I have more gardening problems, although not 99 like Jay-Z. Yes, I know I’m still stuck in the 90s but these references are the first ones that pop into my head. I suppose I should make it a top goal this summer to familiarize myself with more recent music so I have fresher pop culture references.
Holes in cucumber plant leaves
Shriveled tomato plant leaves
Back on topic, the garden is in semi-struggle mode. I realize I’m a about month behind because I had to replant in late June. On the bright side, the squash, basil and rosemary plants look strong.
Unfortunately I had to email NC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners again last week about the remaining plants. There were holes in the cucumber plant leaves and shriveling leaves on the tomato plants. I thought the shriveled leaves may be the result of the heat and the holes from some type of pest. The Master Gardeners responded quickly as usual and delivered the bad news.
“This damage doesn’t look typical to that of insects eating leaves. In the first picture the leaves look torn with little tissue missing and that looks like mechanical injury to me. I see you have chicken wire around the garden so it’s hard to imagine something walked through there but that’s the kind of thing that would cause mechanical injury. The other pictures look like some sort of disease (fungal, bacterial or viral). Note the wilting of the leaf edges – they are not bitten. It’s hard to tell from these pictures just which disease it is…”
To combat the fungus, I first tried using a milk and water mixture. When that didn’t stop the progress of the fungal invasion, I had to take it up a step. I purchased an organic fungicide, Serenade by Bayer which can be used up to the day of harvest. It’s been less than a week so we’ll see if this is the solution to the garden’s pest and fungicide issues.
I just want to give a shout out for the quick diagnosis by NC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners. They are a great resource. If you’re in North Carolina, you should definitely take advantage. Despite my ongoing gardening problems, NC Cooperative Extension definitely isn’t one of them!
The bounty from my garden this year- hopefully more to come :/
I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since I posted to the blog. In the past I’ve had long absences due to the World Cup or vacations. This time it was the Olympics. I make no apologies; I am an Olympicophile. I watched much as I possibly could even if it meant staying up late and dealing with an Olympic hangover the next morning.
The Olympics ended a week ago and I’m still going through withdrawal. On the bright side, the USA track and field team did awesome. Lots of middle distance and distance medals. Throw in some drama with dropped baton passes, disqualifications and even a brave finish after falling and tearing an ACL.
Squash growing with baby squash blooming
During the time all of this was going on, something strange started happening in my garden. Disappearing squash. I would see squash blooms and then fruit similar to the photo to the right, but a couple of days later there would be nothing. I went on the case to investigate the cause of the disappearing squash.
There seem to be two basic causes. The first is that something is eating the immature plants and the second is that there hasn’t been enough pollination of the plants for them to survive. I think there is a mix of both happening here. Since decline of the bee population, there haven’t been enough to properly pollinate plants. I also think I have garden pests who are feeding on the plants.
To solve this, I need to be more vigilant about treating my plants with organic pesticides to keep pests out and do the job of cross pollinating plants if bees aren’t around.
Unfortunately it looks like the squash growing days are numbered. Below are photos of my plants in July and just yesterday. Production is definitely winding down. I’ve been told by a master gardener this is normal. While disappointing, I’ll just have to enjoy the last few squash of late summer.
Non-productive part of squash plant
Fruitful squash plant in July
It’s not to the level of Ali-Frazier, Cubs-Cardinals or even Nicki Minaj-Miley Cyrus, but the battle is on. The garden pest I struggled with last year is back. In case you need a refresher, here’s last year’s post on the pooping bandit.
Not so foolproof plan
At the beginning of the Spring, the ground near the garden was sunken in from the tunnels or home the pest had dug next to the garden. I figured we outsmarted it when we (okay Steve) filled in the area with stones and multiple layers of dirt. Problem solved!
It took most of the summer but the holes and sunken area have returned. I have a feeling the pest will keep coming back so I’m not sure whether to just worry about protecting the garden or to try eliminate the pest completely.
Another pest I’ve been dealing with late this summer in the garden and around the house is the guy to the left. It looks very scary and dangerous and possibly even poisonous, right? That’s what I assumed when I saw it camped out over the garage side door a couple of weeks ago. The web got so big and thick that we could no longer use that entrance into the house. We had to use the automatic garage door instead.
After a few days of not being able to enter the house where we wanted, one evening I turned the hose on and pointed the jet and all my fury directly at the spider for several minutes. Finally it fell out of sight. I was proud I had taken use of our door back. Later I did find out the spider was harmless.
Sam was staying with us and the next morning when he came out of the side door he asked where the spider was. And he asked again that evening. I told him the spider had found a new home. He concluded it was just out hunting for prey and would be back. I was impressed that he knew about the predatory habits of spiders but felt bad about lying to a small child. Who knows, maybe spider did find a new home in my garden.
In my last post, I accused or I like to think, simply stated that my husband was the reason behind the death of two of my cucumber plants. I thought the vertical way he trained the plants made them weak and unsturdy. It turns out I was incorrect.
I came across something called bacterial cucumber wilt last week. It’s caused by a striped cucumber beetle who likes to feed on the leaves. The bug spreads bacteria on the plant which damages the leaves, causing the plant to wilt.
Ironically, once the plant is infected, beetles become even more attracted to the plant and feed even more, resulting in a death spiral.
So my husband, more than happy to point out when I’ve been wrong, wanted me to make a public retraction that he was not the cause of the dying cucumber plants. Even though I can tease him for many things such as his love of Jean-Claude Van Dam and Steven Seagal movies, killing my plants is not one of them.
You probably noticed a break in posts in the second half of June. Or at least my 10 dedicated readers did. (And I appreciate you all!) I was on vacation late in the month and had the best laid plans of blogging while I was away. You know how it goes when you bring workout clothes on vacation telling yourself you’re going to use them and never do? Well, I did that as well. But now I’m back on track with working out and gardening.
Apparently it stormed a lot in North Carolina on my 10-day BBQ road trip across the deep South and Midwest. I had someone coming over to water the garden on days it didn’t rain. I assumed the plants would be fine because they had plenty of water but I came back to this on my cucumber and tomato plants:
Cucumber plant leaf damage
I’m not sure what happened to the cucumber plant in the time I was away. I sprayed more organic pesticide on the leaves since it looks like pests were eating them. I figured the tomatoes stayed on the vine to long. So that’s an easy fix.
If you think the holes in the leaves could be the result of something else, let me know. I’d appreciate your advice!
In looking for ways to get rid of slugs, I found out something very interesting. Slugs love beer! Their fondness for the alcoholic beverage has something to do with being attracted to the yeast. Even though I find slugs repellant; I found them slightly less so when I realized we have a love of beer in common.
The organic pesticide spray I used a couple of weeks back wasn’t quite doing the job. It didn’t do anything to prevent slugs from chomping on my strawberries, so I had to find a new strategy. This is where the beer comes into play.
Someone needs to learn how to pour a beer properly
I dug two holes deep enough in the middle of my rows of strawberries for small plastic cups. I filled the cups with beer we had in the fridge that Steve and I had both refused to drink. So oatmeal stout it was for the slugs.
Apparently, slugs aren’t picky about their beer. When I went back a couple days later to see if the the cups of beer worked, I found several dead slugs in each cup. Success!
When I informed Steve of my victory, he asked if the slugs were drunk or dead. I told him the slugs probably got drunk before they drowned. I felt a little bad for the critters, but it means that I get to enjoy the strawberries in my garden instead of them.
Below is a picture of the slugs post-bender. Don’t scroll down if that kind of stuff grosses you out.
Cup full of beer and slugs
Even though I addressed this a few posts ago, I’m still getting grief about the title of my blog. I decided to keep the name because I still feel like an amateur gardener and because I feel like veggie gardening virgins and newbies could really benefit from some of the stuff I’ve learned. Plus I like the alliteration of the name. So sorry folks, the title’s not going anywhere.
So back to the evil slugs eating my strawberries. I needed to figure out a way to get rid of them but still keep everything I use in the garden organic. Off to my local garden center. I asked the staff about the best organic pesticides and they recommended Bon-Neem spray. It uses tree seed oil to suffocate bugs and pests.
The instructions were pretty simple, even I could handle it. Make sure it’s not windy out when applying and make sure it won’t rain for up to 24 hours after application. The spray has to be able to stick to the leaves.
Since I visited my local garden garden center, I’ve gotten really good advice from readers of the blog- from planting mint, making sure the mint is planted in containers around the garden to using eggshells. Thanks for the tips, you all rock! I plan on using these in the future as well in a multi-prong pest removal approach. The pests don’t stand a chance!
See my plants post-application below. We’ll see how well this strategy works!
Plants sprayed with Bon-Neem
I’m excited to have my first produce of the season! I recently picked my first strawberries of the plants. The strawberries weren’t as sweet as I hoped, but they should reach their peak in the next couple of weeks. Even though I’m starting to see the results of all my work; I’m facing a familiar problem as last summer.
Garden pests! The villains of every garden. They are the equivalent of the character in a Lifetime movie who shows up and then everyone starting getting killed. Fortunately this isn’t a Lifetime movie and I realize what’s causing the problem.
Strawberry eaten through by a pest
Last week, I found a rather plump slug having a feast on a strawberry and removed it from the garden. The slug had had done this to the berry. See the photo to the left. I actually found it kind of impressive that the slug had hallowed out the fruit. But also very annoying.
Last year, I solved the pest problem by building a fence around the garden. The fence still keeps critters out, but now I have to worry about insects inside the garden.
This calls for a visit to the local gardening center so I can find organic pesticides that will keep my fruit and vegetables safe. Check the next post to see what kind of advice I receive.
I finally finished the fence around the garden a couple of days ago. I haven’t noticed any animal related activity in the garden since then. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this holds true and the fence holds up. The only bad thing is that the fence is about belly button high. I’m going to have to either figure out how to high jump over the top or use a step stool to get in there. I thought about building a gate into the fence but I read that could be a weak point and become a point of entry for pests. I figure if I have a hard time getting in, the critters will too.
Now that my garden has a defense from pests, I went ahead and planted more seeds. I currently only have two watermelon plants and three cucumber plants that are doing well. I planted more watermelon and cucumber and also carrots and red peppers. I’m choosing to remain optimistic and look forward to a bounty of fresh fruits and veggies in the next several weeks.
My next steps are to add fertilizer to the garden to boost growth and continue watering daily. Before we hit the summer heat, I was only watering every other day. Between daily watering and the multiple rainstorms we had last week, I’ve noticed a big difference.
I admit I got pretty down about the state of the garden after the week of neglect. I thought about quitting and just trying again next year. But I’m pushing forward so we’ll see what happens. With the World Cup finally over, I’ll have fewer distractions. And fewer things to blame when I screw up.
Take a look at the current state of the garden below.
Long view of the nearly bare garden
Completed garden with fence
I took an unplanned break for the garden. I didn’t intend to, but between going out of town, my birthday and some fabulous World Cup games, the garden fell by the wayside for a week. Now I’m regretting it. So yes, I’m absolving myself of any responsibility for the state the garden is in and placing the blame squarely on the World Cup.
It only happens every four years! How could you not stop to watch the 32 best football teams on the planet, especially come the knockout rounds? I’ve chosen to use the correct term for the sport instead of the American term for anyone who may be confused. The announcers are rubbing off on me.
So this afternoon I visited the garden for the first time since early last week. It ‘s rained a few times since then so I wasn’t concerned about the garden lacking water. But one of the watermelon plants was completely withered and sitting on top of the soil. A couple of areas in the large box had been dug up. Once I poked around, I discovered ants, maggot like creatures and small, round balls which I guess are eggs of some kind. Weeds are starting to proliferate in the smaller box.
I’m down to two watermelon plants, three cucumber plants and either a few carrot plants or weeds. I have to admit the garden is looking rather sad. SJ showed me one of his friend’s pictures of their garden on Facebook. It was lush and green. And I was green with envy. (Bad pun intended.)
I’m going to look at this unintended break as halftime and use it to regroup. I’m going to do a better job of staying on top of what’s going on in the garden and tending to it. The fence around the garden is still in the works. I sprayed the ants and other bugs with a vinegar and water mixture I found online. So hopefully that will help get rid of them. I’m going to do a second planting to see if that produces better results. I’d really like to have some produce to enjoy out of the garden this summer.
We’ll see how the second half of the summer goes with the garden. If you have any advice to share, please send comments, ideas, etc. my way!