Sunday, June 14, 2015

Problems and Failures

You have to be a pretty optimistic person to garden. Taking a tiny seed and expecting it to become a four pound cabbage takes a lot of faith in mother nature. Every time I plant, I believe in that miracle. I never lose the wonder when it does grow, but sometimes we have failures. They aren't uncommon. Either our own mistakes get us or nature deals the blow. This week I had a some of both. Nothing devastating like the year the earwigs ate all the silks off my corn (only once, and never before or since thank goodness). Or the year the groundhog ate all my winter squash. Ouch. But this week had quite a list of little problems.

Turnips under a good row cover

Turnips seem to be getting the brunt of it right now. You know how I was doing such a good job with my succession sowing? Well this week I totally forgot until Sunday. I'm supposed to plant every Monday. Whoops! Well one week missed is not the end of the world. But for the poor turnips that wasn't all.

Turnips elsewhere struggling

At my last house I had a lot of issues with flea beetles, but they have been pretty mild here. They exist but don't do a lot of damage. Until now. They are doing enough damage to kill some of my newly sprouted turnips.

I don't spray here (except soap when the aphids get bad on the kale and broccoli), so my only recourse is to try to catch them. I won't catch them all, but the hope is to get enough that the damage won't hurt the plants too much. I brush the plants trying to get them to hop in the soapy water. I'll leave some of these bowls near the damaged plants. Over time some will die. Every day I'll chase more in. Hopefully it will be good enough.

In the other half of the bed with the turnips are my parsnips. Not many parsnips. Half the bed barely germinated and the half that was better is by no means full. I no longer have time to resow parsnips. They just take too long. If I had seed I'd use half that section to sow in amaranth. I've never grown that before. I think next year I'll try it. I could do mizuna but those flea beetles would probably take them down too. Maybe I should inter sow carrots. They have plenty of time. I will have two other carrot beds in the fall though. Will that be too many carrots? Is there such a thing as too many carrots? The issue with carrots is their germination is just as problematic as parsnips. I usually use a doubled over row cover on the soil to keep it moist. I can't do that with the parsnips growing. I could use one layer, or maybe just try without and hope. I'd have to water a lot.

Basil was one of the worst failures. I planted in three spots to try to avoid the basil downy mildew. That worked last year. One section went down fast, but the other was mildew free for most of the year. All three spots got hit already. So they all got taken out. Sigh. I did get a small harvest from the last one out. It was enough to dry so I can make Italian seasonings for this coming year, but not enough for much else. I do still have time to start again. Do I want to?

Chard bed

I love chard. It is such a good grower. I'm always amazed at the harvests I get from a small patch every year. One plant got pulled as it looked like it was starting to get diseased. I grow Argentata and it seems to handle the diseases we have around here. But safer to pull the bad one that isn't resisting so it won't spread. Also one end was getting holes in the leaves. I have this trouble every year. The earwigs take up residence in the centers and eat holes out of the youngest leaves. They can take a plant down if they get too numerous, though they usually don't.

Earwigs freak me out a little, but in the garden they can be a help and an hindrance depending on the crop. They are omnivores so eat other insects but if they like the crop they also eat that. I just don't grow Napa cabbage anymore because of the damage they do to that. Michihili cabbage works better. Sometimes they get in, but not as much. For chard I go on a search and destroy mission with my knife. They hide where the leaf meets the stem. I poke the tip of the knife down in there to get them. I won't get them all the first time. I'll go out for the next few days to get the rest. Then keep vigilant for the rest of the season. I used to mulch the chard to keep the leaves clean, but I found the earwigs had too many places to hide then.

The last one is in the Michihili/kohlrabi bed. Luckily it wasn't earwigs this time. Nope they started to bolt on me. I picked one earlier in the week that had started to bolt. Well I didn't check them for a couple of days and the next one did. So I picked them all. I was kind of hoping I wouldn't have to until next week. I'd probably be able to tell if my sauerkraut was working for me by then.

Chinese cabbage ready for the fridge

I stored most of them in the fridge. I wrap them in a damp flour cloth towel and just leave them in the main part. They are way too big to fit into anything. They are 20" long and have to go sideways in the fridge. They store pretty well. I can keep them fresh for about a month and a half to two months, but the problem is they take up so much space. And the other side of the bed is the kohlrabi. I think I have 15 or 16 of them in there. Some of them have sized up already and need to be picked soon. Winner doesn't get woody fast, but they are hard to cut when they get really large just because of their size.

And remember at the beginning of the month when I had the groundhog incursion? Well I shored up the defenses and it seems to be working. He hasn't come back. Most of the beans that he lopped off died, but four of them might make it. They have some tiny little green growth were the cotyledon leaves used to be. And the four seeds that I had left and replanted have come up and are growing pretty well. So I put up the strings to the trellis. The two plants that he didn't touch are growing strong and climbing the trellis supports. I think it was the trellis itself that saved them as they were behind the metal and harder to get to. So at least there is some good news there. My beans are recovering to an extent.


  1. To me, this is one of the best features of gardening blogs, that is, to share successes and failures.

    Today I pulled out Okame Hybrid summer spinach. It has bolted; the leaves never got larger than one inch. The leaves of Florence fennel on the other hand grew three feet tall and started to flower without making a bulb. I cut it back hoping for maybe a bulb to form later. The radishes went to, too bitter. Then I planted Trombetta Climbing Squash and Sweetie Baby Romaine.

    Thoreau wrote: "I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."

  2. I agree with jane above. i'm a firm believer in sharing the lows as well as the highs - it's much more realistic than say the gardening shows on tv where they tell you how easy it is.
    daphne, you have such a wonderfully extensive garden, and a thorough system for managing it, that if anyone can overcome the earwigs and flea beetles (ew!) you can.
    thanks for such a detailed, wonderful post.

  3. Ditto the comments above. There are thousands of books and websites that tell you how to sow a seed and the majority of them make it sound so easy, neat and orderly. Follow these simple steps and you will have a great garden. Many (many!) times, however, things don't go according to plan - too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, sown too deeply, not deeply enough, too much sun, not enough sun, and on and on - and then of course there are the critters, big and small. It's so reassuring to those of us that are relatively new to gardening to see that those with years of experience behind them have some of the same problems that we do. You are so right - we gardeners are optimists.

    And no...there is no such thing as too many carrots ;)

  4. Yeck, earwigs. They give me the creeps but it's more of a childhood thing than gardening - I see them around but not so much around the plants. But my chard (which as you said normally is an easy plant to grow) is taking forever to establish this year.

  5. Sorry you are having some new bug issues this year. I was just thinking today about how gardening is such a determined act of hope! I feel like every vegetable I pick is it's own little miracle. So many things can go wrong along the way - and often do.
    For the past two days I've had to remove big ugly grey bugs from my poor little cucumber plants, so I may have to reluctantly try neem oil or something if they keep coming. The good news is: I need to get trellising up right away for my first two rows of pole beans - they are coming up strong!

  6. Oh, I agree completely, it takes a lot of optimism to be a gardener, and a big dose of pragmatism helps as well. If the bugs or diseases are winning it's time to cut your losses. I just gave in to the aphids on one of my broccoli plants. And the rust is getting the better of my garlic this year... There's always some new challenge, but plenty of rewards too, otherwise we wouldn't continue on.

  7. Too much rain has done a ton of damage to my garden.

  8. Hi Daphne,
    Geographically I am not too far from you (Portland area in Maine) :-) I have had some aphids and unknown catapillars in my garden munching on a few kale leaves and such which I haven't had before. I have food grade diatomaceous earth that I am going to make into a spray for the leaves. Have you tried that for your beetles before? It's approved for organic gardening as long as it is food grade. Hope you have better luck soon! Also I found this article in my DE research:

    1. I have in the past but I never found it to be very effective. And I worry about it since I have asthma and you should NOT breath that stuff.

    2. Yes, breathing the dry form is dangerous which is why I am going to be trying the wet method :-) 4 tablespoons DE to a gallon of water. I have used a sprinkle of dry around so plants with good success. Just a thought!