Things are starting to wind down in the garden, although there are some things that are just getting started – for instance, our yellow crook neck squash? We just took the first couple of squash off the plant yesterday and ate them for dinner!
We whipped together another pork roast with rainbow chard from the garden and served it alongside the crook neck squash that we sauteed with some crispy bits of bacon and chard from the stuffing. Needless to say, our meal bright and fresh with all the fresh-picked veg from the garden! All things that can be appreciated. There is something uniquely satisfying when you are picking things in your garden that you know will make it to the table that evening.
In the other corner of our garden, we decided to break open the potato box since the plants had shot up some time ago and a combination of natural over-watering from the endless thunderstorms and intermittent heat waves we have been getting killed the tops of the plant. In short, we probably just doubled the amount of potatoes that we buried. Well,… possibly more than doubled. We only planted 18 potatoes and turned out at least a few pounds.
I’m not too disappointed with our box, but the yield leaves something to be desired considering the hype with potato boxes lately. I have a few ideas for our next one to get it to produce more – including implementing a watering system and using more coarse planting material. At least I have the winter to make new plans and research possible improvements!
We are experiencing some difficulties with our carrots. Slowly, over the past couple of months we have been tending our carrots, thinning them out as they grow and monitoring them fairly carefully and eagerly awaiting the thick, round stalks to be ready to be plucked and eaten. I went out to pick some of the larger carrots and noticed bundles of small, oval-ish, grey-white bugs gathered at the base of the green stalks and the tops of the carrots.
Now, bugs when I was a kid didn’t give me the heebie jeebies, but as an adult?? I get all itchy and scratchy just looking at bugs. They freak me out, although I keep my composure and deal with them promptly, all the while doing the heebie jeebie dance. So imagine my delight when I noticed these bundles of bugs. These are akin to the bed bug images I saw when I was in middle school. It’s just the small, tiny types you would rather not discover or even think about. But what were they???
Half of the carrots weren’t afflicted. I noticed that the ones that weren’t covered in bugs had their tops securely planted and covered in dirt. The ones that were competing with the bugs had a bit of their tops exposed and fighting for space with another carrot nearby – sometimes even touching (our thinning out of the carrots leaves a bit to be desired…). I pulled the “safe” carrots out and set them in our basket, then got one of our trowels and used it to safely dig out the carrots with the bug-aroos and examine them a bit further.
It would appear that the bugs were eating trails in the carrots but from the inside, out – drying out the outer layers of the carrots along the way. What the heck are these things??? Apparently, they are carrot root flies.
Carrot root flies also appear if you thin out carrots or cut down any of the carrot tops and leave them near your garden instead of disposing of them immediately and these are bugs that come along within hours – so it is important not to leave any trace of a pulled carrot or parts of the tops around while you are working with them before it’s time to harvest. We have been taking extreme care to avoid these pesky bugs, but apparently we didn’t harvest the carrots that were ready soon enough.
These tiny white or yellowish maggots tunnel into the carrots. If they attack them early, the plants will be stunted and wont grow any further. If your carrots are attacked later in the season, the roots can be made useless and your carrots wont grow any longer than they have at the point of the attack.
If you notice these maggots on the plants, they have already pupated in the soil and will surface as adults a few weeks later or as late as the following spring. Here in England, parsnips are usually afflicted by these rather than carrots in the southern half of the country.
And as it turns out, controlling an outbreak is quite difficult. Building a fence of polythene about 60-75 centimeters high will keep most of them out and you will have very little issue with your carrots but the barrier can’t have ANY gaps – especially at the ground level. You have to ensure that the polythene is tucked into the soil. Doing this just as soon as the carrots have germinated is the only way to ensure the safety of your crops. Some people have grown onions and garlic with the carrots to confuse the carrot flies but this tactic has had varying success. Sprinkling the area with used/old coffee grounds scattered along the row and over the root tops has given good results but must be replenished as it is washed away by the rain or by manual watering of your plants. So it’s a good thing my husband drinks a pot of coffee every day!
We planted a late cropping rotation of just regular orange carrots about month after the purple dragon heart carrots went in and now I am worried about protecting them long enough to get some kind of harvest from them. With our Indian summer, we have been getting plenty of sun and temperatures in the 80s to promote their growth but since that bed was recently afflicted with the carrot root flies, I have to watch each of them more carefully. These carrots aren’t even to the size of being baby, one-bite carrots yet! It’s possible we won’t get any carrots out of this rotation with the appearance of the flies/maggots. Only time will tell.
Just about three weeks ago, we also planted a new rotation of radishes and beets since they come about within six weeks and we really enjoyed them earlier this summer and I discovered cutworms on them! They had been feasting on our brussell sprouts, which I did little about – but when they finished feasting on our five brussell sprout plants that shot up but didn’t grow much after that, they moved on to our baby radish tops!
I learned online that you can sprinkle flour on the wet tops and when the cutworms come out at night and crawl onto the leaves, then they will get stuck in the paste, fall off and die. I’m hoping that it will work. They have managed to eat about half of the tops. I’m not sure that those ones will produce radishes or if they will re-grow. It’s one of those things that we are learning as we go. So far, the beets seem to be safe.
For now, anyways.
Our golden beets that we planted back in April are still not very large at all and they have either stopped growing all together or are just growing at a snail’s pace! I can’t wait to see if we get any golden beets…. since I recently discovered that I like beets, I am eager to use our own beets out of our garden to put in some salads for a light meal.
It is bittersweet to see that our garden is starting to die off as Fall approaches but we have had a good run this year and enjoyed quite a few hauls! We still have pumpkin, beets, radishes, tomatillos, carrots, tomatoes, corn, squash and cucumbers coming out of our garden – but it will go quickly, I’m sure.
Mei has really grown with our garden. She has learned about sowing seeds, transplanting, picking ripe (and sometimes, green) tomatoes from our plants every couple of days – getting really excited after her breakfast and daily Postman Pat show about putting on her Minnie Mouse wellies and helping to water, weed and harvest anything that is ready in our garden. She often just bee-lines it for the tomatoes and walks behind me, plucking ripe tomatoes and eating them all before we get a chance to take them inside!
Her job is to hold the colander or basket and gather the bits that we harvest and take them inside for washing. She enjoys slices of cucumber and tomatoes with every lunch and dinner she eats! So far, we have managed to get two quart size bags of string beans from the string bean plants that survived our couple weeks of perpetual thunderstorm showers and it’s just been a lot of fun, all the time we have spent as a family out there! I can’t wait, as we get ready for the winter to see the end of the rest of our crops and plan out next year’s garden!