Summer Garden Update

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Written by contributor Eren of This Vintage Chica.

Currently at our house, there are tomatoes on almost every windowsill, picked a bit early by our 5 year old who just can’t help himself. I have four large zucchinis sitting on the counter, ready to be used.

Green beans and edamame beans have taken over everything out in the garden. But the carrots underneath are happy to have the shade. We are watching baby cantaloupes and watermelons grow right before our eyes.

But this is also the time of the year that I always seem to start letting things go. It gets hot and I am not in the garden as often as I was earlier in the spring. I get tired of watering or we go on vacation and things begin to dry up. And garden pests like squash bugs can begin to get to the fruits of our labor.

But just because it is summer doesn’t mean it’s time to take a vacation from the garden. There is lots to do, friends!

Let’s check in with everyone to see how your garden is growing.

I know we all started out our spring gardens with excitement and anticipation. But as the temperatures rise, watering becomes more difficult, and garden pests are attracted to all of that ripening fruit, we can become a bit discouraged.

So, let me give you some tips for the two things that seem to get me discouraged in my garden.

Water

Here in Virginia it has been hot! There were days the temperatures reached over 100 degrees, and I was watering morning and evening just to keep plants alive.

Luckily, infrequent afternoon rain storms are filling our rain barrels just in the nick of time.  We have it attached to a soaker hose that delivers the water straight to the plant roots, minimizing the amount of water that evaporates.

But now, we are getting ready to go on vacation and I am looking for ways to make it easy for the person watching our house.  Here are some of my ideas:

  1. For my container plants, if the container are large enough, you can drill small (1/16″) holes in a soda bottle and half-bury it with the plants; fill it up before you go and it’ll dribble for a long weekend.
  2. I have seen many people have success with putting their drip hose on a timer.  That might be a good option too.
  3. I could always pay the kid next door to do it.

Bugs

I like bugs, I really do. My boys and I have a lot of fun with bugs.  But I do not like sharing the fruits of my labor with them. Already this year we have caterpillars eating our parsley and dill…and giant tobacco horn worm caterpillars eating our tomatoes.

Natural options for dealing with bugs include:

  1. The most organic and safest way of dealing with bugs is to pick them off. This is a perfect job for your kids! My boys love patrolling the garden for bugs eating “our crops”.  We pick the caterpillars off and either raise them inside and release them as butterflies, or feed them to the garden turtle.  The squash vine borers usually get fed to the turtle.
  2. Japanese beetles are attracted to our green bean leaves and our edamame leaves.  We pick them off and drop them in tin cans of soapy water.  We’ll do the same with the squash bugs that will eventually try to take over our summer squash and zucchini plants.
  3. The only time I ever use a pesticide is when the above ideas do not work.  I have lost entire squash plants to squash bugs and this year, if it comes down to it I am prepared to use Neem oil, which claims to only affect insects that chew and suck on your garden plants, and leave beneficial insects like bees and butterflies unharmed.

So, let’s check in on your garden. What’s growing? What’s not?

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Comments

  1. My first gardening experience was a bit of a flop. My herbs never sprouted, bugs ate my lettuce plants, and my tomato plant eventually caught some sort of rot. Next year I think I’m going to start with just cherry tomatoes, since I know I can grow those! :)

    • Oh Kara, that is frustrating…we always battle the slugs in the Spring. They seem to *love* our lettuce. How about a fall garden?
      Eren´s latest post: A Day To Myself

      • It’s alright. I’m still positive that I can do better next time. :) A fall garden might be in the works if my move to Nebraska goes well. Hopefully there is still time to grow something in September before the ground starts frosting (not that I know when that happens…). :)

        • Kara, will your new Neb. house have room for a garden? Here in VA I can grow parsley and cilantro, cabbage and broccoli almost all winter, esp. if I throw some plastic over them on the coldest nights. Hope it works out that you can get a little bit in before winter!
          Eren´s latest post: A Day To Myself

          • It does, but I’ll probably still be growing in pots because it’s a rental property. I don’t think they’d appreciate me growing food in the flower beds, but who knows…

  2. Herbs can be difficult – I buy mine as seedlings. So far this year we’ve eaten radishes, raspberries, strawberries, dill, chives, sage, mint, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, rhubarb and lettuce and spinich. I am waiting for the tomatoes because there are a lot of green ones! Unfortunatly this is the second year that the cucumbers have failed to do anything. Most everything else looks like it’s doing well, but planting starts so late here that not much else is ready.

    • Wow, Nicole…sounds like herbs are your thing!!! I’d gladly trade you some cukes for some of your raspberries and spinach! Do you have to fight with the birds to keep them off of your berries?
      Eren´s latest post: A Day To Myself

  3. There really isn’t any substitute for being in your garden consistently to check on the bugs and watering. But sometimes that just isn’t possible! I have a great drip system on timers installed and it works wonders – especially when I go out of town to visit the grandkids and my husband couldn’t possibly have the time to handwater. Daily checking the plants while harvesting, thinning, weeding – you see what’s happening and can catch problems before they’re out of control.

    I save my egg shells and crush them up (just in my hand) and spread them around the outside of my grow boxes – no pesticide and it seems to really control the slugs and snails. Spiders are Good! They eat lots of the yucky bugs – so I welcome them in the garden (but not in the house – and Black Widows are always doomed!). Keeping dead leaves cleaned up around the base of the plants eliminates a lot of hiding places and helps to control bugs.

    Marigolds and Nasturtiums are colorful and brighten the garden and also discourage bugs – Yeah!!

    Birds and squirrels can be as much of a problem as bugs and slugs. So when the fruit and veggies start looking tempting – I drape open mesh over them. They still get plenty of sun and water and I can keep an eye on things – but the birds and squirrels can’t eat my food. You know – I wouldn’t mind sharing if they’d just eat one whole peach or tomato, etc – but they just take one nasty peck out of each one and then go and destroy more.

    And – I totally agree, if some pest does get out of control – out comes the ‘bad stuff’ – I’m not willing to sacrifice the garden to the pests. This year – so far so good.

    • Shenna, I love your outlook on gardening. And we share a view of spiders too. We have a golden orb weaver that does a great job of catching the bad bugs…maybe she’ll eat squash bugs, eh? Thanks so much for all of the great ideas!!! Im definitely going to try the egg shells around my lettuce seedlings this Fall.
      Eren´s latest post: A Day To Myself

      • I used eggshells this year for slugs and it worked pretty well but they do decompose quickly and I did not have enough shells. I had enough to keep them away from my lettuce but they ate my radishes completely up! My cabbage is so-so. The slugs def. liked the radishes better. Who knew?
        Anyhoo, if you are going to use eggshells as your main deterrent, start saving the shells now! And while it will sound strange, ask your family, neighbors and strangers to save theirs as well! I also did the buried beer and got a few with that. I just read a couple weeks ago about someone who placed course sand around her plants. She said the slugs hate to crawl over the top of it. I would think you would have to be careful not to turn your garden into a sandy mess but I am going to try this in my Fall lettuce patch.

  4. This is the first year my herbs have done so superbly which is great because I did take the spring into summer gardening off due to the birth of my third child but starting already for my fall garden.

    • To me gardens and babies go hand in hand…something about new life and watching something (someone) grow right before your eyes…here’s to an abundant fall Mab!
      Eren´s latest post: A Day To Myself

  5. I was so excited about our garden, we did two 4×8 above ground organic gardens and I had great expectations. My squash and zucchini had beautiful blossoms and I had to force myself not to pick them and make stuffed squash blossoms, but I restrained myself and overnight they died! I don’t know why….Today I got my first tomato and finally have a few small green ones but all of my plants seem to flower but not produce the vegetable: eggplants, tomatoes, green peppers and the aforementioned squash and zucchini. I welcome any tips! I feel like I want to dump some fertilizer in and spray with pesticides but I will try not to.
    We do have a lot of cukes finally and some okra may show up and I have one watermelon!
    Sweet potato vines are prolific but I have no idea what is going on beneath the surface.

    • Lisa, as for the blossoms…were they female or male flowers. It took me awhile before I realized that the male flowers only last about a day or two, but the female flowers last longer. Oh, and you can hand pollinate them if you have to. Its fun for kids to do with paintbrushes. Maybe it is you need to plant a few more flowers to attract some pollinators to your garden so those veggie flowers will have more of a chance to produce. Do you compost? Compost tea can give a needed boost to a garden mid summer. Hooray for cukes, okra and watermelon. All in all, it sounds like you are doing a great job with your garden!!!
      Eren´s latest post: A Day To Myself

      • plant some nice flowers to attract bees to help polinate? I wish I had an answer for you, how disappointing!

  6. CarrieK says:

    Here in the Pacific NW we are barely into summer, enjoying 80 degree days. I am just getting my first little green tomatoes, I have green beans vining everywhere but I’ve yet to pull any carrots. I enjoyed spinach and peas all spring, recently I’ve been picking cilantro, green onions, chard and basil. My potatoes are pretty, my lettuces failed, and my onions are tiny. I inherited 6 unnamed squash plants from a friend; one has white flowers and the others yellow. The squirrels got to my first two baby zucchini so I sprinkled cut up green onion tops to discourage them. I am in the midst of planting my winter garden; beets, carrots, onions, shelling peas and dried beans. Later I’ll put in spinach and garlic.

  7. Hi Eren,

    Thanks for your report. It’s interesting to hear from everyone. I have a good crop of baby bok choy, arugula, Osaka purple mustard, Malabar spinach. The pineapples are turning yellow and the lime tree is producing like crazy. The strawberries plants grew but never produced berries for the most part. The birds ate the few that did appear. Must be a pollination issue though there are plenty of bees by the flowering trees. We also got two kaboocha pumpkins just growing wild into our yard.

    The slugs and catepillars have really made filagree of a lot of the bok choy though. And I haven’t been able to get my second crop of bok choy off the ground at all – the caterpillars just seem to suck up from underground almost. It just disappears. I need to get vigilant about going out and picking them off. Also trying little lava rock walls, they work like egg shells.
    I decided to start some need ones in the greenhouse to see if I can get them off the ground that way. And I started a zucchini plant in the greenhouse since they don’t grow well outdoors in Hawai’i. A lot of gardening rules are different in Hawai’i.
    Sandra Lee´s latest post: Eco-friendly shoes

  8. I got problems with bugs and slugs too. When ever I planted new crops I cover it with nets that bugs can’t enter and it is effective too. The bugs in the photo are so big! That is really a big problem for you.

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  11. The biggest pest I have are deer. They eat almost anything. I have tried hair, soap on strings, tin pans, etc and still they come. I even let hunters hunt on the land in winter to help, but my garden gets destroyed by them anyway. And squirrels take over the tomato harvesting. One almost hit me on the head while I was sitting in a chair in the shade. Dropped the tomato from a branch in the tree providing the shade. Any ideas how to discourage these pests other than guns??!!

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