It Never Ends

The Chinese Zodiac features various animals, each featured in a single year – Year of the Dragon, Year of the Rat, etc.  I decided that if our garden could best be classfied this year it would be Year of the Pest.

First we lost the cucumbers to cucumber beetles:

The plants do this, which is extremely depressing:

Then the squash died, courtesy of this guy and his friends:

His cousins were over visiting my lillies, eating the blossoms, leaves, stems…….

We sprayed the lillies, sprayed the leaves of the squash and cucumber plants and then eventually gave up and pulled everything up. And it had been quiet for a few weeks, so we thought we were doing okay, and we were looking forward to harvesting what was looking to be a banner year for corn.

And then, we were visited by these guys:

So gross.  I don’t love beetles, but worms of any sort (except earthworms) literally make my skin crawl.  The corn borers hatch from eggs layed by moths and they immediately burrow into the corn:

You really can’t treat for them because it will get into the ears, so we solved the problem by harvesting every single ear, checking them and separating them into buckets, then cutting down all the cornstalks from the first planting in an attempt to to try and save the next planting, which is both healthier and currently without any ears of corn.  We won’t know for a while whether it worked.

We were able to save about 2 dozen very small ears of corn, which we blanched and cut off the cob.  We got about 5 cups of corn, which I froze.  So we might have won a round against these bugs.

Seriously.  Year of the Pest.

Good Night, Sweet Friend

We last saw Max on Sunday, July 29.  I had a bad feeling that whole week – his water hadn’t been touched and he hadn’t been by, which is very unusual for him.  We have pretty much been unable to open a window or have a conversation in our pantry without hearing, “Mrrow?” and having him appear.  The railing to our deck comes right up outside the window in our pantry, and more than a few times he’s startled us by suddenly appearing in the window:

What’s going on, guys?

Even when the window’s been shut, if he could hear us moving around in there, we’d hear him calling for us.  And if we were outside, unless we were mowing, he was right over to see what was up and keep us company.

I love hard work, I could watch it all day
The only time I’ve ever sat in the hammock, he came by for quality control

I insisted that J email our next door neighbor about him on Saturday, August 4.  We got an answer within an hour – he hadn’t checked in at home with our neighbor since Monday morning, and Max was as regular as clockwork at checking in with our neighbor.  Max has never not shown up every day since he came to live with A.  Our neighbor suspects something – a fisher cat or a fox – got him.  There is so much undeveloped land around us – 450 acres of conservation land abuts our property, and much of it is wooded – it provides good habitat for predators.  Our neighbor’s other cat, Lily, has been crying and looking for Max – she even came up onto our deck last Sunday, looking for him.  We were on the sunporch, and she crept around, looking, and sniffed at the water dish we always leave out for him.

I cannot even tell you how much time Max spent at our house.  It was like he was our cat, without any of the vet bills.  There wasn’t anyone who met him who didn’t think he was fantastic.  We were no exception.  We will miss him.

More than just vegetables

In addition to our vegetables, this year we attempted to start our flowers from seed.  Longtime readers will remember that I managed to avoid planting many of the flower seeds and instead left it for J.  They have done remarkably well, as you can see:

This front basket was a gift from a friend

We did not grow the hanging baskets – they were purchased Memorial Day weekend from a nearby nursery.  I need to find out what the large green leaf plant is – it fills in the basket nicely as petunias get pretty leggy by August and the baskets still look great.
Originally we had planned to have hanging baskets of snapdragons, but the type of snapdragons – Lantern – really did not look anywhere close to good by Memorial Day, so we made the substitution with the nursery baskets.
The extremely tall flowers are dahlias.  I have never seen dahlias get quite so tall.  I was forced to tie all of them up with stakes due to their weight and the fact they were tipping over and covering the cosmos, geraniums, double petunias and aquilivia that I also put in the pots.
My front steps have never looked better.  Now if only I could grow a decent hanging basket.  Maybe if I plant seeds now, for next spring…..

Beans – Purple and Green

I have made no secret of my love of growing strange and unusual vegetables.  Among the things we are growing this year that I can’t get at the grocery store are Irish Cobbler potatoes, bride eggplants and purple bush beans.  We have harvested several rounds of beans already.  The variety we planted are Royalty Purple Pod Bush Beans:

I have been referring to them as Mad Hatter beans, because they are really the most amazing shade of purple which the photograph does not do justice.  We have found that they are easier to pick than our standard green beans, and given that we can get green beans at the store, as soon as we finish up the old green bean seeds we’re going to switch to Royalty Purple for bush beans going forward.
They turn a dark green when cooked, despite our best attempts to keep them purple.  So far we’ve tried putting baking soda in the water as well as vinegar.  Neither has worked.  But the beans are certainly tasty.

Why we have fences

Not the slightest bit bothered by both of us out inside the back-40 garden fence, talking and picking peas and beans.  The fence, of course, does nothing about the chipmunk that’s been getting in back there, nibbling on a few of the low-hanging peas.  This one is more polite than the one out front who samples just a little bit from each strawberry before moving on.  Like his strawberry-loving cousin, he’s digging holes all over that garden.

Not inside the fence is our pumpkin patch.  We’ve had some bad luck with the Rouge Vif de Temps (Cinderella pumpkins) – the cucumber beetles enjoyed the vines so they’re kind of anemic.

We are having great luck with what we’ve been calling the mystery pumpkins – last year at the Finger Lakes in NY, already suffering from a terrible year for Jack o’Lantern pumpkins, we stopped at an Amish farm stand and bought pumpkins.

Mystery pumpkin

Orange Smoothie

Batwing – turns orange from the top down

Last night we pulled all of the remaining zucchini plants (2) and summer squash (1) due to a massive infestation of squash beetles. 

The leaves were covered with egg sacks and there were nymphs on everything.  Adult squash beetles are apparently difficult to kill and we just foresaw an infestation that would winter over and cause problems next year, so we sealed all the leaves in a plastic bucket with a lid and will be disposing of the leaves this weekend.  It is really disappointing – in past years we’ve been overwhelmed with zucchini, summer squash and cucumber, allowing us to give it away to a lot of people.  This year we harvested 2 summer squash, three zucchini, and three cucumbers.  It’s a given fact in gardening that you will not have a perfect year for every type of plant, but it’s ironic that on a year when we decided to cut back on the number of squash plants we put in the ground, we get nailed by beetles.