2020 Garden Thread

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
608
Texas
Your groundhog story, countryliving, reminds me of our “Fluffy” who arrived in our backyard one night in Virginia and promptly stripped our brussels sprouts and Zinnias to stalks. We used to watch it climb the fences between our yard and the neighbors’ properties. It grew large but could sneak under the pallets we kept our to-be-split wood on. Eventually it visited the wrong yard and was shot with an arrow.

Your flowers are very pretty. I never managed to get marigolds or most sunflowers to sprout. We have a couple of zinnias blooming, and we have some pretty purple basil flowers, but our current garden is a bit lacking in blooms. Nevertheless this morning I was startled by a hummingbird. They are so loud when they are close that I always jump.

We aren’t quite as hot as we were, but we are dry, dry, dry. There’s a chance for some rain this weekend if tropical weather comes this far west. I’m currently hardening off some cucumbers and a few pepper and tomato replacements, but I may not get them in the ground this weekend if it looks like hard rain. I’ll gladly wait a few days for a chance to get moisture. Even the native plants around here are drooping.

The sweet potatoes are happy in the heat, and my other recent transplants are holding their own, though I’ve been discouraged to see ants farming aphids on the young peppers. I had put DE around a few days ago, but tonight I sprayed more neem. That really helped the pimientos I treated the other week. I’m also seeing more ”critter damage” on green tomatoes. I think as things dry up here, even less appealing garden food becomes more appealing unfortunately.

I started some brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower inside for transplanting a bit later. It’s so hot and dry right now, it seems silly to be trying for cole crops, but I suppose it’s no different from starting hot-weather plants inside when it’s still freezing at night.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
83,007
South Puget Sound, WA
It looks like this summer is going to be a challenge for many of our beds. We are fighting mosaic virus in 3 beds and it is really challenging our crops of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cukes in these beds. I have never seen tomato plants so stressed. Only the early girls and brandy boys seem somewhat resistant. Fortunately we have crop spread into other bed too, except for the tomatoes. The greenhouse has been producing some good early girls, so that has helped, but outside has been disappointing. Those tomato plants are struggling. I have cukes, peppers and eggplants in other beds too and so far they look ok. Not sure what the strategy will be for next year considering this new problem.
 
Your groundhog story, countryliving, reminds me of our “Fluffy” who arrived in our backyard one night in Virginia and promptly stripped our brussels sprouts and Zinnias to stalks. We used to watch it climb the fences between our yard and the neighbors’ properties. It grew large but could sneak under the pallets we kept our to-be-split wood on. Eventually it visited the wrong yard and was shot with an arrow.

Your flowers are very pretty. I never managed to get marigolds or most sunflowers to sprout. We have a couple of zinnias blooming, and we have some pretty purple basil flowers, but our current garden is a bit lacking in blooms. Nevertheless this morning I was startled by a hummingbird. They are so loud when they are close that I always jump.

We aren’t quite as hot as we were, but we are dry, dry, dry. There’s a chance for some rain this weekend if tropical weather comes this far west. I’m currently hardening off some cucumbers and a few pepper and tomato replacements, but I may not get them in the ground this weekend if it looks like hard rain. I’ll gladly wait a few days for a chance to get moisture. Even the native plants around here are drooping.

The sweet potatoes are happy in the heat, and my other recent transplants are holding their own, though I’ve been discouraged to see ants farming aphids on the young peppers. I had put DE around a few days ago, but tonight I sprayed more neem. That really helped the pimientos I treated the other week. I’m also seeing more ”critter damage” on green tomatoes. I think as things dry up here, even less appealing garden food becomes more appealing unfortunately.

I started some brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower inside for transplanting a bit later. It’s so hot and dry right now, it seems silly to be trying for cole crops, but I suppose it’s no different from starting hot-weather plants inside when it’s still freezing at night.
We have several hummingbirds that visit us all the time all day long. My wife put out a hummingbird feeder and changes it every three days. They still work our flowers as well. They are like ghosts sometimes-they are no where to be seen and then just out of the blue, they are right next to you hovering. My wife and I were sitting out on the porch one evening and my wife had on a colorful botanical type of shirt and one of the hummers flew within a foot of her shirt I guess thinking it was real flowers.

We have very dry and hot as well up to two days ago. We had storms last evening and the day before, so after about 20 straight days of no rain, the storms were welcome. All of my corn had tasseled and now one row is laying on its side. I was splitting some wood yesterday evening when the storm started rolling in. After a rather close lightening strike in the sky, I shut off my splitter and covered it and headed back to the house. As I was walking across the field, I heard some distant thunder immediately followed by several turkeys gobbling across the road. Seemed kind of strange this time of year.

I haven't started my fall cabbage or broccoli seeds yet, was planning on doing that next week. The only difference I see in starting seeds in the summer and pre-spring is that they will germinate so much faster. I don't have a greenhouse, so most of my stuff gets started on a heating pad and next to a window. Temps are usually around 68 in my house that time of the year. With the temps reaching around 90 every day, I have a feeling that they will germinate rather quickly.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
608
Texas
I’m so sorry to hear about Mosaic Virus, @begreen . I can see how that would be discouraging, especially as it’s such a tenacious virus, I believe. I plant so many tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers throughout my little garden, I’m not sure how I’ll ever really successfully avoid replanting an area too soon. How many beds do you have to work with in total?

I just pulled out the last of my cucumber vines this morning. They had been suffering from powdery mildew, but neem treatments had definitely helped knock that back, and the new growth looked nice. They might have been able to produce a few more fruit, but the last three I harvested were smaller, and one was dry enough that I didn’t even use it. I figured it was better to get the bed ready for some fall crops. It has a nice trellis so I plan to sow some pole beans there. I have a few pickling cucumber plants that I plan to put in the new beds, perhaps this evening depending on what the weather forecast shows.

@Country Living in VA, you were right about fast germination. I seeded my brassicas Monday, and I already have several cabbage and cauliflower seedlings up. I don’t have a greenhouse either and use LED lights in the house. It’s in a room that doesn’t have HVAC venting but is very open to our main living area which does. (The room actually has some nice windows, but we keep the blinds pulled much of the summer because of the heat.) I had been worried about temperatures being too hot because this spring my third round of lettuce seeds gave me 0% germination. Earlier in the spring it had been great, and I had wanted to grow one last batch to keep indoors since it was getting so hot outdoors, but I never managed, and I think it was because my indoor temperatures were not cool enough by April to do it. I think the brassicas aren’t so picky about germinating at higher temperatures.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
608
Texas
My son and I took a few pictures around the garden this morning, and I thought I’d share some with a few updates.


It’s not the best photo, but this first sight is what prompted taking the camera out to the garden. After weeks and weeks of heat and dryness, we’ve had a few small showers of rain. (I’m so thankful to have some water in the rain tanks again, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting more!) We got a total of one inch in a few storms the last week of July, and just yesterday we got a very short downpour yielding about 3/16 of an inch. When the ubiquitous ants find their underground nests getting waterlogged, they move them above ground. When I went to check on the garden this morning, I discovered an ant nest being built right around the stem of one of my eggplants. It’s there in the shadow in the picture. We sprayed it off with a strong stream of water (and neem), and I put DE in the area. Any garden-safe suggestions for bait to kill the nest?
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Last month I finally succeeded in growing and planting out sweet potato slips. They all came off one potato from the grocery store, and I planted thirteen slips. New stems and leaves can look a little purple, but they turn green pretty quickly. This one slip, however, has ended up variegated. The whiter parts seem to burn more easily in the Texas sun, and it seems to be slow to spread. (I have a quick one that has climbed to almost my height), but I just find it fascinating to see the variation in this one slip.
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My son and I seeded a few sunflowers way back in May, and most never came up. This one popped up in a crowded corner, however, and has been overshaded by tomatoes the whole summer. I recently pruned off the withered and unproductive foliage from the tomatoes, and the extra sun helped the sunflower grow, I think. It’s only about knee-high, but it makes me happy.
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Here are some of my most developed transplants: a month-old tomato and a week-old cucumber. I’m amazed at how quickly cucumbers grow.

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I seeded about 60 pole beans last Friday night (in hopes of more rain than we ended up getting, but we did at least get some). I’ve been hauling water to them regularly, and about forty of the sixty have sprouted so far. My spring crop of Kentucky Wonders is mature, but I think the heat was too much for them to set blossoms for a while. I’m seeing more now but no fruit as of yet. The new planting is a mixture of Rattlesnake (good in heat) and purple pole beans. Hopefully having them mature in the fall will be a help.
59FE5A38-A29C-4275-ABE3-99FED31AB55D.jpeg

We have a very steep driveway, and the rain washed some leaf mold that had been accumulating at the edges down to a low spot at the bottom. My four year old has been collecting it in a little ride-on toy that he calls his wheelbarrow. This morning his older brother helped him really shovel it up, and they brought it to me in the garden. I spread it around the transplants in the newer bed. Their soil had never been rained on until recently, and so it had been compacted a bit and needed some supplementing .

C91C9BC1-EC44-4779-91AA-26680BB3F1A1.jpeg

There’s a lot of struggling plants in the garden, tomatoes being stolen left and right by critters (I’ve lost 9 of 10 Black Krims while still green), sunburned parsley, but I figured no one needs pictures of my discouragement. All gardeners probably have enough of that. I thought maybe someone else would enjoy the little interesting things and encouragements.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
83,007
South Puget Sound, WA
There’s a lot of struggling plants in the garden, tomatoes being stolen left and right by critters (I’ve lost 9 of 10 Black Krims while still green), sunburned parsley, but I figured no one needs pictures of my discouragement. All gardeners probably have enough of that. I thought maybe someone else would enjoy the little interesting things and encouragements.
Sounds like it's time for some action. An electric fence can deter varmints, but a trail cam might help a lot first to identify them.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
608
Texas
Sounds like it's time for some action. An electric fence can deter varmints, but a trail cam might help a lot first to identify them.

At least it's time for different actions because the ones I have taken have failed. I can't say the idea of a trail camera had even occurred to me, but we think it's pretty likely a squirrel that's taking the large tomatoes. I've witnessed female cardinals pecking at the cherry and pear varieties, but most of my black krims have completely disappeared, and no songbird could do that. The garden is fenced for rabbits and deer, and that seems to be working. I had put up some fake owls that were on the property when we moved in, and that helped for a bit, then stopped being a deterrent. Weeks ago I borrowed a small Havahart trap from the neighbors. A few times the seeds or half tomato has been taken, but the trap hasn't been tripped. I set it again tonight with the most recent tomato victim. I had wrapped it in a mesh bag with a tight drawstring farther down the branch. The critter failed to steal it but mangled it pretty well. I think I managed to adjust the setting to make it easier to spring the trap, so we'll see in the morning.

I also once again showed my husband the traps that EatenByLimestone had recommended this spring for my peach trees. He's coming around to thinking it might be a good idea because I put an awful lot of work into that garden, and I've got fall crops planted now. I think also that since we don't plan to release any squirrels anywhere, it might actually be more humane. @EatenByLimestone, what has your experience been with that type of trap?

I'm hardening off the six brassicas that actually sprouted. Those few germinated quickly, but it was only 25% of my seeds. The Brussels sprouts were old, and they were the worst, but the cabbage and cauliflower are new this season. I think maybe the indoor temperatures were pushing the range. (The outdoor temperatures are definitely too high.) I'll try again later.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
4,342
Downeast Maine
If you have half eaten stuff left behind and no obvious answer mice would be my guess. I let a garter snake live under a lumber stack and now we have less nibbles on our garden plants.
 
Perhaps a woodchuck? They can be very hard to catch in a trap from my experience. They were famous for eating my tomatoes and other stuff. They seem to find a way under fences that would surprise you. I watched one go right through the electric fence I had placed about 8 inches off the ground. It seemed like the fur kept the varmit from grounding and getting shocked. I eventually purchased a motion sensing garden sprayer and left it on at nights. Seemed to work pretty well.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
83,007
South Puget Sound, WA
With August comes the serious harvests. The peppers are still a bit behind, but coming soon. After this harvest yesterday I collected cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and broccoli sprouts.

veggies.jpg
 
With August comes the serious harvests. The peppers are still a bit behind, but coming soon. After this harvest yesterday I collected cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and broccoli sprouts.

View attachment 262088
Nice Harvest. I have been getting so much recently and trying to get things canned that I haven't had any spare time for anything. It seems like when it rains, it pours. Been giving a lot away to family, neighbors, friends and co-workers as well.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
83,007
South Puget Sound, WA
We have been canning fruits, making jams so far and drying herbs. The carrots, onions and potatoes are easy. Serious tomato sauce making usually is toward the end of August. Lettuce crop #4 is in the ground and looking good.
 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Jul 12, 2006
7,330
Schenectady, NY
At least it's time for different actions because the ones I have taken have failed. I can't say the idea of a trail camera had even occurred to me, but we think it's pretty likely a squirrel that's taking the large tomatoes. I've witnessed female cardinals pecking at the cherry and pear varieties, but most of my black krims have completely disappeared, and no songbird could do that. The garden is fenced for rabbits and deer, and that seems to be working. I had put up some fake owls that were on the property when we moved in, and that helped for a bit, then stopped being a deterrent. Weeks ago I borrowed a small Havahart trap from the neighbors. A few times the seeds or half tomato has been taken, but the trap hasn't been tripped. I set it again tonight with the most recent tomato victim. I had wrapped it in a mesh bag with a tight drawstring farther down the branch. The critter failed to steal it but mangled it pretty well. I think I managed to adjust the setting to make it easier to spring the trap, so we'll see in the morning.

I also once again showed my husband the traps that EatenByLimestone had recommended this spring for my peach trees. He's coming around to thinking it might be a good idea because I put an awful lot of work into that garden, and I've got fall crops planted now. I think also that since we don't plan to release any squirrels anywhere, it might actually be more humane. @EatenByLimestone, what has your experience been with that type of trap?

I'm hardening off the six brassicas that actually sprouted. Those few germinated quickly, but it was only 25% of my seeds. The Brussels sprouts were old, and they were the worst, but the cabbage and cauliflower are new this season. I think maybe the indoor temperatures were pushing the range. (The outdoor temperatures are definitely too high.) I'll try again later.

I probably recommended the tube trap from WCS. It's a great trap. We use them all the time. I've had some squirrels taking my tomatoes too.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
608
Texas
With August comes the serious harvests. The peppers are still a bit behind, but coming soon. After this harvest yesterday I collected cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and broccoli sprouts.

View attachment 262088
Begreen, that's just beautiful! I started some eggplants from seed for my fall garden this year, and my transplants were doing well, but apparently the fire ants love them. They have been chewing at the growing points and have really done a lot of damage to one. The other is doing better, but they've chewed through the stem of the first bud. Maybe the plant will be stronger for it. The two plants are at least twelve feet apart, but the cucumbers and tomatoes in between aren't being attacked as much. It must be something tasty about eggplant.

The mystery critter took a few days to go into the trap (the bait was untouched, so it was probably off at the neighbor's garden), but yesterday it managed once again to swipe the tomato without springing the door even though I had tried to make it easier to trigger. I think mice couldn't take such a big fruit, @SpaceBus, though it's entirely possible that they're around. Maybe it's a Texas-sized mouse because the one time I thought I saw one (darting under some rosebushes not near our garden,) it was big. That was the original impetus for borrowing the trap because I wanted to see what that creature was. No success with that, either.

I don't think it's a groundhog, @Country Living in VA , because there isn't enough damage. We still have a butternut squash and watermelon on the vine, and I think those would have disappeared, too, and my zinnias would have been stripped, and ... Well, you know how they are. In the meantime, we see squirrels all the time on our property, and they have taken what few apples, pears, and pomegranates we had this year, so we need to address that anyway. I had tried bagging the fruits to protect them, but it didn't work. @EatenByLimestone, it was the WCS tube you recommended, and we are planning to get one or two. Any tips for using them?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
83,007
South Puget Sound, WA
I started some eggplants from seed for my fall garden this year, and my transplants were doing well, but apparently the fire ants love them. They have been chewing at the growing points and have really done a lot of damage to one. The other is doing better, but they've chewed through the stem of the first bud. Maybe the plant will be stronger for it. The two plants are at least twelve feet apart, but the cucumbers and tomatoes in between aren't being attacked as much. It must be something tasty about eggplant.
That is a bummer. Does spinosad work to discourage fire ants?
 

Montanalocal

Feeling the Heat
Dec 22, 2014
382
Helena MT
This video shows how to make a bait jar to keep a critter from stealing your bait. It is geared toward raccoons, but it should work for other critters. I tried to live trap a raccoon and it kept stealing my bait. I made a bait jar like this and caught it right away.

 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Jul 12, 2006
7,330
Schenectady, NY
Begreen, that's just beautiful! I started some eggplants from seed for my fall garden this year, and my transplants were doing well, but apparently the fire ants love them. They have been chewing at the growing points and have really done a lot of damage to one. The other is doing better, but they've chewed through the stem of the first bud. Maybe the plant will be stronger for it. The two plants are at least twelve feet apart, but the cucumbers and tomatoes in between aren't being attacked as much. It must be something tasty about eggplant.

The mystery critter took a few days to go into the trap (the bait was untouched, so it was probably off at the neighbor's garden), but yesterday it managed once again to swipe the tomato without springing the door even though I had tried to make it easier to trigger. I think mice couldn't take such a big fruit, @SpaceBus, though it's entirely possible that they're around. Maybe it's a Texas-sized mouse because the one time I thought I saw one (darting under some rosebushes not near our garden,) it was big. That was the original impetus for borrowing the trap because I wanted to see what that creature was. No success with that, either.

I don't think it's a groundhog, @Country Living in VA , @EatenByLimestone, it was the WCS tube you recommended, and we are planning to get one or two. Any tips for using them?

The key to all trapping is the trap needs to be where the animal will pass it. Sounds simple, but I see a lot of people putting traps where the animal isn't.

Be careful setting the tube trap. Its powerful and could probably break a hand if it went off and you were distracted.

Are there any droppings left? Maybe it's a rat?
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
608
Texas
That is a bummer. Does spinosad work to discourage fire ants?
According to Texas A&M, Spinosad is an effective treatment safe for gardens. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any bait locally that uses it. There are rows of fire ant treatments in the stores, but they are all the chemicals I don't want. The good news is, though, that the little borax outdoor spikes have helped. I picked some of those up in desperation even though fire ants weren't listed on the package, but I figured that they might be attracted to the moisture, and within an hour of my installing a few, they were mobbed. There are still some ants about, but they seem to be choosing the bait over my plants. I hope it will get back to the queen and kill her, too.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
608
Texas
The key to all trapping is the trap needs to be where the animal will pass it. Sounds simple, but I see a lot of people putting traps where the animal isn't.

Be careful setting the tube trap. Its powerful and could probably break a hand if it went off and you were distracted.

Are there any droppings left? Maybe it's a rat?
I sure hope it's not a rat. The critter that I saw in the back yard definitely did not have a naked tail, but I'm not sure that that critter is the same one that's in the garden. I've never seen the one in the garden. I'm just assuming it's a squirrel because the damage looks the same as what I find among the fruit trees in the back yard.

Thanks for the warning about the tube trap. That's one of the reasons we didn't get it in the spring (some small children), but we plan to make it accessible to squirrels but not to kids.

I may have to keep trying the Havahart trap in the meantime with more secure bait or making sure the hinges are well lubricated. Thanks for the pointers, @Montanalocal .