Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sow Bugs, Earwigs, and Chilean Mesquite!

First the bugs:  

 As a few of you probably know, I recently bought a little place in Lucerne, (Lake County) California.  (Seems there are two Lucerne’s in California.)  Developing a balanced garden ecosystem takes time, and I am definitely not there yet.  In the battle between plants and bugs, in many cases the bugs have been winning.  Sow bugs and earwigs, both beneficial creatures when their populations are in balance, have been turning the leaves of many plants into an ugly imitation of lace.  

I have read and tried a number of organic and non-toxic tactics.  I finally have a success!  I made a "trap" using one tablespoon of molasses and 2/3 cup of water--which I poured into a shallow deli take out container. (The liquid was about 3/4 inch from the top.) I nestled it into the mulch around a plant that has been getting hit hard and added a couple of handfuls of mulch around the edges to provide very easy access. This morning there were probably at least 100 drowned bugs in there!  More molasses traps will be appearing in my yard soon.

Chilean Mesquite:

Creating a garden ecosystem is an effort that takes time and experimentation.  Lake County California has a semi arid climate; worse lately with drought and the solar maximum that is slowly building.  The town of Lucerne also has one of the highest water rates in the country.  Bills for two people households that do no outside watering average around $150.00 (every other month).   Even up in Hoopa, (where most of the posts in this blog originated) and before the solar maximum, I found that most garden plants benefited from filtered shade for at least part of the day.  With this in mind I have been doing some research on trees that would possibly be adapted to the climate here and that would fix nitrogen, carbon, and provide food.  Mesquite crossed my mind as a good candidate.  When a friend of mine reminded me of their thorns, I did a search on thornless mesquite and began reading about Chilean Mesquite.  

I found and ordered seeds on E-bay, and then researched how to germinate them.  The seeds arrived still in sections of their pods. (They are not easy to remove.)  I put about six of the pod sections in a heat proof dish, and then poured boiling water over them. (That was the best plan, according to what I had read on-line.)  The next day, after soaking for nearly 24 hours, I was able to work the meat off the seed capsules, cut through the capsules, and squeeze the seed out.  (It still wasn’t easy.)  

Then, carefully grasping each small seed, I scarified one edge (and my fingernails as well) by rubbing them against a piece of coarse sandpaper.  I was very careful not to damage the pointed end of the seed, where the root would emerge.  The seeds were then placed on a folded paper towel, inside a ziplock bag, and some of their soak liquid was used to moisten the paper towel thoroughly.  I read that they liked to be hot—so I placed the baggy on a warm shelf out on the sun porch, and then brought it into the house over night.  This morning, less than 24 hours later, the first seed is clearly germinating and the rest are swelling and look viable!  At least some of those little seeds will hopefully one day be big trees!  And that is part of what I live for . . .

Happy Gardening!


Harvest said...

Chilean Mesquite: All six seeds are germinating--and 4 of them are ready to go into little pots. (I saved six seeds to start after I see how I do with these.) Chilean mesquite is thornless, very adaptable, and when mature produces 250 pounds (on average) of edible pods a year! The pods can be eaten when immature like green beans, at different stages they can be used to produce a beverage similar to horchata, to produce a sweetener, and when mature they can be used to produce a very nutritious gluten free flour!

Are they going to do well for me? Who knows--this is totally an experiment.

Harvest said...

Molasses Traps: I now have seven, and some of them are so funky with bugs I was going to empty and start over with new solution. But something or other beat me to the emptying part. The funkiest ones have been tipped over and all the bugs cleaned out! I figure it was either the blue jays or the crows. 7.14.12

Anonymous said...

Hi!. Those Chilean Mesquite send very long tap roots. Make sure you have very deep pots. I start mine in 4x4 x 8 inch deep square pots. Just a heads up. The root will be A LOT longer than you might expect.

Harvest said...

Thanks for the heads up! I don't plan on keeping them in pots very long. One croaked, one is not so good, but four are totally thriving. (I think I may have damaged the other two's cotyledons when I scarified.) 7.19 12

On the molasses traps--I am now getting some new undamaged growth on plants that the bugs where hitting hard!

Mr. Bill said...

It has been 3 years since you planted your Chilean Mesquite, and I was just wondering how it is doing. I live in Walker Basin, Kern county. I am also planting Mesquite Trees, because they seem the right kind of tree for the area.

Let me know.