08.16.16 This Week in the Garden, Begin Again

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Rust Spider Mites on Tomato Stems

Returning to the garden after two weeks sans irrigation things were looking pretty desperate.  It’s been a horrible year for tomatoes– sporadic watering, dry hot conditions, and dust blown up from the adjacent residential neighborhoods ‘mow and blow’ gardening conspired to create the perfect conditions for spider mites (I believe these are ‘rust’ spider mites).  The mites weave a spidery web around new growth (see the gossamer sheath on the green area above) and then suck the growth dry.  Immature tomato fruit falls off as the stems of the plant collapse and turn brown.  Short of installing some kind of irrigation system to prevent water stress (not going to happen), I expect the mites to return next year.  I’m quite disappointed, since tomatoes are my favorite home garden crop..

Yesterday being the first day of school, I got a new start at the garden, pulling back the hay mulch, uprooting up the dead, mite-infested tomato plants, and turning in some fresh compost and chicken manure.  I am planning to plant winter crops in the coming week– deliberating whether to start them from seed or from starts.  It’s hard to keep the soil in these beds moist enough to start from seed this time of year without using a heavy (and seed stunting) mulch, so I may go with starts.

The crowning glory of this year’s summer garden was the pumpkin volunteer.  Now that it is finally grown I believe it is a Fairytale pumpkin, Cucurbita moschata, a French variety also known as Musque De Provence, that seeded itself from a pumpkin I bought (and must have cooked and composted) last year.  It sustained a few injuries from rodent gnawing, but in the end may be one of the best pumpkins I’ve ever grown.  I was happy to put it up on display in the spirit of Hogwart’s Hagrid to welcome the students back to school.  After Halloween, I will hope to cook it up for the students, and save its seeds in the hopes of another round next year.  Looking back, the pumpkin got started remarkably early, sprouting in March— so I assume seeds will need to be in the ground by February if we want to try to do this on purpose next year.  Given my intense love of pumpkins, it’s nice that one came magically out of the garden this year.

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