Summer in the Demonstration Garden has been quite a learning experience; from judging a vegetable's perfect ripeness to dealing with persistent garden pests, everyday held a different task to conquer!
Perhaps the most challenging task, which continues to elude me, is navigating my way around gigantic plants that have sprawled into the path and encroach on their neighbor's bed. Pushing through the eggplant and tiptoeing around the tomatoes and melons are a fine exercise in balance and flexibility. Every week I dutifully hack away at the overgrowth only to see it magically reappear on Monday. If you have walked past the garden lately, then you may have seen the pumpkin vines spilling onto the ground. This is the plants attempt to turn the garden into a pumpkin patch.
As a consequence of this, it's often a challenge to locate the produce hidden within the plant's greenery. Volunteers often harvest baby-size cucumbers and zucchini that had previously escaped notice. These vegetables will not stop growing and can avoid detection quite well considering their mammoth proportions. (Note: Huge cucumbers, of the variety we grew, have incredibly bitter seeds. Left to grow so long they made their seeds bitter to discourage being eaten so the seeds would survive and produce the next generation.)
An unrelated and particularly unpleasant garden problem I also experienced was summer pests. I have written previously of my battles with true bugs but their levels have diminished significantly since my reigns of bug-eliminating terror. The new offenders are mites and white flies. Mites look like small aphids and come in a variety of colors while white flies are tiny, pale and winged. Combined, they both took out an entire row of summer squash after repeated attempts at eradication. Unfortunately, I should have sprayed NEEM, a go-to natural pesticide, much earlier in my pest management but I was determined that a natural sticky spray could take care of the problem. Alas! The things you learn.
Have you had any summer gardening challenges? Feel free to come chat with me whenever the Demonstration Garden gates are open. Happy last days of summer!
Submitted by Kate Wilkins, AmeriCorps VISTA at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.