Cucumber Beetles

Cucumber beetles…. mere mention strikes fear in the hearts of vegetable gardeners, countrywide. Or, at least, it should.

They attack flowers and ornamentals as well as cucumbers. In fact, over 270 plants in 29 families fall prey to this little trouble-maker.

To learn more, I consulted Golden Harvest Organics online library. It was fascinating to learn (among other things) that the beetles actually transmit bacterial diseases which overwinter in their intestines, infecting plants in their earliest of stages.

According to, the striped cucumber beetles do the most damage to the cucumber families or cucurbits, appearing a good four weeks before their spotted relatives.

Aside from hitting potatoes, squash, asparagus, tomatoes, fruits, and melons, they go after corn with a vengeance. Larvae infestation will impact the root system so forcefully, the corn appears to be drought-stricken. Adult beetles burrow into the silks when pollination is due to occur—resulting in “poor grain set.”

There are repellent plants which could be planted to deter the beetle and various other organic methods. (Try placing aluminum foil beneath plants to reflect light—the beetles prefer the underside of leaves because of the shade.)

David prefers the route of “integrated pest management” (IPM). Which is our very next blog entry….

Stay tuned.

The Three Sisters

More than 800 years ago the native American Iroquois people developed and employed a “cooperative” way of planting their three main crops:  corn, beans and squash—known as “Three Sisters.” 

If planted close together, the corn would provide a stalk upon which the beans would climb.  The beans would provide essential nitrogen to the soil and the large squash leaves would provide a ground cover to prevent the growth of unwanted plants and weeds.

We’re pairing two of the three sisters together this year. 

We grow rows and rows of butternut squash to allow proper garden space (after growing butternut for more than 10 years, I am still amazed at the amount of space the squash will eventually require).

The beans are nestled close to the corn, and once trained, will likely be very happy to hitch a ride on the cornstalks. This saves us the trouble of arranging a trellis of some sort and is a connection to history we’re happy to make.

‘Three Sisters” was all about maintaining an efficient garden, and environmental harmony as well.

Corn Sheller and Mill at the Fairgrounds

I took the kids to an antique tractor show at the fairgrounds last month. The air was filled with the spits and sputters and little puffs of smoke from hit-and-miss engines. Crowds gathering and dispersing among the many historical displays.

As we strolled past a corn sheller, the gentleman operating it pointed to Nathaniel and said, “Young man, your mom wants to make corn bread!!”  Nathaniel looked up, quizzingly, as the man repeated, “she needs your help—go on out and gather a bushel of corn.”

He reached down and pulled up a handful of ears and handed them to Natalie. “Shell ’em,” he directed.

You can imagine they were both smiling by now as Natalie cranked the wheel and Nathaniel added the corn. Once the mill chewed the kernels off, they began spilling out the chute.

“You’re not done yet!  Mom can’t make cornbread out of this!  You need to mill it—grind it up!”

So they gathered the kernels and put them down the mill chute and began to crank. The bowl caught the light, yellow, cracked and milled corn.

“Good job,” he said, “now take this in to mom. She’s in the kitchen waiting for it!”

We thanked him for such an interesting and fun demonstration. Other children had now gathered to give it a go and we slowly made our way to the next display.

I glanced back as I remembered shelling corn with my grandfather to give to the wild geese that gathered on his pond every year around this time making their way south. I loved that corn sheller.

Sweet Corn

We bade a fond farewell to our sweet corn a week ago.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats the taste of  a freshly picked ear of sweet corn. My husband always plants the old standby “Silver Queen.” It’s been a popular variety with farmers for decades and has a maturity of 92 days. This year, we also planted “Bodacious” which has a 75-day maturity and “Delectable” with an 84-day maturity. The different days to maturity as well as staggered plantings, allow for a sweet corn harvest over several summer weeks if you’re a savvy planter!

I’ve frozen corn in the past by cutting it from the cob, blanching it, and securing in freezer bags. I’ve even canned it—which is fairly time-consuming because of the processing time in the pressure canner. The best way to enjoy it, though, is right out of your garden, right out of the pot, and right off the cob!

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

Fertilizer Makes Corn Happy

This very brown pile is responsible for making our corn very happy.

You see, corn requires heavy amounts of nitrogen in order to yield well. The manure/straw bedding that is taken from the sheep stalls is loaded with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — the main elements essential for healthy plant growth. (Raw manure, containing ammonium-N, which will dissipate when exposed to the heat and air of the outdoors, is applied to the soil early in the Spring.)

The pile in the picture came from one very large stall that wasn’t cleaned along with the others a few months ago—and had over-wintered. David estimated its weight at 4-5 tons! It’s a very difficult job breaking the mass apart in the stalls, separating it into wagon loads and taking it to the compost area away from the barn. And to say the ammonia odor is “strong” is an understatement!! However, the contents are rich in “plant food” and feeds the garden soil that is constantly at work to “feed” and nourish the plants.

The remants of the pile will compost itself and shrink down. We’ll use it in the Fall or even next Spring. Right now? The corn’s pretty happy—if a vegetable can be “happy”.