Another Garden Pest – Squash Bugs

Just as the garden seemed to recover and started to flourish again I found some insect eggs on the back of pumpkin leaf. This one is easy to identify. Squash bugs started to take over the pumpkins and summer squash. Luckily the butternut and acorn squash had hard enough skin to resist the attack. When the bugs hatch they quickly latch on to the plant or fruit and suck the life out of it. They leave scabs on the fruit.

This leaf has a combination of the shiny copper colored eggs and black and silver, tiny baby bugs. They slowly grow, forming a harder brown shell. The biggest annoyance is these particular bugs are very intelligent. They hide when they see you coming and will run around the base of the plant where it’s hard to get at them. If you reach to the right, they round around to the left. If you reach to the left they run back the right again. It’s like chasing something around a tree and never catching it. That’s why there are no pictures of adult bugs, sorry.

How do you get rid of these little beasts when you aren’t using chemicals? Crushing every egg and bug with your fingers that you can find. Checking daily is the only way to stay ahead of it. Luckily the plants are very productive so the loss was minimal.

Why A Giant Radish?

What is that in your row of carrots?!!

I can’t tell you how many times we heard that this year. But there is a reason.

Carrots and radishes are companion plants. We plant them at the same time and the radishes grow faster than the carrots. By the time you are harvesting the radishes the carrots are just starting to really grow.

So why did we let this one radish grow so large? It’s to collect the seed for next year’s planting. We will let this radish bloom, dry and go to seed. Early fall we will pull the seeds from the flower pods and put in a snack size zipper locking bag. Storing in a cool dry place will keep them fresh for next year.

We weren’t really expecting the radish to reach the size of a large beet or for the flower stems to become taller than the top of the hoop. That means we can’t pull the cover over without bending the stems.

There is a new learning every day!

Recovering Burnt Beans

This year was full of disappointment. The spring was very short this year and we jumped into a hot dry summer. The black weed block fabric collected a lot of heat and the bean plant leaves just started to dry up. No matter how much watering was done it didn’t seem to make a difference. Luckily we caught it early enough and put up hoops covered with Agribon to give the poor plants a break. It took awhile but most of the plants not only recovered, but flourished under the subtle shade of the covering.

Once the beans started growing again we had another issue. A strange instance of curly leaves started taking over the worst of the burnt plants. Because these plants curled, they didn’t get very tall. The short plants they beans that crew touched the ground before the were full size. This resulted in curly beans laying on the fabric. We have no idea what causes it but it had an impact on overall production and quality.

Next year I plan to plant early to make the most of the spring rains to allows the leaves to grow faster, covering enough black fabric to minimize the heat. If the curly leaf is a disease, hopefully throwing out the twice used fabric will get rid of any residual. Wish us luck!

Over Cross-Pollination or Franken-Squash

What is that thing?

This is a picture of a pumpkin plant. But you are saying to yourself…..that doesn’t look like a pumpkin. You are correct. That is definitely NOT a pumpkin growing on that pumpkin plant.

As part of our desire to continuously regrow our heirloom vegetables without purchasing new seeds every year we started to collect seeds so we could plant them again the following year. It was lost on us that there could be a possibility of cross-pollination that would cause the seeds collected to result in a completely different fruit! This year we learned that the squash family is one of the most susceptible to cross-pollination.

This fruit looks to be a cross between a pumpkin and a yellow squash. It grew early in the season like a summer squash would. There were round, smooth green fruit, like a zucchini in round form. There were also pumpkin shaped fruit that was too small and green or yellow fully ripe. Each plant had it’s own style of franken fruit, but the style was not mixed on a single plant.

We completed a taste test of the frankensquash to see if it was edible and it was, but the flavor was odd and the seeds had strange patterns in the fruit. We pulled off the edible pieces and ate them.

But now was the painstaking part! The pumpkin plants had grown to full size and were beautifully pest free. We had to pull them ALL out and replant them with store bought seeds. After all, our customers were expecting pumpkins at the end of the season!

We lost some time but luckily the new plants quickly germinated and gained some time back for our fall crop. Painful lessons learned. Until we have crop rows on opposite sides of the property, we will need to purchase new seeds every year to guarantee quality for our customers.

Get a closer look at the franken-squash on the farm’s YouTube channel:

Large Squash Flowers

This year’s squash took a very long time germinating and we even had to reseed multiple ones that were not successful. We’ve never had such a hard time with them. This included ALL the squash. Not just zucchini but also yellow squash, butternut and acorn squash. I still don’t know if it was the seed source, the weather, or potentially pests? Either way we finally got the squash growing and I’ve never seen such large flowers and leaves in my life! It’s amazing! The flowers were larger than my hand and the leaves were the size of the Elephant Ear plant.

Production this year didn’t disappoint. Like previous years, we had to harvest nightly to prevent over-sized fruit. Although we have a couple customers who prefer larger zucchini for firm Zoodles making, most prefer the smaller ones.

Something else we experienced with the squash this year is the fruit was inconsistent in the summer squash. Some had lines, some speckled and some had solid color versus any kind of variation. I assume this is due to the open pollination of the heirloom seed company I have been using. I may consider not using this seed source next year or may move to a close pollination source.

Either way, I’m impressed with the size of the plants this year and hoping it’s related to soil conditions rather than the seeds themselves. Maybe the compost is kicking it into high gear! That would be fantastic just in case I change seeds for next year.

Sunset Gardening

After everything is planted and starting to grow there is a period of time when you are just waiting. Waiting for something to grow big enough to eat. This same time is also early enough that pests are not pervasive, when the temperature is comfortable to work in, and the spring rains come through to assist in fast growth. Its beautifully quiet and relaxing.

This evening we are just watching the red sunset, catching some lightning in the distance and listening to the rumble of thunder……..Peaceful.

Watch the sunset with us on the farm’s YouTube channel: