Looking back at these photos reminds me that July was a good month in our garden, even though it doesn’t seem that way at the moment. Today we had to pull out two very dead, diseased cucumber plants, and I’m kind of down in the dumps about it, but I know I shouldn’t be. We’ve harvested quite a bit over the last month. Our summer squash plants may not have anything on them at the moment, but when they produce they give us more yellow squashes than we can handle, our cherry tomatoes are finally ripening up, and those cucumber plants (RIP) did give us a pickling cucumber a day for the last three weeks or so.
Somehow our kale plants are still fine, though the caterpillars are too. When it got really hot here this month I got lazy about picking off caterpillars, so some of the plants are pretty much destroyed. But the ones at the front of the garden are still good, and we’re still eating kale salads every week. Our zucchini plants are slowly coming along; we got one zucchini a few weeks ago before the plant decided to rest and take its time. And we have peppers! My sister Ashley gave us some plants, and even though the bed we put them in is on the shady side, they’re doing great. Two jalopenos last week, and a slowly growing green pepper this one.
Our herb garden out front has been taken over by the wildflowers I planted there, but the bees love it, so I don’t mind. And we still have herbs. Our cilantro and dill plants have gone to seed, but we still have basil and rosemary and way too much mint. I’ve been collecting seeds from the dried-out sunflowers along our fence. They’re about dead, but there are plenty of wildflowers left, and the nasturtiums I planted months ago have finally bloomed. Well, one did. And it’s beautiful.
I’ll try to think about that instead of the bugs. But, really, we’re overwhelmed by them. When we started gardening I knew I’d have to deal with the occasional pest, but I had no idea there would be so many or how destructive they could be. I’ve been picking off caterpillars and drowning them in dish soap and water, squishing cucumber beetles between my fingers, and throwing squash bugs on the ground and stepping on them with my boot, but every time I go outside there are more and I get frustrated. The cucumber beetle is the worst, by far. So far the squash bug hasn’t killed the plant—it’s still producing and doing fine—and the caterpillars are manageable as long as I’m not lazy, but the cucumber beetles managed to give our plants bacterial wilt. We first noticed some yellowed, drooping leaves last Saturday, and pretty soon the vines dried up, and the whole plant was dead in days. Does anyone know how to control the beetles organically? I’m nervous about using sprays—I don’t want to kill the ladybugs and praying mantises and assassin bugs we have, and, besides, I don’t even know if sprays work on cucumber beetles. Everything I read online about the subject is depressing: “your plant’s beyond help,” “there’s nothing you can do,” “plan ahead next year.” It’s sad.
But I really should stay positive about our garden. It’s still exciting to go outside every morning and see what’s new and what’s ready to harvest. I love being able to take in vegetables each day and to plan meals around them. We’ve been eating so much yellow squash: grilled for tacos and cooked up in curries, sometimes shredded up into muffins or pancakes. Tomorrow I’m going to julienne the last big squash we picked into noodles, and maybe have a ripe tomato or two to throw in along with it.