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Why shouldn't I give up?

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Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  1airdoc on 7/19/2014, 1:51 pm

So I'm headed into the end of my 4th year of SFG, and I'm considering drastic measures. Photos of my garden are below, but to summarize, every year the garden starts out absolutely gorgeous, and then sometime in June, disease and bugs destroy everything. I've tried all the organic solutions recommended here; they didn't make any difference. I bought disease-resistant seeds and grew them; no better. Used limited pesticides; disease and death still reigned. I know the tomatoes are being killed off by early blight which I understand is endemic and cannot be eradicated, only prevented. So, for the last two years I covered the soil in my tomato bed with weed block to keep water/spores from splashing up and I hand-watered. This made NO difference.  No Japanese beetles are also an annual scourge, though they leave much of the garden alone. In case you wonder, I've made my own compost with a variety of manures, greens, and browns each year to recharge the beds, and have even had it tested to show that it is rich in nutrients.

Out of my garden which totals 180+ square feet, I've basically harvested a minimal amount of what is now the most expensive produce in town. I'm just about ready to throw in the towel. Sad 

I'm willing to consider radical intervention or else ending this great experiment, so I need input/review from some of you experts before I decide.

We live on some hilly property, and the garden is located in a low-lying area, partly surrounded by dense, mature forest on 2 sides. It gets direct sun for about 8-9 hours/day. I suspect that the damp, decomposing leaves and such in the woods harbor many of the bugs and diseases that are ruining my garden. Also, it may be better for the garden to be in an area with more sunlight.

To that end, I am considering building new beds in an elevated area where they will get at least 12 hours of sun/day, and will be at least 100 feet from the treeline. I suspect that my current compost is contaminated with whatever spores/diseases that may be in the woods, since it is located on the treeline beneath the canopy of the trees. Because of that, I may build a new compost bin away from any trees, adjacent to the garden in its newly proposed location.

Is this thinking sound? Is there some other easier/cheaper option that I'm overlooking that could preserve my current site/beds? Should I just give up?

Looking forward to hearing from you....

Sick/dying garden (cukes are dead, spaghetti squash is going, and so are zukes, I think primarily due to cucumber beetles):



Sorry looking tomatoes with blight advancing up all the vines (I gave up on trimming infected leaves since that never seemed to help in any previous years). Note proximity of trees/forest in the background:


Dying zukes, courtesy of cucumber beetles and shield bugs:

Current location of garden (downhill, near woods):


Current location of compost pile:

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  sanderson on 7/19/2014, 2:26 pm

AirDoc, I'm really sorry you are having a hard time with your garden. I know others will respond, but this is just my quick take as I am heading out of town Relocation may be the best thing. at this point. thoroughly sanitize any tools tools and hard ware you may use in the new area. Set up new compost bins. Contact the Ag Commissioner's Office/ County Extension/Master Gardeners to verify your diseases and see what advice they have.

I know lower leaves often turn yellow, die, and maybe fall off or need to be trimmed off. But from the photos it looks more extreme than expected. Best of luck and keep us posted.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  Windmere on 7/19/2014, 2:30 pm

Airdoc... I REALLY feel your pain.  As a person who is only on second year of SFG, I don't feel qualified to answer you about your plight.  However, I wish you good things and I hope things turn around for you.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/19/2014, 3:50 pm

Blight is a horrible thing, and so are cucumber beetles, a single one of which can kill a cucumber plant, by infecting it with bacterial wilt, in less than a handful of days. I had both last year and it truly earns the use of a word like dreadful. I'm so sorry to see your rotten luck.

It looks like you have nothing to lose by moving your garden, since it's just going to continue to disappoint you where it is now. If it were me, I wouldn't use any of your old wood or soil or compost, and would carefully sterilize anything like tools and stakes and tomato cages and hose nozzles and watering cans that you might be tempted to use in the new garden.

Then I'd leave your old garden space alone for a few years, or better yet, solarize it for a very long time. Eventually, perhaps some years from now, plant some flowers in it or something else easy and cheap to grow that you wouldn't mind losing, to see if the usual diseases are still there.

In the meantime, I'd be pulling those diseased plants so the blight doesn't have more and more chances to spread and reproduce, and throwing every last scrap of those plants in the trash, and always make sure to wash my hands after handling anything in that garden so I wouldn't become a disease vector myself.

Wish I could tell you what worked for me when it comes to dealing with cucumber beetles, but nothing did. I don't grow cucumbers or squash where I used to anymore. I now grow them in a neighbor's garden that is pretty far from my house. Just finding a better place may be your best option too.

You might also want to consider table top beds, or beds otherwise isolated from the soil. If your soil is contaminated, laying down new beds right on top of it somewhere else may just be asking for trouble.

There's another fellow here who has such terrible nematode problems that he conquered the problem by not fighting it, building raised cinderblock beds over a concrete bottom.

Perhaps doing something similar with not just your relocated garden beds but with your new compost pile too could help a lot. I've never heard of a raised compost pile, but there are tumblers and such. I suppose it would be wise never to add your local leaf litter, but otherwise, you could still have compost going. It would just be more expensive to get started and to get much volume going.

I guess it goes without saying that you need to become a master at rotating your crops.

Good luck on your upcoming years, and I hope you don't abandon gardening for good. I know how discouraging it can be. I garden in a few places, and one has such terrible bug and disease problems that sometimes I wonder why I bother. But there's always another place, new and different soil. I'm doing very well in a different location, and I'm sure you can turn things around too if you just keep at it.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  yolos on 7/19/2014, 4:43 pm

Moving your beds may help but I doubt it will help for long.  I am no expert, but from what I have learned I think blight spores would be killed over the winter in your location.  My understanding is that they come in on the wind from spores overwintered in Florida.  I do not believe that the blight is coming from the woods.

My suggestion is to call your county extension office and ask for a meeting.  My mother-in-law lived and gardened in Tennessee.  She kept talking about all the help she got from UT so I know you have good resources in Tenn.

Also, proper diagnosis of the disease or pest is very important.  About 3 years ago I started gardening again.  I kept getting diseases in my new location and every time I got an infected leaf I would take it into the county extension office to get a diagnosis.  I now know what early blight, downy mildew and powdery mildew look like and can identify them in my garden.  From what I understand, if proper management of the garden (residue cleaned up and removed from the garden) none of those diseases will overwinter in Tenn (but of course I could be wrong so ask your county extension agent).

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struggling

Post  Vickie L. Todd on 7/20/2014, 10:39 am

I can't answer the blight issue for the tomatoes, as I am currently dealing with that myself this year due to the heavy rainfalls we have had (I will be moving my tomato garden next year, however, and will be allowing the current garden to rest after treating the soil somehow (not sure what yet, but I will figure that out). 

I can add to the discussion about the cucumber/squash bugs that have infested your garden.  I had to deal with that last year.  I picked the adult bugs off on a daily basis, and sprayed the vines with a mixture of blue dawn dish soap and water (this year I have learned that you should also mix in vegetable oil which will help the solution adhere to the leaves better).  This mixture was effective in killing the squash bug aphids.  it is also effective in killing and repelling the cucumber beetles as well as japanese beetles that attacked my green beans last year.  Apparently, this mixture will also kill thrips which are now attacking my green pepper plants. This is the recipe for the dawn dish soap treatment:


Mix 2 ½ tablespoons of dawn dish soap, 2 ½ tablespoons of vegetable oil, 1 gallon of water. Spray the plants and the soil around the plants.  Keep the garden free of weeds.

I did try the black "fabric" last year and the year before, and it was not effective in keeping the weeds down and it also did not assist in keeping the soil from drying out.  I switched back to heavy black plastic now in my tomato garden and it is working well.  I did not, however do that in my raised beds, and should have - I have some pretty significant weeds growing and am constantly weeding the garden - which I simply don't have the extra time to do.  

good luck with your garden.

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struggling

Post  Vickie L. Todd on 7/20/2014, 10:46 am

I forgot that I was going to add that using a fine screen over the squash will help considerably in keeping the bugs out.  When you plant your plants you can build a wire cage around the squash plant seedling - it needs to be large enough that the plants can grow and vine and tall enough that they grow up and not out - this will keep them off of the ground.  Stake the fencing at the time you plant the seedling (I found that I damaged roots when I staked the plants after they were already established (This is true for tomato plants, pepper plants, and cucumber plants as well).  After your squash plants have become established wrap the fencing in a fine netting.  My husband thought I was crazy, but I actually used the nylon window screen for mine - small enough that even fruit flies (gnats) can't get into them.  I secured the netting by just using bungy cords around the cages i had created.  be sure the netting goes over the top of the cage as well.  The darned squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and japanese beetles can not get in to the plants this way.  It looks kind of crazy, but it works.  I undo the bungy cord when I go in to remove the fruit, and then reattach after I am finished.  I am winning the battle slowly - and through much trial and error. 

Good luck.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  1airdoc on 7/20/2014, 1:12 pm

If you put mesh around flowering/fruiting vegetables like squash, how do they pollenate?

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  1airdoc on 7/20/2014, 1:49 pm

...Been reading some about table top SFGs. I may give that a try.
Saw that someone used wooden pallets as a foundation/base for their TT SFGs -- sounds more cost effective than many other techniques.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  yolos on 7/20/2014, 3:34 pm

@1airdoc wrote:If you put mesh around flowering/fruiting vegetables like squash, how do they pollenate?

Pollinate the squash/watermelons etc yourself.

This video is a little risqué but it shows exactly how to do it.
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srfRonXRO4c

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  mschaef on 7/20/2014, 7:24 pm

Based on your pictures of your squashes they look like they have powder mildew. A quick simple fix that works for me is spraying the leaves all sides with half whole milk and half water. They should jump back with in a day or too. As for the rest I am of no help. Trying to figure out the tomato problem and cucumber beetles myself... Sad

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Tomato blight

Post  Steelcurtain67 on 7/21/2014, 6:43 pm

Hi I just joined so not sure if this forum is mostly "organic", I am semi-organic but I do use chemicals that I think are safe ( I am a PhD chemist).  I had a lot of problems a couple years ago with blight and tired various solutions.  Last year I had very good luck containing the blight.  I sprayed with 3% hydrogen peroxide (this kills almost all prokaryotic organisms (bacteria, fungi etc)), this gets rid of the surface blight but it will come back from leaves that have deep infection.  To stop it spreading to new leaves I sprayed the next day with Daconil, Daconil non-systemic so it can be washed off (there should be very little residue, if any, on the tomato when used as labled).  I also removed all the yellowing leaves.  Spraying a few times with hydrogen peroxide (especially the stem) will eventually kill the blight in the diseased parts of the plant and from that point the daconil should keep the plant clean.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  yolos on 7/21/2014, 8:43 pm

@Steelcurtain67 wrote:Hi I just joined so not sure if this forum is mostly "organic", I am semi-organic but I do use chemicals that I think are safe ( I am a PhD chemist).  I had a lot of problems a couple years ago with blight and tired various solutions.  Last year I had very good luck containing the blight.  I sprayed with 3% hydrogen peroxide (this kills almost all prokaryotic organisms (bacteria, fungi etc)), this gets rid of the surface blight but it will come back from leaves that have deep infection.  To stop it spreading to new leaves I sprayed the next day with Daconil, Daconil non-systemic so it can be washed off (there should be very little residue, if any, on the tomato when used as labled).  I also removed all the yellowing leaves.  Spraying a few times with hydrogen peroxide (especially the stem) will eventually kill the blight in the diseased parts of the plant and from that point the daconil should keep the plant clean.
What ratio of peroxide to water did you use or was it straight 3% hydrogen peroxide.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  Steelcurtain67 on 7/21/2014, 8:56 pm

Yes straight 3% out of the bottle.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  sanderson on 7/22/2014, 1:13 am

SteelCurtain, Welcome to the Forum!  glad you\'re here 

As you can guess by the title of this Forum, most of the folks here use the Square Foot Gardening method. And, I would say that most try to use the least toxic control, mostly home remedies, for insects and disease, bringing out the big guns only after everything else fails.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  1airdoc on 7/22/2014, 1:43 pm

I am familiar with powdery mildew, and I haven't really seen signs of that on the leaves. I did find evidence of insect damage near the base of the vine on the main vine itself, and I have seen the cucumber beetles and shield bugs on the plants.

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garden woes

Post  svanahgirl129 on 7/22/2014, 3:38 pm

I feel your pain on your garden! It becomes part of us and when it is sickly and eaten up with things, it is heart wrenching. I don't think I exaggerate that at all.
The reason to keep going and trying new things is that we learn each year what to do different and each season we have a fresh new start.
I have a wonderful yellow squash plant that is suddenly covered in powdery mildew and it is being eaten up by pickle worms.  I am disheartened as well.
I am just learning about the SFG and the benefits of it.  I was checking on Mel's Mix and stumbled onto this site. 
Maybe move some things around, each area of your space has a different dynamic, just plant a little till you see if it is going to make a difference. I am in Georgia, Zone 8b and we have had wonderful weather, then dry and unbelievably hot, then wet and hot. Perfect for things to go wrong.
I hope things go better for you soon. Do you have time to get in a fall crop? Give it a try with a few things and maybe it will be better.
Good luck!

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  sanderson on 7/22/2014, 9:10 pm

Why one should not give up:
Purple podded devastated by spider mites (in this photo) and then cabbage worms:

After treatment, Purple podded beans are producing:  Very Happy  They aren't photo beautiful but at least they survived.

I lost 21 tomato plants this year to curly leaf.  But volunteers are giving me some hope:

Even some of the really experienced folks have a failure here and there.  I've only been gardening for 18 months with hits and misses.  But the Hits are truly 'highs."

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  CapeCoddess on 7/23/2014, 12:12 pm

Yup, I threw 2 tomato plants away this morning after taking off the more mature green fruits. They both just turned yellow from the bottom up and croaked.  And they were in 2 completely different areas of the yard.  I think it was wilt. 
idk  Got my fingers crossed that it hasn't spread.  

Keep on keepin on...
 neener 
CC

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  quiltbea on 7/23/2014, 12:56 pm

I lost most of my starter plants due to some horrid seed starter soil I got from Walmart this year.  It didn't pay me to get something cheap, that's for sure.  I was devastated.  I usually get lots of extra I give to the local community garden and to the library for their annual plant sale.  This year I had only a few live to make it, stunted for the most part, so had to buy several transplants this year.
Next year I go back to the good stuff even if not starting as much.  Due to age and a bad back and hip, I have to cut back on my outdoor activities.

Then recently......
In my area the blight is bad in both potatoes and tomatoes.  We were warned a couple weeks ago and I thought I was in good shape.  Today, my tune has changed.  I have blight on most of my tomatoes, some more than others. I remove affected leaves each morning hoping to slow it down. 
I hope to get enough tomato fruits to freeze for fall and winter.  I'll try again next year.  Maybe try some hybrids that are blight resistant.  That doesn't mean they won't get it when the area is ravaged, but the plants may last longer.
In any case, there's other plants to grow like cukes and squash and peas and peppers and herbs.  Something will be planted in my garden next year.  And if its bugs that are the menace, like the aphids that bombarded me,  then there's always insect barrier cloth to help.
Even at my age, I won't give up.  There's always tomorrow.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  sanderson on 7/23/2014, 7:53 pm

QB,  I read somewhere (here??) that to garden is to believe in tomorrow.  Something will grow, even if it's not the 'bumper crop' plants we were hoping for.  For me, I was hoping for bumper tomatoes to can.   Very Happy

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/24/2014, 12:00 am

Sometimes it does get tiresome harvesting a bumper crop of experience, though. There are times when I'd much rather have learned less and eaten more good garden produce. Most of them, come to think of it.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  1airdoc on 7/24/2014, 9:45 am

^^^^^
Definitely this!
 good idea

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  1airdoc on 7/24/2014, 9:53 am

Watered the garden yesterday afternoon (or at least, what is left of it) and noticed MANY dozens of squash bugs in all stages crawling all over the few squash plants that I haven't pulled yet. I think I'll get out there, pull out any leaf debris, and introduce those fellers to Sevin.

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

Post  sanderson on 7/24/2014, 12:58 pm

Bringing out the big guns!   get that pesky wabbi

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Re: Why shouldn't I give up?

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