It’s Growing To Be an Interesting Season…

The overall condition of New England Garden Season 2021 has been unstable. May started out warm, until Memorial Day weekend, which felt like Thanksgiving. June brought mid-August levels of heat and humidity, but very little rain. Fourth of July weekend felt like late September. Since then, we have received about a July-and-a-half of rain in one week. These rapid, wide weather swings are not uncommon in New England. We are, in fact, famous for them. They do present challenges in the garden, however.

Obviously the zucchini is starting to produce, because that is what zucchini does. However, it actually is not. The “squash” pictured here was not pollinated, due to a lack of bee activity in the rain. This might-have-been zucchini will soon rot away. I will remove it before that happens. Also, I will start to hand pollinate my squash and pumpkins if the sun does not come back soon. The agricultural extension at Texas A&M has a very good tutorial on hand pollinating.

The heat and dampness have also made this a challenging year for insect and fungus control. I have been alternating neem oil and pyrethrin sprays on my garden beds and fruit trees between downpours. I have no delusions- I will not be able to stop all the damage, but I believe I have it under control at the moment. After all, I want to reduce the squash beetles, aphids, and weevils, but I want the assassin bugs and ladybugs to stick around. No pests means no predators.

Who loves heat and humidity even more than insect pests? You are correct- both the front and back yard tomatoes are thriving in the heat. They do seem to be pining a bit for the sunshine lately. Still, all plants are growing, blooming, and starting to fruit. The basil is also quite content, and I am cautiously planning some large scale sauce production for later in the season.

Now this pest problem is a real head scratcher:

Let me explain the image above. That is one very rough textured sunflower and several pungent cilantro plants, completely devoid of leaves. Adjacent, note the mound of delicately flavored parsley which has nary a nibble. Who the heck does that? I have my suspicions.

I have not been able to prove the identity of the culprit. However, I believe the presence of a warren of rabbit foodies in my neighborhood is highly plausible. They seem to be sampling my chamomile, too. They are not yet endangering the young plants, but I am watching closely. I might have to resort to a Have-A-Heart trap baited with truffle oil dressed carrots and massaged kale to reduce the lagomorph population.

As a side note, you can also see that keeping up with weed control has been inhibited by the weather. The forecast has some decent breaks of sun predicted this weekend, so I will be catching up as much as I can. Pulled up weeds are an excellent addition to the compost pile.

And finally, a follow up to my previous post about having surplus pumpkin plants.

Demonstrated here is the progression from “I found a good spot for my extra pumpkin vines” (18JUN2021) through “there may have been squash seeds in the compost I added to the loam pile” (24JUN2021), to “I am going to be the CEO of Pumpkins this October” (08JUL021). Honestly, it is too early to predict if and how well these pumpkins will produce, but I am very excited about the possibilities.

Gardening never easy. There are bound to be unexpected, difficult, surprising, and frustrating situations. There are also endless opportunities to learn and tiny wonders to discover. What challenges have you encountered in your garden? Share your hard-learned lessons in the comments!