Friday Night Photos: The Yin and Yang of Gardening (2010 Garden Update #7)

green beans in colanderThe Chinese believe that everything in life has Yin and Yang aspects, and I’ve certainly found this to be true of gardening. Sometimes the garden can give you bountiful gifts, like a whole colander full of green beans you find hiding under the leaves.

But for every bountiful harvest, there seems to be an equal numbers of garden heartbreaks. This year I planted four rows of swiss chard, and every bit has been eaten down to the stalks. (I have no idea what is eating my chard like this; would love to hear from anyone who has thoughts about what it might be.)

Of course, if you look hard enough you can find a kind of savage beauty even in garden destruction.

Some plants bring more pleasure than you ever imagined, like these Flying Saucer Squash that turned out to be beautifully multi-colored. (I can imagine they’ll make a lovely Raw Summer Squash Salad.)

It is heartbreaking when plants don’t flourish, and there’s no apparent reason. (This is one of two Celebrity tomatoes side-by-side and the other one is about three times the size.)

Sometimes the plants give it their all and manage to produce good things, even if they aren’t 100% healthy!

If you look for it, you can see the future in your garden, and when I look at this Roma Tomato plant, I’m seeing Slow Roasted Tomatoes.

And when you look at your plants and see that Green Zebra Tomatoes are well on the way to ripeness, you forget all the garden heartbreak and only think of the pleasure to come.

What kind of uplifting and heartbreaking things are happening in your garden this year?

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45 comments on “Friday Night Photos: The Yin and Yang of Gardening (2010 Garden Update #7)”

  1. Your poor Swiss chard looks about like my basil, and I can tell you that it's been Japanese beetles that are munching away on it.

  2. Eloquently said. The garden is always about hope and promise.

  3. OH, that poor swiss chard!

  4. Sheryl, I can't imagine that insects caused the devastation of the chard, simply because of the amount of leaves that were eaten. (And there are kale and collards right next to the chard, not eaten at all.) I'm thinking this is something bigger.

    Lydia, thanks. I love the promise!

    Pam, it is sad isn't it?

  5. Oh, my 3 cucumber plants are taking over my life! I pick 16-20 cucumbers every day! I've given them away to everyone I can think of. My poor peppers on the other hand… I've only had one, and the plant doesn't look like it's going to give me much more.

  6. Amber, wow. I've only had 3 cucumbers so far. I had one "cucumber" plant that turned out to be squash, so I only have 2 left.

    No peppers even close here yet.

  7. Something bigger like rabbits? Although the lacy look of the leaf makes me think of insects. We have had the wettest year since I can remember and most gardens around here look about like yours.
    Enjoy the good stuff!

  8. Hi Kalyn,
    That chard looks like what happened to my lettuce a few years back. Turned out they were little worm-like caterpillars. I found a solution – BT – it's organic, you spray it on the plants, the little wormies eat the plants and get infected with a bacteria that kills them. Totally safe for humans. Made by a company called "Safer". Used in organic farming.

  9. I still envision a window box garden, one day, in my kitchen window. In the meantime, I'm inspired by your garden and its products.

    Paz ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Jane, I have a fence around my whole back yard so I think I would notice if something like a rabbit was digging under it. Sorry to hear you're having a bad garden year.

    Elise, thanks! I will go to the garden store today and look for this.

    Paz, I hope you get that window box!

  11. Kaylyn, you blog is fantastic.

    Here's what I do to keep pests (four, six, and eight legged) of all kinds out:
    1. Liquid Fence. That is the brand name. I buy it at ACE Hardware. It's made from rotten eggs, garlic, and pepper. It stinks when you spay it but dries odorless. I just spray on the ground, all around the plants and the edges of the bed but not on the plants.
    2. Bamboo skewer, spikey end up, 5-6 inches sticking out of the ground. I make it two rows deep around the base of the plant, about 1 foot in diameter. Make it tall enough that the little rabbits can't reach over it.
    3. 1/2 and 1/2 cayenne pepper and garlic sprinkled all over the bed. Buy it in bulk. Sprinkle on the top, generously.
    4. Crushed egg shells keep slugs away, spread around the base of the plant. they are like glass shards to slugs. Toamtoes love the calcium they provide too. Diatomaceous Earth also works this way.
    5. Coffee grounds around the base (I spread at the same time as the egg shells) They give the plants a boost and bugs dont' like it – keeps out ants and slugs!

    Good luck!!

  12. Just to affirm, Elise it right on, BT for worms of all kinds. Barbar Kingsolver talks about it in Animal Vegetable Miracle. My certified organic farmers use it too.

  13. Amanda, thanks for the other ideas. I guess I will show the garden center people the photo on my phone and see which they think is best!

  14. We have similar problems with enormous grasshoppers that have discriminating palates! They have eaten my herb garden (I've watched them) & left the rest of the garden alone. Go figure!

  15. Hi Kalyn,

    I think some kind of worm is the bandit eating your chard. I have the same problem w/ my chard, broccoli and brussels sprouts this year and I found a bunch of worms and eggs on the plants. Also, none of my tomato and bell pepper plants are producing this year as of yet!

    I'd be happy to trade gardens w/ you!


  16. Fredericka, sorry to hear it. None of my herbs have ever gotten eaten except the basil, but (thankfully) I'm not having that problem this year.

    Bruno, thanks for verifying that it looks like worms. It sounds like the same thing Elise is talking about. Will definitely go to the garden center and then I think I'll plant chard again for the fall.

  17. I cannot understand why I am not getting any carrots. Carrots can be grown by anyone in any condition. Why or why am I not getting any carrots this year.

    Get up with the BIRDS and you see why you have no carrots. Apparently they love my seeds.

    Check and see if you have grasshoppers. They are sneaky like hoppy guys. They have demolished my mint. Yes, mint. Another plant that is virtually indestructible, so I thought.

  18. Dynamics, I gave up on carrots. They would grow, but they're short and stubby. Sorry to hear about the birds eating the seeds! Don't know what you can do about that.

    I haven't seen any grasshoppers out in the garden; don't think that's what it is.

  19. Probably that "cute" little bird Rand loved. The quail have found a bounty!

  20. Pam, I'm wondering if that's what did it. No idea what to do about birds, obviously you don't want to poison them. Maybe spray soapy water on the plants, but do you have to do that every time you water?

  21. This has been a hard year for vegetable gardeners. Plants are under stress because of the heat and drought. Insects know this and they are chewing everything in sight. Plant Swiss chard again when it gets cooler. It also likes a little shade.

  22. Anonymous, I'm definitely going to try again with the swiss chard.

  23. This is for the birds……Ha..ha
    There are nets you can set over your garden so they can't get to the seeds or plants.
    Good luck

  24. I'm really hoping it's not birds; that sounds like so much trouble I'd probably just decide to buy swiss chard at the Farmer's Market!

  25. This may be too much trouble for most, but I go into my garden at 10:00 with a flashlight and pick off the asiatic beetles that are eating my basil,peppers and sunflowers. It takes about a half hour to do my whole garden and it relaxes me to spend time in my garden before bedtime.
    Then again, I may be weird. Or obsessed.

  26. Debbie, interesting! Not sure I can get myself to do that though, so I may have to use organic pest killer.

  27. Kalyn, my chard isn't affected to the extent yours is, but has a worse case than usual of what looks like someone riddled the leaves with bullet holes. For me, I know it's earwigs and I can get rid of them temporarily (until next hatching) by sprinkling Sevin powder on the ground. Our local gardening guru "Joy in the Garden" is the one who told me what to use. It's not organic but the best I could find. They will do a number on basil too, so now the basil is in pots on the front porch and no more problems.
    My kale is fine, they must not like it. I'll guarantee it's not birds or something bigger. I just may go out with the flashlight to make sure nothing else.

  28. Maureen, I think the organic pest killer Elise recommended (BT) will also work on earwigs, so I think I'll try that.

  29. My swiss chard is going crazy, I'm in Ogden wish you had some of it. I've been dehydrating it.


  30. I love all the garden photos that you share, Kalyn, but I know it's hard when things don't thrive or get eaten. Sounds like you are on the right path for figuring out your offender. I like Debbie's idea of the nighttime patrol, but, of course, I don't have a garden, so I don't know if I'd like that in practice. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Good luck!

  31. Renee, haven't heard of dehydrating swiss chard, very interesting. I'm ok, my friend has been giving me some; just sad that mine all got devoured.

  32. Shirley, we were cross-commenting! Not sure I am up for picking bugs off the plants by hand!! But I will get it taken care of somehow.

  33. Such is a garden.
    Usually we have terrific fennel in a beautiful balance with the caterpillars. This year … not in balance. But one thing I've learned is the natural way fennel grows is really very effective. The caterpillars strip them bare … and when the caterpillars are gone, next day we find the fennel sprouting in the middle again. Don't think I'll get any fennel bulbs but we do enjoy the anise swallow tail butterflies.
    Love that zebra tomato.

  34. Beautiful garden!

    On the Swiss Chard: looks like slugs and or Japanese beetles (they resemble our cauliflower that was destroyed by the two pests), they both love to drown in beer at night, too. =)

    All 4 varieties of our squash were destroyed by squash borer, and our corn is becoming the home to European squash borer.

  35. Tanna, that's interesting about the fennel. I have some fennel growing, but I haven't noticed any pests bothering it. The Green Zebra tomatoes are fabulous!

    Katelyn, thanks! Sorry you're having your own pest issues. Maybe I should put out some beer just to see what I get!

  36. The garden is just like life, is it not? Knock on wood, it's been a good season in the Northeast so far.

  37. TW, so glad you're not having the tomato problems you had last year!

  38. Put me in the bird camp. The quail and other birds who frequent my feeders can't get enough of my young chard, spinach, kale, and lettuces. In future, all tender greens will be grown at the other end of the garden to make it less accessible.

  39. I can't say I've had the swiss chard problem, but that would be because Seattle hasn't had the best weather for gardening this year. It's been disappointing to say the least. Still, it is a labor of love, and anything I get this year I'll be thankful for. I hope you figure out what's eating your chard. ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. Kalyn–don't give up on the chard you have already–although it does look devoured. It is a resilient plant and might just yet produce for you, once you get rid of the pest.

    My suggestion for getting rid of pests organically is to use neem oil. This not only eliminates buggies, but it messes up their live cycles, molting, and egg development, but it also acts as an insect repellant when sprayed on your plants (like Off for chard, lol). I like BT for some things, but neem works as well (keeping the japanese beetles off of things this year–hurray!).

    So far, the garden has been doing great–I have had a bumper crop of ground cherries that I have had to resort to selling some to a local farm store (lol). I need a low glycemic jam recipe pronto!

  41. Laurie, can I just say how much I am hoping it's not birds? I have no idea what to do about them besides netting, which seems like an awful pain.

    Mother Rimmy, sorry to hear the weather is giving you a bad year in the garden, Hate it when that happens.

    Susan, I do see a few chard leaves sprouting out, so I think I'll try to nurture them back to health. Thanks for the suggestion of Neem Oil. On Monday I will check with my local garden expert to see what to try.

    Low-glycemic jam, no idea how to make that unless you just substitute Splenda for the sugar! Sounds good though!

  42. Your garden is looking great, though I am sorry about your poor Swiss chard. What a treat to find green beans hidden away. Unexpected treats are the most appreciated!

  43. Dara, we are really rocking the beans around here; just picked another whole bucket of beans today. I'm vowing to keep up on them a little better!

  44. Wish I can have a garden like yours.

  45. Thanks to everyone who chimed in on what's eating the chard. After showing the photo evidence and heavy consultation with the master gardener at Western Gardens, I've decided it is quail that's eating the plants. I bought plastic netting to go over; will report back on whether that solves it.

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