First Day of Summer Garden Update
It’s the first day of summer, and it feels like it! Like many of you, there are good and bad things happening in the garden due to the excessive rain and milder temperatures. Honestly…we kind of need this heat to push along some of our warm season plants.
It has been awhile since an update, but that doesn’t mean we have been MIA in that garden. As you can see, despite the weather challenges, the garden is planted, we have been harvesting, and things are going well. One benefit of the raised beds (and the drainage tiles underneath our garden!) is that no matter how much rain we have gotten, it drains away fairly quickly. So we are not seeing too much root damage from saturated soils.
The herbs & pollinators garden has been growing gangbusters, with absolutely huge bronze fennel, lush parsley, and several beautiful agastaches.
We once again have a SNAP-Ed garden, where we are highlighting the ability to use SNAP dollars to purchase garden plants. We track our expenses and the value of harvested crops. We also have to budget for every purchase, so there is often not money to purchase tomato cages or similar items. The gardeners built this homemade tomato cage for the two tomato plants. We will see if it fares better than last year’s homemade cage!
Corn is something new for us in the Demo Garden, simple because of the space requirements. We tried a Peruvian corn variety a couple years ago, but it didn’t grow. This corn is ‘Glass Gem’ popcorn. We are interested to see how it performs in the small area we have given it.
Lest you think all is well in the garden, we are starting to see a fair amount of early blight on the lower tomato leaves. We hadn’t mulched the garden until last week, which probably didn’t help prevent disease. Mostly this is a rain and humidity problem. Cultural controls would include mulching, caging or staking, and keeping the leaves dry. Fungicide options would include chlorothalonil and copper-based products. It is important to note that fungicides only prevent new leaves from becoming infected, NOT cure infected leaves.
The other thing that we are seeing right now are aphids all over the tomatoes. This is quite abnormal, but probably due to the cooler weather. The benefit of hotter weather is that it should help the tomatoes grow faster and slow down the aphids (which normally like cooler weather). The white specks are the molted husks of the aphids. The black and orange guy is a ladybug larvae that is happily feeding on the aphids. We are hoping that between the hotter weather and the ladybugs, we won’t need to treat for the aphids.
There is much more to see in our garden, so come on over at visit us sometime!
The Milkweed Ecosystem
These are some pictures taken by one of our Master Gardeners, Lisa LaRue, back in mid-August. We always love our butterfly and pollinator bed because it is beautiful and beneficial to the environment of our garden. These pictures take a closer look at everything that is going on in that garden.
Of course, this is one of the things we are hoping to see when we plant milkweed in our garden. Lots of happy, monarch caterpillars munching their way through life.
What many people planting milkweed don’t realize is that you can get a whole bunch of other insects as part of the bargain. It is very common – and completely normal – for milkweed to be just coated with bright orange aphids during the summer. They also will often get milkweed bugs (the black and orange bugs pictured). So…what to do? The thing is that you can’t spray anything without causing harm to the caterpillars you are trying to encourage. The good news is that the aphids and milkweed bugs are really not causing any harm to the milkweed, or anything else in the garden. By this point (a month later), the aphids are completely gone and no harm was done.
The other benefit of leaving those aphids where they are is that they provide a food source for hungry ladybugs. The hoards of aphids are a feast for ladybugs, and by letting the aphids stay on a plant that isn’t being hurt and that really doesn’t matter for anything other than looking nice and feeding caterpillars/butterflies, you are actually “farming” more ladybugs for the rest of your garden. This picture shows two ladybug pupa (the stage between the larvae and the adults) on the milkweed.
This is how ecological gardening is supposed to work, and a great example of how lots of diversity in your garden is beneficial. We certainly aren’t eating the milkweed, and if you were strictly focused on what you could harvest from the garden to eat, it would seem like a waste of space. But by growing something that benefits our beneficial insects, we now have a higher population of ladybugs in the garden for when there are aphids on something we DO want to eat.
This has nothing to do with the rest of the post, but I wanted to show the swallowtail chrysalis just for fun. We have had a great time this fall finding all the places that both the swallowtail and monarch caterpillars go to make their chrysalis!
Troubles in Vine-Land
As I mentioned in passing on Tuesday, we have several different things going on with our vining vegetables – cucumbers, squash, etc. Actually, the melon plants are all still in good shape, so the problems are restricted to the cucumbers and various squashes.
Here’s the first one:
The cucumbers in the Family of 4 Garden are coated with these…any ideas? I’ve seen numerous samples of vine plants come in this month with the same signs and symptoms. I think what tricks folks is all of the white flecks. This is actually a severe aphid infestation. If you look closely, especially in the upper left corner of the picture, you can see the green buggers. In the middle of this picture is an ant…and ants like to “farm” aphids and protect them from predators so the ants can feed on the sticky honeydew that the aphids excrete as they feed. The white flecks? Those are the aphid “skins” as they grow and mature they “molt” and leave those white skins behind. I’m sure there’s a technical term, but I can’t remember off the top of my head.
To make matters worse, the cucumbers also have these terrible looking insects on them! Can it get any worse? Well, actually, you might recognize the one as a ladybug, and the black and orange lizard-like bug…that’s the larvae of the ladybug! These are the good guys that are enjoying quite a feast of aphids!
So, what are we doing about the aphids on the cucumbers? Well, honestly, the answer is nothing. We’ve gotten quite a bounty of cucumbers, and the plants are still doing pretty well overall. The ladybugs aren’t controlling the aphids at this point, although given a couple of weeks they might get there. Spraying would kill the ladybugs and may not do much to prolong the life of the cucumber vines. We’ll probably let them go and pull the plants out in a few weeks if they become completely unproductive.
On to the next problem… An observant Master Gardeners saw this on the underside of one of the squash leaves on Tuesday. Theses are squash bug eggs. I’ve gotten several questions about why we aren’t having problems with squash bugs in the garden this year. The answer has pretty much been that we’ve been lucky. The renovated garden may have helped that situation too. At this point, we aren’t going to bother spraying, since most of the squash will be leaving the garden soon due to the third problem we’re seeing…
Ugh…powdery mildew. This is a disease that we often see on zinnias and other common garden plants about this time of year. Usually you start out seeing round, powdery white spots on the leaves. It seems like most of our squash went from 0 to 60 in almost no time flat, because the leaves are pretty well coated on several different varieties of squash. There are treatment options, but they are most effective as preventatives or very early in the infection period. These plants just aren’t worth saving at this point. Besides, we’re tired of zucchini! There are powdery mildew resistant varieties, but they can still get the disease in a bad year.
As you can see, a lot of things are starting to go downhill fast in the garden this year. Luckily we’ve got some seeds started inside and garlic on order for later this fall!