A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘cucumber’

Vegetable Harvest

The vegetable garden is doing very well.  I am really pleased that I decided to put it on the opposite side of the house this year.  The amount of sunlight on that side makes all the difference.  This weekend, I harvested another couple of zucchini, a few squash and a few cucumbers.  I grilled the zucchini and squash with some fresh herbs, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.  The cucumbers were sliced and added to a spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette, candied pecans, grapes and carrots.   Here’s what I picked off on Sunday:

The rest of the vegetable garden is coming along nicely.  I have over a couple dozen tomatoes forming, and lots of bell peppers, habaneros and jalapenos as well.

The cantaloupe is really taking to the trellis I built a few weeks ago.  I already have a few fruit starting to form, too!

Zucchini (left) and tomato plant (right)

Zucchini, foreground, and cantaloupe on the trellis

Cantaloupe!

the melon is resting nicely on two pieces of nylon cord





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Baby Veggies

It is always exciting when our vegetable garden starts producing.  After a few failures in the past two summers due to pests, disease and/or uncooperative weather, it is encouraging to see the plants bursting forth with tiny veggies that will continue to grow into harvest-able crops. I’ll get to those mini-veggies in a minute, but first, BIG news.  Well, sort of.  The spring/summer garden offered up its first harvest over the weekend – a single zucchini measuring 9-inches long!  I am amazed at how fast zucchinis grow!  I literally watched it grow a few inches in a matter of two days and a few more are just a day or two behind it.  I think this one plant will provide enough zucchini for us to eat for a few months – and bigger than we’ve been able to get at the grocery store.  The first picture below was taken on Saturday.  I chose not to harvest it then because I wanted it to get an inch or two larger.

Then, on Sunday, I awoke to find the same zucchini had grown almost two inches to the size of a large dinner plate!

Well, that’s the big news.  Hey, I relish in good news, whatever it is!

Now for the mini-veggie photos!  We have tomatoes, habaneros, green bell peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, jalapenos and what looks like cantaloupe starting to form!

baby cucumber (tied with nylon cord to tomato cage)

teeny jalapeno

small Early Girl tomatoes clustered together

healthy nub of a habanero pepper

tiny yellow squash (foil to deter vine borer)

beginning of bell pepper

could it be? a cantaloupe fruit?

All of these plants received a healthy watering on Saturday, followed by a 12 oz. cup of freshly brewed compost tea to top them off!  Here is the yeasty smelling, foamy, frothy mixture right before I served it up!

What Aphids Do

As a brand new, organic gardener, I am very inexperienced.  What way to gain experience, than to have things go wrong – and thereby, hopefully, learn from your mistakes?  In this case, the squash, zucchini and cucumbers went horribly wrong in the span of a couple of weeks.  My inexperience didn’t catch the invasion of aphids in time, and the plants are now almost dead because of it.   My last update on these plants – exactly three weeks ago today – showed healthy plants that were beginning to form blooms.  I wasn’t exactly happy with the small amount of foliage at that time, but I wasn’t really concerned about the plants.  It wasn’t until another week later that I realized something was wrong.

Of course, I had to do research on aphids to understand how they work, what they do, what problems they cause and how to treat them.  Aphids generally do not need much control, as beneficial insects naturally gravitate towards infestations and clean them up naturally.  In my little garden, however, things have been so dry and there isn’t much local vegetation around to attract beneficial insects, that I don’t think the ladybugs even knew to come on in.  I should have purchased some, but by the time I realized I should, it was already too late.  The aphids can reproduce rapidly, feeding on the young tender leaves and flowers of their host plant.  Their tiny mouths pierce the plant, drawing out the aphids food and leaving behind a sticky sweet substance called honeydew.  The honeydew is a food for other insects – some beneficial, some not so beneficial – but in this case, sugar ants moved in.  The ants and the aphids formed a symbiotic relationship.  The ants tend to the aphids because they produce the ants’ food source – honeydew – and actually help cultivate the young aphid larvae so that they can grow into adults to produce food.   I watched sugar ants moving up and down the plants, crawling carefully over the aphids, to feed on the undersides of the leaves and the base of the flowers.

Aphids are a common vector for disease.  As they pierce the plants, they can transmit the mosaic virus, which can have a devastating effect on t host plant.  I think this is what happened to my squash, zucchini and cucumbers.  The first sign was yellowing leaves and slowed growth, then the leaves starting curling under, turning dry at the edges.  The leaves started developing dry spots on them and any and all new growth came in curled, malformed and died very soon.  As you can see from the pictures below, the devastation is nearly complete on the cucumbers.  I pulled up a squash and zucchini plant about a week ago because they were all but dead.  I knocked off the aphids with a strong stream of water then treated them with worm casings tea, but the disease had already taken hold and I fear there is no turning back now.

my poor, suffering zucchini

my poor, suffering zucchini

see the very small, curled new leaves that aren't maturing

see the very small, curled new leaves that aren't maturing

yellowed leaves with spots and dried edge; small, stunted, curled new leaves that never mature

yellowed leaves with spots and dried edge; small, stunted, curled new leaves that never mature

although flowering, the leaves are yellow and curling with spots and holes

although flowering, the leaves are yellow and curling with spots and holes

a larger view

a larger view

a different view

a different view

you can easily see the remains of aphids on the underside of the leaves

you can easily see the remains of aphids on the underside of the leaves

Pretty gnarly, huh?  I hope that I can spot and prevent future infestations from taking over the rest of my plants.  In the meantime, I think it’s probably a safe bet to go ahead and order ladybugs, which I will release in stages.  As for these beds, I need to decide if I want to plant anything else (options are limited this late in the game) or simply amend the soil and have it prepared for early spring planting.  Perhaps I can use these beds as an overflow for lettuce/spinach/broccoli.   We’ll see about that…