Each year I look forward to the harvesting of vegetables--seeing the full yellow squash, picking firm blushing tomatoes, and checking for green beans. As I peek under the leaves for peppers and wait for those okra blossoms, I know it will not be long until I am picking harvest. It is one of the many joys of gardening, and I am giddy at the prospect of making salads and cooking dishes with my vegetables.
Every season has its challenges depending on the weather, the variety of vegetable plant, or the abundance of pests. Trying to keep the vegetables healthy using only organic methods is not always easy. Sometimes I must relinquish a hope because a particular plant or bed has been ravaged by a rabbit, raccoon, an insect pest, or some disease. I usually do not take it lightly because my hopes were high, and I had already planned meals and relished the thought of not only the taste of that vegetable but the odor of it after I picked it from its stalk or vine.
Over the years, I have learned to do a few things that help keep my harvest healthy, so I can experience the full gamut of joy at a garden well-served and well-tended.
Green Bean Rust
To prevent it, I keep the beds clean prior to planting. Once in a while, I sprinkle sulphur or copper fungicide on the leaves. If it shows up, I remove those leaves or the entire plant so it does not spread--burying the foliage or plant. Afterwards, I wash my garden gloves to prevent the spread of the spores.
Blossom End Rot
The blemish of the blossom end rot is not as bad as having to cut most of the tomato off before eating it which seems like such a waste. Blossom end rot is caused by an imbalance of calcium which prevents the plant from balancing moisture levels. I put eggshells around the base of the plant and dig it in a bit. This works very well.
Bell Peppers Failing to Yield
I get my hopes up high when I see the blooms on the pepper plants--looking forward to stuffed peppers, fresh bell peppers in my salads, and peppers with beef and onions over rice. The smell of fresh bell peppers is intoxicating. I cannot resist taking one up to my nose and breathing in that delicate pepper odor each time I pick one. However, my hopes are dashed when soon I see small buds of peppers on the ground, fruit buds that formed but dropped. Peppers can be very sensitive to temperature and moisture levels and will not fruit if there is too much nitrogen. To help set fruit, I add Epsom salt to the soil around the base of the plants. This method seems to help the plant stay balanced to fruit.
For several years, this insect had a feast on my flowers, trees, and vegetable plants. I tried several different methods to control it. This is the first year in about six or seven years that I do not need to vigorously keep after them. There are not that many this year, and I am hopeful that all of my work has paid off. I used the Japanese Beetle traps for many years, but this year I do not need them. I have heard the critical view of these traps--that they attract more from further away than would normally be present in my yard. All I know is each year I had fewer and fewer in the traps. I had so few last year it is not worth putting them up this year.
I also plant four o'clocks around those plants that seem to attract them the most, and they reseed themselves year after year. Four o'clocks contain a poison that is toxic to Japanese Beetles.
Each spring I sprinkle Milky Spore powder around those areas that were full of Japanese Beetles the year before. This takes a few years to work, and perhaps that is why things have improved by now.
By attracting birds to my yard with tree berries and lots of plants that offer a bug meal, as well as birdbaths, they have contributed to the control effort. I see them landing in a tree or in the garden and eating Japanese Beetle bugs.
Squash Vine Borer
Hopes can easily be dashed once this pest takes over. I often see the moth flying around the plants. One thing I have noticed is when I have used the bird netting on my plants, I have fewer of these pests. I know they are small enough to get through the netting, but they may not always try. I sprinkle Dipel (bacteria thuringiensis) on the stems every few days. If we have a heavy rain, I sprinkle again. This leaves me with loads of squash and zucchini for casseroles, sauteing, making bread, and even enough to give away to friends.
This is a tough one. I have not found the ultimate secret to controlling this pest. Every organic spray or powder or method I have tried has not really done very much. The best way I have found to control them is to alternate beds each year and get rid of them once I see them. This means scraping the eggs off the bottoms of the leaves. When I have an infestation, I take a bucket of soapy water and knock as many as I can into the bucket. If anyone has a better way of controlling them, please share. As of now, I have not seen any, but I know sometimes they show up later.
This year seems to be a good harvest year. I am picking beans twice a week. Some tomatoes are ready for picking every day. The first okra pod reared its head yesterday. Elsewhere things seem to be doing well. I hope the harvest will be a good one--juicy, flavorful, and abundant!
I am joining Daphne's Dandelions for Harvest Monday and Sweet Bean Gardening for Hope Grows Day.
©Michelle A. Potter