Zone 6B Garden Calendar: July

It’s July in Pennsylvania and it is hot. It is humid. It is make it or break it time in the garden. For my garden, July is the time of year that sets the stage for the remainder of the season. I usually get a short break between all the planting, weeding, and harvesting of spring vegetables. Take too much time off and a disaster awaits.

Almost everything from this point on, aside from harvesting, will ensure that my garden finishes strong, and starts the preparations for next season.

Fertilizing. I side dress everything with compost and continue with my mix of fish emulsion, kelp, and Epsom salt sprays every two weeks.

Weeding. Weed control is a never ending battle, and I have learned the hard way if you don’t keep up with it, you have just lost the battle. As I get older I have gotten a little more mechanized, adding cultivators to my tractor, and building new raised beds every year. At this rate, I should have enough by the time I’m 90.

Cover Crops. As crops come out, I fill the space with a cover of buckwheat and winter rye. There are a gazillion different opinions on cover crops and their applications, but I have found the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Super Simple) method of cover cropping has worked best for me. Right now I will be pulling potatoes, and starting a cover in that bed.

Harvest. Like I mentioned previously, I have already harvested potatoes, beets, peas, lettuces, some herbs, cabbage, and broccoli, just to name a few. I am relatively new to blueberries, strawberries, grapes and asparagus, so there was little to harvest this year. My corn should be ready toward the end of July, early August.

Seed Saving. I leave a few plants from the spring crop that I let go to seed and they are starting to come in now. Broccoli, cabbage, and arugula are close to being ready. I have already taken seed from the crops that have already bolted like lettuce and peas.

IPM. Integrated Pest Management continues through out this time of year, and honestly is more difficult to keep up with than the weeding. I am exclusively using neem oil, hand picking, and Bt for all of my crops. I am amazed at the effectiveness of these products. This is the first year that I have made a concerted effort to maintain this practice of neem spray, and the results are fantastic.

My biggest nemesis each year are Japanese Beetles. Using neem sprays every 10 – 14 days and after each substantial rain has made a significant difference. Last year my cherry trees were decimated, every leaf skeletinized. I am still seeing a ton of beetles, but they have virtually ignored my plants. I hate to think what the neighbors garden looks like. One question you may ask is why not treat the grubs? Well the answer is simply, it won’t matter. In my general area 4 acres is the minimum, and unless everyone is treating for grubs, then it is a waste of time, money and effort.

Preserving. I am seeing quite a few large peppers, banana peppers, and others so I would imagine I will be harvesting soon. I grew over 150 assorted peppers this year with the goal to pickle and dry as many as I can. I already have a few quarts of beets put up and corn and tomatoes will be in soon. Last year I harvested 43 dozen ears of corn and have a substantial amount remaining in the freezer, so this year will be for fresh eating only.

Fall Garden. I am starting to prepare harvested beds with cover crops and preparing others for the fall garden. My fall crops will consist of peas, beets, cabbage, broccoli, and assorted lettuces. Next year I think I will change my M.O. a little, growing a larger fall garden than I do in the spring. There is simply too many things to do in the spring, and often my spring crops suffer because of this. I will still grow enough for fresh eating but I think I’ll save the majority of these for the fall, we will see how it goes. I am especially interested in seeing how the broccoli and cabbages will do this time of year.

Poultry. I have been raising chickens for a few years now and this is the first year I have been successful (up to this point) with turkeys (Predator issues). Due to a few vacations and trips, the time-frame didn’t work out for hatching chicks either. I have a batch in now, due in another two weeks, so we will see how that goes. Turkeys should be ready to process in another 6 weeks. I got four this year, hoping to come out with two in the end, but I guess my predator controls worked better than I thought. I have a few friends that may benefit from my good fortune as well.

Well, that wraps it up for July. All of this thrown in with a few hours each week of grass cutting, and there you have it. Let’s see what happens in August.

 

 

Colorado Potato Beetle

The Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) has found its way to my garden.

 I had been out checking the garden last evening and noticed these nemesis on my potato plants…

I had minor issues with the Colorado Potato Beetle the last two years, so I rotated the crop this year.  Rotation and routine neem applications have helped significantly, but I was surprised to see them back this year. I picked about 30 beetles off and fed them to my chickens last week and have seen little since.

The Gardens Alive website describes the Colorado Potato Beetle as an Adult beetle that  has a yellow body with black stripes running downward. Red larva grows to ⅗” long with rows of black spots along its sides. Favorite foods are potato, eggplant, pepper and tomato. Adults and larvae feed on leaves and stems, often stripping entire plants. Small garden plantings seem to be particularly vulnerable to damage.

Colorado potato beetle.jpg

The adult Colorado Potato Beetle.

The pests found in my garden were the larvae of the C.P.B., with a few adults. Apparently this beetle was first noted in Mexico and Colorado in the 1840’s where it destroyed many potato crops.  Pesticides controlled this population until the 1950 when it was noted to be resistant to DDT.  The female Potato Beetle can lay as many as 800 one mm yellow/orange eggs.

I thought the British invasion of the Beetles happened in the 60’s and 70’s with John, Paul, Ringo and George but it appears that there had been yet another beetle invasion into East Germany during WWII.  It is claimed by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) that the US air dropped Potato Beetles into East Germany during WWII.  In fact, at the time, the Colorado Potato Beetle was known in the GDR as Amikäfer (Yankee beetles).

The C.P.B. became so famous (or infamous) in Europe that it actually had been featured on an Austrian stamp in 1967. Benin, Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates, and Mozambique also promoted the Potato Beetle on their countries stamps in the past as well.  Believe it or not, there is a dedicated webpage devoted to the Potato Beetle.  Now that I think about it, any insect accused of being air dropped into another country as an invader and having its face featured on several countries stamps, should have its own website

This is what the Potato Beetle can do to a crop if left unchecked.  My limited research has found that a majority of the recommendations suggest pesticide use.  If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you undoubtedly know by now that “dat ain’t gonna happen in my garden.”  I will stick with hand picking and neem oil for now.

I have to admit, even though I found a handful of beetles this year, the numbers are dramatically lower than last year through crop rotations and neem oil. The literature shows that tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are favorites of the C. P. B, but mine only seem to like potatoes.

Other organic solutions include, beneficial nematodes, placing birdbaths in the garden to attract birds, row covers, crop rotation, installing ponds to attract frogs and toads, insecticidal soaps and oils.  Again, I think I’ll stick with crop rotation and neem as they seem to have works reasonably well this year. No matter what Integrated Pest Management (IPM) resource you identify, crop rotation and neem oil are key components to defeating this bug, at least in my experience.

Zone 6B Garden Calendar: June

It’s June already and I’m behind. I’m sure some of you have already said this, but it seems to be my favorite saying this time of year as it always seems to repeat itself. Summer has snuck up on me again. I have to admit, I am actually in better shape than I have been in the past. The gardens are generally weed free, and everything is in, growing well. I only have about half of my tomatoes staked and tied, but they are all in good shape regardless. I will be able to finish this up sometime over the next week.

No major catastrophes this year so far except for the fact that something (groundhog?) got all of my muskmelons (cantaloupes) and about half of my watermelon plants., I have about six remaining, so I should still get a good yield this year. It’s a shame though, I tend to give a lot of them away, so I wont be able to do as much this year.

So, what tasks are we completing in zone 6b this month? Here is the checklist:

  1. The winter and early spring crops should be either picked or ready to be picked. I am preparing to start cover crops in the empty spaces. I like to use buckwheat this early in the season because I can usually get them to seed in about 6-8 weeks before replacing this with another cover of winter rye. I’ll save the seed from the first round and use next year. I am strongly considering adding some daikon radish to the cover mix this year as well. I have been researching the tilling properties of daikon and am very interested to see the results.
  2. As I mentioned before, tomato staking and pruning are always at the top of the list this time of year. I have about 30 – 40 left to go (75 total) but it is rather smooth sailing once I get in a groove.
  3. Fertilizing existing plants are a must for me for my in ground beds. I have reasonably good soil after a few years of work, but I still need to supplement feedings during the heavy growing season. I generally side dress with more compost during the middle of the season and then spray with a mixture of fish emulsion, seaweed, and epsom salts every two weeks until harvest.
  4. Neem Oil. The Japanese beetles are starting to emerge and I’m ready for them. I hand pick as many as I can, but I can’t get them all, therefore I use neem oil every 10 – 14 days or after any heavy rain. This combination really has been working well for me this year. Last year my rose bushes and cherry trees were skeletanized from beetles and I have vowed never to let that happen again.
  5. I have had good success with the neem oil, however, this is also a good time of year to be using Bt for any caterpillar pests. Traditionally these pests have been know to ravage my corn, cabbages pumpkins and melons, but like I mentioned, neem is doing the trick so far. I’ll keep this up for the rest of the year and see how it goes.
  6. Peas are already harvested. Broccoli has been taken as well, except for the few that I let go to seed so I can save for next year.
  7. Now is the time to consider your fall garden. Toward the end of the month, I will be direct sowing cabbage, peas, and broccoli again for another round. Next year I think I may just stick with a summer to fall crop of these as the spring just gets too busy around the homestead. This is one way I can borrow from Peter to pay Paul, so to speak; devote my spring time to getting everything ready for summer, and as the season is dying down, the fall cool weather crops should be coming in nicely.
  8. Beets are almost ready, I will be pulling them sometime this week, and in their place Ill put the broccoli for the fall. We try to pickle and can as many beets as we are able, our friends and family really love them, and they are a nice treat over the winter (Pickled beets and eggs).
  9. The cucumbers are a little sluggish this year, but I think they will pick up very soon. I built a few trellises this year for them, so I am very anxious to see how they grow up instead of all over. Pickles are the intent for these bad boys. My wife make a great bread and butter pickle, a real treat. Too bad my horseradish wont be ready until next year, I discovered bread and butter/horseradish pickles this year and love them. I’m really looking forward to making a few batches of those.
  10. Potatoes should be ready in a week or so. The tops are dying back, so hopefully soon, we will have our first serving of Yukon Gold baked potatoes. These things are fantastic, truly night and day compared to anything you can buy in the store.
  11. Our garlic is looking good as well, I would anticipate taking a harvest from these beds over the next few weeks.
  12. I have an array of peppers this year (150 total) and all or looking very good. Banana, cayenne, Jupiter, Jimmy Nardello, orange bell, and jalapeno. Most have small fruit already, can’t wait for the picking. Aside from the salsa we always make, Im going to dry and grind a bunch into pepper flakes. I did a small sample last year and absolutely loved it. These combinations of pepper flakes is fantastic.
  13. Turkeys are getting big, they are almost 10 weeks old and in another 10 weeks, they will be in the freezer. I build this “tractor” earlier in the year, I call it Ft. Knox. Last year I had a significant issue with a predator, killing all of my turkeys and eight of my chickens. I have had no issue this year now that my rooster is an adult (and very protective) and Ft. Knox is doing its job.

Well that’s it for now, see you again in the garden in July.

 

Investment Snapshot: ProShares Short QQQ (PSQ)

Inverse Index (NASDAQ): 257 Million in Total Assets

Current Price: $40.84

FUNDAMENTALS:

PSQ is an index specifically designed to move in the opposite direction (Inverse) of the NASDAQ. Indexes like this are useful to those investors that believe the particular index that they are following has shown some form of weakness and will fall in price.

Trailing Total Returns (PSQ)
Market Return %
(as of 05/31/2017)
NAV Return %
(as of 05/31/2017)
Market Return %
(as of 03/31/2017)
NAV Return %
(as of 03/31/2017)
1-Month -3.77% -3.77% -1.97% -2.02%
3-Month -8.17% -8.22% -10.72% -8.22%
6-Month -17.46% -17.48% -11.26% -11.23%
Year-to-date -16.36% -16.46% -10.72% -10.82%
1-Year -23.66% -23.66% -19.71% -19.75%
3-Year -16.88% -16.88% -16.38% -16.38%
5-Year -18.63% -18.64% -16.27% -16.27%
10-Year -15.43% -15.41% -15.47% -15.47%
Since Inception -15.39% -15.39% -15.10% -15.10%

PSQ currently holds $279 Million dollars in assets and has a net expense ratio of 0.95%. It offers no regular dividends and is trading toward the bottom of the 52 week cycle ($28.81 – $53.32). This fund has been around since its inception in June of 2006 and has had the same fund manager since October 2013.

TECHNICALS:

On a 12 month daily chart PSQ ($40.84) is below the 100 ($41.45) and 200 day ($44.28) moving averages. It recently crossed above the 50 day SMA @ $40.15. The MACD and On Balance Volume (OBV) have shown significant upswings since early June. The RSI is leaning toward an overbought position, but is far from a critical level. PSQ appears to have hit bottom around $39 a share in the early weeks of June as well.

DISCUSSION:

The NASDAQ tracks technology sectors and has done very well over the last several years. Since PSQ is an inverse representation of the NASDAQ, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the PSQ has had a very poor showing during this same time period.

Do not let any of this scare you off, as I believe the PSQ is a fantastic pickup at this price. The NASDAQ and tech sectors are overvalued and showing weakness. Generally speaking when the market corrects, the NASDAQ weakness is often a precursor. The market is due for a reasonable to significant correction, and I am looking forward to it. Why? When the markets are this expensive on a fundamental basis, they become unstable and thus more volatile. This volatility causes panic, fear and ultimately greed in the markets and generally this is the place that a correction will occur, and bargains are to be had.

The savvy investor will recognize these signals and put a hedge on and ride it out. When the market corrects, they will have cash available to start buying again when the market is much cheaper. Basically this is a technique of riding the market on the way down (and making money) and cashing it in on or near the bottom with the intent to buy back into the market when it regains strength.

Ordinarily I would not consider purchasing an index fund of 95 basis points (0.95% fee), but there are exceptions to the rule. Currently I have almost 20% in cash and other hedges anticipating a market correction in the next 3-6 months. I anticipate taking more profit from my winners and hedging even more over the next several weeks to months. I bought PSQ @ $39.77 and may add to it if and when the stock market shows significantly more weakness.

I am not telling anyone to buy this or any stock I discuss in this blog, this is simply a vehicle for me to share my thoughts. The stock market can be extremely volatile, and is not suitable for most investors. Do your own homework and invest at your own risk.