I am going on my third year of having a vegetable garden in the backyard. I consider myself a "black thumb", I think they call it? I can grow lucious green foliage and get a handful of vegetables, but that is about it. I have several issues actually. The squirrels, rabbits, blossom end rot or bugs/worms are what I tackle with all of my plants. I try to be as natural as possible. I can't bring myself to spray chemicals for pests and I use mulch or straw to help with weeds.
This year I have cherry and regular tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and two potted red bell pepper plants. I am also trying pumpkins for the first time this year. I love to decorate with them in the fall. Hopefully this year I won't have to buy them! So far, I haven't seen any bugs or worms. The plants are nice and big and full of green leaves. They all have several blossoms as well, but most of them are rotting once the fruit begins to grow. It's very disheartening and frustrating. Here is one of the zucchini plants that has one that might make it, but a couple of others have already started to turn yellow. I have one yellow squash that we picked today. Not confident on how it will taste though.
I used Black Gold Natural and Organic Potting Soil plus Fertilizer and Bluebird Premium Blend Organic Compost mixed in with the soil and leftover potting soil and compost from last season. I then used Osmocote fertilizer in each whole when I transplanted the plants. I have no idea how much is the right amount. That is where I'm a little lost. I do feel good about the potting soil and compost choices. The Osmocote was recommended by a friend that has one of the greenest thumbs I know. She knows her stuff and is my go to person with questions. This year, I think I have only called her once. I decided to wing it. ;)
My next step is to add epson salt to the plants with blossom end rot. My research (and talking with my friend last year) shows it's most likely a calcium deficiency. I tried lime last year and it did not help. If the epson salt doesn't work, I might try adding it at transplant time, rather than waiting and keeping my fingers crossed.
I do want to share a tip that really works for me and made a difference last year. I prune the tomatoes and stake them. I tried the cages with pruning and the cages with the stakes, but nothing was as neat or simple as staking them. I prune the suckers (the part that grows in the middle of the main stalk and branches that grow from the stalk). I also use old t-shirts to tie the main stalk to a stake. If all of the suckers are pruned, I only have the main stalk to stake. If the suckers continue to grow, then they become so heavy that they too must be staked. That is too much work and takes up too much space for me.
Last year, this method grew several large tomatoes. The problem was SQUIRRELS!!! The tomatoes would ripen perfectly until they needed just one more day before being picked and then they would be gone the next morning. GONE!! Two of my neighbors found half eaten tomatoes in their yards. I saw one bright red juicy tomatoe with bites taken out at the top of our privacy fence. Oh the frustration. I started picking them early and letting them ripen inside. But they still ate more than we did probably. As you can see in the picture, I am using pie pans as a deterrent. I have them attached to the tops of the stakes and then in the beds where I don't have cages. These cages are boxes with chicken wire attached, simply to keep the rabbits out.
The rabbits are my other nemesis. They ate two pepper plants before I could get them protected with the cages. They also snatched up the dill plants right out of the ground. It's as if they were never there. The dill was meant as a companion plant to deter squash bugs and cucumber beetles. I wasn't able to get the dill replanted so I'm not able to see if it would have helped. So far, no bugs to be seen. I stake the squash and zucchini too though, which has helped with bugs in the past.
The game plan for the weekend is to fertilize and add the epson salt. I might reconfigure the pie pans or have the kids paint them, just to keep the squirrels and rabbits guessing. I almost decided not to have a garden this year. Too much pressure and time and effort. The kids have loved it though and they get super excited seeing the vegetables grow, sort of, until they fall off. Ha! But we get to talk about where our food comes from and they chase the rabbits. I'm glad we did plant a few things though and it's also another chance to practice new techniques. It's kind of like life, we won't learn anything new if nothing ever goes wrong and we don't have to think through a solution.
Here's to happy gardening. Let me know if you all have any favorite squirrel and rabbit deterrents or have had success with blossom end rot. (I apologize for these huge pictures. I'm still learning how to navigate the site and images.)
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Scripture/Quote of the Week:
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
Who Am I?
Hi! I am Pam. I am so glad you stopped by to take a look at my blog. I am a Christian, wife, stay at home PCOS mom and homeschool mom to three amazing kiddos and I'm all about all natural living and eating....realistically.
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There are several pages with information on what works for our family, references and my passions. Hop over to the About section for more details on my story and I hope you will follow me in this journey! I'm always open to comments!