Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When things go wrong in the garden.

Gardening is wonderful.  You turn over the soil, or add compost, or whatever it is you do to prepare, then you plant the seeds and wait expectantly for those little shoots to appear.  It's so exciting when they do.  Everyone here loves to see the tiny plants poke up through the soil, and I'm certainly no exception.  Then you're even more excited to see things grow like crazy and put out their first blooms.  The girls and I take great pleasure in noticing the first little fruits or veggies that begin to form on the plant, and oftentimes we are overwhelmed with goodies when everything starts to ripen.

But then there are the days we notice something has been nibbling on the newly sprouted beans.  We see the first signs of powdery mildew on the squash, or the entire top of a tomato plant has been stripped of leaves and flowers.  We might notice that a cucumber plant has developed yellow spots on its leaves after several days of rain, or we might have to water constantly because it's been incredibly hot and there's no rain in sight. And then, there are the weeds.  You may begin to think the whole gardening thing is not all it's cracked up to be.

This year has not been an especially good one for the garden.  Not horrible mind you, we did have a fairly good start, but it's certainly not been a gardener's dream year.  We had a very mild winter, so the bugs have been horrible this year.  The squash bugs are everywhere, and don't let anyone tell you they only eat squash.  When there are a bunch of the little beggers, I've become convinced that they eat just about anything.  Also, we discovered a new little critter on our beans - I still have no idea what it was, but it was hungry.  The only bug I haven't had trouble with this year, although I've certainly had my share of trouble with it in the past, are hornworms.   Then, there was the weather.  Many gardeners down here put their gardens in early this year because they were convinced we were going to skip spring altogether and head straight into summer.  This was due in part to the mild winter, and in part to an unseasonably warm March.  I wasn't convinced.  When people spoke to me about gardening, or urged me to go ahead and start my garden, I kept telling them I didn't think a warm winter and March meant we were going to skip spring altogether.  I've lived in central NC my whole life - I figured we were in for a cool snap just any ol' time.  I've seen too many years where farmers worried when warm spells, followed by late frosts or freezes endangered their crops, to think that a warm March meant anything other than a temporary dip in the jet stream.  Sure enough, we got to about the middle of April and it got cold, and wet.  Things did mellow out for a bit, but then we got hot.  Very hot - as in, record breaking temperatures (not just highs, but also records for how many days it was consistently over 100), and not a drop of rain.  After a few weeks of that, we did get rain, and lots of it.  It's rained almost every day.  Certainly not normal for this time of the year.  Too much rain, coupled with heat, breeds all kinds of fungal problems in the garden. And though the plants may not like it that wet, the slugs sure do.  Yuck!
Then, there are the storms.  This was after a storm that I'm sure contained micro bursts. The rain was torrential, and things were being blown everywhere, in all directions.  At least in about a 1 block radius.  Outside of that there was little damage, but for those of us right here, it was pretty nasty.  The neighbor lost two trees in is front yard and half of one in the back.  Our corn took the biggest hit, but other plants in the garden were damaged as well, in addition to some things around the house and some of the trees in the back. The corn wasn't quite ready, so we lost it all.  
We did get 20lbs of potatoes.  I went ahead and pulled them since the plants were completely flattened, and though they were already on their way to finishing off, that just kind of sped it along.  Since they like to set tubers when soil temps are around 60-70 degrees, I think all the hot weather we got prevented a greater yield.  

All the negative things could certainly dissuade someone from wanting to bother with a garden, but there are positives too. What is less than complimentary weather-wise to one plant, is often great for another.  We may not have gotten the best crop of zucchini we've ever had, but we've already had a bumper crop of okra, with more coming in all the time.  And the rain may have caused fungal problems with our cucumbers, but when they were producing, they produced a lot and they didn't ever get bitter, even if we missed one and it grew very big.  A mild winter may have allowed for greater bug problems this year, but it also allowed for a great crop of garlic.  I'm sorry I can't find much good to say about squash (or any bad) bugs, but at least we learn more about them, and how to try and control them organically.
And then there's the satisfaction that gardening can bring.  Whether it be from a plate full of home-grown veggies that you're able to put in front of your family, or a beautiful view outside your kitchen window, gardening can bring a lot of blessings through all of the trials.

We've been able to put fresh veggies on the table each night, we've had enough to share a bit with friends and family, and I have some things preserved for use this winter.  While I'm certainly glad that I don't have to rely completely on what I've been able to grow this year in order to feed my family, I'm grateful for all that I have been able to produce in my garden, and I look forward to what we'll be able to do in the future.  

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  1. Your garden sounds like mine right now. I agree the problems are many, but it's still so very worth it.

    1. And even with all the problems, if you only spend $1.50 on a pack of green bean seeds and then get 10 jars of green beans, plus what you ate fresh, you've certainly come out ahead in cost.

  2. We are in western Nebraska and with the drought and the many, many hot days it's been a tough year for gardens. I had beautiful bean plants, they even bloomed, but for some reason they just did not produce. My tomatoes are struggling. On the flip side my beets and carrots are doing good and I have high hopes for potatoes, so I will take what I get and be thankful.

    1. Oh - it's so disappointing to see blooms, but have nothing follow them. I certainly hope your garden does better next year.

  3. I certainly understand wanting to throw in the towel after a bad gardening season or two. I have struggled with the same things myself but then each year something wonderful will happen that draws me back in. Love reading your blog, thank you for taking the time to write and share.