Promises, Promises and Kelley's Garden Review

Soldier Beetle
What was that promise I made?...To write…regularly…all summer?  Is it really January already?  Did we have summer?  Yeah yeah, that’s my excuse.  Oh well, it’s a new year, I resolve to make better use of my intentions. 

Since there’s a lot of catching up to do, I’ll post it in palatable chunks rather than bore you all (and myself) with one long winded missive…

So, looking back at my gardening year.  Hmmmm, where to begin.  Let me just back up a little farther to start.  I thought our 2010 summer sucked, from a tomato growing perspective anyway. In that year plants struggled through late frosts, grew slowly, and kept wondering where the heat was.  They did grow though, and they did produce.  Not all varieties lived up to their potential, but many produced outstanding fruit and plenty of it!  Some did better for me than years past, like Cherokee Purple.  I had loads of them, and they were just SO good.  Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Gold Medal, and Sudduth Brandywine all knocked my socks off.  I was excited to see what they would do in a “normal” year, and stupidly assumed that 2011 would be just that, or closer at least. 


My entire garden in 2011 was one interesting or frustrating or head scratching observation after another. It was certainly educating, I learned a lot about humility. In early spring (before planting summer crops), the aphids came as they always do.  They multiplied with lightening speed, and they found my favas, kale, and chard quite to their liking.  They became so thick in places I couldn’t see whole parts of a plant.  I knew their predators were coming, so I was patient, but it took longer than usual.  The weather must have been just warm enough for good aphid breeding but not warm enough to bring on hungry predators.  Finally, I started seeing ladybugs.  They were slow and kind of lazy at first.  I’d go out and assess their feeding and they were not living up to my expectations.  I watched as they casually walked past hundreds of plump aphids. I talked to them, encouraged them to gorge themselves but they were taking their time.  They slowly got up to speed though, started breeding (their larvae eat aphids too), and then the soldier beetles came.  That’s when the balance shifted.  There was frenetic feeding, breeding, and fighting, and shortly the aphid problem was no longer.  Great fun to watch. 

I noticed camel crickets, lots of them, for the first time.  Maybe it’s just the first time I looked closely enough.  They liked my celery a lot, and other cool season crops, although I didn’t notice any terrible destruction, just some minor chewing.  I wonder what eats them.  They eventually disappeared. 

As for the summer crops, growth was just so slow that some plants (especially the peppers) couldn’t outpace the pests.  After planting my raised beds, I discovered that the snail population had exploded, and they, along with pillbugs and earwigs were happy to have the fresh tender salad bar.  I lost several pepper plants, replanted, and lost more.

And then there were the tomatoes...
To be continued