August Musings

Putting up the harvest

Putting up the harvest

How is your garden growing? For me, a bountiful early harvest is keeping me busy in the kitchen. Cucumbers are pouring in, as are summer squash, zucchini, pole beans,and an abundance of onions, garlic, and shallots. So pints of bread and butter pickles line the counter top like little glass soldiers. It's too humid or rainy outside to cure the onions so they are spread atop crates in the living room. My husband is resigned to the fact that he'll be grilling summer squash and zucchini every night!  After supper it's time to freeze beans. Summertime and the livin’ is easy, right?

As I muse over the gardening season thus far, I can't quite believe my good fortune. I have yet to see such a beautiful row of basil and parsley. I use copious amounts of these herbs, and last year downy mildew took the entire crop of basil, and voles took almost all the parsley. Onions, garlic, and shallots grew to impressive size with no problems. I have not seen a  cucumber beetle (a regular scourge), nor a squash bug or squash vine borer. I don't even have a touch of powdery mildew, despite humidity, heat, and rain. Yes, there is some leaf spot disease on tomatoes, but I've managed to control this issue without spraying a fungicide by eliminating affected leaves as soon as symptoms occur. Even the two tomato hornworms I discovered were covered with the pupae of the parasitic wasp. Yay- leave those two alone!

 Nary a sign of Colorado Potato beetle either.

Though the season is running smoothly, not everything is idyllic. I'm harvesting beans, but the quality and quantity is not up to snuff. Recently I'm, seeing mottled and puckered leaves and stunted growth. Uh-oh!! These are signs of mosaic virus. As I pick, tiny bugs fly out from secret places. These guys are aphids and are hard at work spreading the virus from plant to plant. What to do? I can't do anything about the virus. If I understand correctly, the virus overwinters in clover and gladioli, and clover is the main component of my adjacent lawn. However, after picking clean, I will spray with a natural pesticide such as Neem to prevent or slow the spread. Just maybe I'll foil that nasty virus in the new planting that is quite a distance away. Believe me, there is always something happening to keep us humble.

Though I attribute a lot of my success this year to the kindness of the weather gods, I truly believe good cultural methods learned over the years play an important part. We have excessively well drained soil in a desert-like site. Lots of compost and shredded leaves are added every year and plants are mulched heavily with straw. I am a no-till gardener. Over the years beneficial microbes and earthworms have built up pretty much undisturbed in the soil. I use fertilizers and pesticides suitable for organic gardening, and it surely seems to me that the plants respond with remarkable resilience to pests. I feel much more balance in the ecosystem- and that's in the veggie garden, in the perennial gardens, in the lawn, and in my psyche.

Judy Ratta-Harrington