First Year Trials and Tribulations and Veggies Taste Bitter
Okay... so my pride (mostly) has prevented me from posting a lot about my first year struggles with gardening. My husband thinks I'm crazy for not asking every little question that pops into my head, but I'm just so confident I will figure it out on my own... eventually! I'm sure you married people can sympathize with the way these conversations go!
Anyway... it's kind of been one thing after another with my garden struggles. I know from reading a lot of posts and blogs that most people in their first year have these same experiences - with things being a trial and error. Unfortunately, I don't feel like I've figured out very much in the way of what went wrong. So, alas, I will ask for help. Undoubtedly you will all have great ideas and it will lead me to solve a few problems in my own backyard and then my husband will get to say "I told you so." Heheheehe...
My list of not-so-successful experiences in the last 6 months:
Pole beans never grew (Kentucky Wonder). I planted two plantings and the same happened with each - leaves were small and a little wrinkled, yellowed first and then turned brown and dry. I started to think the seeds were bad (they got a little wet in the package before I planted them).
Tomatoes in the SFG failed miserably - any new growth was so incredibly tightly curled up and yellowish. The color improved somewhat when I started adding fertilizer... and I sprayed thinking they were affected by mites, but that did not seem to help. After 2+ months, they'd hardly grown at all from transplant size. Is it possible the soil was contaminated and that's why spraying didn't solve the problem?
Later in the summer, the caterpillars and white flies took over. The caterpillars were tricky, but I think I figured out that spraying with Neem once week keeps them at bay. The white flies were minimal for a while, but seem to have quadrupled in population the last month. I think the Neem helps with them as well. I only lost one entire plant to SVB, but something incredibly mysterious is planting eggs inside the buds of my pumpkin plant. Puncture site is very evident, maybe an 1/8 in in diameter. Sometimes the bud just turns brown and falls off, sometimes the whole area around the bud (about 6") gets a little wilted and then I clip it off - is that SVB too? The wilted thing happens on the pumpkin and the cucumbers, but I can only see the puncture marks on the pumpkin, as their buds are much larger.
My cucumbers managed to survive all the caterpillar attacks and finally started growing some fruit - it was incredibly exciting! I managed to harvest the first cucumber without incident. All the ones that came after that have pucture marks on them and the tell tale signs of something tunneling it's way through my cukes! Every single one has had several of these holes in them. I can't for the life of me figure out how to protect them from whatever that is!
And... to add insult to injury the one and only cucumber I harvested tasted terrible. Absolutely horrible. Both my daughter and I had to spit it out. It was so bitter - like gasoline. The texture was right - crunchy, watery. It was about 6 or 7 inches long, still had a little "nipple" (sorry, but I know that's what they call that shape on a tomato, so I thought it might work in this case). My husband thought it maybe wasn't done growing. I don't know if I left it on the vine too long, or if it's the soil, or if it's just the dang hot and humid weather. But I have to tell you, it was the first time I felt truly discouraged in my SFG adventure - the few things I bring inside should at least taste delicious!!!
Lastly, just in the last three weeks or so my three pepper plants have really gone down hill - leaves turning brown and curling under - they look wilted, even when it's cloudy outside and it's rained all day. I found a tomato hornworm on one of them, but I haven't seen anything else. Sprayed them with Neem - is that what damaged them?
Gosh darn this gardening thing is hard! But I am determined and welcome any and all ideas you guys have. I am willing to give anything a shot to improve things.
I should probably tell you, I used Mel's mix but was lacking good, homemade compost. I got a few different kinds from Lowes/HD - Black Cow and the Whole Earth (I think it's called something like that). In July I added some really nice mushroom compost I got from an exotic fruit nursery. There was 6" of soil when I started... it had seemed to compact a little bit, which is part of why I spread the mushroom compost over the top - added a few inches. It has a good amount of mulch. I check the moisture of the soil every few days when it hasn't rained. My husband thinks I should water a little bit every day, but I don't if the soil is damp (which it often is - Mel's mix is great for that). The plants get full sun most of the day, which is a little brutal for summertime in FL, but the seeds I sowed directly seemed to tolerate it without much (visible) incident. I'm sure I'm forgetting some info.
Thanks for your thoughts!