Be on the lookout for insect pests on your vegetable plants. While hand watering this morning, I discovered leaves on several tomato plants that looked almost like netting. I cut the whole leaf off and turned the leaf over to find lots of tiny, tiny caterpillars - you almost cannot see them. By catching them early and picking off the whole leaf or section of leaves, I can get rid of them before they grow and spread out to the whole plant.
If you are too late and the caterpillars have spread (they are called army worms for a reason!), you can dust your plants with Dipel or spray with Thuricide - both are used by organic growers to specifically kill caterpillars on vegetable plants.
The other pests I encountered this morning were stinkbugs - quite a few of them hanging out together on our potato plants. First I noticed the tips of some of the plants wilting and upon closer look I saw 2 - 3 stinkbugs on each of the wilted tips. My gardening partner, Ann Morrow, and I keep a plastic jar in storage by our garden for stinkbug removal. We have never had a problem this early and never before on the potatoes - usually later in the season on the tomatoes. Put a little liquid soap in the jar and fill about half way with water. Then hold the jar under the infested leaves and thump the stinkbugs in. They will soon drown.
The beauty of hand watering is that you take the time to visit each plant and observe problems before they get too far. I switch to drip irrigation when the watering needs of the tomatoes become greater as summer approaches.
Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant and new potatoes are all coming along nicely. We are still enjoying lots of kale, shallot shoots, Swiss chard and lettuce from the winter garden, but that will come to an end soon with the heat!