Maybe I shouldn't be a gardener? I don't know. I don't seem to have much luck. Last year was my first garden started from seed. It was organic and not fertilized beyond using my own compost. I got a few tomatoes, and one cucumber, before I lost it all to what I thought was blight. In retrospect, I think everything was malnourished. So, this year I realized my garden needs more nutrients, hence the Miracle Grow I applied a couple weeks ago.
It turned things around. It did. The foliage looked better and greener and started to grow more rapidly. But, I'm still battling pests! I am not kidding when I say every possible pest that will be drawn to a particular plant is in my garden! I've got tomato fruit worms (also known as corn ear worms) nibbling through the vines of my plants and also boring into the fruit as well. I've got what I think might be a fungus that KILLED...totally killed...my cucumbers over night. Gone. I've got vine boring worms in my zucchini plant. I've been treating with Diatomaceous Earth, to no avail. And I've got these........Tomato Horn Worms:
Now, this one is a MAC DADDY! It's huge. I've been picking these buggers off every morning, and it seems to work fine just picking and squashing. But here's the interesting thing:
I found one covered in this rice like stuff. Upon further investigation, I learned that these are cocoons of a predator wasp called the Braconid Wasp. These are GOOD! When you get these, it's best to leave the worm, because it's pretty paralized at this point and won't do further damage to your plant. The wasps will hatch and attack the other hornworms.
See the little wasps hatching (click image to enlarge)? I was so excited to see this!
And then I was a dumbass and sprayed my garden with Neem Oil that night. I purposely avoided spraying that plant because of the wasps, but I guess it was affected anyway because the next morning there was no movement or signs of hatching from the wasps. ARGGG! The Neem Oil is an organic oil that I was using to treat for things I cannot see like aphids, but I went and killed a beneficial wasp in the process.
Gardening is hard!!! Trying to stay organic is a bear!!! Despite all my problems, though, I still have gotten a couple good harvests:
Last year my tomatoes tasted horrible! Like metal! I'm in NEW JERSEY, folks! We are supposed to have the BEST tomatoes in the world! This year, these are quite yummy, so I moved in the right direction in the taste department at least! These are mostly Romas (Royal Chico) and I did make a batch of sauce. My favorite so far is the Henderson Pink.
I have not a "new found" respect for organic gardeners, but definitely an intensified respect after gaining this firsthand knowledge of how hard it is to keep crops healthy. Recently reading the book, The Organic Manifesto, also helps me keep going. Highly recommend this book.
Funny side note: Last year I started several tomato plants from seed and gave them away to my sister and a neighbor up the street. My sister LOVED them. My neighbor had tomatoes coming out of his ears. Mine? They were metallic tasting or dead! So, I'm talking to my neighbor this year and asking if he treats for pests. "Oh yes....I do...sure....I just sprayed last night....I just spray with anything that says it kills spiders....anything for spiders...it won't kill ya." I just have to laugh.....just go out and buy anything that says it kills spiders and spray it all over your veggies.....it won't kill ya!
Note to self: don't eat Richard's tomatoes!