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Another Amazing Insect Story in the Garden: Ladybugs!

1 Jul

I don’t know what’s happened to the black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars — most of them seem to have disappeared, and I haven’t seen the telltale massive poops that let you know they’ve gone off to form chrysalises.  Then again, I’ve been pretty in-and-out of the garden lately. . .

We have a new crazy amazing insect story, though!  Back a few weeks ago I was noticing that our lettuces, carrot greens even, were infested with aphids (see the first pic — and sorry they’re lame, just with my iPhone) — really, the aphids were crawling everywhere.  Then I saw this totally weird looking — almost scorpion-like — bug everywhere too . . . mostly on the lettuces and carrots, but also a couple on the eggplants.  I assumed it was a bad guy but my experience from years ago when I thought the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars should be moved out of our garden taught me to wait to remove the bugs until I found out what they were. Thanks to rapid email back-and-forth among our more veteran gardeners, we figured it out.

Cut to . . . Spoiler Alert:  see the middle pic above of the ladybug larva, a.k.a., crazy scorpion bug!  I also noticed some funny, un-moving sort-of ladybug like creatures, that almost looked like ladybugs molting, shedding their skin.  I’m going to try to get a pic of one of those tomorrow to add to the gallery — but guess what I just learned (thanks to google):  those are ladybug pupae! Apparently, the ladybug seems to be asleep for a few days, but it’s not sleeping at all; it’s becoming an adult ladybug.  When it emerges, it’s color may be a little off (I’m now wondering if a ladybug Frankie had found and showed me today that was almost yellow was a newly emerged ladybug).  Over time, they turn to the characteristic red with black spots.

I’m also going to look for eggs tomorrow — apparently, ladybugs tend to lay them on the undersides of leaves.  They look like tiny yellowish jelly beans, and are laid in groups of 10-15.  If I find anything, I’ll take another lame pic with my iPhone!

Learn about the life cycle of the ladybug (better pics, too!)!

It is fascinating to let a garden take shape not just as a source for healthy veggies and herbs but also as an ecosystem, where an aphid infestation isn’t a disaster but a boon — because it leads to lots of ladybugs!  Maybe not the best way to feed one’s family, but certainly a wonderful way to learn!

UPDATE: And here is a pic of a ladybug pupa from our garden — there are many, on the undersides of all kinds of leaves. This one was on a snap pea leaf:
ladybug pupa

Fundraiser Sat 6.21: Join Us To Celebrate The New Garden Season!

2 Jun


There’s much that’s new to celebrate. The new snap peas and lettuces and growing tomatoes and basil (most of which we grew from seed!), to be sure, but also:

This is the work of donations and volunteer labor (thanks especially to Lee, Keith, Karin, and Judy for their assistance and supplies this season so far!), so let’s celebrate it!

We need more members to support this amazing, self-funded resource!  We ask members to donate $10 per person (or $25 per family) to help us with the costs of keeping our garden safe, functioning, and growing (in addition to the bigger projects above, seeds, plant supports, compost — it all adds up!).  We also need volunteers to help water and supply more mulch.

Join us to celebrate and learn more about what we do and what we need! Click here to RSVP to Thank you.

Help Us Get Free Plants!

30 Apr

Hi all:

Two great opportunities for new members/volunteers! Help us get free plants from the BBG over the next two weeks. (We’ve gotten great plants through these give-aways in past years!) Look at the details below and reply below or email if you can help!

Annual Plant Giveaway

Tuesday, May 6

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Maintenance Garage, enter at 1010 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Nearest subway: 2, 3, to Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum; 4, 5 to Franklin Ave Station
Renewed members of the Alliance are welcome to select free plants available after BBG Plant Sale and donated by BBG Auxiliary. Choose from annuals, vegetables and perennials. Bring helpers, carts, or a vehicle to transport your plants. Please bring garden registration forms with you, if have not already mailed them to us. RSVP needed by Friday May 2, to:

Recycled Tulip Bulb Giveaway
Wednesday, May 14

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, enter at 1010 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Nearest subway: 2, 3, to Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum; 4, 5 to Franklin Ave Station
Renewed members of the Alliance are invited to pick up recycled tulip bulbs from the annual border display at BBG. Wear old clothes and bring your own bags to carry bulbs to your garden. RSVP needed by Friday May 11, to:

Transplant with us! Sunday, May 4th, 3-5pm!

26 Apr

Remember way back in March when we planted seedlings in the community room?  The time to transplant is May 4th from 3-5pm!
Seedlings ready to transplant 2014!
While we’re at it, we’re calling the weekend of Saturday, May 3rd and Sunday May 4th, our CV Play Area MulchFest:  it’s time to bring in new mulch for the new season. *See UPDATE At Bottom of Post* Whether you want to become a member our garden (which requires you to bring in 2-3 bags of mulch) or you’re simply a family that enjoys (or plans to enjoy) our playground equipment (for which mulch is our safety surfacing), we need your help!

Greenwood Cemetery mulch

Greenwood Cemetery Mulch Pile

You can buy mulch, or if you’re up for an adventure and have a car (or a friend with a car), you can load up on free mulch from the pile at Greenwood Cemetery.  You can ask at the main entrance, but the mulch pile is down the tiny road to the left IMMEDIATELY after you pass by the entrance station.  Drop what you bring inside the play area (along the garden fence is best) and we’ll spread it everywhere that needs it when we’re transplanting late Sunday afternoon! UPDATE, FROM Ansley, 10am Sunday: From Ansley, who stopped by Greenwood this am: Reminder: entrance at 25th st and 5th Ave.  Note mulch is low — but you can get a surprising amount off “mulch field.”  It’s not really a pile. . . There is a shovel you can use, or there was just now.

What it means to be a member . . .

24 Apr

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It’s springtime…a new season and the perfect time to become a member of the CVEarthlab Community & Educational Garden! CVEarthlab is a wonderful volunteer-led and self-funded communal, child-friendly garden in Concord Village’s Children’s Play Area! We offer amazing opportunities for adults and children to learn about their environment and the plants and animals that inhabit it with them; to grow and enjoy fresh produce; and to share meals, knowledge and experiences with neighbors with a wide variety of backgrounds in gardening. And, it’s crazy fun! Follow this blog (there’s a link you can click on the right or at the bottom depending on your device) or email if you want to learn more!  What does being a member mean?  You contribute $30 per family . . . and (we hope) help with volunteer work, planting, and watering when you can.

Why do we need members, and why do members need to contribute money? CVEarthLab is self-funded. Over the past 10 years, we’ve invested nearly $12,000. in cash, donations in kind and grant awards to get the garden off the ground. Most of that was start-up costs, and we were lucky to receive more than $3,000 in grants and in-kind donations, but maintenance is not free! Recent purchases include soil to replenish the beds, an automated drip irrigation system, replacement raised beds and a bench. In spring 2016, we invested about $500 in soil and equipment to refill our 4 older raised beds with new soil (and make 2 of them sub-irrigated) to maintain safe soil quality. And we test the raised bed soil (as we do every year – at @ $75 per sample) to track changes in our soil over time and ensure we’re growing in safe soil. Besides planting and watering, the garden requires a lot of manpower and a variety of resources. Sustaining its success requires an assortment of efforts and skills, including fundraising, grant researching and writing, researching and writing proposals for the board, website content creation and maintenance, documenting activities and communicating regularly with fellow members, taking photos, soil quality testing and stewardship, harvest potluck party planning and prep, errand running, weather proofing, cat, rat and squirrel deterring, making or buying organic pest sprays and fertilizers, accounting, and all sorts of creative problem solving. And money! It’s clear: we REALLY need volunteers and we hope that our members find many ways to help us grow and maintain our garden! At a minimum, though, we ask that each CVEarthLab member family or individual commit to:

1. Donate $30. per family or $10 per individual each year.  You can leave checks, made out to CVOI*, with CVEarthlab in the memo line, in the CV office or arrange for a garden member to pick something up from your doorman by sending a note to . We also accept donations via Venmo electronic payment service. To donate via Venmo app, use Shari’s Rueckl’s username: @misssha

So come on and join us!

*CV maintains an account for the Children’s Play Area, and we will deposit CVEarthlab checks to that account. 

SIPs done and planted! Let the season begin!

13 Apr

We did it! We made 2 of our older planters “sub-irrigated,” creating reservoirs with various plastic materials (Ansley bought perforated, flexible drain piping, and cut it in half for the first one — which we decided was too hard and too expensive, so we reused plastic soda bottles and some of our stronger old seedling pots to create the space for water in the second). We filled them up through successful fill tubes, until they drained through our successful overflow tubes.   Double success!

Even better, we got our cool season crops in: snap peas in lines in the two new sub-irrigated beds (lines along the places where we will soon be re-installing our trellises), and lettuces (a green leaf, a red leaf and arugula) and carrots (for the eastern swallowtail butterflies) in the cold frame bed (lettuces closer to the slides, carrots closer to the play area entrance). Thanks Lucy, Maesie, and Eli! We’ll be eating lettuce and snap peas in June, if all goes well, and will have plenty of carrot greens habitat for our eastern swallow butterflies to lay eggs on, and baby caterpillars to eat! The wonderful thing about the carrots is that the caterpillars don’t start to eat the greens until the carrots are almost ready to harvest — so we get carrots, butterflies get the greens, and we have less to compost!

Remember last year?

Back to our new SIPs:  now we’ll see whether the potting soil we purchased from Dahill Landscaping (they gave us a good deal, and threw in a free bale of peat moss — thanks!) works to “wick” the water up from the reservoirs (the space created by the plastic pipe, bottles, or plant pots between plastic lining on the bottom and landscape fabric on the top) to our plants’ roots. The system works very well in the soda bottle SIPs we made for our seedlings, but there we used a piece of old towel through the bottle neck to pull water from the reservoir to the soil. We’ll see if the light soil mixture we created using mostly potting mix and peat moss works, too!
SIP pic

We’ll be figuring out how best to water our new SIPs as we go along. At first — like now — when seeds are planted, we probably need to water from the top, to make sure the seeds germinate. I’m thinking that after the seedlings are established and have reasonably strong root systems, we should try to refill the SIPs through their fill tubes, so that plants grow the strong roots and get water from the bottom. If we keep watering from the top, the system won’t work. We’ll just have to see how often we need to refill the reservoirs — an experiment!  The watering schedule (link in the column on the righthand side of the blog) has been updated with new dates for this season and new instructions for the SIPs (after the seeds have germinated and seedlings are established!) — feel free to check it out and think about when you’ll be around to water this season.

More work will being done in the coming weeks — Shari and Denise at different times spent much time making a new raised bed (the green plastic one!), which will be filled with soil, and I think we’ll be changing out the soil in our other bed built in 2011, too.

Look forward to a big work day in early May when we will try to get lots (!!) of people to bring in a few bags of mulch from Greenwood Cemetery’s free supply to replenish our slide and climbing wall safety surfacing, as well as our garden paths.  And, of course, transplant our basil, tomato, flower and eggplant seedlings from our March 8th seed planting event!

Welcome to the 2014 garden season!  A post will be coming soon about how to become an active member of our garden — CV Earthlab.  We need more committed volunteers to keep us invigorated, thoughtful and innovative!  Want to learn more?  Email us at!

It’s a Rain Date!

29 Mar

It’s not great garden work weather out there, so we will be out in the garden tomorrow for our rain date:  Sunday, March 30, starting at noon.  Weather forecast isn’t great for tomorrow either, so we may have to schedule another rain date for next weekend.  Fingers crossed that tomorrow works!

More Work To Do In The Garden!

26 Mar

ImageDid you miss your chance to help with the garden last weekend?  You are in luck!  We are still working to get set up for the next growing season.  We will be continuing our work on the sub-irrigation system and setting up the new raised bed.  Join us this Saturday, 3/29, 11am-2pm (rain date Sunday 3/30, starting at noon).  We have the tools and supplies — we need you! 

RSVP to!


It’s Time for a Garden Work Day!

21 Mar

It's Time for a Garden Work Day!

Can you move soil, build a new raised bed (we have the parts) and install sub-irrigation (we’ll have the directions and parts) in our four old beds this Sunday afternoon, 3/23? The more help we have, the faster it will go. RSVP in the comments section!

Help us get ready to plant in April!

Come Plant With Us This Sat, 3/8, at 10:30am!

5 Mar

All Concord Village residents — with and without children — are welcome to join our first garden event of the season!  Plant seeds this Saturday, March 8th, from 10:30am to 12noon in the community room. Believe it or not, it will be our fourth annual CV garden kick-off seedling planting event. We’ll provide seeds; you bring organic potting soil and a pot . . . or a plastic soda bottle and we’ll help you transform it into a sub-irrigated planter.  What’s that? See below:

SIP pic

We will transplant in May.

More fun to come in March and April.  Look for a blog post coming soon about a couple of workdays in March (probably March 22d or 23d) when we hope to construct another raised bed we received thanks to a grant we won from Jamba Juice a while back.

We also hope to re-make our 4 older planters into sub-irrigated planters. What might that look like? You may be able to get a sense from the pic and downloadable instructions below from Grow to Learn: The Citywide School Garden Initiative (a wonderful NYC program that supports gardens in public schools):

raised bed SIP pic

And, the first weekend in April, we’ll we’ll plant some seeds directly into the garden: lettuce, snap peas, basil, and radishes and carrots . . .

HELP US! We need more people interested in helping make this season the best yet.

RSVP if you plan to come Saturday and email if you’re interested in joining our “core group” this year:

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