Thursday, 5 July 2012

Midsummer Garden Report - A Dreadful Year

This has been the most difficult of the 4 years we have been gardening, by far. I am hearing lots of lamenting from other gardeners too. One person said it was the worst year in the 34 years he has been gardening. Ouch.

Mind you, we are still persevering. Above, we planted our leeks in the "wet" bed in the usual way. Note how dry it looks. Yeah, that's right. We have had about 80ml of rain since APRIL 1st. We should have had northwards of 400ml by now.

Mr. Ferdzy whacks those holes in the ground to drop in the leeks.

And I water them in. Can't tell you how many hours we have spent watering this year. Up over a hundred by now, I would say.

We're getting better (and by we, let's face it, I mean Mr. Ferdzy) at getting those trellises up. They do help keep the veggies neat and organized, which is more important than you might think when it comes to harvesting. Especially since we grow a lot of indeterminate heirlooms, which tend to be long and rangy plants compared to most modern varieties, which tend to be more compact.

One of the advantages to the larger heirloom plants is showing up in the tomatoes. We  have septoria spot again this year, and the compact little Bellestar are again in a race to produce anything before they lose all their leaves and die. I think next year we can't grow them, even though in theory they produce so much in such a small spot. Above, Mr. Ferdzy attempts to stem the tide of septoria spot by removing the most badly affected leaves. This was a week ago; I can't tell if it helped. New leaves are turning yellow and spotted daily. Ho hum.

My own pile of yellow spotted leaves waiting removal to the garbage - I do do a few things around the garden besides take pictures. When we remove diseased plant materials we throw them away, rather than put them into the compost. The compost should be hot enough to kill them, but it isn't guaranteed by any means. Better safe than sorry.

We had septoria spot last year, as well as bean yellow mosaic. Bean yellow mosaic looks like it's back too, along with squash yellow mosaic. All these things are transmitted by insects. I read an article in the spring about how many butterflies are around this year - 10 times as many as usual of one variety - and wasn't that lovely? Yeah, that's lovely. Not so lovely is the fact that we have about 10 times as many of a whole lot of other things. I'm seeing insects I've never seen before in my life this year, a lot. It's practically a daily occurance.

Melons, in the foreground, are way behind where we expected them to be with all this heat. They have been swarmed by cucumber beetles and squash bugs since the day we planted them out. We have been picking them (bugs not plants) and dropping them into the "jar of death"  (water with a little soap, so they drown quickly). We probably had about 50% mortality in our early melon and cucumber transplants, and have had to reseed most of them.

We've given up on trying to pick the cucumber beetles. We probably picked several thousand of them before we conceeded that there was no way we were keeping  up. The squash bugs have been more successfully controlled. We water the plants thoroughly, wait for them to climb up on the leaves to get dry, then pick them off. Their numbers are more in the dozens than in the hundreds. However, there are certainly still enough to kill plants. Where do they keep coming from?

Zucchini are particularly hard hit by the cucumber beetles and squash bugs. We've yanked out a couple that were the first to show signs of the yellow squash mosaic virus.

Didn't do any good though; the rest are starting to show signs of it too. Goodbye zucchini. We might get a few before they are too badly affected to eat.

Peas and squash in the "wet" bed look fairly good from a distance. We are watering these just as much as any of the other beds, which is annoying. They are inconvenient to water - the whole point was that they were in a low, wet spot and wouldn't NEED watering. Maybe next year.

The peas are dying down, which is fine. They are an early summer veg, and we left 2 varieties to produce seed rather than picking them.

Cucumbers show how badly off they are - half of these died and the other half are pretty stunted. Haven't had time to get them up on tomato cages yet, but it hardly matters.

Another pretty view of the garden, looking very structural. Mr. Ferdzy added some more yesterday, these ones for electric fencing to go around the corn.

The corn has been attacked by the cucumber beetles, and is a bit spotty but mostly outgrew them. However, something has been knocking them over and chewing the stems.

More chewing damage. The electric fence has not kept whatever critter it is out. We thought rabbits or raccoons, but maybe it was squirrels or rats. I did see a rat when I was weeding yesterday - first one I've seen in 4 years. It was big and fat and sleek - cute as a button, really. Like a lot of cute as a button critters I was nevertheless not entirely pleased to see it. Rat-traps, ahoy.

The animals have been relentless this year. A mild winter, followed by the dreadful lack of water, has meant there are a lot of them and they are all desperate for anything moist and juicy; otherwise known as our garden. Also, the next door neighbour used to feed all the local stray cats. He moved out this month and stopped feeding them last month, and they have dispersed. All the things they used to keep away are coming back. I think that's why we have the rat, actually.

Overall, we are very discouraged. We are doing twice as much work as usual and will probably get half to two-thirds the usual harvest. Maybe. Don't know what else to say; we are not the only ones. The apple harvest around  here will fall somewhere between dismal and non-existant, and Niagara isn't doing much better that I can tell. Local grain fields look okay; but hearing that the U.S. is going to have a noticeably diminished crop.

How's it going where you are?


Danielle said...

Thanks for sharing this update! Filled with lots of good information! Our garden is doing OK so far this year (Hamilton, ON). We found last year to be bad in comparison to this year at this point. We have had to water so much which drives me crazy, but it must be done. We changed up some of the planting this year (with regards to location in the garden) so it is hard to tell if any changes from last year are due to soil or just the heat and dryness). So far this year we have found that the cucumbers plants have been dying from some kind of insect/disease. Early in the season we had a little bunny eating all of our greens, but we took care of that. The fruit is starting to appear on the tomatoes and zucchini, so hopefully things continue well there. Overall not a terrible year but I think with the dryness a lot of our greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, cabbage) have been growing fairly poorly. For us, as long as we get a good tomato harvest we are happy :D

Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

We have planted a larger field garden this year for the first time, after a few years in a small raised bed garden by the house.
It is encouraging to me to hear that others are having a strange year for their garden. Our lack of success so far is from the things we need to do differently (companion gardening to keep down the pests) and finding out what doesn't do great in our soil. However, I guess I have to keep trying with the things that didn't do could just be this year(?) We are fighting potato bugs on our beautiful potato plants, the lettuce didn't even grow past 2 inches maximum(!), the beans seem slow to produce. Onions, radishes, spinach and swiss chard have been good to date. Turnips look promising. We are near North Bay, ON.

Marnie said...

Sorry to hear how bad things are this year. I don't grow veg and don't worry overly about my flowers, so the dry year isn't bothering me too much here in Toronto. My rain barrel's empty and I'm hoping we get a downpour soon, but who knows?

Ionatan Waisgluss said...

Sorry to hear about this :(

Like you said, this is something that's happening to a lot of people this year. It's a real shame, but don't let this discourage you from the great work you're doing! :D

On a happier note, I just discovered a fantastic blog to follow! :P

Thanks a lot for writing what you do! I'll add your link to my website! We need more people cultivating food... in the agricultural sense, and in the simply cultural sense.

Hope things pick up for you and your veggies!

All the best,
--Ionatan Waisgluss

Ferdzy said...

Glad to hear things are better where you are Danielle. You probably have cuke beetles and/or squash bugs too.

Norma, we have botato beetles too. I forgot to mention them - they have been within the bounds of reason. Don't forget to go over the plants and check for orange eggs under the leaves - if you can get them before they hatch it will save a lot of trouble later. We have trouble with lettuce too. Our soil is sandy and acidic, and it grows very slowly and then it goes bitter when it gets hot.

Marnie, it's kind of funny to me how differently gardeners and non-gardeners look at the weather. My next door neighbour said to me, "Could we have had a better long weekend?" (meaning the weather) and I said "YES! It could have RAINED!" P.S. We're actually getting some as I type! 4ml so far!!!

Thanks, Ionatan. It's part of the territory, I guess. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

Well, yes, we have all of the above insect and disease too. At my home garden which is 30x30ish, I've been plucking cucumber and squash bugs like morning and night, and yes, I've almost given up. I gave up yesterday, but then the watermelons opened many flowers and I couldn't just give up on them. Sadly, I haven't been so protective of the community garden (now likely a couple of acres is planted), and I fear the cucumber beetle is doing a lot of damage. Hopefully you can take some comfort in knowing that you're not alone, and I've chatted with a few farmers in our areas who are also suffering. Thanks for sharing the detailed update, it's also nice to know the bugs aren't just picking on me. I have read that bat boxes could help....I'm hoping to commission a lucky carpenter to build me one :) Awesome trellis' by the way. We just used t-rails with fence wire this year, seems to be ok for the beans and peas, but not great. Kim