natural living

Preparing for Harvest (Pt.5)–Growing Pains!

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Hello, faithful readers! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve shown you the gardens (which seems to be what life is all about around here lately… You don’t mind, do you? I kind of love it! 😊) MUCH has happened since we last spoke on the subject. But first, in case you’ve missed anything, here are links to the first 4 installments:

Starting seeds
Building raised beds
Our dirt adventure
Starting to plant

Now let’s get you caught up to speed on our backyard garden.

I got a dripper hose! This is the brand I went with (affiliate link). It makes watering the roots SOOOO much easier because there isn’t any wasted water going where the plant can’t use it. Plus I don’t have to water by hand anymore. 

We had 2+ weeks of beautiful (and sometimes rainy) 70°-80° days, so I went ahead and started planting some things, as you know. Well, welcome to Ohio! Here we were, 2 weeks past our frost dates with beautiful, unseasonably hot weather, and would you know it… FROST! Yup. It randomly dropped into the lower 30’s, and I was not prepared. I had moved my starts and potted plants into the garage, but I didn’t cover the garden… And my plants suffered for it. 😞

The broccoli, lettuce, and kale did fine… They are cold season crops anyway… Which we haven’t really had, so they might end up dying because of the heat instead. But my marigolds turned black and withered, all but 3 basil are gone, several of the beans that had sprouted died off, and the potatoes were heavily damaged. 😢

On the plus side, the strawberries (and blueberries) have started to ripen. This is an everbearing variety, so we will continue to enjoy strawberries until the frost (if the slugs, birds, and baby don’t eat them all). 😀

Thankfully though, beans are very fast growers, and I had a ton of seeds left. The potatoes were my real concern, but they bounced back. And much to my surprise, the marigolds starting to get new growth as well! The variety of kale I planted is supposed to taste better after frost, and it actually started growing a little better after. So, thankfully, we aren’t too much worse for wear.

That white powder is crushed eggshells… I’ve read they help tomatoes grow and taste better. I also watered all the baby plants with this organic fertilizer (affiliate link).

I was a bit hesitant to replant after that craziness, but the following week we had several above-80° days, so I went ahead and spent my morning transplanting and sowing seeds so that the warm sun could help them grow.

A few weeks later and things were slowly growing on… A little slower than I had hoped, but I think the reason was that all the hot days were drying out the dirt and roots. So, we finally got around to getting some mulch in there. Mulch does two things to benefit the garden: 1) It keeps weeds down 2) It helps maintain moisture in the dirt by preventing evaporation and by absorbing excess water to redistribute once the dirt below starts to dry out. Since putting down the mulch, we have had fairly-regular rains about once a week, and I’ve only had to water the garden twice. And it has taken off!  It is growing like crazy now!

This was the day we put the mulch down.

I love looking out the sliding door and seeing all the fresh growth in the corner of my yard. My husband thinks I’m really weird, but I love just going out there and looking at it… admiring the way God orchestrated everything so intricately… marveling at how so much could come from such tiny little seeds.

That’s a cabbage worm… the offspring of the cabbage moth. As you can see, these guys can do a number on your plants. And even worse… cabbage moths have a habit of laying their eggs IN broccoli heads (not what you want to discover when you bite into your steamed broccoli at dinner). This is why you need to cover the plants with cheesecloth or something to keep the moths from landing on them once they start to produce… or apparently earlier, as I’m finding. Many wasps parasitize these and other caterpillars that might be eating your garden, so don’t try to kill the wasps in your yard. Although, mine don’t seem to be doing a good job, so hand picking these bugars is the solution in my case. 

But then, sometimes I go out there and don’t like what I see… Like when my celery never came up, so I had to alter my plans a little bit and plant something else. Or when I see that my kale has been almost completely eaten and isn’t growing because it is covered in aphids. Or when my broccoli is infested with cabbage worms. Or when my “bush beans” are suddenly obsessed with and unrelentingly climbing up the neighbors fence (seriously… how do they even know it is there from 10″ away?)… which is exactly why I chose bush beans instead of pole beans… so they WOULDN’T climb on someone else’s fence.

Those green dots towards the top of the leaf are aphids. Aphids come in many colors and sizes, and they are good, in a sense, because they alert you to a problem. If you have a lot of ants in your garden, you might want to see if there are aphids as well. Aphids only feed on plants that are under stress. This is nature’s way of weeding out the weak specimens… survival of the fittest! In this case, I think it’s because my plants don’t like all the early heat we’ve had this year. Ants like to eat honeydew (a sweet liquid the aphids leave behind) and are a good indicator that aphids might be present. Ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators of aphids, and you can purchase ladybugs to release in your garden for this purpose. Or, the easy and free way to take care of them is to simply spray them off with a strong stream of water. Or crush them with your fingers. 😋

But those times, like life, are growing and learning opportunities. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes we have to make adjustments. Sometimes we have to look to other, more experienced individuals for help and advice. Which is what I did.

IMG_20170619_135610
Cucumber and tomatoes replacing the celery that didn’t grow.

I’ve been hand-picking the cabbage worms, and my broccoli is looking and growing better. I sprayed off the aphids and keep checking for re-infestation, and my kale is growing better. Celery not growing wasn’t too big of a deal (except that I apparently accidentally ordered like 3 packs of seeds). I had a few extra tomato plants anyway, and a friend gave me a cucumber plant that I didn’t have room for otherwise. And about $13 later, I have 6′ bamboo stakes holding up all of the bean vines (hopefully they will be tall enough… if not, oh well). So both garden and gardener are happy again!

And possibly dreaming up other places to plant additional crops for fall. 😋

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