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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Worst Garden Year!

Ozarks Gardening
Jim Long

“Worst Garden Year, Ever”

This week I was in upper Michigan, between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The temperatures should be fairly mild there, but instead, were in the mid-90s. Not nearly as bad as the 105 degrees we had in Taney County, MO the day I left, but still hot for those folks.

My reason for being there was to speak at the International Herb Association conference, which draws people from as far away as California, Virginia, Massachusetts, Florida and Texas. The big topic between events and in the evenings, was how difficult a garden year this is. For everyone. I kept hearing, “this is the worst garden year ever!”

Hearing people from across the country telling their garden woes, somehow eased a little of my own discouragement. This is a tough garden year, for everyone.

First, we had too much rain, too little sunshine and longer cool temperatures than are ideal. From the chilly, wet spring we went directly into heat, wind and drought. Plants in the spring didn’t put down deep roots due to the excess moisture. Then when the rains quit, plants suffered from too shallow roots, which in turn, stressed out the leaves and tops.

When plants struggle, like tomatoes, corn, kale and other crops have in these past few weeks, insect pests launch their attack. Insects can sense when a plant is under stress, and they start chewing.

This year we’ve been struggling with squash vine borers for the first time, coupled with cucumber beetles and squash bugs. Fortunately, Japanese beetles are fewer this year in our garden, due in part, I believe, to the Milky Spore Bacteria I’ve been applying spring and fall. It takes awhile for that to have an effect, but it seems to be doing its job.

We’re getting crops of tomatoes, beans, peppers and more, but not in the quantities we’d expect. When temperatures climb over 90 degrees, tomato plants start dropping their flowers instead of setting fruit. We have soaker hoses in most beds, lots of mulch on everything and using all the organic methods we can to keep plants alive and happy, but it’s hard to do anything about the intense heat.

So, if it’s any consolation to your gardening woes this summer, you’re not alone. Lots of us are in the same boat and gardens everywhere are struggling.

Here's what a friend told me he uses for squash vine borers and says it works pretty well:
When you see the hole at the base of the plant where the squash vine borer has entered, stick a crochet hook into the hole and pull out, and kill the borer. Then pile up soil around the wound on the squash stem. The squash will send out roots into the new soil above where the borer was, and the vine will be saved.

He also sprinkles several moth balls around the base of squash plants just as they begin to bloom. Evidently the moth that lays the egg of the borer doesn't like the smell of moth balls and avoids most of the squash!

Happy gardening!

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