As the autumnal equinox draws near, the sunset comes sooner each evening. In the morning I find the skies darker than the morning before. Now when I awake, the eastern skies are only just beginning to take on shades of blue. I dress myself and make my espresso and walk out onto the patio overlooking my water garden where the silks on fountain grasses shimmer silver in the moonlight. The morning air has turned crisp and cool. The mosquitoes of summer have subsided and do not bite. The singing of the toads has been replaced by that of numerous black field crickets. I breathe in, I breathe out, I smile.
These are the best of days.
The garden has been fairly dry for a while and there has been little to do recently. Augusts’ bounty has come and gone for the most part.
I have harvested all of the potatoes out of the ground. The Russian Bananas, the French Fingerlings, the Russets and the German Butterballs all have given decent yields of medium sized tubers.
The tomatoes have given moderately decent yields of fruit. The Sunsugar plants are still growing vigorously and I have more little orange cherry tomatoes than I can use. The Early Girls and the sole Better Boy are kind of petering out at this point. Their fruits are diminishing in size and quantity. The Roma plants died many weeks ago and I salvaged what fruit I could, which really was a great deal actually, probably over a bushel.
The zucchini plants are still looking good but they have not been very productive as of late. Powdery Mildew has infected the Patty Pan squash plants and they are looking scraggly. I have also found a number of squash bugs on them and I have been smushing them when I do. The plants have been extremely abundant and have not turned into yellow gack however, so either the infestation has been kept sufficiently in check or I have a disease resistant cultivar.
As an experiment, I sprayed the summer squash with a copper sulfate spray to see if it would kill the squash bugs. I see fewer of the smaller nymphs but I also see skins where they have molted as well so I think that the spray was not very effective. I was using Neem Oil spray on the summer squash and other plants whenever I mixed a half gallon to combat the Japanese Beetles on the pole beans.
This year I really let the Japanese Beetles have their way with the Fortex green beans. They did not completely kill the vines, which are recovering now that the beetles are dying off, but I certainly did not get to enjoy an abundance of green beans.
I cannot say that the neem oil that I use to combat the Japanese Beetles was ineffective because I did not apply it as often as necessary. I really need next year to be more vigilant about spraying these plants every five to seven days. This year, when the air grew hot and saturated with mosquitoes, I abandoned my gardening duties too readily and too often.
Right next to the poor Fortex vines are the Big Mamma lima beans which have grown like a forest canopy on the trellis. The beetles are not in the least interested in them! The bean pods are very slow in developing but there are a great number of them. This is my first year growing lima beans. I have not decided whether or not to pick them when they are still green or to let them dry and harvest them in December to put in soup.
Another of my firsts this year, the Fava beans, are also growing nicely. I planted five rows as a fall crop where the sweet corn was. They germinated very uniformly and are about knee high. Some of the plants are flowering abundantly but some not at all. The flowers are slender with black striped white petals. I am not sure if they are getting pollinated as very few of the flowers result in a bean pod.
If nothing else, the plants are growing and because they are of the legume family and are nitrogen-fixing, they are returning the nitrogen into the soil that was taken by the sweet corn. This practice is known as double cropping and I should be able to continue planting corn/bean in these extra large 14' rows without issue.
I have also sown three different varieties of Brussels sprouts back in early August. I have some nice looking seedlings which have true leaves now and are about 3" tall. According to the packets I should have mature plants bearing sprouts within 100 days of sowing the seeds. Brussels’ sprout plants are slow growing and cool weather loving. Last year, I sowed in June and the sprouts started bolting on the stalks when we had a hot September. This year I hope that the plants mature by the first frosts. Frost is supposed to sweeten the sprouts.
The okra plants are fine and healthy and continuing to make lots of nice pods. Everyone gardener should grow a row of okra if only for the fact that they shall still be alive come September!
The melons, as I wrote in August 9, 2011 were a total loss due to excessive rain. Now the vines have been killed off by Bacterial Wilt Disease transmitted by cucumber beetles. The same fate has befallen all but one of the cucumber plants which are supposed to be resistant to the wilt but apparently not resistant enough.
The cucumber beetles and squash bugs were infesting the winter squash the worst. I even had a few Squash Borers which are caterpillars which eat the hollow vines from the inside. I found several sections to have died very suddenly and I split open the vines to find them and remove them. Fish food!
I grew a variety called Buttercup this year which was very happy to climb to the top of the fence and grow vines which are well over 20 feet long. Many different varieties of winter squash such as Buttercup, Acorn, Turban, Fairy, and Butternut, are of the same species called "cucurbita maxima" and grow similarly: these are not plants for small gardens!
Only two of the six plants have survived to fruit bearing maturity. It looks like that I will get maybe six or seven good sized fruit off of these. But now these plants too are succumbing to either Bacterial Wilt Disease or Cucurbit Yellow Vine Disease.
First the leaves started to look droopy. This is an early sign of both diseases. Leaves and immature fruit that have been infected dried up all crinkly which is typical with Squash Bug damage. I found the pests still at the scene of the crime. The disease progressed and the main vines turned into a mushy mess at the soil line.
I should have removed those plants from the garden right away so the disease would not spread but by that time the melons and cucumbers had died too.
I am not sure what to do about the squash bugs and cucumber beetles next year. I do know that every scrap of garden debris needs to be cleaned up because both pests like to overwinter in debris near next year’s crops. I do rotate all of the cucurbit crops so that the pests have a harder time finding them next year.
Mom is also suffering from cucumber beetles. She has a plan next year to soak the soil around her cucumbers next year in the spring time when the overwintering beetles lay their eggs amongst the roots of the seedling crops. What to soak the soil with she has not decided on. I believe that I shall follow suit or perhaps I shall start using row covers in the spring as a physical barrier to keep the beetles from laying their eggs at the roots of the seedlings.
I may also resort to using a pyrethrin based spray next year instead of Neem Oil spray. Neem Oil's main drawback as an insecticide is that the targeted pest must ingest the compounds in the oil in order to be effective. If the greatest threat is not the insect itself but a disease that is transmitted by the pest, then the damage may have been already done before the pest in inhibited or incapacitated.
I have much to learn I am afraid. What is apparent to me at the moment is there is no convenient, single-action remedy for my garden ills. No single spray is an effective substitute for a system of garden management. I am paying the price: the cucumber beetles, and perhaps squash bugs again, are overwintering in or near my garden. Overcoming this infestation shall be a challenge and a great topic to node upon come next spring.
For now the only thing I can do is to clean up the garden as best I can come November and enjoy the Autumn and the fruits of the local farm stands. Apples, peaches, melons, plums, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Pies and cider, fall festivals, fireplaces and popcorn. The turning colors of the trees and the crunch of the leaves on the prairie trails winding through fields of wildflowers brilliant in the sutting sun.
The heat and humidity has gone and air has that end of summer smell. To lie out in the open grass with the sun warming the my face as I drift off to daydreams and awake happy and refreshed. To throw open the windows at night, and to bring the coziest comforters and quilts out. To get swept off to the best of sleep on gentle drafts of cool crisp night air.
These are the best of days.
UsedToBeOphie's log honors the memory of a noder that I never had the opportunity to get to know. Ten years ago I was working at an industrial repair shop. I recall that we had Netscape by then but I did not have the fortune to discover E2 at the time nor the fortune to know him as some of you do.
But when I read his writeups and his daylogs, I get to know him too. When I read the pages here about how much he was cared for and loved and how his life and death affected those who knew him in their own words, I cannot help but to feel his presence as well.
"There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time." -David Eagleman
This is the magic of the written word and of Everything2.com: that we pour out our souls on to paper and onto the internet in ones and zeroes. That all who read may know our true selves and that, hopefully, we shall live forever.
Peace be with you, Hermetic.