Every year there is at least one crop that gives me the blues and this year it’s sweet corn. Actually, sweet corn breaks my heart every year. Before we put a metal gate fence around this garden, the deer grazed on our sweet corn and beans. Last year, we successfully fenced out the deer, but the raccoons made a couple of midnight raids and wiped out our entire harvest. The garden is so large, it’s difficult to justify the cost of an electric fence to keep them out. We’ve tried repellents and extermination methods, but they obviously have us outnumbered.
I should wave the white flag, right? Oh no. Hope springs eternal in this gardening heart and I planted sweet corn again because I knew it would be different this year. And it was. This year before the corn had a chance to tassel, either a raccoon or a skunk knocked down the stalks and chomped on them. I didn’t see any worm damage, just bite marks. Every morning for a week I found corn stalks beaten and bitten until only a half dozen stalks remained standing.
I’m not sure who should receive my wrath: the raccoons, oppossums, or skunks. We have a plentiful supply of all three. The fact that they struck before the ears were formed is baffling. I may need to install a game camera so I can see who is vandalizing the garden at night!
Rattling cages is probably not what your boss and co-workers want you to do at work, but it’s not a bad thing to do in the garden to facilitate tomato pollination. Tomatoes are self-pollinators, in that they have both male and female reproductive organs. Usually, the wind and bumblebees help spread their pollen, but occasionally the humidity may be too high and the pollen will stick. Just a little shake of the tomato cage can help dislodge the pollen. It doesn’t need to measure on the Reichter scale, just a nice jostle. It’s easy to do and hopefully will increase your tomato production.
SWEET POTATO UPDATE
Here is a picture of the sweet potatoes. Remember how pathetic the plants looked when I planted them a few weeks ago? They snapped out of it and are doing well. Now, if I can just keep the moles from cutting their roots…
Last summer, my sister planted horticulture beans in her raised bed and was surprised to see them vine like a pole bean. She had grown them before and never had this issue. My parents and I have also grown them for years and had never seen this.
As you can see from the picture, mine are doing the same thing Kay’s did last year. I used to get my horticulture bean seed from our local hardware store, but they closed this winter so I ordered this year’s crop from Shumway’s. Kay got her seeds from Shumway’s last year, too.
Aha! I think we’re onto something! I grabbed my Shumway’s catalog and read that this bean is called a French Horticultural and has a semi-running habit. I know my hardware store variety was called “horticulture,” but I don’t know what “sub-variety” it was. Obviously, it wasn’t a semi-runner.
My family has used horticulture beans as shell beans for years. They are easy to grow, hardy, and taste wonderful with ham hocks or used in chili. They are a pretty bean, too, being primarily white with pink speckles. I guess they’re also not above giving you a surprise every now and then, too! We’ll see how these beans compare to my previous variety.
I had a nice surprise when weeding my garden this week. Two volunteer tomato plants had popped up and in places where they wouldn’t bother anything. How considerate of them! It’s very difficult for me to pull a volunteer plant or even to thin rows of carrots or beans. When a plant is trying his best to thrive and be a productive member of the garden society, it seems heartless to yank him. But for the sake of the common good of the carrots…
Anyway, here is a picture of one of the volunteers. They are very small, but seem to be doing very well nestled in straw mulch and protected with a cage. It will be fun to see what variety they are.
One of my favorite flowers is the Gaillardia, also known as the Goblin Blanket Flower, or Indian Blanket Flower. It’s so easy to grow. Originating from the Southwest, it tolerates all that northern Missouri summers can dish out: heat, drought, humidity, and the occasional downpour. I just leave this hardy perennial alone, let it reseed itself, and enjoy it again the next year. It blooms all summer long and attracts butterflies and people to its cheerful beauty. And as you can see, it’s also quite photogenic.