Organic Vegetable Garden Diary, Dated 6/30/2015
Dear Diary, We are slowly coming out of our graduation/family reunion/college orientation-induced fugue. It's been a whirlwind of a month. And now we're getting ready to head overseas for 3 weeks for our long-planned vacation to Austria, Germany and The Czech Republic. As much as we love travel, I will really miss two things…Flora and our garden. My parents have the honor of babysitting both while we're gone and the care instructions for each is extensive.
In spite of our recent neglect of it, our organic vegetable garden continues to thrive. Terry and I remain convinced that our twice weekly doses of compost tea are partially responsible for the healthiest and most prolific garden we've ever had. In past years, I warded off the inevitable disease/fungus that are part and parcel of living in the hot and humid southeastern coast of the U.S. with weekly sprays of Serenade , which is OMRI approved for organic gardens. However, one of our gardening goals is to reduce our dependence on sprays, whether organic or not. Our hope is that by fortifying our soil with compost tea, compost, weeding and crop rotation we will eliminate soil born disease/fungi and grow plants that are more resistant to these diseases.
We did start keeping a record of our harvest this year, which we have not done in past years. I know without hesitation that our past two years have been completely lackluster, almost to the point where I really considered not having a garden this year. However, we ultimately jumped right back in, convinced that this year it would be better, and thankfully it is.
So, at June 30, 2015, here's our garden haul data (does not include the metric ton of kale we've been harvesting for months and are still harvesting!) :
Tomatoes (Black Prince, Roma, and Sungold) 12.75 lbs
Cucumbers (Burpless Hybrid)* 11 lbs
Eggplant 3 lbs
Peppers 1.5 lbs
*While our cucumber plants are incredibly prolific, the cucumbers are inedible 😡 They are so bitter and I am so sad! I've never had this happen before, but I will do much research next year before I plant my cukes. So everything that is produced now is going right into the compost bin. I'd rip it all out, but don't want to disturb the Zinnias and the trellis is still providing shade for the lettuces. Plus, my understanding is that it is always better to have something growing in your soil than to have it sitting idle.
Other than the nasty cucumbers, we have also faced a couple other challenges this season thus far:
When we found almost completely round holes in our bell peppers and eggplants, we reached out to our friends at Progressive Gardens. I sent Evan a picture of my wounded eggplant and he informed me that I had weevils. Sorry the picture is a tad blurry, I took it with my eye phone while holding the eggplant, but you can see the the almost perfectly round hole.Weevils feed at night, so it is suggested you go to your garden after dark with a flashlight and pick them off. After looking for a couple of nights, I went with plan B and purchased some Safer End All, an organic insect control that contains naturally occuring Neem Oil, Pyrethrin and Potassium Salts to disrupt insects at all stages of their life cycle. I sprayed when it was almost dark to avoid any disruption to the bees and other pollinators and it seems to have done the trick. I was able to salvage all the eggplant by just cutting around the holes, but all the peppers that had weevil damage ultimately turned to mush. I think it's because they are hollow and all the rain/water got in the holes, which were all at the crown of the vegetable.
The same poor peppers that were assaulted by the weevils were simultaneously attacked by slugs. Slug's like juicy foliage, so the the leaves and stems of seedlings are a prime target, but my slugs were less discriminating and just ate whatever leaves they came across. Chewed leaves with the tell-tale slug slime trail convinced us that slugs were the culprit. Thankfully, slugs are very easily controlled by organic means. It seems that slugs can't say no to beer, which has caused the demise of any number of 2-legged slugs as well. Simply fill a small plastic lid with a little beer at the end of the day and partially cover it with a pot saucer (or something similar) and you've created an irresistible neighborhood slug pub! In the morning, your saucer will be occupied by drunken slugs which you should then destroy by either stomping them or sprinkling salt on them. I know it sounds cruel, but they're drunk and so will be oblivious to their demise.
So once managed the weevils and the slugs, we found these on our way to the garden earlier this week.
Our home backs up to a marsh, so the exact culprit is unknown, but it is surely one of the usual suspects listed above. This is not an uncommon occurrence for us, between the birds and these other mammals, we've had many fruit stolen in the middle of the night. We're not the trap type, so we opt for covering the whole garden, top to bottom, with bird netting which when secured, will keep everything out.
And as if those three assaults on my vegetable kingdom weren't enough, my bush beans, which usually are the hardiest of vegetables just started keeling over…literally. They'd be fine and within 2 days they'd shrivel and die. The backstory to the bean dilemma is that our sprinkler system control has been broken for a while and the sprinkler was defaulting to go off every single night for about 2 weeks until we realized it. Turns out my beans succumbed to root rot. The photo shoes the tell tale sign of root rot where you see the brown ‘stain' up the stem of the stem from the roots. Once we remedied our watering situation, we planted some more bean seeds and are optimistic that we will be having a good number of baby beans when we return from our vacay.
Gardening in general, and organic gardening more specifically, is not a hobby or occupation without challenges. While it would be lovely to put your seeds in the ground in the spring and harvest your fruit and vegetables 60 days later without daily monitoring and maintenance, that would also take much of the fun and reward out of it. Acquiring the knowledge to know how to build healthy soil, how to attract beneficial insects and how to treat the unwanted but inevitable pests/disease is a never-ending, but rewarding, process when you serve your family meals from your garden or simply bite into a just off the vine tomato.
I hope your garden is faring well this summer. What are some of the challenges you are facing?
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Until next time,