworms from transitioning from the compost pile to the veggie or ornamental gardens in the future if you're afraid they are going to be a problem, you can sift your compost through a screen before you add it to your growing beds. It is easy to make a soil-sifting screen using lumber and 1/4" hardware cloth or you can use even smaller mesh if you are a glutton for punishment and want to spend even more time screening compost. For what it is worth, I've never spent the time to screen my compost and don't think it is really necessary in our climate, but some people screen it before adding it to their beds. I would screen municipal compost if I used it because it often contains shredded plastic or wire or other "junk" I wouldn't want to add to my beds.

I have said it before and will say it a million more times this year alone---I just do not get riled up over 99.999% of the living creatures in my garden or, for that matter, anywhere on our property. They all have a purpose and if you leave your property's ecosphere alone and let all the parts of it work together, it only will be the rare pest that gets out of balance and becomes a big problem because, in general, everything we think of as a pest has something that preys upon it too, and the predators usually keep the population under control---not totally gone, but under control.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 12:04PM
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I've begun to relax on the screenings and that's why they're there. They're young and went right through the screen. I have seen many of them in my compost pile and can happily attest to finding a small snake in the same pile which startled the beejeebees outta me. But I got over it and only smiled knowing things were working well. I keep reminding myself that things are going to be out of balance for a while since the garden has been installed. The local ecological system was ripped up. (The compost has been there almost two years now and "settled in" opposed to the actual garden.)

I have a danged mocking bird running off most all other birds and find this very annoying. He even arrogant "cusses" at me while I'm in the garden. lol The local "domesticated" cats do a very swell job of snatching bird chicks right from their nests making survival hard for any birds in this area. The local "domesticated" dogs do a swell job of running off the larger critters that would normally dig through that compost pile snatching up the meal worms. So egregious I am ready to put up signs regarding Oklahoma statute for feral cats. The authorities gave us permission to shoot to kill the dogs as they mangled our baby goslings through lightweight metal cloth one year. The next year they attacked 15lb dog cages containing the rabbits 3 feet high, drug them 20 feet across the yard while mangling the rabbits through the heavy gauge wire. We found their limbs and a portion of their bodies forced through the metal grate and half skinned alive. Gross? You bet. People need to know what their animals are doing when they're out and about and it ain't pretty. Those cute little narcissistic cats do a swell job of bringing the blue birds to extinction as well as many other varieties of birds. Note: We are in city limits. I have seen a couple this year but they only briefly visited the yarden. I understand their anxiety.

So, the primary focusing is on enriching the soil and allowing the eco system to change along with what I do to help with hopes of attracting the predators (lady bugs, birds, etc.). I'm trying hard not to have any expectations on produce. Rather, letting the plants "do their thing", feeding the soil or telling me how much they can't live there until the environment is right for them and helping wherever I can.

The only thing thriving is my leek seedlings potted in miracle gro. That speaks volumes. Other things are growing, but not thriving. Maybe a couple more years.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 2:25PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Your mockingbird is probably getting attached to you and the garden and is feeling territorial about it. I have one who follows me from the garden to the shed to the barn and back to the garden again, singing all the while. I believe they become very territorial. Sometimes it follows the dogs and I when I put them on the leash and take them for a walk up our fairly quiet country road. You wouldn't think a wild bird would do that, but it does.

As for small snakes, I don't mind the small non-venomous ones, but I have been scared badly a couple of time by little pygmy rattlers. One once was about 2" from my hand and I did a backwards somersault to get away from it. I'm glad no one saw that, and even happier no one was around to videotape it.

Feral animals are a huge problem and you've got to do what you've got to do to protect your animals.

I find soil improvement to be so very time-consuming and it feels very tedious at times. I know my non-gardening friends think I am obsessed with mulching and composting and composting and mulching and amending soil, but if you don't do it early and often, then you don't make much progress. For many years I kept the jar of soil from my first soil jar test for texture just so I could look back at it and see how much progress we'd made. This summer when the drought and cracking ground made the water line break, we had to dig into "virgin" unimproved red clay soil full of rocks. Wow! That was a great reminder of what we started with here, and it made me look at my garden soil with a new appreciation for how much it actually has improved over the years. One of these years, you'll be the one looking at the soil and thinking to yourself how proud you are that you did turned that yucky old dirt into fine soil. You'll know it too, because great soil will give you great plants and great yields.

Remember that you can grow compost crops, like field peas, right in place and let them improve the soil where they're grown. This summer my quick-soil-improver crop is buckwheat.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 12:18AM
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That mockingbird had a chick fall out of the tree along with the nest last year. I fed it bugs from the garden while I researched what the blazes to do. Finally, I secured the next back in the spot from whence it came and Momma mockingbird was happier. The cats caught the scent and the chick was gone the next day.

I've yet to research extensively the soil cover crops. Cereal rye is recommended but after Larry spoke I'm considering otherwise. Perhaps "frankentiller" can handle it just fine. lol

Sunflowers, peas and... well ... any legume keeps my mind off the pathetic plants I have although the tomato plants are perking up and really seem to like the regular yard dirt! I did a trial and added compost amendment to a couple of the plants and those plants seem to struggle to adjust. It must be the pH in the regular soil that works for them and the compost dirt altered it. I can't wait until I get a pH tester so I need not select "victims" to test out the soils hahaha

I bought tons of "cover crop" seeds and just plant and plant and plant and water around and between some of my plants, even (smaller nasturtiums and the like between tomatoes, etc.). Like yours the peas were sweating the heat with exception to those receiving shade after the morning sun. No matter. I keep planting and planting in the areas that don't have any plants in them yet. I'll just yank them out and compost them when I need the space unless they're flowers. The real healthy ones I move over by the trellis and let them be.

I'm really struggling with something and hope you catch this. hehe Tiny tender seelings - tobacco, oregano, thyme and even sage is giving me problems. They dry out to fast or obtain dampening off. I know how to avoid the dampening off but I'm not certain how to regulate the water supply for these tiny seedlings without overwatering them. I even broke out a magnifying glass!

I really love how pretty the tobacco plants are. I have some tarragon sprouts now and hope they'll survive this time. Every time I do a search I cannot find any information on this specific issue - the tiny seedlings that grow slowly.

Perhaps I need to break down and spend a few bucks on some very good starting soil. Dunno


    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 5:58PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

When a young bird that cannot fly falls out of the nest, we put it back in the nest if we have a ladder that will reach that far. Otherwise, my adult son, who has a soft spot for birds, will put it in a bird cage and hand-feed it until it is old enough to fly. When he was a teenager he often rescued baby squirrels and bunnies and did the same thing.

Cereal rye is a great cover crop. So is winter wheat, hairy vetch, clover and buckwheat. Any winter cover crop may or may not attract deer if you have them roaming around where you live. You also can use southern peas in summer and turnips or beets and winter radishes in winter. Really, almost anything can be used as a cover crop or a green manure crop.

I simply do not understand why the tomato plants didn't like the compost, assuming that the compost was fully composted and cold, and also assuming there were no toxic materials in the compost. We have had a big issue with contaminated manure and compost in this country (and some other countries too) in recent years. You have to be extra careful that you're not composting anything sprayed with a particular class of herbicides now known to survive going through the grazing animals' intestinal tracts and the composting process itself. If this group of herbicides gets into your compost or soil, it can be hard to grow much in that soil for years. Other than that, I cannot imagine compost adversely affecting tomato plants. Generally they love the stuff.

I don't know what you are raising seedlings in, but if you are not using a sterile, soil-less growing medium, then that's likely the problem. Even with a sterile growing medium you might have issues, but if you aren't starting with a sterile mix, you're almost guaranteed to have issues with seed starting.

When starting seeds you need a light, porous mix that drains well but not too well. You need the sterile mix, sterile containers and adequate moisture, but not too much. You need good air flow to help prevent disease. You need to avoid watering so much the growing medium is soggy and yet need to water often enough that it never completely dries out. Damping off is any one or more of several fungal diseases that tend to occur in soil kept too wet or with poor air circulation. Often it occurs when there is too much humidity and a gardener is loving their seedlings to death by constantly misting them. Bottom watering works best as does the use of capillary matting under seed flats designed for use with them.

When I first starting growing from seed under lights indoors I used the clear plastic germination domes and I also know now that I kept my plants and their growing medium too moist. I had to work hard to make myself leave them alone and stop overwatering, and I had to make it my habit to always have a fan on in the room with the light shelf to ensure good air flow. I think this is just one of those things that you have to go through and learn from. Now I never use the dome at all for any reason and everything germinates just fine without it. If anything, I slightly underwater and never overwater and I focus on good air flow. It might help if you use something like Actinovate.

Tiny tiny seedlings grow very slowly and you don't need to give them a lot of water. Just keep the soil barely moist at all. While they seem like they aren't growing above ground, they are busy making good root systems. You cannot force a plant to grow faster than its natural timetable tells it to grow. Well, you can force by overfeeding it nitrogen but that can easily create too much top growth for the root system to support and that can give you weak plants prone to disease.

For plants that start out really small and stay there a while, like petunias, begonias, celosias and nicotianas, I sow them very thickly in the cells in flat inserts, water lightly, keep the fan blowing on them and otherwise ignore them. When they are ready, they'll go through a rapid growth period.

I used to be real picky about my seed-starting mix, but the more involved I got with the fire department, the less time I have at seed-starting time because winter/spring seed-starting season is also the big fire season most years. So, I just use Jiffy Mix because I can find it on the shelf at the nearest Wal-Mart and I rarely have any seed germination issues or damping off. Jiffy is pretty inexpensive and works fine for me.

Sometimes you can prevent damping off by sprinking the surface of the growing medium with cinnamon or by making chamomile tea using fresh chamomile flowers from your garden or from chamomile tea bags and using that tea to water the plants. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 12:19AM
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Bon, I would like to encourage you. As many on this forum know, I have been under a lot of stress because of family illnesses and my garden and plants have suffered.

I know your DH is handy with tools and I would like to suggest that he make you like I am holding up in one or the pictures. My ugly mug was not supposed to be in the picture, but its hard to get good help now-a-days. The tool I am holding is a Ken Ho weeder, but any tool of that design would work. I put an aluminum handle in it so I can stand and use it, also I can reach out much farther with it to snag a small weed.

Second, I would not want to discourage anyone from using grain rye as a cover crop in the winter. It does have a lot of biomass and is a little hard to till in. Mowing the rye very low helps a lot. I will show a picture of my south garden that I have just started on. It is working nicely but I still have a lot of work to do on it.

Third, don't give up on your plants. I will show a picture of my starts in the black tray. On 3-25 most did not even have true leaves although they had been planted over a month. This is the second week my daughter has been able to go back to work, so I have had some time to work on my garden and plants. The plants may not grow properly, but for now they look OK.

I know it is frustrating, but hang in there. Work on your soil, If you have trouble starting seed, buy plants and pot up till the garden is ready. That is what I did with the ones in the aluminum pans


    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 4:45PM
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@Larry WOW I saw those other pictures and the difference is just amazing!! Wasn't the last picture only a week ago? They're definitely outpacing mine. Very fortunately, I haven't had any problems "potting up". Boy, I'm grateful for that since my timing is off and slow to get the ground decent, start the silly things in pots that are too small OR the soil mix I made wasn't proper. I think some of my tomato plants have been potted up three times since seeding. I didn't kill any but I bet it stunted them. All the tomato plants that got damaged are doing OK. Dawn and Jay were right. New growth came in and only those older leaves have the damage. I cannot believe every one of them are still alive! Thirty tomato plants! (that must still survive the onslaught of bugs)

A few days ago I had to sit -right in the garden while working the soil. I just couldn't move well any other way. I commit to bathing as soon as I got indoors. I was trying to hoe. Apparently, Bill was watching. He walked over to the shed, grabbed this old concrete tool, lopped off part of the handle and threw it down by me. The length was accurate and the leverage I gained was perfect. It's amazing how a little change can make a huge difference. Today I couldn't sit at all so I worked on compost piles standing up. I'll let Bill see this picture. I know he can make me one of those. He brought me over a step stool just like the one you're using and my seven year old is always carrying it around the garden for me to sit on. He's the water boy and an OK weeder, too.

So far I've had three different sources suggest cereal rye for ground cover so it must be really good! Today Bill installed the compost bins for a new plan we came up with. I dug up the dirt from beneath the old compost pile and planted a tomato in it a week ago. By far it is my most prosperous plant! I decided to put the compost bins right on top of the garden bed to let it work itself over time just like that one did. I made them small - no bigger than 1 yard sq so I don't have too much trouble turning the entire thing. When I turn the pile from the first bin to the next I'll leave about 4-6" of the compost where it lie. I found out exactly the ratios I need for effective composting and over time, the entire area will have a compost pile atop it. This will limit my garden space for veggies this year but the sacrifice will mean less work getting that soil ready next year and the cover crop, too. If I have enough browns I think I can create about 1sq yard of compost every two weeks or less.


"sow them very thickly in the cells in flat inserts, water lightly, keep the fan blowing on them and otherwise ignore them"

I hadn't thought of using a fan since my tomato seedlings were small. That might help a lot. I must reuse a lot of my soil so I'm sure to cook it in the oven before I reuse it on seedlings (boy, does it stink). I must be watering too much and it very well could be the environment. Come to think of it, I have more trouble with dampening off when they're in the kitchen window versus the dry idle store room in a south window. Maybe I'll "sow them very thickly in the cells in flat inserts, water lightly, keep the fan blowing on them and otherwise ignore them". I've "ignored" other seedlings in that back room because it's easy to forget about them and .. guess what? I went and found them thriving. Sounds like a plan to me!

I'm going to try sage and oregano again with some used miracle grow potting soil and sterilize it first. I LOVE to cook and want herbs SO badly. No. I NEED an herb garden. I imagine how many wonderful trace minerals and vitamins are contained in freshly picked herbs.

I'm not real certain what it was about the compost dirt. The compost is very old and well aged and no chemicals at all. The tomato plants recovered but they took longer than the others after transplant shock. It very well could be I damaged those and it's not the compost soil at all. I have since marked them to watch the differences in their growth. I bet they do better, but their transplant shock was far greater. Plants.. weird. Since they eventually recovered I went ahead and amended the soil with compost on the ones I planted today to help avoid compaction.

Today I transplanted a few of the tomato plants from old coffee cans containing makeshift soil. They are only about six inches tall. I noticed the roots went all the way down to the bottom of the can. That little bit lifted my spirits a lot for I know it means they were very healthy and strong.

I managed to fertilize these old Irises in our yard earlier this spring hoping they'll bloom - even a few - until I can get them divided this fall. These were present from long before we arrived to this house and there are so many from looking at the foliage ... at least a hundred that I can count? I've never seen any bloom. Little miss and I walked over to the Irises along side the fence where, surprisingly, three beautiful white blossoms were showing their glory. She joyfully screeched to high heavens as she ran and bounced over to greet them. Something happened to my heart right then. ♥

Yeah. I gotta get those bulbs divided and cleaned up this fall.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 9:12PM
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