My little cinderblock garden has pretty much been dormant for the last two months, but this week, with the brunt of the summer heat behind us, it was finally time to clear out the old and bring in the new! So, starting last Monday, I began pulling out all of the dead and dying summer zucchini, cucumber and tomato plants in order to get ready for our fall and winter plantings. This sounds like a pretty simple plan, right? Well, because it’s me and nothing ever comes easy, let me assure you it wasn’t simple!
First off, the zucchini plant. As I approached the plant, I couldn’t help but notice that the topmost leaves had turned completely black! I thought, “wow, these are in worse shape than I thought” but continued toward it to put it out of its misery. As I grew closer and reached my hand towards the stem, I saw that what I thought were withered, black leaves were actually covered with a swarm of horrifying beetles! I, of course, screamed and ran into the house beckoning to the Man of the House to “come quick and see something horrible!” Incidentally, this is probably not the best phrase to use when you need someone to follow you somewhere. So, outside we went and The Man saw the Something Horrible. First, I got scolded for not keeping an eye on my garden. “But that’s not true, I really have been!”, I exclaimed. Dear Readers, let me take you back to a few weeks ago. One day, I approached this same zucchini plant, seeing that there was a small zucchini on it that I wanted to pick. As I reached for the zucchini, I saw that there were two beetles mating right on top of it. Thinking that these were assassin beetles, and therefore helpful, predatory bugs, I actually said out loud to them “I’m going to let you two finish your business and I’ll come back later”. Yes, I talk to bugs and animals…that’s not weird, right? So, I left them to it.
|The Lavender That Ate Manhattan. If anyone knows any uses for the leaves, let me know!|
So, flash forward to last Monday and now there was a swarm large enough to carry me away! Turns out they weren’t assassin beetles at all, but were squash beetles, which are terrible pests in the worst possible sense! Now, I’m going to give you this link, so you can see what I am talking about, but if you are anything like me, I must warn you, I cannot be held responsible for any nightmares or bouts of itching! Only the stout of heart and constitution should gaze upon it!
So, I ran inside to retrieve some bug spray from the garage. The Man completely doused the leaves with the poison and the bugs just walked through it like it was nothing–like we had just given them a lovely summer cocktail! By this time, I was itching uncontrollably and was ready to get the blow torch to set the whole thing on fire. Luckily, The Man was in a much better frame of mind, and after donning his shining armor (work gloves and a firm resolve) he just pulled the whole thing out and threw it in the trash can! My hero! We read after the fact that these beetles are very difficult to control, that they don’t respond to poison and they live solely on squash plants. The only way to mitigate them is to literally squash them! So, basically, I could have prevented this whole problem by squashing the first two that I saw!
After that, it was pretty much easy. I tilled the soil, added some new soil and fertilized it with epson salts and vegetable fertilizer. On Thursday, I ventured to the garden center and brought home a few seedlings: kale, cilantro, thyme and mint. Then I laid out rows of greens and planted Swiss Chard, collard greens, spinach and lettuce. I was feeling pretty excited and proud of myself until the next morning, when I came out and saw that my brand new, tender kale was just a bunch of naked stems!! RODENTS! Now I am fit to be tied. We set traps, and this morning, there was a rat in the trap! At least, I think it was a rat. It was either a small rat or a large mouse, and since it wasn’t even remotely adorable, I’m going to assume it was a rat. Of course, it was still able to make a meal out of the cilantro and the mint before it met its demise.
|See that sad little stick plant on the right? That was kale after the rat ate it.|
|Cilantro after being devoured by a rat!|
I also planted some arugula in a pot right outside of the kitchen window. It’s a good, sunny, spot, so I think it will do well. It’s only been 3 days, and tiny little sprouts are appearing!
|Teensy little arugula seedlings|
I had to look really hard to see them, but some lettuces are poking their heads through as well!
|The future site of leafy greens!|
In other parts of the yard–we finally have citrus! Earlier in the summer we planted a Meyer Lemon tree and I am so excited that the lemons are growing and most importantly, are staying on the tree! I have visions of lemon curd dancing in my head! Since it’s a baby tree (as are all of our citrus trees) I am keeping my expectations low, but there are at least 12 lemons on it!
Also, this year is the first year that our two year old Mexican Lime tree has borne fruit! There are quite a few on this tree as well, and I expect they will be ripening very soon. I just picked one the other day out of sheer excitement!
|Mexican Lime (a.k.a. key limes)|
So, it begins again with the garden, and I’ll be updating you on the trials and tribulations in the weeks to come!