If we absolutely depended on my garden to survive, we’d starve this year

It has not been a good year in my garden. It seems that everything that could go wrong has and I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

Blight in the tomatoes and potatoes, destructive bugs making a feast of plants and weeds as tall as my knees hiding everything else. All the lettuces have bolted and the carrots rotted. The spinach never did make a decent appearance.

The garden gate got left open and the chickens discovered all of my beautiful, nearly ripe tomatoes. They had a feast and left nothing for us. As hard as the blight hit my plants, I don’t think we’ll have a tomato crop this year. So disappointing and frustrating. I reached the point this weekend when I seriously considered just mowing the whole damn thing and calling it done for the season. 

But, I didn’t. There are still some plants out there that are producing well. The beans…oh, the beans, they are growing and producing like mad. 

The bell pepper plants are looking gorgeous, thick and leafy and healthy and green. Only problem…no damn peppers and the blooms that did come in all fell off. But, we’ve had very, very hot weather and pepper plants are persnickety, so maybe they’ll start producing when it cools off a bit. Cucumbers are offering up more cukes than I can use and the eggplant, watermelon, canteloupe, butternut and sweet dumpling squash all have a few babies growing. 

The garden this year may not be as much as a success as I’d hoped, at least I’m getting something out of it! 

I have got to figure out a better weed control program. The grass and weeds flourish nearly overnight and I can’t keep up, no matter how much time I spend yanking them out. I pull one weed and 25 more take it’s place. It’s never ending and impossibly overwhelming. I piled about 6-8 inches of straw around all the plants and the only thing the straw did was make it harder to pull weeds without also pulling up a handful of straw. Ugh. Last year I layered newspaper under the straw and that seemed to work to keep the weeds manageable, but, I wondered if all those layers of newspaper in the garden contributed to the dryness of the soil in an already ultra-dry summer, so I didn’t do it this year. And boy, am I ever paying for it! 

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Bugs and disease

I have an invasion of the worst kind.

ImageMy garden has squash bugs and so far I’ve lost four scallop squash plants and two zucchini plants. A cucumber vine is looking a wee bit on the pathetic side but I don’t know yet if it’s squash bugs or something else.

Squash bugs are nasty little things. I spotted the egg clusters first and, never having had a squash bug invasion before, really didn’t know what they were.

ImageBut I smushed them any way, purely on the principle that if I don’t immediately recognize the bug (or the eggs), it can’t be good for my plants.

And I was right.

My poor garden is having a really rough year. My tomatoes were hit hard with early blight and I’ve been battling it since spring when we had too much rain and not enough warm sunshine. I think at least two plants are done for. I think my potatoes have been stricken with it, too. I dug up a potato plant with my hand over the weekend just to see what I could see and plunged right into a stinking, rotten, soupy mass of slimy potato sludge. Ugh. Same disease that hit the Irish potato crop that cause the an Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger, or, as it’s more commonly known, The Great Potato Famine) in the mid 1800s. I see why they starved, there is no way anyone could even consider eating that mess of rot.

My poor garden is suffering from an overgrowth of weeds and right now, there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. I’ve been working 12+ hours a day for the past three weeks, which leaves just enough time to sleep and say hi to my family in passing. I’ve managed to get up early a couple of times to get a few things done in the gardens and around the property, but not nearly enough. This weekend I have plans to get all caught up, but I’m not terribly optimistic.

On a positive note, the green/wax beans are extremely prolific this year. I picked part of one row last weekend and canned 7 quarts with about 1 quart of raw beans left over. And I know there are tons more out there to pick! We might not have a decent potato and tomato crop this year, but we are going to be up to our eyeballs in beans.

Things are rotten

I’ve been a little bit sad for the past couple of weeks.

Last year, my whole garden croaked due to the extreme heat and extreme lack of rain.

This year, everything is rotting due to the lower than normal temperatures and record-breaking amounts of rain. I found one of my patty pan squash plants (my favorite one, of course. The one that grows beautiful, sweet white squash) wilted and dying this morning. I noticed Saturday it was starting to mold and rot around the plant near the ground, nothing I could do at that point. I’ve been battling black spot on the tomatoes weekly. And now…the Japanese beetles are hitting the beans and potatoes.

I was out weeding my carrot bed (the one thing that is thriving? WEEDS!!! Ugh) and accidentally grabbed a carrot instead of a weed. And the top popped off.

I was left holding an aromatic carrot frond in my hand.

But no carrot.

What the heck? Double check. Yup. There that root was, rotten and slimy and still stuck in the ground.

Instant heartbreak. I started pulling them all up, hoping to save at least a few. I managed to get about half. The other half was all rotted.

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Not a bad pile, but not as many as I expected.

This does not give me many for canning. I had grand visions of more than a few jars of carrots this year. I guess it was just not meant to be.

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I love the smell of carrot tops!

The tops sure are pretty, aren’t they? And the rabbits ate them up like candy! Nom nom nom. If you’ve never smelled a carrot freshly pulled from the ground, you don’t know what you’re missing! It’s an earthy, carrot-y, woodsy smell and cannot be duplicated.

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Oh, so tiny, so few.

Because I had to pull them up earlier than expected, they didn’t really get very big. Stumpy carrots are this year’s specialty!

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Naughty naughty carrots!

Well…I don’t even know where to begin! My carrots, they aren’t G-rated! Naughty little things! I was cracking up as I pulled them out of the ground and saw the weird shapes some of them grew in. Moral of the deformed carrots: (obviously, my carrots have no morals!) dig deeper and work the ground a little finer for the carrot bed next year.

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Horse…dog…goose…MAN!

My poor husband. He can’t go anywhere alone. He always has a little party of critters following him around, harassing and helping. Harassing more than helping I do believe.