Last Monday Sue from our sister Meadowbrook Community Garden graciously agreed to stop by and give us consultation on our striving garden. Thank you very much, Sue!
Sue told us ALL the gardens are having trouble this year, and largely attributed it to the climate change; in short – the temps are rising, the bugs are getting more aggressive and meaner and the whole ecosystem is basically out of whack.
Sue has been gardening for about 50 years (among other projects she had run an urban farm for the UW Center for Urban Horticulture) and said she had never seen the situation worse than this year, and expects the problems to grow exponentially. Essentially all the early spring/cold weather vegetables were failures this year (spinach, peas, etc.) and the summer veg is not looking much better.
The Meadowbrook Community Garden is normally growing large quantities of vegetables for the food bank – i forgot the numbers Sue quoted, in 100s of pounds each summer, but this year’s yields and donations are significantly smaller. She described previous years’ harvests as every garden member going home with a bag of produce after each work party, while this year they depart with 2 pea/bean pods and a 1 beet each… Needles to say our garden has similar results; below specifics on our crops.
The stuff that is wasting our beets turned out to be a leaf miner. Sue showed us its larvae underneath the leaf: tiny, squarish whitish dots, which she said it’s best to squish/kill, before it it eats through tunnels it makes while traveling through the leaf. We had been cutting off the ruined leaves each weak, only to find more the following one. Kathi reported that she cooked the three beet roots that we harvested last week (hardly any greens!) and they didn’t taste too good :(.
On our collection of heirloom tomatoes – first a good news from Sue: if all other conditions are stable, the new higher temps will allow us to grow MORE heirlooms than in usually too cool PNW summers.
The bad news: she spotted an early tomato blight (fungus) on some of them (fairly large black/brown spots on leaves with yellowing areas around them) and recommended that we immediately remove the affected leaves before the disease reaches the fruit and turns it into a mush. And yes, Virginia, there is a late tomato blight to look forward to…
Many of our tomatoes suffered transplant shock, because the day after we put them into the ground we had 3 weeks of rain and cold weather: some plants got seriously stunted (oh, yes, we covered them to protect from element), although still producing fruit now… Anne Marie spotted a shameless snail traveling up the tomato branch, but she was too squeamish to remove it: Debra picked it up and flung it FAR away.
Beans, both bush and pole ones: Sue commented that bean seeds have quite high rate of not germinating this year, and this is certainly our experience, too – we have planted and replanted them several times, many didn’t come up at all, and those that did seem to be eaten down to a leaf-less stalk. According to Sue, there might be several responsible perpetrators: cut worm, earwig, or simply we got diseased seeds from the last year (we planted seeds from different sources, all with the same poor result).
Click here to read about Top 17 Problems with green beans…. In her home garden Sue went at night with a head lamp to inspect what is eating her beans: she found jolly crowds of earwigs sitting on a low bamboo fence that she erected: they found cozy homes inside of the bamboo stalks and a tasty dinner nearby…
I wish i took a pic of healthy basil starts when Susan brought them to the garden several weeks ago: right now they look sick and pale green (despite being treated with fish fertilizer), stunted and attempting to bloom/bolt. Sue recommended we remove the bloom and the top branches to encourage bushier re-growth.
Sue also mentioned the ants problems: the Meadowbrook Community Garden found several ant colonies in vegetable beds, munching on up-comming broccoli and what not. We haven’t searched for the ants yet, but who knows what is hiding in the large empty patches of soil or under poorly performing plants like basil.
Our peaches look lush and wonderful so far, still not quite ripe, but Sue warned to watch for brown spots on them – i forgot what is supposed to cause it, but yeah, the whole fruit turns into a mush, if not controlled. Click here to read about a spotted-wing drosophila – a fruit fly, one of the mean bugs that Sue had mentioned.
Looks like maybe we should start a night patrol in our garden: many of the bugs seem nocturnal and never there to meet us face to face. The gardening is frustrating this year, and I’m in Anne Marie’s camp – not too fond of squishing larvae or flinging snails – hopefully the rest of you, fellow gardeners, are more hard core and somehow together we’ll find a way to grow stuff because, as Sue put it in her pre-consult email: “it is important for our future if we are going to feed ourselves…..”
You know what IS doing well? Volunteer tomatillos (Vicky has good salsa recipe for them) and blueberries – we had tones of early (from beginning of June!) and fat blueberries. Also, our lettuce bed, in July! It looks almost plastic good, but it is real – we had a good sense to put it in fairly shady place, but wonder what else is in play for the lettuce to look that good mid-July! Sue recommended that instead of harvesting it root-and-all, we just cut the lettuce above the ground, as it’s likely to re-grow. Also, our fabulous herb garden border is doing great and gets compliments from many passers-byes . Yay 🙂
Sue also mentioned roly poly bugs (they mostly munch on rotten stuff, but like strawberries, too) and allium rust – I think i’ll wait a while with googling that one…
aleks. The wordpress platform is not steady today – won’t let me preview, so I’m going to click ‘publish’ – please let me know about any mistakes you see, so i can correct them.