Gifts From the Garden

Reader Contribution by Allan Douglas
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We’ve had a pretty dry spring. As a result I’ve been watering regularly, but well water is not as effective as rain. It’s been hot too. My lettuce and beets bolted early. The spinach just burned up and died. We’ve been running daily highs in the mid 90’s.

Still, I am getting some gifts from the garden. My berries are doing well. They seem to like the heat. And the tomato plants looked bad for a bit, but have perked up and are setting fruit.

For the past three days we have been getting a nice rain shower or two each day.

And this:

… might possibly be a Pawpaw tree sprout.

I planted a mess of pawpaw seeds in a BIG pot this spring (after they wintered in my fridge) and nothing came of them. I gave up and was going to re-use the pot, but in tilling more compost into the soil I found sprouted beans (Pawpaw seeds look like enormous brown lima beans) so I buried them again and waited. Either they were trying and being slow or they tried and failed. But I’d give them a shot at life anyway. This morning I found this sprout. It was the rain, I’m sure. I water the pot regularly, but rain water is magical. Of course it could turn out to be a weed that’s blown into the pot, but it doesn’t look like any weed I’ve seen before.

Also due to the rain is this:

That’s a cantaloupe about the diameter of a baseball. It was not there yesterday. I’m sure of it!  I see a couple more marble sized candidates, too. I was getting concerned because the plant is doing well and had many flowers, but no sign of fruit beginning. Last year I lost all the melons because I was waiting for them to ripen into cantaloupes when I planted honeydews. (Sigh).

I got two nice zucchini off my ENORMOUS plant this morning. So far it’s looking very healthy. I need to mix up about ten gallons (kidding) of Neem oil to keep it that way. The cucumber vines have been covered in flowers, but few fruits until just recently. Again: the rain.

This spring I planted a whole mess of onion seed. I figured I’d seed heavy then thin them to get some that could be used like green onions. That sorta worked, except the biggest onion got to be almost the size of a golf ball, then they all withered and fell over despite daily watering. So I pulled all the bulbs out and am drying all but the two biggest. We’ll eat those. When the rest are dry I’ll plant them as sets and try for a late fall harvest.

The mild winter means we have a bumper crop of bugs to fight off this year. Japanese beetles are especially bad right now. I’m about to go Hiroshima on them. Nothing I’ve tried seems to deter them. They love my grape plants. Once those are dead, they move on to blackberries, then the beans.

I’m seriously thinking about moving the grape plants out of the berry house (under bird netting) and onto a fence line where the birds could get at them. Even if the birds also got my grapes, at least they’d take down the beetle population. The berry house has turned into a beetle orgy.  Of course, Marie feeds the birds sunflower seed, so they may not be hungry enough to go after these beetles.  Not all birds do anyway.

A Master Gardeners group at the University of Tennessee offer some advice on Japanese beetle control and I’m looking into these. Maybe I can avoid the nuclear option.

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