July 2021: Pests

July kicked off with blueberry picking at a local farm. I picked 13 bucketfuls this year. I didn’t keep track of how many gallons or pounds that translated into, but I do know my little basement freezer is now full. I’d pretty much emptied that freezer just before blueberry season started, so it was a good thing to get it restocked.

July also kicked off with an onslaught of pests! In fact, it felt like I spent most of the month battling them instead of gardening. The Japanese beetles seemed endless as I made tours of the garden at least three times a day to knock the newcomers into soapy water to die. They stayed under control, but only because of my vigilance.

Also early in the month I discovered some cute little bugs on my squash plants–cute, at least, until I realized that they were squash bug nymphs and were the reason my butternut squash plants looked pretty sad. I started searching my squash several times a day for new nymphs, adults, and eggs and I destroyed everything I found. Still, they kept coming. Already, the only squash I plant is butternut because squash vine borers have repeatedly destroyed every other kind of squash I’ve tried to grow. At least with squash bugs, unlike the borers, they don’t do their damage from INSIDE the vines where you can’t get at them, but they are relentless. And the adults are pretty big and juicy and they stink, so they’re really unpleasant to squish.

And bugs weren’t the only pests. Earlier this summer, the electric company severely cut back the trees along the alley to make way for higher-powered electric lines to feed the new apartment complex behind us. One tree that got a major trimming was a tree of heaven that is located in my neighbor’s yard just over the property line. Angered, the tree is seeking its vengeance, or at least it’s putting extra energy into spreading into new areas because the main tree was cut so severely. Trees of heaven are an extremely invasive species and they shoot up new trees all along their spreading root system. This tree has a lot of roots that travel through my garden.

Normally, I get a bunch of trees of heaven popping up all over my garden, but this year I think there are even more as the tree sinks a lot of energy into making new trunks in case its existing main trunk gets completely destroyed. I’ve almost wanted to give up a couple times as I’ve looked at them all filling my garden. It barely feels like I’m making progress in fighting them back, but then I keep at it. Because they’re popping up from hidden roots, you can’t simply pull them up to get rid of them. If you do, two trees will appear in the first one’s place. So, instead, they are one of the very few things that I use weed killer on. It’s nerve-wracking as I wade into my garden, trying not to trample anything and trying to dab a little weed killer only on the bad tree and not on my good plants. And then my garden is dotted with yellowed and dying tree shoots, so it’s just ugly all the way around.

Also frustrating was the fact that we didn’t get much rain during the month, so I had to be watering constantly. It’s never ideal and it always feels like I’m simply buying my plants time until we get some real rain. That may be partly why my bean plants don’t seem to be thriving this year.

But, there are plenty of good things in my garden, despite the pests and limited rain. My melons are doing well. I’m growing three varieties that yield small fruits, which are great for my garden. My tomatoes also started to ripen in July, and by the end of the month I was getting plenty of fruits. I have six varieties planted, and four are doing really well. Only one hadn’t resulted in ripe tomatoes by the end of the month. Hopefully August will bring samples of all six. And, I’ve got plenty of little Mexican sour gherkins. I grew them last year and they were fun–about the size of a nickel and extremely abundant. I decided to grow them again this year, but it turns out that I needen’t have planted any because a lot of them came up as volunteers.

In July, my garden also included lots of blooms and a harvest of blackberries. I froze most of the blackberries to save them until I have time to make jam. Some of the blooms that I’m particularly happy about are the nasturtiums. I love the little flowers and the way that their leaves hold droplets of water. They grew really well the first year I had a garden, but I haven’t been able to get them growing since. I’m happy they’re back this year.