Bugs made this into a skeleton leaf

Bugs made this into a skeleton leaf

It’s always hard when you have to pull out plants mid-season. At the beginning, there is so much hope and even wishes of a full recovery, but sometimes it’s best to just face reality. That’s what happened last week when I pulled four of our zucchini and squash plants.

Most of the leaves had been chewed up beyond recognition (thanks, leafhoppers) and the few green leaves in the middle were just too small to sustain a healthy and viable plant. While I was disappointed, I was also thrilled. Why? No signs of squash vine borer damage. That’s right, NONE.

I did a little happy dance (so what if the neighbors think I’m crazy) because this was the first year we didn’t lose any to that damn borer. Luckily I found a few more zucchini plants at the store, and, if all goes well, we should have some by the end of August or early September (they’re quick to mature – about 45 days). Fingers crossed it works out!


A few weeks ago our tomatoes were looking a little shoddy. Yellow and brown spots starting appearing on the lower leaves, creeping up toward the top. It was early blight, a fungus that spreads in wet and warm weather.

Signs of early blight on the tomatoes. Wet, warm weather is usually the cause.

Signs of early blight on the tomatoes. Wet, warm weather is usually the cause.

It has been an extraordinarily wet summer (a record-setting one, at that) and we’ve had pretty hot and humid weather. So far, we seem to have it under control by picking off the affected leaves to stop its spread and increase airflow, plus spraying with copper fungicide as needed.

Our tomatoes are finally starting to turn red, which is late, but we can’t wait until they’re ready to eat!

In just two weeks, we had hundreds of them snared. Leafhoppers, cucumber beetles, mealybugs – all hopelessly trapped in our garden, thanks to the genius invention that is the yellow sticky trap.

Lots of bugs stuck to the yellow traps. Kind of gross, but well worth it to save the garden!

Lots of bugs stuck to the yellow traps. Kind of gross, but well worth it to save the garden

I don’t know why we didn’t try these earlier; they truly are a godsend for us this summer. So what is this miracle, you ask? It’s basically a thin piece of cardboard covered in a sticky, glue-like substance.

The yellow color attracts insects that are also attracted to the yellow flowers of cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, etc. Although in theory, this could catch bees and other beneficial bugs, we haven’t had that happen yet.

A pack of 15 (ordered from Amazon) was relatively cheap and it’s a non-toxic way to control insects. It’s something that is well worth it, in our opinion, to stop the little destructors that eat and sometimes kill our plants.

Cucumber beetle trapped!

Cucumber beetle trapped!

I do wonder if some of our zucchini plants would have survived if we used these earlier. Many of them were just destroyed by those tiny bug jaws.

It’s becoming a summer ritual, but nothing fun like going out for ice cream or sitting outside enjoying the sunshine. Nevertheless, it begins every year around this time. We are preparing for battle against the squash vine borer.

Found several eggs on this plant -- very hard to spot

Found several eggs on this plant — very hard to spot (yes they’re in the picture)

I’ve written extensively about this problem before and always hope for the best. This summer we found vine borer eggs on our yellow squash and zucchini plants. They are hard to spot — very tiny light brown eggs laid on the plants not in clusters but individually.

My new nightly ritual for the next few weeks will be inspecting every inch of the plants, picking off and crushing any eggs I find.

Also, we’re taking a proactive approach and injecting each stem with Bt, a natural bacteria that can kill the borer if it hatches and tunnels into the vines. If the past few years are any indication, we’ll lose at least some of the zucchini and squash. If it happens again, we’re done with zucchini for at least a year or two so it can move on to someone else’s garden.


IMG_9753 Our sugar snap peas got super tall this year — Matt is about 6 feet tall for comparison. Granted, they are planted in raised beds that are about a foot off the ground. But still, these suckers got big! We just harvested close to a hundred of these and the snow peas. Going to be a delicious side for dinner tonight!

One of the most common tips for planning a garden (and being successful) is determining how much sunlight your garden space will get. If you’re like us, you have a limited amount of good sunny spots for growing plants like tomatoes and peppers that need lots and lots of sun to thrive.

Our house faces north, and our gardens are around the detached garage — some on the east side and some on the south side. It’s not perfectly aligned to the compass but pretty much accurate. We also have lots of trees in our yard and in surrounding yards, which make a difference in how much sunlight each spot will get during the day.

The gallery below shows how much of a difference sunlight makes to how big plants get. It’s of the hostas we have planted in almost all of our regular garden beds. Time of day and which type of sun (morning, afternoon, etc), as well as where they are planted are noted in the captions.


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IMG_9688It’s actually quite pathetic. We got some broccoli and some radishes, but only enough to make side dishes for one meal.

The broccoli was just sauteed in olive oil with a squeeze of lemon. The radishes were cooked in butter with some chives.

Simple, but very good!

We’ve tried for a couple of years to get great broccoli but it’s not working for us. Earlier this month we had a crazy hot spell — something you’d expect in July and not early May — with temperatures in the 80s and creeping toward 90 on some days.

Bolted broccoli. Again. Still tasty though!

Bolted broccoli. Again. Still tasty though!

It started really well — big leaves and small, compact broccoli heads. But once the temperatures spiked, it was all over. What broccoli was growing started to bolt. The stalks were separating and starting to produce flowers. Some of the other ones weren’t even growing (though now that the weather has cooled significantly, they seem to be bouncing back.)

Oh well. We plan try again in the fall, starting from seeds. Next year, I’m going to use our old garden beds as cold frames and get the broccoli, peas and lettuce started way early. Maybe even February. Maybe even when there is still snow on the ground. We’ll see how it goes.

The mysterious cluster of insect eggs. Or pollen. Who knows!

The mysterious cluster of insect eggs. Or pollen. Who knows!

Random side note:  This year when we cut the main heads, I discovered a cluster of what looked like yellow eggs on one of the broccoli stems. After a bit of searching, I came up empty as to what it was. Best guess was maybe ladybugs, but those looked like shinier eggs. It could just be a bunch of pollen trapped in a spider web, too. Has anyone else seen something like this?


Radish ready to pick!

Radish ready to pick!

It’s pretty simple, actually. They’ll pop up out of the ground! We pulled four out so far, with more coming soon.

Even though radishes are spring crops, we plan to plant some more by the cucumbers because they help deter certain bugs, including the cucumber beetle which has hurt our plants every year.

Last year we tore out even more honeysuckle and created a new flower bed in our backyard. It’s also a place to give our blueberry bushes a proper home.

A pop up blackberry bush?

A pop up blackberry bush?

This spring, as we covered the fallen leaves with topsoil and pulled some weeds, we noticed a plant that looked familiar. At first I thought it was poison ivy or some Virginia creeper that’s all over the woods. But, we’re pretty sure it’s a new blackberry bush.

We tore out our old one last summer because it died, but maybe it set down a shoot that’s only now sprouting. That’s our hope, at least. Only time will tell.