June 25, 2012

Gardening a tenacious endeavor

By JOLENE WALLACE, Cornell Cooperative Extension

---- — This month I want to commiserate with you. We all love to garden, right? 

Whether we grow vegetables, fruits, perennials, annuals, containers or fields full of stuff, we do it because we love it. From experience, I would say that we love gardening more in May and early June — when we are planning, planting and have high expectations for the success of our efforts — than we do in July and August, when it may be too hot, humid and uncomfortable to be outside working hard. 

Early in the season, it is a joy to see the progress our seeds or plants are making. The air is cool, the rain frequent, and we feel a sense of satisfaction that we are growing something worthy of our efforts. Come July and August, it’s a joy to go outside until we see the pests eating our plants, the weeds growing faster than we thought possible, and we feel we are fighting a battle to grow anything at all.

This week, you will probably see beetles, sometimes in large numbers. The Japanese beetles are hatching, the May beetles have appeared, and rose chafers have already been brought into our office for identification. Frequently, you won’t see the insects, just the damage: leaves that are skeletonizied, curled or discolored or that have holes chewed in them.  

We have also seen Septoria leaf spot on tomatoes. Fortunately, Septoria and early blight are not devastating to tomato plants and are quite common. They are not the same as late blight —something all tomato and potato growers dread — and treatment is not the same. If you are seeing damage to your tomato plants, bring us a sample for identification before you treat them.

Powdery mildew is putting in an appearance on some of the ornamental and vegetable plants now. The hot, humid weather we have experienced is perfect for mildew. You may also be seeing lots of caterpillars, including the gypsy moth caterpillar.

I, personally, have been trying to get ahead of the vetch that grows about 20 feet while my back is turned. (Just a slight exaggeration.) It vexes me that I can’t get rid of it, yet I have to admit that I admire its tenacity. Every time I walk past one of my beds, there it is: its tendrils climbing up a plant, trellis or dwarf evergreen. The amazing thing is that pulling it out by the roots doesn’t seem possible. The roots seem to go on forever; my personal best is 18 inches of root before it broke, only to grow back in a few days. I think the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk” is really about vetch.

Keeping a close watch over your garden is the best thing you can do for it. Catching problems early makes a huge difference in your success with gardening. We are happy to diagnose problems and give you suggestions for dealing with them. Our job is to inform you about the options that are available.

We do not charge for identifying or diagnosing problems you may find in your garden. Feel free to call, email or come in with samples.