Am I cursed? God's way of telling me to quit gardening?

emcd124(5)July 19, 2012

I'm starting to get wildly discouraged. I have only gardened for two years before this one, but that was when we lived in the south (nashville) and despite clay soils and a blight that tried killing all my tomatoes, I still got a decent harvest of tomatoes, and a great harvest of okra, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes from our small raised garden bed.

This year I'm in northern indiana (Z5) and its like the plagues of moses are coming down on me. My northern magnolia has some black fungus on all its leaves, my boxwoods have leaf miners, my tomatoes have two different kinds of disease, the rabbits ate all my peppers to twigs, half my new strawberry plants died from some mysterious wasting disease, and now my beans all look like swiss cheese thanks to what I believe are bean leaf beetles which have also likely transmitted some kind of bacterial problem to the beans that is making the leaves all mottled.

WTF world? is it not enough for me to fight one or two pests? Must I confront the entire garden pest encyclopedia at once?

So I need a little tough love and/or support. Is it just bad luck or the crazy weather this year? or am I somehow a terrible gardener? I water all my plants with seeper hoses so leaves dont get wet, and I have straw down as mulch. I use organic fertilizers and have raised beds full of fancy expensive soil mixed with compost. I'm trying to do everything right and yet I seem to be losing the fight. Am I missing something?

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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Setting up new gardens is indeed difficult. It takes a few years to achieve a balance especially in previously ungardened territory. The pests have to be there for the beneficials to show up. We keep seeing IN mentioned in the weather news, so that's got to be making it even more difficult, trying to establish new gardens in wacky weather.

Sorry no advice on substances to battle these things. I don't use any but am sure you'll hear from those who do.

You can't succeed if you don't try, so if you keep trying you might succeed! You're not to blame when things go wrong, mother nature always bats last. These are learning experiences and opportunities to see nature in action. I wouldn't begin to assume to know God's opinion, but doubt the message is, "Quit gardening."

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 9:49AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

So I need a little tough love ....Am I missing something?

==>>> sure are.. disney warped us all into thinking that every thing in nature is perfection ...

if you think.. in any way.. that you are the first .. or the last .. to have to climb the learning curve.. you are being slightly delusional.. as to how easy it all is ...

half of what you complain about.. is not really important ... the mag probably has mildew [fungus?] .. odds are its isnt going to kill the plant.. why is a perfect leaf important??? .. ID the problem.. but ignore it.. unless it is a threat to the plant ...

you complain about the tomatoes.. like it is some insult.. yet you brag about the harvest.. so what was the problem.. other than they werent disney perfect????

and the rest of the veggies sound like the harvest was spectacular ...

strawberries ... frankly.. arent worth the effort.. nor the space to grow them.. based on my 30 years of trying.. over and over.. and over ... for the handful of edible fruit you MIGHT get.. you have too much invested.. money and emotion.. for the piddly crop you might get .... whats the point .... do you just like failing????? .. get rid of them.. and then you wont fail at them ...

there is nothing i can say about thumper.. unlike disney.. if it is taking your crop.. kill it.. but no.. you cant do that.. because of disney ... but you want to complain it eats your stuff .... you cant have it both ways ...

a boxwood monoculture is a nightmare in itself. ... i dont understand why anyone wants to fiddle around with a plant that requires two shearings a year.. besides the fact that it is a plain ugly green shrub.. but for the leafminers which add some cool variegation ... cant you find something better for that spot???

beans.. frankly .... are they worth the efforts.. arent they like 40 cents a crate this time of year. .. you have probably invested $30 dollars in growing a crop worth about .. well.. 40 cents.. where is the logic there???? wouldnt it be easier to just skip them????

so.. i bet you may never ask for tough love again .. lol ..

the hardest part of the learning curve.. is coming to understand.. that life aint no disney movie.. give up on things that fail.. weed out under-performers.. and quit taking it all personally ....

there.. you asked.. i said it ... lets channel your inner optimist .. too much pessimism here ..

just walk out there tonight .. and rip out EVERYTHING that is pissin you off .. and then start next years plan ... it will be a very good zen feeling.. knowing all your problems are sitting at the curb.. waiting to be hauled away [and no.. dont compost them.. because when you see the remnants next spring.. they will bum you out again] ...


Here is a link that might be useful: when life isnt disney .. perhaps you tonight ...

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 10:35AM
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well ken, I guess I did ask for the tough love. I wasnt expecting disney perfection, but I guess I was expecting to fight one or two pest/disease issues a season, not to have literally everything planted having one issue or another.

If you think growing beans is a mistake, what have you settled on growing that you think is a smarter grow? I grow arugula in the cold season because it grows well with few pests and is better in garden than store, and way expensive in store. But I havent found a zillion crops that meet all of those criteria yet, especially hot summer crops, where the productive "easy" ones also seem (not coincidentally) to be the ones that are cheap in the market.

But I would love suggestions for things that are easier to grow and have less pest/disease issues for the hot midsummer garden...

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 11:20AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I guess I was expecting to fight one or two pest/disease issues

==>>> well.. if you grew one single plant.. then you were correct in your presumption ...

but you have a hundred different plants.. why cant each one of them be a problem child.. lol ...

there have to be hundreds of bean types.. if one doesnt work.. move on ... but that is not really a topic for the pest forum ....

regardless.. it was all in good fun.. i hope you appreciated that ...

just dont get frustrated about it all .. i mean really.. if you want to hear some real whining and moaning.. just talk to any real farmer.. ohhh.. its too cold.. too hot.. to dry.. too wet.. this bug.. that bug.. OMG.. the world is going to end..

and you know what they do.. they just keep planting crops ... and whining.. and moaning.. lol ..

when i moved from suburbia to the country.. i started listing to the 1000 watt local powerhouse radio station [thats sarcasm.. it doesnt reach across the county.. lol] ... and from 11 to noon.. they play the MI farm report ... man o'live.. you would think the world was ending every day ... lol ...

you take care.. and NEVER GIVE UP ... if anyone can do it.. you can ... but have fun doing it... its not personal ... its not you.. ma nature is a witch..


    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 3:45PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

This winter, spend some quality time with some seed catalogs and find some resistant varieties. You can find disease and insect resistant varieties of almost anything.

If the rabbits have found your little garden, you'll need to build something to exclude them.

I'll bet that your magnolia leaves are covered with what is called 'black sooty mold '. If so, it will rub off with a bit of water....just for identification purposes. BSM grows on the sugary excrement from certain insects. In this case, it might be one of the magnolia scale. A picture of an affected leaf would be helpful.

You should have all of these problems properly identified. No one can really suggest anything truly useful nor can you begin to fight a battle unless you know what the problems really are. Your local extension office would be the best place to start. Be sure to tell them if you are wishing to avoid harsh chemical pesticides...they can come up with organic solutions.

You might also visit in the Vegetable Forum. Not just to post, but to read other threads in order to glean some information.

Ignore ken. There are millions of people the world over who get enormous satisfaction from their small gardens and think that nothing tastes better than fruit and vegetables harvested by their own hands.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 4:19PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

emcd124 - God, so far, has only weighed in on turf (sorry if you have already seen this!):

God & Lawn Care:

GOD: (To Saint Francis)
Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

Yes, Sir.

These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

And where do they get this mulch?

They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....

Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 7:57PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

It's been a while since I saw that pasted somewhere and, as usual, it made me smile and warmed my cockles. Well I don't really know what cockles are and everything here is downright hot, but I really liked reading that again. Thanks, Hortster!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 11:07PM
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Many times insect pests and plant diseases are a response to plants that are not strong and healthy and may have nutrient deficiencies, so the place to start looking is with your soil.
What kind of soil do you have? Probably clay although there is some sand in northern Indiana.
How much organic matter is in that soil?
What kind of life is in that soil?
How well does that soil drain?
How well does that soil retain moisture?
What is that soils pH?
What are the levels of Calcium and Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Potash?
Purdue no longer does soil testing, I understand, but they can direct you to places that will, if you have not had a good, reliable soil test done. Then dig in with these simple soils tests,
1) Structure. From that soil sample put enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level in a clear 1 quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. A good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. about 1 inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

2) Drainage. Dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your soil drains´┐Ż too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots of organic matter to speed it up.

3) Tilth. Take a handful of your slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly. When the pressure is released the soil should hold together in that clump, but when poked with a finger that clump should fall apart.

4) Smell. What does your soil smell like? A pleasant, rich earthy odor? Putrid, offensive, repugnant odor? The more organic matter in your soil the more active the soil bacteria will be and the nicer your soil will smell.

5) Life. How many earthworms per shovel full were there? 5 or more indicates a pretty healthy soil. Fewer than 5, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates a soil that is not healthy.
to see what else you need do to make that soil into a good, healthy soil that will grow strong and healthy plants that are better able to ward off these attacks.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 7:21AM
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I laughed myself silly at the lawns parable. Fantastic.

@Kimmsr: I've been trying to get on top of my soil testing, but I got pulled up short with trouble sampling. With all the heat we had around here, my soil was so hard I actually had to hammer at it to get a sample out. I'm sure that alone speaks volumes about the piss poor quality of the native soil here. Visually, it looks like mostly sand, but when its dry it acts more like concrete.

The garden is in raised beds that are a combination of organic vegetable gardening soil from the box store and mostly leaf hummus compost that the city makes. I've started to wonder if all those leaves didnt quite compost enough and maybe carried some disease with them into the composting process.

The purdue system recommends you send out to UMass amherst, and I really just need to finish taking the samples and send it off. But then at this point in the season I found myself wondering if I should do it this year or if it was too late and I should wait for next year.

I have one more question about the "dig a hole drainage test." I tried to do that test when I had to dig a hole anyway to put in my raspberry canes, but when I googled the test I got as many interpretations as there were results. Some said if it drained in less than 12 hours it was good, others it had to be less than 6 hours. For some four was too slow, for some just right. I got a bit confused by the variety of answers out there.

But yes, I think my soil is probably awful, and I'm trying to learn how to improve it. For the garden amending with my home compost (now that I've got it in the works) is easy enough for adding organic matter. But I feel stupidly confused about how to do that for my lawn without digging up all the grass first and just starting over. Do you just sprinkle a little bit of compost on top a bit at a time and hope it sinks down?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 10:52AM
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There are many people that do not seem to be able to grasp the difference between a soil that drains well and on that holds moisture. If you dig that hole, fill it with water and allow that to drain and then refill the hole and the water sits there for more then 2 hours without draining away you have poor drainage. If the water drains away in less then 15 minutes your soil drains too quickly. After that test that soil should be moist, and should stay moist but with no visible water for quite some time. In my sand, now, with adequate amounts of organic matter in the bucket of water I pour into a hole will drain out, totally, in about an hour (unless I try that where the water table is right there) but the soil will stay moist for several days.
It is never too late in the season to have that soil test done because the numbers can help guide you in preparing the soil for the next growing season. In reality a soil test probably should be done during peak growing seaons, not in the spring just as you are getting ready to plant, so you can properly prepare for the next year.
I seriously doubt that God would want you to stop gardening since she is a gardener.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 7:39AM
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