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Anyone else pulling their hair out over this years garden?!  RSS feed

 
Deb Stephens
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I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm about ready to pull everything up, dig new beds and start over!!! I started this year exactly as I should have with early seed starting over a heat mat inside; early transplants to the garden; early seeds out in the beds--it was such a mild winter and early spring that I even extended my garden by a couple of acres and went overboard with as many varieties an numbers of winter and summer squash plants, corn, beans, peppers and tomatoes as I could find space for so we would have tons of preserved food for winter. It all looked great early in the spring, my summer squashes were producing faster than I could use the fruits, and I was sure this would be the best year ever. WRONG!!!

Spring continued to stay cool (and wet) for so long that lots of stuff started getting mildew or just stopped growing until about the first part of June. Finally around mid-June the sun decided to come out and warm things up a bit, but unfortunately, the rain never really stopped for more than a week or 10 days at a time (during which time it got into the upper 90s and turned the garden into a steam bath) before dropping back into the lower 80s and raining for a week again. It is thundering right now, in fact, and sweltering around 90F with air so wet that it feels like we are drowning in a hot bath.

Every squash I have planted (some 100 or more plants of 15 different varieties) has had to be pulled up and burned so far due to either vine borers, squash bugs or the brand new in our area (as if we didn't have enough trouble with squash) "Cucurbit Yellow Vine Wilt". I think there is probably a dose of bacterial wilt in there someplace too, but at this point, it hardly matters. I was congratulating myself that at least the cucumbers, melons and gourds were taking all of that well and still producing (especially my Ha'Ogen melons and Indian Burr Gherkins) when today I noticed that all but my bushel gourds, buffalo gourds and burr gherkins were also turning yellow and starting to wilt. The two varieties of corn I planted both grew only 2 to 4 feet tall before tasseling and putting on tiny, stunted looking ears which quickly matured into nasty, mold-covered cobs that joined the squash plants on the burn pile. The few things that aren't stunted, diseased, covered in mildew/mold or pests are just sort of sitting there looking terrified.  I'm at wits end!

And before anyone asks, NO I am not a novice gardener. I know how to grow things and usually grow them very well. I have never seen anything like this. Can this be attributable merely to bad weather this season, or is something more serious going on?

Personally, I'm beginning to think climate change has finally gotten bad enough to have tipped the scales in my area. It seems worse every year and now about the only things that seem to regularly grow well here are tropical plants from southeast Asia or Africa. Every year I have to eliminate one more variety of the used-to-be staples of my garden in favor of something that can take humidity (like 90 to 100% most days) and intense heat (almost never below 90s and into low 100s from late spring through the end of September). So far, we've made Malabar spinach, Indian burr gherkins, Chinese red noodle beans, okra, Dragon's egg and Hmong red cucumbers, gourds, parsley, basil, dill, oregano (those last 3 in the hot, sunny areas) and rat-tail radishes into our new staples. All of those do well here. Most of the time our hot peppers do well, and last year we had bumper crops of bell peppers too (though it's not looking good for this year). Anyone have suggestions for other varieties of fruits and vegetables that do well in extremely hot/humid areas?

So how are other gardens doing this year? Thoughts or suggestions?
 
Tyler Ludens
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This is being an exceptionally difficult year.  We got a hailstorm and flood, now this super heat.   I started the thread about heat tolerant vegetables:  http://www.permies.com/t/57509/plants/Heat-tolerant-vegetables

Total fail on squash this year due to squash bugs, when last year was a great squash year and I was looking forward to counting on it as a staple.

I've planted a lot of Sweet Potato.  So far, Bunch Porto Rico is doing the best.  I also have what I think is probably Georgia Jet, and some purple variety, from the store.

Melons are doing well, and finally setting fruit, as are Eggplant.

Tomatoes have done poorly so far, and now of course it's too hot for most kinds to set fruit so we have to wait for Fall.

 
wayne fajkus
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Only tHing I seem to be good at is tomatos. I bought some heirloom indeterminate cherry tomatos 5 years ago. Ago. They come back every year and I dedicate the same patch year after year. They give me fruit til the frost kills them. Even now in the 100 degree days they are producing. I put Luffa in the back. They are thriving. It's a raised bed.

I'd say everything else failed. Swamp conditions for a couple months. Making raised beds this weekend. I should get a good fall crop.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Wayne, are your Luffa producing yet?  Mine are growing like crazy but don't seem to be blooming, unless it's off on the end of one of the very very long vines  - they're climbing into the trees!

I'm hoping they might work as a summer squash substitute, if they would only fruit...

 
John Weiland
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@Deb S: "So how are other gardens doing this year? Thoughts or suggestions? "

I'm marking my calendar so if this post jinxes my garden, I have evidence that I did it here.      It has been a strange year, but here on the Minnesota/North Dakota border, it's like the devil's triangle of inland weather regions.  The best thing that can be said in addition to dryland farming on good soil here is that the severe winters do knock back a fair number of insects and diseases. 

Seems like we never really emerged from spring, then suddenly everything that was planted....late....started coming alive with the heat.....also late.  So knock on wood, there's only one thing I'm worried about at this point and that is (a) the unexpected catastrophe that wishes to make an example of me, or (b) the snap beans not forming product.  The dry beans seem to be doing okay and have been adapted over multiple years.  If we don't get blight or potato beetles, we may have one of the largest crops in 20 years.  I actually will need to harvest a lot(!) of kale and swiss chard over the next few days for freezer storage or risk having some senescence of older leaves.  Corn is tasseling and first silks appearing....paste tomatoes setting nice fruit on schedule.  Peppers are flowering, but a bit too early to determine fruit production and the first zucchini will be ready by the end of the week.  The first cabbage butterflies showed up recently, so we will just need to wash and inspect the kale more religiously until the first frosts do their work.  Interestingly, the snap beans and eggplant were the only things purchased this year...the beans as seed and the eggplant from a local greenhouse in town.  So these have not been adapted to our garden.  Also, FWIW, I did make, and have been using, a manure tea on many of the plantings, but not applied in any recorded or systematic way.  I was more interested here in getting a general impression of how to make the tea and what kind of trends it seems to show before testing it more rigorously next year.  So far, the trends look good, but there isn't any really bad growth in the garden to compare it to.....and we always manure pretty heavily during planting anyway.
 
Deb Stephens
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Tyler Ludens wrote:This is being an exceptionally difficult year.  We got a hailstorm and flood, now this super heat.   I started the thread about heat tolerant vegetables:  http://www.permies.com/t/57509/plants/Heat-tolerant-vegetables

Total fail on squash this year due to squash bugs, when last year was a great squash year and I was looking forward to counting on it as a staple.

I've planted a lot of Sweet Potato.  So far, Bunch Porto Rico is doing the best.  I also have what I think is probably Georgia Jet, and some purple variety, from the store.

Melons are doing well, and finally setting fruit, as are Eggplant.

Tomatoes have done poorly so far, and now of course it's too hot for most kinds to set fruit so we have to wait for Fall.



Tyler, Sorry to hear your squash bit the dust too, though it is good to know I am not the only one having squash problems this year. I'm finding that burr gherkins make a good summer squash substitute (as do luffa--I found that out last time my squash went under due to vine borers). They really taste almost indistinguishable from yellow squashes like crookneck, Desi or the immature cushaws. By the way, I noticed you asked about luffa producing fruits. Don't worry! One thing I learned about luffas is that they take awhile to mature but once they get going, you will be hard pressed to keep up with them. I always miss some while they're still tender enough to eat, but that's okay because I can let them dry and have lots of seeds and vegetable sponges for next year.

I got behind with the wet weather and didn't get sweet potatoes in in time this year--although a few semi rotten ones I threw out on the compost heap have put out shoots now so I may go ahead and pop those in somewhere and at least eat the leaves even if it is too late for tubers.

My Ozark Pink and Arkansas Traveler tomatoes are fruiting pretty well, but they were developed for the Ozarks and have adapted well to these conditions. Others aren't doing as well as expected--including my other Ozark staple variety, Tommy Toe, which is usually up and growing from volunteers in March and taking over, covered with delicious large cherry tomatoes by now. Ditto for Cherokee Purple (my all-time favorite tomato) which also usually does well.

Did you put in corn? If so, how is it doing?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Deb Stephens wrote:Anyone have suggestions for other varieties of fruits and vegetables that do well in extremely hot/humid areas?


My experience is that the varieties that do best for me are those that I planted from seed that I saved last year... and the year before that... and the year before that... and the year before that... and the year before that... and the year before that... and...
 
Tyler Ludens
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I planted corn about a week ago, and it isn't up yet - Tohono O'odham 60 Day Corn - which grew well for me a few years ago.

 
K Putnam
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Last year was the hottest, driest summer on record here.  No rain from May through September.  This year  is on track to be one of the coolest. We are used to Juneuary.  We aren't used to Januly!

My squash sprouted strong during a hot week and are now just sitting there waiting for summer to poke them into action.  Cherry tomatoes with beautiful green foliage and green tomatoes, but no food yet.

That said, looking at the best potato and cabbage crops I've ever had.  Between better cover-cropping last year and a temperate spring and summer, those at least should come in strong.  

I'm about to sow a winter garden.  Probably won't need to worry about keeping the seeds damp!

 
Su Ba
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Every year here the weather is a bit different, so every year I have something or other that is a failure. But then, I have something or other that is thriving too. These past two years have been wet, with the last year having almost a daily rain shower of some amount or other. Long term locals tell me that this has been the most consistently wet year in their memory....that means in the past 50 years. Now this pertains only to my immediate region, since other parts of my island have been experiencing drought.

This season I've had some really suffering crops. Onions. Tomatoes. Peppers. Eggplant. Kale and other greens. Cucumbers. Squash and pumpkins. Peas. My thriving crops include potatoes, asparagus, turmeric, sweet potatoes, turnips, radishes, daikon, taro, sugar cane, and pineapples. The iffy crops (some failures, some good harvests) have been corn, beans, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, kohlrabi, and parsnips.

I've totally given up on peas and onions for a while. One failed crop after the other. I'm just wasting seed, effort, and garden space.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Su, have you tried growing Walking Onions and/or Garlic Chives?  I can't grow normal onions, but both of these thrive no matter the weather (so far).  Elephant Garlic aka Perennial Leek is also good but goes dormant in the summer.



 
Chris Wells
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High in the mountains, we see freak weather every year. We may break 105F in July, or we might see frost and snow. We'll dip to near freezing one night, and then see our nighttime low rise by up to 15 degrees only days later. One year we'll be drowning in floods and the next we pray for rain. This year is rather cool, so my potatoes are performing well. Carrots, snow peas, radishes... there's a lot that suits this climate. Tomatoes are performing poorly for those who planted them; I didn't because I find them too tedious compared to other crops.

I plant an assortment of crops suited to hot weather, cold summers, arid climates and overly humid ones. Bountiful harvests are commonplace; I never know which crops will perform, but there is always something to eat. Perhaps the best approach is to expect dramatic variations and plant accordingly. It's cheaper to seed a little extra than it is to experience a failed harvest and have to buy produce.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Chris Wells wrote:I plant an assortment of crops suited to hot weather, cold summers, arid climates and overly humid ones. Bountiful harvests are commonplace; I never know which crops will perform, but there is always something to eat.


That's my strategy as well. I'm currently growing 5 species of squash, and 11 species of beans. I'm growing corn from the far north, from South America, from the rain forest, from the arid southwest, from maritime Caribbean, from southern north America, from the highlands, from the lowlands, etc, etc, etc. I'm growing 6 species of tomatoes.  Something always thrives regardless of the weather.

I love the way that odd years make plant breeding easier. I planted runner beans for 5 years before harvesting my first seeds. It took an unusually wet summer for them to set seed. But once I harvested the first seeds, then the descendants were more suitable to growing in our typically dry summers (because they had been selected to do better with other factors like the soil, diseases, pests, farmer, water, sunlight, etc.)
 
Deb Stephens
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Deb Stephens wrote:Anyone have suggestions for other varieties of fruits and vegetables that do well in extremely hot/humid areas?


My experience is that the varieties that do best for me are those that I planted from seed that I saved last year... and the year before that... and the year before that... and the year before that... and the year before that... and the year before that... and...


I definitely agree with that! I've collected seeds from my successes for the last 20 years, at least, and I always have self-sown varieties that get better every year with no help from me. A perfect example is the garlic chives that have taken over one old garden and keep popping up in unexpected places all over the property. I started about a dozen of those in tiny cups from seed 24 years ago and now I have to mow paths between them to get around the yards and gardens. Another success that keeps my husband happy (he loves hot peppers) are the chiltepins and red savina habaneros. Those chiltepins especially were really hard to get going, but I have managed to keep them and their progeny alive and thriving for years at a time in pots that I over-winter (I take a few pods from each every year and start new plants to replace the older ones after a few years so they never wear out and they keep adapting to our conditions.) I've even been selecting for a particular (and unusual) shape in the habaneros for the last 10 years. I still can't get it to breed true, but I keep selecting for it each year and hoping it will eventually. Another one of my tried and true varieties is a white cushaw whose seed I've saved for about 15 years now. It is a really delicious squash and a good keeper (and huge--some of them weigh in over 50 pounds!) but the best thing is that they laugh at heat and squash bugs AND they self-sow regularly where I've missed one and it rotted in place over winter. It is just about the only squash I have left that hasn't succumbed to something this year!

It's always fun to see what comes up in the compost pile too.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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We are expecting temperatures the next couple days that are flirting with freezing the tomatoes due to radiant cooling. A fellow at market this week said, "That would be a disaster for you!". My response was, "No. That's just farming". I'm growing a hundred crops. It doesn't matter if some of them get killed by frost. There will be something that doesn't get harmed.

 
wayne fajkus
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Wayne, are your Luffa producing yet?  Mine are growing like crazy but don't seem to be blooming, unless it's off on the end of one of the very very long vines  - they're climbing into the trees!

I'm hoping they might work as a summer squash substitute, if they would only fruit...



Yes. Several fruit from babies to full grown. Gonna let them dry on The vine. Is that correct for the sponges? Been 25 years since I planted them. Lol
 
Tyler Ludens
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

That's my strategy as well. I'm currently growing 5 species of squash, and 11 species of beans. I'm growing corn from the far north, from South America, from the rain forest, from the arid southwest, from maritime Caribbean, from southern north America, from the highlands, from the lowlands, etc, etc, etc. I'm growing 6 species of tomatoes.  Something always thrives regardless of the weather. 


It looks like one secret to success might be a really tremendous irrigated garden.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I am tremendously blessed with abundant water. My family and community have been farming in the deep desert for 155 years. We have been building and improving irrigation systems that whole time. Every field can be irrigated by 2 or 3 completely separate and redundant irrigation systems. Seven different watersheds provide water to my various fields. So even if all 2 or 3 water systems to a particular field busted all at the same time, there are other fields with separate irrigation systems. If I got desperate, I could transport water to the fields in a tanker truck. If I had no irrigation at all, I'd grow winter-grains, and early spring greens.

The attached photo is of part of an  irrigation system in the middle of the largest city within 50 miles. Visitors tell me that they love the "streams" running along the city streets. The first time someone told me that, it took me a while to discern that they were talking about the irrigation ditches. This particular water doesn't irrigate any of my fields, but one just like it does. And yes, traffic drives right through the irrigation water.
irrigation-logan.jpg
[Thumbnail for irrigation-logan.jpg]
Using the city streets for irrigation.
irrigation-pumped.jpg
[Thumbnail for irrigation-pumped.jpg]
Pumping irrigation water from a ditch.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I enjoy learning about that system, Joseph.  I'm a big believer in redundancy, which I haven't achieved yet at our place.
 
John Weiland
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@Joseph L.: "I am tremendously blessed with abundant water."

Didn't Wallace Stegner's "Angle of Repose" figure heavily around the building of the intermountain west canal systems?  It's on the shelf as highly recommended, just not one I have gotten to yet.
If I had my druthers, I'd consider retiring in the eastern Oregon regions either north or south of the interstate in the foothill regions of the many of the mountain ranges there.  But water rights in the west are a whole 'nuther beast with which I'm unfamiliar and the unpredictability of the snow-pack as a source of water leaves me nervous. 

After several months of relatively dry weather, we just this weekend took on several inches of rain.  Fortunately the ground was thirsty and little ran off into the river, so no risk of flooding at this point.....which could all change quickly depending on the forecast.  For the most part, the waxing and waning of water above ground affects relatively little (to date) the aquifer below ground, and I'm informed that a sandpoint well would reach irrigation-quality water within 20 - 30 ft. (with the heavy ag chemical use in the area, I'd be cautious using it for drinking....our own well is at about 160 ft.).  So between the clay soils and some moderate use of ground water, it feels a bit more secure....but many other disasters can befall a crop as we all know.  I like the efforts that you are making, Tyler, with the ponds and the other structures design to capture and deposit water around the property. Somewhat like passive solar that is so often ignored, you are taking advantage of the limited water in the region to bring growth to the property.
 
Deb Stephens
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wayne fajkus wrote:
Tyler Ludens wrote:Wayne, are your Luffa producing yet?  Mine are growing like crazy but don't seem to be blooming, unless it's off on the end of one of the very very long vines  - they're climbing into the trees!

I'm hoping they might work as a summer squash substitute, if they would only fruit...



Yes. Several fruit from babies to full grown. Gonna let them dry on The vine. Is that correct for the sponges? Been 25 years since I planted them. Lol


Wayne, If you want sponges, keep the biggest and straightest luffa and yes, let them dry on the vine. However, if you are in a wet or humid area like I am, you need to keep them dry or you'll get mildew--which can pretty much ruin them. Putting something over the top, but allowing for airflow by clearing out surrounding vines will help keep them dry and unblemished while they cure. Don't forget though, as Tyler mentioned, that the smaller ones (and even the bigger ones if tender) are really good as a cucumber or squash substitute. Personally I think they taste more like cucumbers and use them mostly fresh, but they're good cooked too.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I always tear my hair out about our Denver gardens. Denver does not need climate change to be weird. As usual, February was warm (70s) and dry. March, April, May, and the first two weeks of June were cold and wet. Our last heavy snow storm, well over a foot, came in the first week of May and broke the budding trees, as always. Our last frost danger came in the last week of May. Cool weather crops, peas and such, just sat and shivered in the mud. Then, SNAP! like a switch being thrown, we switched to hot with thunderstorms. One garden was hit by hail. About a week ago SNAP! we are now in the summer dry period. Highs between 90 and 100, cloudless, windy, no rain. This will probably go on, broken by the occasional thunderstorm, till the frost in September (or October if we are lucky.) So all the cool weather things bolted to seed without doing much, and the warm weather things were delayed, and now will probably be caught by frost before they have a chance.

Lots of fun. But it is a beautiful place to live. Just a nerve wracking place to grow 500 tomato plants in.
 
Aaron Festa
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Not only garden but cedar rust destroying June berries which spread to chokeberries. It's interesting to see how quick things that thrive suddenly die.
 
wayne fajkus
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Deb Stephens wrote:
wayne fajkus wrote:
Tyler Ludens wrote:Wayne, are your Luffa producing yet?  Mine are growing like crazy but don't seem to be blooming, unless it's off on the end of one of the very very long vines  - they're climbing into the trees!

I'm hoping they might work as a summer squash substitute, if they would only fruit...



Yes. Several fruit from babies to full grown. Gonna let them dry on The vine. Is that correct for the sponges? Been 25 years since I planted them. Lol


Wayne, If you want sponges, keep the biggest and straightest luffa and yes, let them dry on the vine. However, if you are in a wet or humid area like I am, you need to keep them dry or you'll get mildew--which can pretty much ruin them. Putting something over the top, but allowing for airflow by clearing out surrounding vines will help keep them dry and unblemished while they cure. Don't forget though, as Tyler mentioned, that the smaller ones (and even the bigger ones if tender) are really good as a cucumber or squash substitute. Personally I think they taste more like cucumbers and use them mostly fresh, but they're good cooked too.


No worries about humidity. We will likely get no rain til september/october. March thru may was wet. I'm trying to grow one year supply of sponges so gonna let them all dry. Last year I did a year supply of ketchup. Next year may be sauerkraut. Trying to make a major move on a minor thing every year.
 
Leila Blair
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I live in SE Az, close to a river, which means colder temps.
We must've had a late frost after fruit trees were budded out, cause I got NO fruit on my 7 peaches, 4 apples, 4 cherries and 5 almond trees. Only fruit ill get here is Jujubes and grapes, which are doing well because they are late blooming.
 
Deb Stephens
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
We are expecting temperatures the next couple days that are flirting with freezing the tomatoes due to radiant cooling. A fellow at market this week said, "That would be a disaster for you!". My response was, "No. That's just farming". I'm growing a hundred crops. It doesn't matter if some of them get killed by frost. There will be something that doesn't get harmed.



If you are a market gardener and you are selling your crops, AND you have acres and acres of different things to choose from, you can probably afford to take a more philosophical view. For home gardeners trying to grow enough food to sustain them through the winter, every crop is precious and the loss of any of it is a major setback. In our case, the squash (15 different varieties not counting my gourds, melons and cucumbers) ALL bit the dust except a handful of green-striped and white cushaws. We need those for our animal food in winter, so it isn't enough to say, oh well, my tomatoes look ok. Even though a lot of stuff in the garden is doing fine, most of it isn't, and with the work we've put into it, it really is disappointing to say the least seeing so much of it decline and die through no fault of our own. The weather sucks here this year. I'm hoping we get better weather next year, but meanwhile, I'm pulling out everything that looks sick or dead and replanting whatever stands a chance of ripening before fall (and of course, I will have cool weather crops in by months end as well). Hopefully, we can still get something to feed our furred and feathered family through the winter!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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It's a philosophy towards food production that I'm trying to get across... If I go trapping today, and don't catch game, then perhaps I'll go fishing tomorrow. If I don't catch fish, then perhaps I'll go hunting the day after that... If I don't get a deer while hunting, perhaps I'll hunt for squirrels next time I go... Perhaps when I go to the river, I'll catch crayfish instead of trying for fish.

It's my philosophy that if every crop is precious, then not enough crops are being planted... If every plant/seed is precious, then not enough plants and seeds are going into the ground. I'm growing more than 400 varieties of beans, from 11 species, and I'm doing it on a scale that many home gardeners could easily duplicate. Every squash seed that I plant is a unique variety due to promiscuous pollination... Therefore, if I plant 500 squash plants, I am planting 500 varieties. And I'm planting every species that will grow here, because if the squash bugs eat the maximas, perhaps the cushaws might survive. If the powdery mildew gets the pepos, perhaps the lagenarias might survive.

Just because I can't put a name on why a plant died in my garden, doesn't mean that I had no fault in it's demise...
 
Jessie Twinn
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Here in Victoria Australia where I am it's been weird weather too. We usually have frost free days from November to March/April, apart from the random new years day frost (it's mid summer here of course). This summer just gone we were frost free from September through to late late May. Now yesterday we got an inch of snow. Since we don't really EVER get snow that settles, it's a LOT of snow for us. It's been really hard to get winter crops in because the summer ones hung on so very long and now they've been hit with really cold (for us) weather. I read somewhere that climate change will mean more unstable weather with extremes. I don't mind the snow here (pelting teachers with snowballs and being pelted right back is just awesome ) but the unstable and the ultra hot I can live without.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I guess I'm still not watering enough.  Everything is dying.    Really depressing.

Hot and windy.

 
Deb Stephens
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

Just because I can't put a name on why a plant died in my garden, doesn't mean that I had no fault in it's demise...


So ... what do you do about preventing or curing Cucurbit Yellow Vine Wilt? It is something we have never seen in our area, and apparently it is still new elsewhere. It also doesn't seem to have a cure according to every source I've read, so I think everyone with this problem would appreciate your insight.
 
K Putnam
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t's my philosophy that if every crop is precious, then not enough crops are being planted... If every plant/seed is precious, then not enough plants and seeds are going into the ground. I'm growing more than 400 varieties of beans, from 11 species, and I'm doing it on a scale that many home gardeners could easily duplicate. Every squash seed that I plant is a unique variety due to promiscuous pollination... Therefore, if I plant 500 squash plants, I am planting 500 varieties. And I'm planting every species that will grow here, because if the squash bugs eat the maximas, perhaps the cushaws might survive. If the powdery mildew gets the pepos, perhaps the lagenarias might survive.


Reading your seed-saving blogs recently and this has brought a fresh perspective to gardening for me.   I put a few varieties of squash all at the same time.  One absolutely took off while the others sort of languished in the June rain.   One was doing OK, then got devoured by slugs.  Meanwhile, while a couple of others are languishing, a pile of volunteers has grown seemingly out of nowhere and have already set nice fruit.  OK.  Rather than worrying about the ones not doing great, which is what I normally do, I'll be focusing on the ones that thrived and stick something else in the place of the ones that languishing.  It's refreshing perspective and it makes so much sense once you take a step back.
 
Richard Kastanie
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Deb, I'm wondering if all the rain this past December in the Ozarks may have leached a decent amount of nutrients out of the soil. I'm in Ozark County and we weren't hit as bad here as many places further west, but still had close to 10 inches during that month, 6 of them in a couple of days at the end of the month. It's possible even with similar gardening practices as other years, the soil could have a deficiency from the rains in December that could make the plants more susceptible to various issues. I was thinking that especially after what you said about your corn.

Having said that, here it's been a good year for most things, the best ever for many of the spring cool season crops (not so great for the onions though). Squash has always been tricky since I started gardening here in 2008, some years we don't get many summer squash, this year we've gotten a bunch but many of the plants are dying back from the borers and wilt (I've always thought it was bacterial wilt, but I'll have to look into the yellow vine wilt and see if that looks like anything we've had. We really need to plant successions of summer squash to keep it coming later in the year. The summer squash is the favorite of the squash bugs so picking them off the regularly in the spring keeps them from multiplying and spreading to the other cucurbits too much later in the year.

All the winter squash we grow are moschata varieties, all other squash species are too susceptible to bugs/diseases to mature any squash most years. Not even all the moschata work. Butternuts often mature their fruit in August and then die, my favorite varieties are Tahitian Melon, Mrs. Amerson's, Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck, and Upper Ground Sweet Potato, all available from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Seminole pumpkins can be crazy productive in wet weather but are trouble to keep going in dry years.

As far as staples go , I love sweet potatoes. They grow so easily here as long as they're planted when the soil has warmed up thoroughly. Many compaanies want to ship the slips here in early May, but most years that results in plants that take a long time to take hold with some plants lost. Planting late May/early June after all the other warm season stuff is in the ground is more reliable and still leaves plenty of a season to get bountiful crops in October here.
 
Jeff Reiland
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Things in mine are pretty good for as much neglect I've done.  Hot and dry spells have affected the sweet & pop corn, I always put my tomatoes in too early so they stunt a bit.  Always a good producer I save in the compost bin
First year getting peaches on our 5yo trees from seed,and they are DELICIOUS!  Japanese beetles think so too, but I saved most tonight.  My Jonathon apple has no fruit, but the Macoun is ok, lots of blossom maggots though.  Strawberries did well, but a maple is rooting into my patch.  Got a few blueberries (most come from the inlaws), almost lost a sumac shrub, (too dry?) but it is recovering.  Lettuce good, squashes very good no borers or bugs yet.
Mixed bag, but mostly good.
Sorry for your troubles.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Deb Stephens wrote:So ... what do you do about preventing or curing Cucurbit Yellow Vine Wilt?  [...] It also doesn't seem to have a cure


The University of Kentucky extension service says "... eliminating squash bugs  is  the  key  to  yellow  vine  decline management.  Use  insecticides  to  control  squash  bug as soon as the plants are set or seedlings emerge in the field ... Multiple  foliar  sprays  are  needed ...".

This seems like as good a time as any to tell the story about squash and their associated bugs and micro-organisms... As I understand things, about 60 years ago, commercial plant breeders got the idea that they could protect crops with industrial chemicals. Therefore, they started applying insecticides to their fields to protect the plants against squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and every other known insect. They started applying fungicides and antibiotics to their breeding fields to protect the squash against fungi, rusts, bacteria, spots, etc. Because the squash no longer had to protect themselves against bugs or micro-organisms, the DNA for dealing with them got diluted or lost from commercial strains. According to the industrialized model of growing, crop protection is done with industrial chemicals, it is not done by the plant or it's DNA.

So when people get the bright idea that they want to grow squash, and they don't apply the required chemicals, then they have horrid troubles growing squash, because they are not growing them in the right environment. Industrialized squash varieties require industrialized crop protection chemicals to grow properly. I believe that pretty much all commercially available squash seed has been industrialized in this manner.

The way to prevent or cure Cucurbit Yellow Vine Wilt is to grow a genetically diverse population of squash in areas that are severely affected by the wilt. And to not use any crop protection chemicals. No pesticides. No fungicides. No antibiotics. No diatomaceous earth. No traps. No collars. No fertilizers. No floating row covers. No nothing. And allow them to promiscuously pollinate. After a few generations, the survivors will be approximately immune to squash bugs and to Yellow Vine Wilt.

I have been fortunate the past few years to have a lady growing a small garden inside one of my fields. I have been able to watch this dynamic play out with her squash. She has horrible problems with squash plants dying from all sorts of diseases, and pests!!! She is growing organically. And not applying crop protection chemicals. She plants industrialized seeds. It's sad to take pleasure somewhat related to someone's misfortune, but I watch her squash decimated by bugs and micro-life, while mine are thriving... I'm about 8 generations into growing my own seed without the use of crop protection chemicals. It has paid off handsomely. I've pretty much forgotten that there are any pests or diseases that afflict squash.

So my formula for curing Cucurbit Yellow Vine Wilt would go something like this:

  • Plant a few seeds of lots of different varieties (and species) of squash. Including some older, less industrialized varieties.
  • Allow them to grow without crop protection chemicals or techniques.
  • Allow them to promiscuously cross pollinate.
  • Replant seeds from anything that survives.
  • Repeat each year, planting more than 90% of your squash patch from your own saved seed, and no more than 10% from new varieties.


  • For me, that looked like this:

    Mixta Squash:


    Maxima Squash:


    Zucchini Squash:


    Moschata Squash:


    Lagenaria Squash:










     
    Deb Stephens
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    Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
    The University of Kentucky extension service says "... eliminating squash bugs  is  the  key  to  yellow  vine  decline management.  Use  insecticides  to  control  squash  bug as soon as the plants are set or seedlings emerge in the field ... Multiple  foliar  sprays  are  needed ...".


    The way to prevent or cure Cucurbit Yellow Vine Wilt is to grow a genetically diverse population of squash in areas that are severely affected by the wilt. And to not use any crop protection chemicals. No pesticides. No fungicides. No antibiotics. No diatomaceous earth. No traps. No collars. No fertilizers. No floating row covers. No nothing. And allow them to promiscuously pollinate. After a few generations, the survivors will be approximately immune to squash bugs and to Yellow Vine Wilt.

    So my formula for curing Cucurbit Yellow Vine Wilt would go something like this:

  • Plant a few seeds of lots of different varieties (and species) of squash. Including some older, less industrialized varieties.
  • Allow them to grow without crop protection chemicals or techniques.
  • Allow them to promiscuously cross pollinate.
  • Replant seeds from anything that survives.
  • Repeat each year, planting more than 90% of your squash patch from your own saved seed, and no more than 10% from new varieties.




  • While I appreciate that you have been creating custom crops for your area by collecting and saving your own seeds for awhile, you do make quite a lot of assumptions about what the rest of us are doing wrong that you are doing right--it seems not to have occurred to you that anyone else may be doing the same thing you are doing. In fact, I could have written your formula for you because it is exactly what I have also been doing for nearly a quarter century in my own gardens. I never thought of giving it a name like "landrace" because it was just something obvious and practical to do.

    I do know that many city and urban gardeners as well as BIG agri-business have the over-use of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, hybrid and genetically modified seeds in common more often than not, but most of the folks who frequent these forums do not fall into either of those categories (or if they do, they are usually looking for a way out of it) and you are, therefore, preaching to the choir.

    In my own case ...
    First, I have lived in my present location for 24 years and I have NEVER planted anything but heirloom varieties from trusted seed companies (who also grow heirloom, organic seed), or used chemicals of any kind in my garden. (I could even be certified organic if I could afford it, but since our garden is just for us, that is a moot point.)

    Second, I often call crops by the name of the original seeds that I purchased (often more than a decade ago) because it just makes talking about them easier if they have a recognized name, but I suppose I could also make up new names for my varieties because by now, they are pretty much my own (while still exhibiting many of the features of the parent crops), so I am not planting "industrialized squash varieties" using the "industrialized model of growing". It is only my penchant for diversity that keeps me going back to purchased or traded seeds in addition to my own tried and true varieties. I like to try new things and I always hope that by putting fresh genes in the mix I will get something interesting (like those unusual hot peppers I mentioned way back in an earlier post). I try to plant a few new things every year--for the novelty if nothing else--but also because I feel that only by experimenting with other plants, can we find something that may be useful to us in the future as our climate continues to change. Maybe that increases the chances of getting a weakened plant, but I don't think so considering how careful I am about my seed sources.

    Third, Every location has its own set of problems. Just because you are not having trouble with squash bugs or bacterial wilt, etc. does not automatically mean that it is because you have developed particularly resistant varieties. It could also mean that the bugs and/or diseases have not found your location, your weather, your local growing conditions, etc. as favorable as somewhere else. It is a well-known fact that insects are much worse (from mosquitoes to cockroaches and everything in between) in tropical areas. Wet, humid, hot environments promote both insect development and bacterial and fungal development. Since your environment is about as far removed from the tropics as possible, you probably never have as many insects or fungal diseases available to damage your crops--whether they are resistant strains or "industrialized varieties" in the first place. Where I live, only the occasion of winter on a regular basis keeps us from feeling like we are in a jungle. Our summer heat and (especially) HUMIDITY levels are infamous. This is where the saying "It's not the heat, it's the humidity ..." originated, I think. So ... bugs and fungus love us. It is a LOT harder to handpick a million squash bugs off a plant than a few here and there. Sometimes you work at it all day and it still isn't enough.

    No, I think this years bad luck is just that for some of us. It isn't that we don't know how to grow things or how to identify and pick off squash bugs or that we use genetically modified seeds or harsh chemicals, etc. We may not all be lucky enough to have endless fields to cultivate so that crop failure in part of it is no big deal, but we aren't all complete novices who don't know how to keep our crops alive in the usual ways either.

    As for developing resistant strains suitable to our growing area, don't think we haven't tried, but it is rather difficult to save seeds from dead squash (or any other dead plant). When everything dies, despite your best efforts to save them, you are kind of stuck using old seed or buying new seeds. Breeding new and better squashes, tomatoes, spinach, what-have-you requires something to start with whether you plant acres or a backyard garden.


    One last thing ... You said "The way to prevent or cure Cucurbit Yellow Vine Wilt ..." prior to your advice about growing pest-free squash, but you have not actually given either a practical and effective prevention or a cure here. What you offer is a method of growing resistant strains which will HOPEFULLY deter squash bugs and disease over several years or a lifetime. That is management, not cure. For those of us who are already managing and developing strains suited to our regions but are still losing our crops, that is not particularly useful. You can't feed your family on philosophy and experimentation.
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    To me, it is practical and effective to spend a lifetime developing my own varieties of foodcrops.  They will be with my for a lifetime. I have my whole life to work on developing varieties that thrive on my farm. Not only for my lifetime, but for farmers 10,000 years from now... Some of the breeding projects that I am working on were started by my great great grandfather.

    I had 100% crop failure on runner beans for the first 5 years that I planted them. No worries, I just searched further afield for more genetically diverse seed.

    I had 100% crop failure on mixta squash for the first 5 years that I planted them. Again, I just sought out more and more varieties.

    I had 75% crop failure on moschata squash the first year that I planted them.

    I had 98% crop failure on watermelons the first year that I planted them. 7 plants survived out of hundreds of varieties.

    Of the 300 named cultivars of tomatoes that I have trialed, 285 of them failed.

    Today, all of those crops are super reliable for me.

    I really really really can't trust seed that comes from a seed company. The only thing I have to go in is a pretty photo and a description full of exaggerations.

    The only seed that I can trust to grow in my garden, is that which I raised here last year, and the year before, and the year before, and the year before... Or which was similarly grown by my close neighbors.

    And even if every squash that I planted this year were to fail, whatever. I'm growing grains, greens, brassicas, melons, corn, 11 species of beans, edible dahlias, breadseeds, beets, cherries, apples, plums, nuts, edible weeds, sunroots, etc. More than 100 species of food. With so much diversity, it doesn't matter to me if one variety fails, or even if a whole species fails, or even a whole family. There are plenty of other varieties, species, and families. I still have squash seed that I raised from last year, and from the year before, and from the year before. I have backup copies squirreled away all over. I can't imagine any scenario in which I would have to start over using industrialized seed. It's not like I can say, "Oops, I ran out of zucchini seed, guess I'll go get a packet at the store.". I make contingency plans to keep a good supply of seed on hand from the only varieties that really thrive for me: Those that are unique to my farm, and that have been growing successfully here for many generations.










     
    Charli Wilson
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    Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
    I had 100% crop failure on runner beans for the first 5 years that I planted them. No worries, I just searched further afield for seed.

    I had 100% crop failure on mixta squash for the first 5 years that I planted them. Again, I just sought out more and more varieties.


    I only have 1/10th of an acre! I don't have room to plant anything where I don't get a result for 5 years!

    And 500 squash plants would be amazing! I have room for about 4.

    Last cucumber has succumbed this morning Everything is so damp here as it won't stop raining. All courgette plants healthy, but the mini courgettes all have blossom end rot. The pear tree has what is probably rust.
    On the plus side, some of my newly grafted apples have suddenly perked up and are looking better!
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    Looks like most of my problems were lack of water - I thought I'd be able to get away with watering once a week, but this heat plus wind makes that implausible.  After a thorough watering yesterday, things are looking much better this morning.  Squash bugs are still lurking around the cucumbers, so they may keel over at any moment....

     
    Casie Becker
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    Charli Wilson wrote:

    I only have 1/10th of an acre! I don't have room to plant anything where I don't get a result for 5 years!

    And 500 squash plants would be amazing! I have room for about 4.


    You might work on one plant at a time. This is the first year that I've had good results with runner beans after three years of moving them around until I found their ideal location in my yard. Before these I've never seen a bean.  Now that I've found their location I can think about slowly starting to select (considering I can only fit a few plants in this spot) for plants that are better adapted to my conditions.

    I've also had it work the other way around.  Since I've been here. Out of the three spots I've tried tomatoes, They've only thrived in the second location. There are probably other factors in play, but we'll keep experimenting until we have a few spots we can successfully rotate them through. I did save seed from the best plants for that year, but misplaced them before spring planting. I'm going to get that variety back into the ground for this fall.

    Since I am working within the constraints of a single suburban yard, I'm just thinking that it'll take me more time. This is one of the areas where I am exceptionally grateful that I'm starting this project so many decades before I retire. Hopefully when I'm old and worn down I will have crops that can be more forgiving of a gardener's failures.
    Charli Wilson wrote:

    Last cucumber has succumbed this morning Everything is so damp here as it won't stop raining. All courgette plants healthy, but the mini courgettes all have blossom end rot.
     

    Not a guarantee, but when I had squash starting to get blossom end rot from excessive rain (Last year) crumbling up egg shells at the base of the plants put a stop to it. Of course, I still lost the whole plant to another cause shortly after that, but the blossom end rot stopped. 
     
    Joseph Lofthouse
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    My continuing failures with runner beans and mixta squash were only one 45 foot row of each per year, so combined they occupied about 1/1000th of my garden.

    Casie Becker wrote:This is one of the areas where I am exceptionally grateful that I'm starting this project so many decades before I retire. Hopefully when I'm old and worn down I will have crops that can be more forgiving of a gardener's failures.


    I wish that I had started growing my own seed much earlier in my life. Heck, I wish that I had never left the farm to go work for The Corporation... Oh well, boo hoo.

    Carrots used to fail for me year after year, because they germinated so slowly, and grew so slowly that they'd get lost in the weeds. So I struggled to grow carrots. Then one year I had an idea... I would plant a highly genetically diverse patch of carrots, and not weed them at all! Then, if anything survived, no matter how scrawny and bedraggled. I would grow seed from it. So I grew carrots without weeding. Some of them survived, and got about the size of my pinky finger by fall. Whatever. I grew seed from them. And replanted without weeding.  The next generation I weeded, and culled mightily. Anything that was slow to germinate or that grew slowly as a seedling got chopped out. The only carrots that are allowed on my farm these days jump quickly out of the ground and grow robustly so that they can get ahead of the weeds so that I can find them to weed early. That has become the most important trait of my carrots. It has become an important trait for nearly every crop that I grow. It's common for me to walk through the garden and intentionally kill up to about 15% of a crop. Anything that is growing much slower than the rest of the patch gets chopped out. No sense allowing it's genetics to contaminate the rest of the garden.

    More often than not, I lose pea crops to the weeds. That's my own fault. I could weed them. I could grow them on a trellis where the weeds wouldn't compete so fiercely. For easier weeding, I could grow them in rows rather than in beds. I could transplant them rather than direct seeding. I could space them further apart so they'd be easier to weed. I could change the genetics of my peas. What if I over-wintered peas instead of spring planting them? What if I stopped planting peas at all and grew something easier to weed like fava beans?

    I generally find the third year to be the magical year when I'm localizing genetically diverse plant populations to my garden. The first year, things that are only marginal tend to self-eliminate via purely natural survival-of-the-fittest.  The second year, things tend to grow much better, and I'm able to select parents that do much better than average. By the third year things are really thriving.

    My methods work best if promiscuous pollination is allowed and encouraged, and if tremendous genetic diversity is included from the beginning. I'm not stewarding highly-inbred heirloom "varieties", I'm stewarding species, and in some cases "multi-species complexes".  For example, I'm growing 4 species of corn this year, and two inter-species corn hybrids. I planted 8 species of tomatoes this year. Only 6 of them are still with me. I'm creating and growing inter-species tomato hybrids. When I write about breeding crops for farmers ten thousand years from now, these are the crops that I am talking about. Illiterate plant breeders were able to move the ecological range of corn north/south by 4000 miles, and move it a couple miles higher in elevation. I am working on doing the same sort of thing for other species. I don't have any reason to believe that our current easy access to genetics from around the world will be with us for long, so I aim to take full advantage of it while still available.

    There are more than 300 varieties of beans in my landrace. No matter what the weather, pests, or diseases are doing in any particular year, some of them thrive. (What is not shown in this photo, are the hundreds of varieties of beans that have failed in my garden over the years. What if I had only planted one variety? And that happened to be one of the varieties that will never be suitable for my garden, regardless of a particular year's growing conditions?)


     
    Ever since I found this suit I've felt strange new needs. And a tiny ad:
    learn permaculture through a little hard work and get an acre of land
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