I haven’t been writing much about the garden, mostly because things just aren’t going well this year. Oh sure, some things are going well – the strawberries are looking great and the blueberry, fig, and elderberry plants added are going great – but I’m losing the battle of the bugs this year and I’m at a loss as to what to do next.
Too Many Bugs: Insect Problems in the Vegetable Garden
I’ve written in the past about the influx of Colorado potato beetles in the garden. These voracious insects love potatoes and any plants in the nightshade family. Usually they wipe out my potato plants and I get few potatoes, but that’s okay – the potatoes keep them away from other nightshade family vegetables, such as tomatoes.
Until this year, this plan worked, but my potato plans dwindled and I didn’t replenish them. The bugs found their way to my tomato plants. I’ve been diligently picking them off and squashing them or dropping them into soapy water. But how often can I run out to the garden to pick them off the plants? And right now, I only have four tomato plants of any size to attract them. Soon they will be joined by other plants and then I will really have my hands full.
The recommended pesticide is Sevin, a brand name that I have used before, but I am really trying not to add any pesticides to the garden. If anyone has ideas about how to battle Colorado potato beetles on tomato plants, let me know. These bugs are persistent problems.
Speaking of Tomato Plants, My Seedlings are Awful This Year
Yes, you read that correctly. I’m actually glad I didn’t finish writing my guide to seed starting this year because my tomato seedlings are awful!
Half of them died, the other half are so puny and scrawny I don’t know what to do.
I have tried everything I know – more sun, less sun, more warmth, less warmth, more water, less water, compost, you name it. Still, I have small, discolored plants.
A few transplanted into the garden survived. I ran to the garden center and bought twelve more tomato plants so that we’ll at least have enough to enjoy. As for the paste tomatoes, I really hope they grow…I wanted to experiment with making spaghetti sauce this year!
All my raspberry bushes died. I have no idea why.
What’s Growing Well? Root and Leaf Vegetables, Peaches, Apples
It’s not all gloom and doom here at Seven Oaks Farm. The beets are growing great, as are the lettuces, chard, radishes, and new herb plans. This year, I am growing borage as a salad vegetable.
The blueberry bush also looks healthy and even produced a flower! I keep joking that if we do get a blueberry from that single flower it will be the best blueberry ever.
Thankfully, the root crops – beets, onions, garlic and carrots – all look great, and some parsnip seeds I just sort of chucked into the garden to get rid of all grew! I’m going to have to thin those out to get any good parsnips. I love parsnips. Yum!
New varieties I am trying this year include “Jacob’s Cattle” dried beans. These beans produce pods, and you dry the pods and put the dried beans into storage. Then you can cook with them. I am eating a mostly vegetarian diet these days with just a bit of meat and am allergic/sensitive to tofu and soy products so regular old beans are my staple protein on most days. The more I can grow on my own, the better.
We also have a good number of peaches and apples developing on the orchard trees. We’ve been diligently watering them to encourage bigger fruit.
Better News: Fun Summertime Visits
The best news of all is that my godson and nephew is heading here this summer! He loves helping Uncle John and Aunt Jeanne in the garden and when we asked him what he wanted to do when he visits the farm, he said, “Work in the garden and drive the tractor.” Can you get better news when a thirteen year old wants to garden alongside you?
I told John, “Let’s have him dig up that flower bed we are replacing!”
Nothing like having a strong, willing teenager arrive to help out with hard work!
Here’s to the garden, in all its messy glory. Happy gardening!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.