I’ve been MIA for the past few months as I’ve been up to my eyeballs in post-season Little League baseball. Now that the Little League season is winding down, I’m excited to get back to The Lady DIY! I’m way overdue to post an update on the progress of our suburban vegetable garden; we’re now about two and a half months in, and my intention was to post every month or so. (You know what they say about good intentions.)
Considering that I haven’t had much time to devote to our little garden, there are some great things happening. We got lucky this year with the weather and actually got a few weeks of spring. (Usually, it feels like we go from winter to 100+ degree heat within about a two-week span.) The extra few weeks of gradually warming weather allowed the plants to get established before the heat of the summer arrived. It also helps that my mom is an amazing gardening and has been putting in time while I’ve been MIA.
The plants are green and lush. The tomato plants are bursting out of their cages, requiring regular shifting of branches to keep them under control. I absolutely love the pole beans; they have overtaken the upright supports, and make for a gorgeous wall of green. The marigolds have filled out and continue to produce pretty flowers. One of the pumpkin plants is borderline out of control and is threatening to take over half of the yard.
As I mentioned in this post, I really wanted to have a successful zucchini crop this year to make use of my spiralizer. (Last year’s crop was a total flop, and I ended up buying all of our zucchini.) I’m happy to report that I’ve already harvested several zucchini this year, and enjoyed lots of zoodles and zucchini lasagna. The one challenge I’ve had is finding the zucchini before they grow too large (and get full of hard seeds); the pumpkin plant provides some amazing camouflage and those zucchini love to hide! You can find my favorite zoodle recipe HERE and my favorite recipe for zucchini lasagna HERE.
The pole beans have created what can best be described as a living wall in the middle of our raised bed garden. Not only do the plants look great, they are producing a pretty decent crop. My mom has enjoyed several meals with the green beans she’s gathered. At this point, we aren’t finding many beans anymore, but I can’t tell if the plants aren’t producing, or if the beans are just well hidden in all of the leaves. Either way, the pole beans are doing their intended job and providing shade for the pepper plants.
Speaking of which, we haven’t harvested any peppers yet, but we have some beauties that will be ready soon. I’m just waiting for them to start turning yellow and red. I’ve tried growing peppers for the last few years, and always had issues with sunburn on the fruit. I give a huge amount of credit for the success of our pepper plants to the pole beans and the shade they are providing.
Did you notice the teeny, tiny pumpkin in the photo above? We planted two different types of pumpkins this year – Baby Bear and Jack o’ Lantern. The Baby Bear pumpkin plant can best be described as out-of-control. From one plant, there are vines going every which way. They’re climbing through the pepper cages, and up and through the pole bean supports. One of the vines is already about 30 feet long. Mom and I have bets going on whether or not it will grow all the way to the house before fall.
There are a handful of pumpkins that are about the size of a large grapefruit and actually look like pumpkins. There are several more baby pumpkins, about 1-2″ in size.
As invasive as pumpkin plants can be, I find them incredibly charming. I love their giant leaves and those little curly cue, tendril thingies. They are easy-to-grow for beginning gardeners. The vines grow very fast – I haven’t done it yet, but I’m almost positive that you could measure new growth on a daily basis.
The tomato plants look amazing – lush and full of fruit. Unfortunately, every time I went to pick a big, juicy tomato, I was disappointed to find that half of it had been eaten. There were several tomato “carcasses” where only a tiny bit of skin was left behind. Who was to blame? This wasn’t the work of the dreaded tomato hornworm. It was something bigger.
A couple of our neighbors have fruit trees, which tend to attract the critters. Apparently, rats also seem to really enjoy tomatoes. (Who knew?) I had big plans for all of the tomatoes I had envisioned harvesting, and feeding the neighborhood rat population was NOT one of them. After finding what was probably the twentieth rat-eaten tomato, I went online to research solutions.
Several people mentioned having luck with these solar-powered rodent repellers. They are intended for moles and voles, but the product description mentions rats as well. The repeller is a metal post, about 15″ long, with a small solar panel at the top. You stick a few of these in the ground around the area you want to keep rodent-free. The repeller emits a sound about every 30 seconds or so, and supposedly the rodents interpret this sound as a sign of danger and stay away. Not only are these a non-toxic and non-violent solution , but at only $19.99 for two, I figured they were worth a try.
I’m sure it’s some form of subconscious, passive-aggressiveness, but I jammed one of those repellers right next to a chewed-on tomato remnant. With a sense of great self-satisfaction, I thought, ” Take that, rat!” There *might* have also been a swear word or two.
We’ve had two of these repellers in the yard for almost two weeks now. I had read that it can take a few weeks for these repellers to drive the rodents away, so I was willing to give it some time. I didn’t see much of a decrease in rat activity at first, but I’m happy to report that I harvested an armful of uneaten tomatoes yesterday! There is still evidence of rat activity – I picked and discarded almost as many half-eaten tomatoes. I don’t think that these solar-powered rodent repellers are any sort of miracle solution, but this is definitely an improvement to our tomato harvest.
That’s it for now. I’ll keep you updated as things continue to grow (or not) and if the rat repellers seem to be working.