Summer in Succession
The summer vegetable garden is growing and producing well, helped along by consistent evening thunderstorms. The new succession of okra are already about a foot tall - behind them the older okra plants are still providing okra daily. There are also young squash and bean plants that should start producing in about a month, around the time the current peppers and tomatoes are slowing down.
Squash Plants and Their Insects
This grey bug is aptly named a squash bug. I saw her in the act of laying her eggs on the leaf of one of the squash plants. Squash bugs are a pest insect for cucurbit plants, and I can often find their bronze eggs in little clusters on the leaves of our zucchini and summer squashes. When I see the eggs, I lightly brush them off with my fingers. I did let this bug finish her business - it seemed rude to interrupt.
Another pest I am starting to see on our squash plants is Mexican bean beetles. These beetles are orange with black spots; they look a little like ladybugs, and they are indeed related to them. However, unlike most lady beetles, these guys eat plants instead of insects. We often have a lot of them on our bean plants, sometimes to the point that they can be detrimental to our harvest. But in a no-till, all-natural garden, the goal is balance. For now, this bed of squash is growing happily and healthily enough that these few pests are not an issue at all- the plants are able to outgrow any damage. Behind the squash, you can see the companion planting of bush beans also thriving. (I haven't seen the Mexican bean beetles on them yet - no one tell them they're there!).
Speaking of balance, beneficial insects continue to thrive in our gardens. The bumble bees love to crawl down into the squash flowers. In the flower garden, the sunflowers are a popular all-you-can-eat buffet for a variety of pollinators. I always feel bad cutting them for our bouquets, but it just means that more blooms will open soon!
Working for the Future
A lot of our current labor is going into weeding our main vegetable garden. Our plan is to convert it into an extension of our flower garden, more than doubling our space for flowers. (Don't worry, the vegetables will get a new space too). Specifically, we're using these beds to plant all of our flowers that need to be grown over the winter. Those young flower plants will need to be planted into the beds by late September. We want the garden to be weed free and the beds to be prepped by the time those little seedlings go in, so the race is on!
Our nemesis, Bermuda grass, is by far the main weed we have in this garden. As Rosa mentioned in the last blog, it is nearly impossible to smother. The stems here were completely smashed under a thick tarp and 6 inches of mulch - and they still lay in wait to grow out into the sun. Nevertheless, we are making great progress in hand-pulling every bit we can find. We've been helped a lot in this process by our part-time workers, so many thanks to them!
The vegetable plants currently in this garden have a little over a month before we'll have to sacrifice them to make room for flowers. But for now they are happily growing produce for us. Ignorance is bliss!
This Friday, Concetta, Rosa, and I all worked together to seed start a whole bunch of seeds - over 1,000. Most of them are overwintering flowers - the ones that in September will be planted into the ground, where they will get a chance to establish before the winter frost comes. Then they'll slow down their growth until the warmth of spring, when they'll give us healthy and early spring blooms. We also seed started some fall veggies - a variety of beets, kale, and collards. The kale and collards will be able to grow into the winter as well, as they are relatively frost tolerant.
Bagheera is greatly enjoying his job as a farm cat. He commutes most days to the farm with me and Rosa (unless he'd rather stay home and nap). He happily follows us around as we work in the gardens, playing and keeping a watchful eye out for anything he needs to chase - including wood chips!