West Mountain Farm

Pastured Pigs, Free-Range Chickens, Biodynamic Gardening, Homesteading

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Dipel Dust – A Biological Insecticide

Dipel Dust is a biological insecticide used against caterpillars, leaf eating worms, and other larvae, it is certified by OMRI (Organic Material Review Institute) for use in organic production. It is a microorganism Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt, subspecies kurstaki strain that is lethal to a variety of larvae after ingesting small amounts. It is safe for mammals, bees, birds, aquatic life, earthworms, pollinators, and many other beneficial insects. The only downside is that it will kill butterfly caterpillars, but as long as you use it sparingly and keep it off their favorite plants (rue or wormwood for example) you probably won’t notice any less butterfly activity. It is essential for organic brassica crops, because it kills loopers, cabbageworms, and more. If you have a tomato hornworm or fruitworm problem you can safely use it on your tomatoes. We prefer handpicking and interplanting with basil to deter them, we never seem to have much of a problem with hornworms. Mixing some in water and dipping seedlings in the mixture before you plant will take care of cutworms while your plants get established. Webworms, leafrollers, tent caterpillars and other tree and shrub pest can be taken care of with a generous dusting. Sod webworms bothering your lawn fall victim to Bt. This is only a small example of a large list of caterpillars and worms Dipel Dust is lethal to when ingested in small amounts.

Bt is usually used in a powder form, but can also be bought in a liquid form and sprayed on plants. Some people have had success injecting squash vines to stop the squash vine borers, timing is essential though, it must be done before too much damage has occurred.

I mix Dipel Dust in my potting soil for seedlings and houseplants, if I didn’t I would lose many plants to the larvae of the fungus gnats. They are a serious greenhouse and indoor plant pest. The adult flying gnat doesn’t bite or feed, but they are an indicator that you have a fungus gnat problem. The larvae cause damage by feeding on roots, plant exudates, algae, and fungus in the soil. They are a disease vector and slow down plant growth. They are the same gnats you may find in your fruit bowl. Bt sprinkled in all potting soil will prevent the problem from starting and clear up an infestation.

Dipel Dust mixed in potting soil, ready for seedlings.

Dipel Dust mixed in potting soil, ready for seedlings.

Mosquito Dunks are the israeli strain of Bacillus thuringiensis, it is a very effective, safe, and easy control of this summer pest.

Don’t be alarmed if you still see small amounts of the pest, as the adult that lays the eggs are not killed, and the worm/larvae must eat some of the plant material that has the Bt on it, then the worm will stop feeding and die shortly. Wasp and birds can still visit your garden for a snack if used sparingly, or if you get behind on dusting. I don’t mind sharing a little with the wildlife.

Regular use of Bt will greatly reduce crop damage done by fast eating caterpillars. Now you no longer have to eat lacy kale or cabbage, or spray large amounts of chemical pesticides on beloved trees under attack by worms.


Frost Dates

Reading the signs of nature is always tantamount to determining when to plant and when to harvest, but scientific, compiled data is another tool to use to help guide your gardening decisions. Average first and last frost dates is an essential tool that is referred to by seasoned and novice gardeners. Victory Seeds has easy to use tables based on what state you live in to help you use scientific data to guess when your areas most likely first and last frost date will occur. Going by these dates you can prevent plant losses and stunted growth from a late freeze, and you can count back (days to maturity) from your frost date if you want to do a late planting of corn or anything else.

Taking the temperature of the soil in different areas of the garden/property can also give you ideas on where and when to plant things. I use a long cooking thermometer that has a ride range, not only can it be used for roast, but compost piles, and taking soil temps. You can find your hot and cold pockets. Raised beds generally warm up quicker than earth level beds. All if this information can be used to your advantage. For example, you can plant glacier salad tomatoes early in a warmer bed for early season tomatoes or a second spring lettuce crop in an area that stays cool longer. If you live in mountainous terrains you will find that hillsides will vary greatly in temperature. This can be helpful for wildcrafting and foraging, morels anyone ;)!

Right now is a good time to transplant many perennials if done gently and quickly.

The garden is *’waking up‘* so I know its time to put spring bulbs, onions, peas, and potatoes in the ground. *Click on this link for a sweet Radioactive remix that has nothing to do with gardening, but is great for monotonous chores.


Black Cap Raspberry Swelling Buds


Asiatic Lilies Emerging


Pixwell Gooseberry Buds Opening


Seedlings and 2013 Varieties


Its the end of winter with spring steadily approaching, its time to start planning your garden, planting dormant trees and berries, cool weather crops, ordering from the steady influx of catalogs, and starting seedlings. I am a self confessed seed, bulb, tuber, and anything garden addict. A simple trip to Lowe’s for screws and I return with dahlia tubers, gladiola bulbs, lily bulbs, asparagus crowns and horseradish . For an early start on these I have put them in pots in the greenhouse (last year I did this in the house) and will wait until the soil is around 55 degrees to plant in the garden. The asparagus may be planted directly in the ground right now, if they are still dormant. I suggest going to your local gardening stores, the Farmer’s Co-op, Lowe’s, or Wal-mart early to get your onions, potatoes, bulbs, etc. before they run out and before they lose quality. The warmth and the light in the stores causes everything to think its spring and break dormancy too early. Later in the season you may even have to pick through moldy and rotted selections. If you aren’t ready to plant yet place everything in cardboard or paper bags in the garage or  in your fridge, they need cool temperatures and minimal light exposure to stay dormant. Most things like to be slightly moist and have some air circulation. Checking on them frequently isn’t a bad idea either, rotten or moldy things need to be thrown out immediately.

It is time for seedlings to be started indoors for zone 7, peppers and eggplants need a 6-8 week start and tomatoes need a 4-8 week start. When starting seeds a heat mat or heat coil improves germination and makes a better root system for most plants (columbines and bachelor buttons don’t like the heat). Seedlings need water, sterile potting soil for seedlings, air circulation, proper temperature (55-75 F) and a strong light. Fertilization isn’t required until they get their second set of leaves. Watering and fertilizing from the bottom is best, but don’t let them sit in water. Some flowers like to be started indoors as well, such as rudbeckia and chrysanthemums. Herbs love an early start, basil being fun and beginner friendly, you also get to eat the pruned tops, a nice treat when the weather is still chipper. For those plants that resist transplanting now is a time to get a head start on bed preparation, so they will be ready to sow as soon as it warms up.

This is an introduction to my massive seed collection/obsession and what will be in our garden this year.

I buy many of my seeds from Baker Creek, they are dedicated to non-gmo, anti-monsanto heirloom varieties, they are located in Missouri which qualifies for local in my book, and have ethical business practices as far as I know. Some of the varieties from them I have grown or will be growing again this year are : roma 2 bush beans, fledderjohn soybeans/edamame, ianto’s fava bean, oriental scarlet poppy, love-in-a-mist flowers (above picture), mammoth red rock cabbage, black palm tree cabbage, long island improved brussel sprouts, okra hill country heirloom red, clemson spineless okra, thai round green eggplant, diamond eggplant, fengyuan purple eggplant, ping tung eggplant, beit alpha cucumber, orange bell, albino bullnose bell, golden california wonder bell, emerald giant bell, chinese five color hot pepper, red mushroom hot pepper. The tomato varieties are: amana orange, cream sausage, carbon, cherokee purple, homestead, bonnie best, pantano romanesco, san marzano lungo No.2, amish paste, pink brandywine, egg yolk, mini orange, ozark pink, hssiao his hung shih, black cherry, gypsy purple, dr. wyche’s yellow, and ananas noire.

Baker Creek varieties to take special note of are: the love-in-a-mist flowers, which were sowed in a minimally prepared bed mid-summer and performed quickly and were an interesting looking flower and seed pod. The clemson spineless were not spineless not spine free and quite fibrous, they were only good picked small and pickled. All eggplants performed wonderfully except the diamond, which was minimal, but had a nice quality and kept well for an italian type eggplant. Beit alpha cucumber had too large of seeds and somewhat tough skin, which made it a good pickler when they were small. All bells produced like crazy, the albino bullnose was somewhat bitter, and the golden california was one of the sweetest bells i’ve ever had, the emerald giant was thick walled and picture perfect, great for cooking and freezing.  One plant of each hot pepper took care of my cooking, drying, and canning needs, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing. The cherokee purple and amana orange both got diseases and were pulled before production. The cream sausage was a semi-determinate white paste that produced very well and stayed nicely compact, they would be great for containers and small gardens, they lacked in fresh flavor but made up for it in making a tasty, very light colored yellow sauce with few small seeds.  The gypsy purple produced abundant amounts of slicing sized tomatoes (racquetball sized) with an out of this world taste, they made the best dehydrated/sun dried tomatoes that were a fantastic winter treat in many dishes. The gypsy purple is the BEST producing black/purple tomato I have ever grown, even in last years hot dry summer. Hssiao his hung shih is a yellow pear that can only be described as ridiculous! It produces up until frost MILLIONS of sweet yellow grape tomatoes, it literally flowed over 6 foot tall cages and rooted in the ground and kept producing, a must have for any garden. Ananas noire, black pineapple, not impressed, a waste of space in my opinion. Big and impressive would be the pink brandywine, it never fails me, or anyone else I have met that has grown or eaten them. The pink brandywine was made for BLTs!

My favorite herb and flower seed company is The Thyme Garden a family based non-GMO seed, supplies, hops, and mushroom company based out of Oregon. They have many unusual and medicinal herbs and flower seeds that have a great germination rate, probably due to their beekeeping practices. They are also true stewards of the land with their salmon projects and many organic gardens.  The basil varieties I purchased are: mammoth, purple ruffles, italian large leaf, rosie, digenova, genovese, emily, and quenette. My favorite is the emily which is a small genovese with very tender leaves, great for container or limited space gardening and pesto lovers. Corsican mint and mixed creeping thyme are ‘walkable varieties.’ The corsican mint isn’t for heavy traffic, but it smells delicious and isn’t invasive, it is used in making creme d’ menthe. The creeping thymes aren’t much for culinary use, but look good and attract bees galore when in bloom from reds to white carpets. Salad burnet, roman chamomile, german chamomile, mammoth dill, centaury, white and blue borage, nasturtiums, lemon and tangerine marigold are other seeds I ordered from them. Borage is said to improve the flavor of tomatoes when planted together, and the flowers are edible and a nice addition to a salad or dessert.

Happy shopping and gardening!


A temporary grow space can be set up if you don’t have a green house. A 400 watt metal halide purchased from Grow Fresh was sufficient for this space.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front


By Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.


There’s nothing like practicing resurrection with potatoes…..



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