Monday, September 30, 2013

RWCEG Steering Committee Meeting next Tuesday, Oct.1st @6:30 pm

RWCEG Steering Committee Meeting--Tuesday, Oct.1st @6:30 pm

Come to the garden and join in on the planting and tending of the Fall season!  We would love to see some new faces in the garden and are happy to work with your schedule and availability, even a commitment of a half hour for watering once a week is appreciated.  It's a great way to unwind from the work/ school day and connect with nature and your family.

Can't make it to the meeting but want to get involved?  Just send an email to and we'll get you in to the mix.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tues. Sept 17th-Opportunity to help design sustainable garden beds and learn about soil

We had a great turn out at the wicking bed workshop last weekend and eagerly began emptying out the tallest garden bed to install our wicking system (click on link to learn more)

while shoveling out soil, we noticed the perimeter wood frame we installed three years ago was rotting and the structure, without the soil, had become very rickety.  

We had been told by our garden consultants at the time of initial construction that the Douglas Fir wood planks we used would eventually rot over time and need to be we thought we would take this opportunity to look at OTHER types of raised bed construction that would be ECO, ECONOMICAL, BEAUTIFUL and SUSTAINABLE!  Some of the suggestions were cinder block, stone masonry and recycled plastic wood plank decking as perimeter building materials.  Our plan is to do some research this week and meet back at the garden next TUESDAY, Sept. 17th at 7pm to present options, brainstorm and come up with a SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION.  We welcome ALL to come and join the brain trust.  

In addition, we will have a guest speaker, Patrick of Microbial Earth Farm, who will talk to us about soil testing and food forests!  

Hope you can stop by for the "constructive" fun!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Dirt on Texas Grub Worms

Background: During a garden community gathering on Saturday morning, September 7th, several members were involved in shoveling out all the soil from Garden Bed 1 as the first phase to install an experimental water wicking system. During this effort, a large “grub worm” was discovered deep in the north-west corner of the bed. Out of concern for the worm and future plants, my son, Evan, removed the worm and transplanted it outside the garden (near the chimney swift habitat across the park).  See below for images of the grub worm.

Evan holding a Grub Worm found at RWCEG

Close up of the Grub Worm

Identification: As the so-called “garden entomologist”, I was asked to identify the worm and determine if they are a potential threat to the garden. Per my research to date, I believe the grub worm to be the larvae stage of a scarab class beetle commonly known as the May Beetle or June Bug (most common is Phyllophaga crinit).  I base this on positive image identification from several websites. Furthermore, back in June, Evan and I discovered a few adult June Bug beetles caught and strangled in the bird netting that covered that garden bed at the time. Below is a picture of one such tangled beetle in the netting. Also included is a clear picture of a June Bug beetle.

June Bug beetle found caught in netting at RWCEG back in June.

June Bug (Scarab) Beetle

Are they harmful?  Unfortunately, grub worms can be harmful to lawns and gardens. They eat the roots of grass and vegetable plants (up to 200 times their body weight!). They have been known to destroy lawns if there is a large number of them. However, since the grubs cannot bite or sting, they are benign to people. Since we only found one grub in the garden bed, I doubt it would have been a serious threat, but it is good it was removed.  Since the other garden beds have had all or most plants removed, it would probably be a good idea to sift through the soil of these beds to clear them out if found.

Organic Control:  Of course there are several chemical pesticides on the market used to control grub worms, but according to a “” website, “non-chemical controls include applying beneficial nematodes. These are microscopic round worms that attack white grubs and other soil inhabiting insects. Nematodes need damp soil to travel down into soil where the grubs are feeding. Apply at least ¼-inch of water before and another ¼-inch after spraying the nematodes on the lawn or garden soil. These worms are available in stores or through garden supply catalogs.”  But of course, the best way to remove a grub worm is to find it and then have Evan humanely remove it. Like his garden pest pet, Big Green (a tomato hormworm caterpillar), he actually thinks grub worms are “cute” and has great respect for them.

Further Information:  As gross as it may seem to many of us, several cultures eat Grub Worms indigenous to their areas. For those interested in knowing more details about the life cycle of these creatures and control methods, I encourage you to check out the following websites:

      - Glenn & Evan Starnes

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Evan's Garden Pet, Big Green

    Here is a funny story regarding the psychology of a ten-year old boy with respect to bugs.  The other day I found a few tomato hornworm caterpillars eating our tomato plants in the backyard. I informed  my son Evan, and he became very upset. He had recently been looking at blown-up pictures of these creatures and thus had an inflated image in his mind as to how large and destructive they are. Furthermore, he kept crying that they were "going to pop out at him and 'stink' him".  I think he said this because Mel Bartholomew (author of "Square Foot Gardening") mentioned they can have a foul smelling musk. After pleading with me to help, we went out together to rid our garden of these insidious creatures that had all but destroyed a few tomato plants. However, once Evan finally got a close look at them, he decided they weren't the terrible giant stink monsters he had feared, but rather, he thought they were "kind of cute"!  Anyway, to make a long story short, Evan now has a couple of "hornworm pets".  He is feeding them the rest of his tomato plant in a sealed container and hopes to see them mature into Hawk Moths. As Evan points out, Hawk Moths are good pollinators. We are keeping an eye for these guys at RWCEG because a single worm can eat an entire tomato plant! Below is a picture of his new pet, "Big Green".
        - originally written by Glenn Starnes on June 22, 2013

"Big Green"

The Hawk Moth Arrives!

   As some may recall, I related an amusing story a month ago about my son Evan choosing to make what was a garden pest into a pet. Evan had intentions of destroying a few tobacco hornworm caterpillars (Manduca sexta) that were eating his tomato plants until he realized how "cute" they were. We started with 3 or 4, but only one made it to maturity and started to pupate about 3 weeks ago. To our surprise, this species does not build a chrysalis or cocoon from a hanging branch, but rather, burrows itself a few inches under soil. This past Friday, Evan's hornworm pet, Big Green, emerged as a large moth. The moth species is Manduca sexta, but is commonly called the hawk moth, hummingbird moth, or the orange spotted sphinx moth.

We took the moth to the RWCEG garden in an enclosed hamper Saturday morning to show it to the garden community. That same evening we released the moth to her freedom from our yard (a good distance from RWCEG garden. We do not want the prodigy to become a pest there). Based on the narrow width of the antennae, I believe this moth is a female (males have wider antennae). My kids were very impressed with how beautiful the body of this insect was when the wings were extended. The body is quite thick with large orange spots along the side. The whole body of the moth appeared to be fuzzy. We took several pictures and video. Below are a couple pictures of the moth during her release. We hope you enjoy them.

      -Glenn & Evan   originally written July 19, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wicking bed garden project-Sat. Sept.7th 9am

Hello Garden Friends,
Now that it's officially "Fall", with Labor Day over, kids back in school and nothin' but 100 degree temps in sight,  I humbly invite you back to the garden this Saturday, Sept.7th at 9am to transform one of the raised beds to a WICKING BED.    What's a wicking bed, you might ask?  Well as of two weeks ago, I had no idea either, until I went to a Transfarming meet-up at my new friend Arturo's house, where he lead a class on aquaponics and introduced us to all sorts of alternative growing methods, one of which, was wicking beds.

A wicking bed is essentially a raised bed that is extremely efficient at keeping it's plants hydrated and holding in vital nutrients in the soil which otherwise get washed away.  I have noticed over the past 3 years (yes, it's really been three years!) of intense gardening in our 3- 4'x12' beds, that no matter how much we "love" our soil in the form of composting, fertilizing and planting nitrogen-rich cover crops--the beds are just plain tired and the production and yield of vegetables and fruits is way down.

So I'm thinking we try an experiment and remove all the old, tired soil out of one of the beds, install a waterproof bed liner and PVC subterranean watering system and fill it in with fresh loads of compost and soil and see what happens this fall.  I know at minimum, we'll be saving a ton of water and hopefully seeing a major uptick on the fall crop production.  Hope you can bring a shovel and join me Saturday on another adventure in the great garden experiment!

This is a wicking bed.  Notice the PVC pipe that creates a subterranean watering system.  Arturo says he waters ONCE EVERY 3 WEEKS!!!!  Compare this front bed to the one in the back that is a standard raised bed.

This is Arturo's super cool greenhouse aquaponics set up.  I plan on trying this at home!