Garden Update: Dogs, Grubs, and Beer, Oh My!

Although I've never planted a garden larger than a few vegetables I don't consider myself to be completely clueless when it comes to growing plants. After college I worked as a soil toxicologist and my job was to germinate seeds in Superfund soils. If I can get seeds to sprout in various forms of toxic dirt, the store bought organic dirt should be a breeze. Right?

When I transplanted the seeds I sprouted indoors the weather was pretty warm for a few days. I watered the plants each night and they were looking good. After a few days I noticed some of the leaves were missing and others had a few yellow spots. Within a week I noticed that the beans which gave me trouble indoors quickly took off. Whereas the cucumbers were beginning to look like they were struggling. The cucumbers eventually wilted and died. I lost one of the tomato plants and the basil. The zucchini and carrots sprouted and everything else was looking good.

My husband put up a temporary fence to divide our back yard in half. On one side we have 2 Labradors and the other side is for our toddler to play along with the garden. Since we hope to move sometime in the next 5 years we didn't want to invest in a legitimate fence. This is how well the fence worked:

So, naturally I didn't realize my Labrador could get into the garden until it was too late. I took my morning stroll out to the garden to find it filled with foot prints and several missing plants. He either ate the plants, broke them off, and I'm pretty sure he marked a little territory in the garden as well. The plants he did not eat were yellow and wilted which lead me to believe they succumbed to dog urine. Talk about frustration. All of my hard work vanished in one night, except for the carrots.

Determined to grow a garden this year I went back to the hardware store and purchased a 4' galvanized wire fence. I attached it to the existing fence stakes with zip ties so now there is a double fence border between the dogs and the rest of the yard.

While I was at the hardware store I also purchased 2 heirloom tomato plants, a cayenne pepper plant, 4 bell pepper plants, and 4 basil plants. Some of the other veggies weren't much bigger than what I knew I could grow in a week so I simply decided to plant the seeds directly into the garden.

A few mornings later I went out to water the garden and I found a white grub on top of the soil and some disheveled looking leaves, especially on the basil. I took an empty plastic applesauce container and pushed it into the soil and filled it with beer to catch some grubs. I'm now up to 2 containers and this is what I find after a few days of letting the beer sit:

The grubs crawl into the beer and drown. Sadly I think I'm going to have to create a beer garden to keep up with them. They've taken out 1 basil plant and significantly impacted the other 3 just like the one shown below.

The grubs are also feasting on the lettuce which is planted on the opposite diagonal of the raised garden bed.

I did a little research yesterday and also asked the Urban Organic Gardener that I follow on Facebook for some advice. Since grubs typically stay in one location beer will work but since they seem to be all over my garden it was recommended that I apply Beneficial Nematodes. They're essentially worms that prey on destructive garden pests but they don't have any affect on the good bugs. A pesticide would kill both the good and bad bugs and I don't want to eat pesticides either. Since I purchased all of my garden soil I'm wondering if there may not have been many nematodes. They are naturally found in soils all around the world so one would think they would be present. I'm happy that they work by disintegrating the pests from the inside out so I won't have to continually dispose of dead bugs like I do now.  Yuck! 

So, how do you know if you have grubs if you aren't lucky enough to find one on top of the soil like I did. They leave a slime trail on the surface of the soil and plants that glistens when the sun shines on it. I've always noticed these trails first thing in the morning since they dry out during the day. 

Although this garden has been frustrating at times there are some plants that are doing well which have made it well worth the trouble this far.

Organic green onions I bought at the supermarket and planted; one of the best ideas I found online. The cayenne pepper plant is in the center just behind the 2nd and 3rd green onion. On the left are a few of the bell pepper plants and in the top right corner is a small tomato plant from a seed I planted. 

So, I'm off to find some beneficial nematodes for the garden. Although I planted some lettuce and basil seeds in flower pots I'm considering moving the basil from the garden to a pot as well. The grubs will not get the best of me and my garden : )

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