Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Garden Update - September 14, 2016

There's not much new to report for the past week. I'm still waiting for the most of the peppers to ripen. Tomatoes are trickling in and likewise for the cucumbers. The melon plants are growing and blooming but there's not much sign of fruit yet. I do believe the fall melon project will probably be a bust, the weather has just been too cool - it got down to 45ºF (7.2ºC) last night. The corn is still tasseling and I think a few ears have developed, some feel a bit fat. If the weather stays dry there's a chance for mature dry ears of corn. Tepary beans are setting, so there's a chance for them too. Peas are just poking along but I did spot the first blossom.

I'm not going to show the ugliest part - the defoliated pepper plants. I purchased some Serenade the other day and will give the pepper plants a good dousing, perhaps I can slow the powdery mildew down on the less affected plants enough so that the immature peppers can size up and ripen. The larger peppers are starting to color up nicely and the fabric that I've draped over the worst hit plants seems to be keeping the peppers from being too damaged by the sun. The plants that were defoliated by the rabbit will be done once the surviving peppers ripen, which ticks me off since they usually put out more peppers that will ripen in October or early November.  Oh, I did surround the entire pepper/tomato bed with 1/4-inch hardware cloth which seems to have deterred the rabbit. It then went for the Gigande beans, plowing through the foliage at the bottom of the vines and leaving a bunch of immature pods laying on the ground in its wake. So, more swaddling fabric... Maybe I'll get enough beans to renew my seed stock.

Honestly, I feel like it's a war zone out there. Me against the pests. And I am really tired of it.

Dazzling Blue Kale
That's what the kale looked like a few days after I gave it a severe haircut because it was full of powdery mildew and the aphids had started to move in as well. It's obvious how one of its parents earned the name "Palm Tree" kale.

Batavia Broccoli 
And I gave up the battle for the Batavia broccoli. I was holding my own against the rats and rabbit and the powdery mildew wasn't too bad, but I lost to the aphids so I ripped it out.

I really just don't want to deal with the unnecessary battles at the moment. I can buy good organic broccoli at the farmer's market and there's still some Calabrese broccoli in the garden. If the aphids don't get too bad on the Calabrese I'll let it stay, but if it gets too buggy it's gone. And that goes for most of the other veggies in the garden as well. I haven't been having much fun in the garden lately and if it isn't fun, well, why do it? I'm going to stick with what's left in the garden for the year, but whatever gets to be too problematic I will let go. I'll put in things that shouldn't be pest magnets. I've got some chard, celery, and celeriac seedlings coming along so I'll plant them out. The critters don't seem to bother the celery and celeriac much but the chard will be iffy. I just planted some I'itoi onions, those will probably be pretty safe, and I'll start some onions from seed this fall.

Manoa Crisphead Lettuce
I set some Manoa Crisphead and Jericho Romaine lettuce seedlings out. If the rodents don't invade the tunnel they should be ok. But really, I'm fed up with tunnels too...

Jericho Romaine Lettuce

Pink Plume Celery
And the celery plants needed to be trimmed back in a big way. All the plants were producing numerous side shoots that were taking up a lot of space. The side shoots are small and not the best eating so I just whacked them off and tossed them in the compost. The less crowded plants are also less comfy for nesting rodents. One of the Pink Plume plants is bolting, the bushy one in the center, so I'm going to cut it down.

Dorato d'Asti Celery

Anyway, I'm reevaluating just how much effort, time, and resources I want to invest in my garden. I can't give it up, I know that, I'm totally addicted, but at the moment my garden is the source of too much frustration, anger, and disappointment.

I hate having to set traps.

I hate wasting so much time setting up barriers.

I hate going into the garden and finding something new that's been attacked or infected nearly every day.

Most of all I hate the feeling of being robbed of something that used to bring me such joy.

Part of me wants to rip it all out and just take a break.

But I can't.

I'm totally addicted.



  1. You sound really depressed Michelle! I empathise of course; we all have many such problems to cope with. Time for you to sit back and re-evaluate, I think. Maybe it's time to invest in some more "hardware", cunningly devised to keep the critters out? My slowly-expanding collection of nets, mesh and supporting rods has already proved its worth. What about building a mesh-covered tunnel?

    1. Yes, I'm feeling rather depressed about the garden. I go out to the garden on nearly a daily basis expecting to find some new source of frustration rather than anticipating something enjoyable. That's depressing.

      I have an incredible array of fabrics, nets, mesh, hardware cloth, and an expanding collection of traps. Tunnels galore. It's become a big chore to set up and maintain all that stuff.

      So yes, I am re-evaluating my gardening goals. I know you understand and I appreciate that, thank you.

  2. Michelle, I think we all go through the "why bother" phase from time to time. Then those seed catalogs arrive in winter and we get fired up again. Gardening is a bit like hunting, if it was easy it would be called "shopping." Anyway, your garden has always been a model to us all.

    1. This isn't the first time I've felt this way, but this year the pressures from the pests are extreme and it's pushing me past the limits of my patience. And perhaps I'm also over-reaching in my gardening ambitions and expectations. And quite frankly, veggie shopping around here is great, we have fabulous fresh produce, so I think I need to take advantage of that more and concentrate on growing stuff I can't buy that will be worth fighting for.

      Thank you, I know you get it, you have hedge hogs! And my garden is a model? You're so sweet. Thanks.

  3. Gosh, I woke up this morning feeling exactly the same way.

    I can certainly sympathize with you. I want to pull everything ugly, unproductive looking thing up and stop nursing them along. Even though we have a "nice" climate there is no winter break, a time when we can retreat, rest and not go outside and find something that needs to be done. Every year I want to stop investing time and money in this and every year come spring I plant vegetables.

    I read the most interesting article yesterday

    I grow tired of gardening. Every year, for the last 40 years, at this time of year, I want to get rid the whole bug-eaten mess and put it out on the curb for junk pickup day.
    Reynolds Price’s grandmother compared life to a traffic light. She explained that the light stays green for a long time, but eventually it turns yellow and you have to slow down. And then the light turns red and you have to stop. And wait.

    Be patient and the light will, sooner or later, turn green again.

    So, yeah. I think these feelings are normal which doesn't help you much. But stop, wait, and the light will turn green again.

    Love to you.

    1. Jane, you too!? You hide it better than I do. I know I'm not the only one, I'm sure every gardener goes through this. But it truly has been extreme this year.

      Our mild climate is a blessing and a curse. It would be nice to take a break, but the garden is always out there calling to me - plant something, you know you can, do it...

      I know I can't stop gardening. I know that I will find joy in it again. But it will have to be down a slightly different path. It's become too consuming of my time, my patience, my spirit. There's other things that I want to do so the garden will have to give some ground. (I do enjoy my puns.)

      I just found my order of 200 feet of hardware cloth that arrived yesterday evening. That is intended to reinforce the garden fence to keep the rabbits out. I don't really want to tackle that project right now, but there's no doubt that one of these days I will.

      Now I'm going to go read that article. Thank you so much for your good thoughts and understanding.

      Love to you too.

  4. Ugh...I'm sure that most veg gardeners can totally empathize with you.
    Aphids are such a problem and practically impossible to get rid of once they set their sights on your veg. I'm almost ready to give up growing Chinese greens in late summer as it seems I either have to give them up to aphids if I keep them covered or cabbage worms if I don't. No win.

    And ditto on the covered beds - they are such a pain. Once I harvested the onions, I didn't even bother covering up the remaining perennial bunching onions. I figured I was willing to take my chances with onion flies rather than dealing with that netting, especially as it kept flying off in the winds we've had this year.

    These challenges are what make me look forward to the winter break even more - I get to recharge my batteries (and my enthusiasm) and start fresh in the spring when pest and disease issues are a distant memory (more or less!).

    And Will is right - your garden & the variety of veg you grow is an inspiration...I just have to look at all of the varieties I'm growing that I first heard of in one of your posts (and I'm sure I'm not the only one). Gardens and gardeners are always changing and re-evaluating what they do - be it in a large or small way. What was right for you in the past isn't necessarily right for you now. Maybe all you need is a nice long break from the pest fest or maybe a permanent break is in order. The great thing about gardening is that nothing is written in stone & you can always change your mind next month, next year, in 5 get my meaning.

    1. We do have to pick our battles. There are some things I don't grow anymore or have adjusted when I grow them because they attract bugs or whatever. Edamame soybeans are one of those veggies I don't grow anymore because they are guaranteed to attract every rabbit in the neighborhood. This year the rabbit found me without the siren song of soy, that should have been a warning!

      It's a joy for me that you and others find my garden an inspiration. But it works both ways, I have found loads of inspiration from all the blogs that I read. And not just inspiration, look at the incredible understanding and support you all are providing when I unload my frustrations. Wow.

      Gardening is always a learning experience, but sometimes the lessons are difficult. This summer has been one of those difficult lessons but I hope that it will lead me to a more balanced and enjoyable approach to gardening. When I think about it I know that I'm really fortunate that I can garden for the joy of it. I can't imagine what it would be like if my livelihood depended on it.

      Thank you Margaret, your good thoughts mean a lot to me.

  5. Oh gosh, like the others have said I think most gardeners who grow a lot can empathize with you. I know I surely can. You do seem to be having more than the usual share of garden problems this year, from pests to disease and then the fires, which has to up the irritation level. Every fall (about this time) I have one of my 'I've got to cut back moments.' The garden is a mess, with dying plants and too many weeds, but I just don't have the energy to spend any more time out there. And this may not help you, but my peppers are ripening now and I'm thinking 'did I really need to plant so many &*^$%# pepper plants?' Your year round garden doesn't really give you a winter break like Margaret mentioned, which helps many of us and lets me recharge a bit. I also find that telling myself 'you don't have to grow EVERYTHING yourself' helps, even if I wind up planting pretty much everything anyway. It sounds like you need to recharge your batteries. Gardening should be fun, and not depressing.

    I all but gave up on having a big garden when I started training for my first marathon. There just wasn't time for both activities, not and do them any justice. That period lasted about 10 years. I had a garden during that time, but it was always small, at least by comparison. Eventually, I got tired of putting in all those miles, and quit running. Injuries helped with that decision too. It's funny, but then I picked back up on gardening and it was just like I never left it. Now I have taken up biking again, and there are days when I have to choose between going for a ride or working in the garden. Something will likely have to give, and I doubt it will be the bike because it's something my wife and I both enjoy doing, and of course it's great exercise. I hope you find your sweet spot of garden time vs other things.

    1. This summer has been much worse than usual. I know we all face challenges - squash bugs, hedgehogs, too much rain, too little rain, too hot, too cold, blight, birds, squirrels, you name it. But we all have our limits. Or maybe I'm just a wimp.

      Well, you made me laugh! All those &*^$%# peppers! I learned that lesson with tomatoes. I used to grow so many that I had boxes of them covering my dining room table and then some. I couldn't give enough away. I couldn't process them all. We couldn't eat them all. Lesson learned, finally! Um, I still have problems with excessive pepper production, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem this year. Really, I don't have to grow EVERYTHING myself? That needs to become my new mantra!

      Wow, I can see how marathons and growing everything yourself would be a conflict. It sounds like you worked out a balance though and it was good while it lasted. I need to get back to my weekday hikes so that I can stay in shape to do the extreme day hikes and backpacking trips that my Dave and I enjoy. The smoke was my excuse for a while but now it's more because I'm obsessed with keeping the garden productive. Enough! The smoke isn't so bad anymore and the park across the valley is mostly open again. The garden can wait.

      Thanks so much for your insight and support. It means a lot to me.

  6. I think as many have said everyone goes thru stages like this. You're lucky to live in an area where you can get some great veggies. I livening similar area to some extent although a bit more urban. We still have the rabbits, gophers, ground squirrels, rats, possums, raccoons etc. It is a real pain having to deal with them. I would think rabbits are some of the easier to deal with, UC IPM suggests a 2ft barrier fence will work with standard brush rabbits, I just use a short 18 inch barrier fence and it seems to work fine.
    I think one thing to think about is perhaps cutting back on annuals and upping your perennials and fruit trees. You should ahce a huge range of fruit trees that you can grow there. Once established shouldn't require as much attention and to me seems more pest tolerant to some extent. I'm sure you've seen the tom Spellman talks about high density plantings, you could transition one f your beds to all sorts of apples, and other fruits. Just a thought. I always check your blog, has been really inspirational over the years. You do a great job with it and I would certainly miss it. Regards David

    1. It does seem that I have lots of company so far as the gardening frustrations go. I now have two 100 foot rolls of hardware cloth just waiting to be strung up around the garden to keep the rabbits out. Now I have to find the energy and motivation to get the task done.

      I find myself eating much more modest amounts of fruit these days because I keep sweet things in my diet to a minimum so I'm not really tempted to grow fruit, but perhaps there's room for some other sort of perennial. I don't know, I'm still trying to figure out just what I want from my garden. Oh, and it just occurred to me that fruit is so very attractive to the rats and birds, so that's another reason to give it a pass.

      Thanks so much for the support and ideas. It's always so great to hear that other gardeners find my blog to be helpful. That's motivation to keep me going!

  7. We were away for a week, in a cabin on Somes Sound in Acadia, and it was so nice not to think about the garden for a week (of course, I did buy some seed garlic at the MDI Garlic Festival). It seems this has been a trying year for gardeners everywhere. Sorry to hear it has gotten to you as well. I'm always amazed at the size of your garden and the variety of plants you grow. There is no way I could handle the load you take on. And like Margaret points out, you don't get the winter off. With your arid climate, your garden must look like paradise to all the bugs and critters in the neighborhood. Maybe you can just put off some of the winter garden this year and take a break. It would be terrible to lose your blog, which is really an inspiration to me. I have learned a lot from you. Just got my L'Itoi onions from Native Seeds, to see if I can grow them this far north. How else would I know about them except for you?

    1. Oh wow, it's so gratifying to hear you say that my blog is inspirational! You and everyone else have really been a big help to lift my spirits and keep me motivated to keep on... As I said, I'm totally addicted to gardening and I'm not ready to give up on the blog either. But I am ready to take things back a notch or two. Some down time this winter is a great idea.

      You are correct, my green island in the dry landscape is a magnet for critters. I had a feeling this spring that there would be a lot of rats because we had a somewhat normal winter which supported a bit of a population boom and when the pickings in the natural landscape got thin than they would descend on the garden, amongst other places. I didn't count on the damn rabbit though.

      I hope the I'itoi onions do well for you. Someone told me that a gardener in Minnesota is growing them successfully so I'm sure you have a chance.

  8. Oh dear, and I stopped by your blog because I was discouraged about the rats and possums eating so much of my garden. Maybe it is just a good year for garden pests and a bad year for gardeners. However, I hold your massive harvests up as an example of what is possible. Courage! Don't give up the fight to wrest food from the earth.

  9. Well, I won't repeat the empathy that all gardeners feel for you (feel "with" you) right now but I definitely will reiterate the ongoing inspiration from your blog and your model garden. Always so outstanding and I even follow you on Instagram just to see the beautiful pics.

    I had a very busy work schedule this year and felt more than a bit overwhelmed at times. So maybe a few more flowers next year and less veggies that attract unwanted insects for a bit of a break. But we'll see ... once those seed catalogues start rolling in around January, I know I'll get the inspiration to get right back into it!!


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