A Rocketing Garden & The Ladybug Army

by Julie Kalivretenos on April 20, 2011

Picking rocket (aka arugula)

Yesterday my lovely daughter, Ciarra, and fur ball diva extraordinaire, Gorilla, spent the late afternoon in awe of the garden’s rapid growth of this past month. We had fun snapping pics, and since the rocket (a/k/a arugula) was rocketing and ready to pick, we took advantage of that too. It’s so cool how easily arugula, lettuce, and other leafy greens grow like wildfire in a pot!

Fresh picked arugula


Of the many bits I’ve learned about gardening during the last couple of months, one is not to waste money on things like self-watering seed starting systems. (But rats, I guess I already have.)  It’s a 72-compartment tray that comes with a watering mat, and a clear lid to mimic a greenhouse effect. Each tiny compartment is pre-packed with a dehydrated soil “tablet” and you simply add water and a seed to get it going.  Sounds easy, neat, and organized. And it just might be right for other gardeners, maybe in other zones?  FYI – I’m in zone 9, warm sub-tropical Florida, where I can see it needn’t be necessary, except during winter cold spells.

Most of the seedlings never even sprouted, and those that did pooped out in no time. I’m especially mourning the loss of all the romanesco that peeped out for a mere week. By contrast, ALL of the seeds that I threw into pots or direct-sowed are doing beautifully.  So, lesson learned. In this garden, no need for extra plastics, extra waste, and further wasted money!

Gorilla: Romaine Quality Control

Here’s Gorilla, Queen of Casa de Kalivretenos. She’s inspecting the romaine that’s thriving well in this big pot. About 3 weeks ago, in went some seeds and daily water, and voilà! I could harvest these sweet, young and tender leaves right now, but I really want to see them grow into lovely heads of romaine.

Romaine lettuce pot

Also a few weeks ago, I noticed signs that the tomato, cucumber, and basil plants were coming under siege by some tiny unidentified predators.  I had heard about the relief that ladybugs can bring, as predators themselves of the pests that wreak the havoc.  So I ordered some and anxiously awaited the first ever live creatures to arrive at my doorstep via Fed Ex.

The Live Ladybug Army

Releasing them was a curiously fun event. They really do come out of that package like an army.  I positioned the little mesh bag in various spots in the box garden, particularly those that looked they needed rescuing the most.

Ladybug army released!

At first, the ladybugs sort of just ooze from the packet because there’s so many packed in there.  As I gently positioned the packet between the tomato plants, they marched right out and scattered onto the soil and up the tomato stems. They spread out all over the leaves, as if they knew what their mission was. Like live little swiffering agents. And then of course, there were a few that instantly flew up into the sky.

As the ladybug army purposefully spread throughout the garden, it wasn’t long before the lizards took notice. As long as I stayed right there, they’d stay at bay. But it was a bit saddening to know that really, this was like the mac daddy of buffets brought personally before them.  All in all, the ladybug army duration lasted about 24 hours. Do I think this was enough time to do their job and seize the plant invaders?  Yes, and notably so. But I’m not sure I would order 1500 ladybugs again, unless there was a major infestation going on, in which case, the ladybugs would be “special ops”.

Tomato Plants

Of the tomato world, there are four roma plants, a yellow teardrop plant, and a cherry plant. As you can see, they’re doing phenomenally well. Every day there’s a new tomato or two or three somewhere. The cherry tomato plant has shown the most gusto, at nearly five feet tall and LOTS of plump little tomato joys.

Again, here we have the Ruler of All She Surveys. Just to demonstrate how tough it is to be the Queen of All Beasts.

What a life!


Miss Diva

This Japanese cucumber plant has been a very happy one once it was thoroughly swiffered by the ladybugs. It has grown like a fast spreading vine, with plenty of little yellow flowers that will be future cucumbers. YAY!

Japanese Cucumber Plant

And finally, just for today, there is the handsome red bell pepper plant. Obviously the pepper isn’t red yet, but it is another plant that is radiantly happy.  I took the photo of the mint because it was once in a small pot in the house and started to look sickly. Once I transplanted it in the box garden, it’s made a slow but strong recovery, and now I have enough mint to give my whole neighborhood very nice breath.

Bell Pepper & Mint

There’s plenty else going on that I have to save for a later post. Like the heirloom zucchini and squash that’s growing well right next to the front door. And random giant sunflowers planted throughout. Stay tuned! Gardening rocks!

<3, JMK

  • Rawfoodgardener

    What a gorgeous collection of photos! The red tomato in the lovely picture of the 3 of them is showing some worrying discolouration at the top, that looks like blight. Hope it isn’t, if it darkens pick off quickly and discard. Thank you for sharing your lovely pics. xxx

  • http://www.juliesrawambition.com juliek

    Thank you so much for the heads up on blight! As soon as I saw your comment I raced outside n inspected everything. Fortunately there is no blight present, everything looks very healthy. And I clipped that little red tomato n shared it with my husband. It was firm n sweet with smooth skin, the dark spots just looked to be a color variation. But thanks for the alert, as a novice I was oblivious :)

  • http://rawkinmom.wordpress.com/ Samantha

    I have just started my seeds and waiting and hoping they come up!!! I usually plant thriving plants but this year decided to go for seeds!!
    I have always wondered about ordering ladybugs!!! How cool to hear how it actually works!!! I LOVED this post!!!

  • Jenn@LeftoverQueen

    Gorilla is sooo cute! :) We use those seed starters here, but then again we are in Zone 4. But I can see how you wouldn’t need them in the Sunshine state!

  • Jenn@LeftoverQueen

    Even if you get blight, you can spray your plants with copper and it helps to retard the spread of the blight long enough that you will be able to harvest your fruits and enjoy them. Blight is really bad where we are, and we sprayed all of our tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes (nightshades) with copper weekly throughout the season and it worked wonders.

  • http://contagioushealth.blogspot.com Melissa

    Love how far along your garden is! I live on the West Coast of Canada and it is just too cold to plant anything outdoors quite yet. I’m so excited to start though and your beautiful plants have me ansy:)

    Thank you for sharing! My cat is also rule of the garden roost. He pretends to help!

  • Elizabeth

    I too garden in South Florida. We have our easy moments and our tough as you can agree to I am sure. I seem to be battling the snails, black grasshoppers and anoles (aka lizards). I swear these lizards are vegans. They eat at my plants!
    Your potted greens are so lovely.
    Peace and Raw Health,

  • http://www.rawdorable.blogspot.com Anonymous

    I don’t have a green thumb, so I’m always impressed with other people’s gardens. Your lettuce looks so yummy and fresh. That’s a great idea to get the lady bugs. My kids would probably want me to order them as pets.

  • http://bfit4life.ie/ Dublin personal trainer

    What a great contest! As happy as I am with dates and dark chocolate as my dessert, I must say that I’ve always wondered if my favorite maple bars could be “raw” verified,
     I didn’t really eat donuts much as a kid, but when I did I always chose maple bars! Can’t wait to see what wins!

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