Dear Friends and Gardeners Week 15

Pea vines past their prime
Pea vines past their prime

Dear Carol and Mary Ann (and all those who walk in the vegetable way),

Welcome to my garden this week where we’re a bit betwixt and between.  I harvested the last of the peas today and pulled up the vines. As you can see, they were mildewed, and it was time for the carrots and cucumbers to have their moment in the sun.  If you remember, I planted cucumber seeds in the same spot with the intention of using the same fence.  I don’t have as many cukes planted because they are extremely prolific, and not enjoyed by everyone in the Red Dirt Family.  This was a very good spring for peas with the unseasonably cool and wet weather.

Tiny 'Sungold' tomatoes will be bright yellow soon.  Nothing tastes sweeter.
Tiny 'Sungold' tomatoes will be bright yellow soon. Nothing tastes sweeter.

The ‘Sungold’ cherry tomatoes have tiny fruit, but all of the others are in their growth period.  I can see I need to get out there and tie many of them to their supports because they have grown enough to need it.  My baby tomatoes, about which I worried so much, are doing great although they are still behind the greenhouse babes.  I figure it will help to extend the season.

So far, the squash and melons remain untouched by either squash bugs or cucumber beetles, although I’ve seen the latter in the garden feeding off of flower nectar or pollen.  I don’t know which.

The tri-color beans are beginning to flower
The tri-color beans are beginning to flower

The green beans are just beginning to flower, and in a few weeks, I’ll have fresh beans.

I haven’t mentioned the potatoes lately.  I grew them in a totally different spot, the shredded leaf piles.  They are doing splendidly, and as they grow, I’m spreading more leaves around them.  Potatoes love leaf mold, and I didn’t want to do the labor intensive trench method, so I stuck them in a portion of the leaf pile.  I forgot to take a photo while I was out there today.

Carol, you asked me in the last letter whether I ever grew corn.  I used too.  In fact, I even did the three sisters method one year, where you plant the corn stalk and then plant beans and squash around it.  This also works with sunflowers, by the way.  However, after a couple of years, the raccoons which abound in this rural setting, found my corn rows and stripped the corn cobs from the plants.  Not only did it make me angry to lose the corn, I also hated the huge mess they made.  Raccoons are cute with their little bandit masks, but they are a horror in the vegetable garden.  After they finished the corn, they moved on to the tomatoes.  Those were two very bad summers, and I haven’t grown corn since.

The other night I took Bear to her Tae Kwon Do lesson, and I heard an elderly man talking with another grown student about his garden.  I waited until the student moved away and then engaged the older man in conversation.  Wearing a ball cap emblazoned with an ad for an equipment dealership, he had the look of the venerable Oklahoma farmer, all suntanned, wizened skin and clear, blue eyes.  I asked him questions about what he’d planted, and we espoused our views on a range of vegetables, ending up with our preference for crookneck or straightneck yellow squash (we both liked each of them).  I then asked him what he did about the squash bugs.

He looked at me as if I were daft and said,”Hit ’em with Sevin.  Dust ’em, and they’re not  a problem anymore.”

I tried not to shudder.  There was a time over 20 years ago when I hit ’em with Sevin too.

Although I wished it weren’t true, I wasn’t surprised and I understood his feelings.  He, like my grandmother, began gardening in a time when chemicals made life simpler and easier for the gardener.  “Better Things for Better Living…Through Chemistry” was DuPont’s motto from 1935 until 1982, after all, and we didn’t know then what we do know now.  Most of my neighbors still use Sevin and think nothing of it.  They don’t have holes in the leaves of their green bean plants.  Me?  Now, I’d rather not grow anything than to hit it with a pesticide.

Growing vegetables in Oklahoma is difficult to do organically because our weather seems to really bring out the bugs, but it is possible.  I promise.

Love ya,


  1. My favorite garden book, especially for vegetable-growing, is ‘Crockett’s Victory Garden,’ which is filled w/chemical remedies as you mention because it was another time, and even experts like Jim Crockett were unaware of what was happening. I still use the book, but skip the toxic parts.

    I am fascinated to see that you have tiny ‘Sun Gold’ fruits forming, as I do. My peas here in Zone 5 have another two weeks or so, and the beans are weeks away as well. So we are not so far apart after all, are we (dirt colors notwithstanding)?
    .-= Margaret Roach´s last blog ..2 ferns with more lasting color than any flower =-.
    Hi Margaret, we all three noticed that even though we are three zones apart, once the weather started to warm, our crops began to catch each other also. I’m now facing 99F and 100F temps, so that isn’t good news for tomato blossom set. We’ll see.~~Dee

  2. Laura says:

    I used to think nothing about recommending Sevin; now I know better!

    Yes, Laura, me too. After reading the package, I was truly frightened especially for my children.~~Dee

  3. Patsi says:

    Sungold is a sure winner for kids. Just the right size and sweet!
    Can’t wait for our tomatoes.

    Yum, yum, me neither.~~Dee

  4. I didn’t know potatoes could be grown in the leaf mold pile. I’ll have to try that next year.

    MMD, isn’t it great that each of us learns from the other? I’ve learned so much from you.~~Dee

  5. Tatyana says:

    Hello Dee! Did you find out who eats your beans’ leaves? I have the same problem. Agree with you that nothing can be sweeter than Sungolds!

    Tatyana, yes, it’s bean beetles, but they aren’t hurting anything here.~~Dee

  6. MA says:

    Sheeesh. And I thought better living through chemistry meant you should enjoy a Valium with your martini?! Was I ever wrong. Sevin? Does anyone use that stuff anymore? iiiiiiick.

    Yes, Mary Ann, a lot of people still use it. Hard to believe, but people here in the south get so frustrated by the bugs. The elder generation thought this was an easy fix, and they didn’t have the knowledge we have now.~~Dee

  7. Dee, last year was the first year raccoons found my corn, and you are right, it was a mess. But I’m trying again this year. I guess if they find me again, that will be the last corn for me, too.

    And on the Sevin and other chemicals… same with my Dad and grandparents. They thought nothing of using them to control insects in the garden. I’m with you, I’d rather not grow a vegetable if I have to spray it. That’s why I don’t grow broccoli or cabbage. I could never get rid of the worms.

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