Thursday, July 18, 2013
Bee Butts, Blooms and Bugs
This has been an amazing Spring and Summer for the garden and the bees. I have sunflowers and corn that are at least 12 foot tall and still haven't completely bloomed or tasseled out yet. The entire back half of the garden, almost 1/4 of an acre on it's own, is an overgrown mass of pumpkins, water melons, musk melons, cucumbers and squash/zucchini all grown together now. I planted them in raised rows almost 10 foot apart as well. The only land mark is the bumps where the cucumber trellis has allowed the foliage to grow up and over that has now created a tunnel through the growth. Seriously a tunnel. The cats love to hang out in there and try and swipe at the humming birds that fly through.
I am going out twice a day now and moving vines around so I can even walk through the mess. The individual squash and zucchini plants are putting out vines almost as long as the water melons with leaves larger than roast meat platters and standing as tall as my shoulders.
We have pumpkins and melons beyond counting and enough cucumbers already to make about 20 quarts of pickles easily. The Mrs. has already shredded up and frozen pounds of zucchini and I am now just chucking half the patti pans into the compost bin and giving the other half away. The Mrs. is the only one small enough to actually get through the squash foliage and pick the ones in the middle of the patch. She got one this evening that was as big around as a dinner plate that had been missed yesterday.
I have harvested enough dried pods of the pole beans already to assure another planting next year so the Small-Hold bean breeding program is still active and viable.
The Pumpkins are now seriously encroaching on the pepper row and taking over the tobacco row as well.
The only weeds so far are in the corn which I didn't mulch the ground there and the few hidden within the abundant foliage that I don't see until they finally break out.
When I go out into the garden all I see is 100's of blooms that all look like the picture above. Each one has a bee butt sticking out of it. The bees are going crazy building up and storing honey. It almost looks like the hives that survived the Winter are putting on a complete frame a day now.
Now the bad. I started seeing the first leaf wilt in the musk melons this afternoon. This heat is going to require almost daily watering I am afraid which means I might have to abandon my rain water only experiment for now since I don't have the pump for the cistern installed yet.
The corn maybe tall and looking good from a distance but we have a new varmint this year I have never had issues with before but it is destroying almost all my corn ears before they can ripen.
The Japanese beetle. We started seeing them two years ago but only a few and only on the rose bushes and a few flowers. Last year they were a bit larger in numbers at first but the drought burned up most of the garden and they never got bad. This year however they have attacked my corn heavily and I didn't even notice them until they had done some serious damage. They are crawling into the ears and mating and eating and then the unripe ears just fall apart. Unless you get right up and look at the tips you have no idea they are in there until the outside husk on the ear falls apart. They do appear to be almost exclusively hitting my corn and only the hybrid sweet corn not the heirloom bantam or crimson corn I planted.
The Mrs. and I went around with jars half filled with water and hand picked about 100 beetles off the ears this evening but they got a good start before we noticed them. The corn might be ruined and it is the first good looking stand of corn I have been able to grow in three years.
The squash bugs are now getting out of control. I have destroyed countless eggs and little ones and managed to snip 100's of them in half when I am out with the scissors harvesting but as predicted they eventually will win the war. Except this year the heavy growth is giving the plants an edge and they are not succumbing to the life draining vampire bugs at all. In fact they are hardly noticing them. At this point with squash bugs my goal is simple. I keep killing as many as I can and keep the squash/zucchini alive as long as possible. We are usually sick of squash by now and have enough frozen to last anyway but as long as the squash plants continue the bugs stay off the secondary targets.
As I said eventually they will win, especially with explosive foliage growth like we have this year. There is just no way I can find and kill all of them and their eggs but if I delay them long enough I can get a good melon crop harvested.
The tomatoes are another concern. We have countless green tomatoes but the all the early ones ripened with end rot this year. I am assuming because of all the rain. I have chucked almost two dozen tomatoes so far because they were half rotten before they ripened. I haven't seen this happen so bad before but perhaps now that the rains have slowed down some it will correct itself.
Only three hornworm sightings to date.
The Bindweed is also kicking my butt. It is growing everywhere under the thick foliage of the good plants and using them as camouflage. If you look up under the squash it is everywhere in there and no way I can get it at all really. You have to find the source and it is so twined around that is impossible. If you pull the wrong part it takes out a good plant with it now.
I hate bindweed and morning glory. No really I HATE IT.
Also this year has been insane for potatoes as well. We are harvesting more potatoes than ever and getting multiple plantings. Switching them over entirely to the raised beds was the trick as they did not rot in the wet clay that way.
So the only serious issue has been the Japanese beetles in the corn and I will know what to look for after this. The wife chastises me for planting so much more than we are able to harvest or use and especially about the stuff she doesn't like but I do this as much for experience and a knowledge base as anything else.
The time is coming when having this knowledge and experience may mean life or death for more than we may realize.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!