I love playing in the dirt. I love planting things and watching them grow. I love harvesting my vegetables, eating them and preserving the surplus. The first year we moved here, we designed a large garden and built raised beds to grow a myriad of vegetables and fruits for the next year. Or rather, I designed the garden and Mitch built the raised beds and installed the fence around the perimeter to protect it from the dogs. We had a truck dump eight yards of garden soil to fill the beds. We over calculated how much we needed and ended up with a surplus of about two yards of dirt.
The first gardening year, I was a bit ambitious and planted zucchini and cucumber from seed. Needless to say, I grew, ate, gave away and preserved close to a ton of fresh zucchini and cucumbers. At least that’s what it felt like. The next year, I paired it back a bit and only planted three zucchini, but I planted cucumber from seed. I still had too many zucchini and ended up trying my hand at pickling cucumbers. I made dill pickles and sweet spicy pickles. They turned out pretty good for a first attempt.
This year I decided to scale the zucchini and cucumber way back. I only bought one zucchini plant that had two little starts in the pot and one cucumber plant with three little starts in the pot. I got adventurous and bought a cantaloupe plant with two little starts. I bought all of the starts from one of the big box home improvement/gardening stores. The plants all looked healthy when I planted them. After a month of growth, all of the plants had blooms and were growing big.
Two weeks ago I was inspecting the cucumbers and noticed some tiny black bugs on the leaves. I turned the leaf over and was horrified that the underside of the leaves were covered in these tiny black bugs, even the blooms had tiny black bugs all over them. Aphids! Oh my god, I have aphids. Now what? I googled how to control aphids, hoping for a natural remedy. Ladybugs are a predator, but looking at the infestation I had I wasn’t sure there were enough ladybugs in the state of Washington to eat their way through my cucumbers and rid me of the aphids. I decided the next option was insecticidal soap and neem oil. Those two didn’t seem as devastating to the rest of the insect population, so I carefully sprayed the cucumbers with the insecticidal soap. I checked the zucchini and cantaloupe too and yep, I had aphids on them too. A week later I sprayed the cucumbers, zucchini and cantaloupe with the neem oil, hoping that if I keep rotating between the two, I might get rid of the aphids before they spread to my tomatoes and peppers.
I returned from a business trip and was going through the garden inspecting my plants saw a cucumber that was ripe and picked it. As soon as I picked it and inspected it I realized that it wasn’t a cucumber, it was a zucchini. The zucchini plants were mislabeled as cucumbers and now I had five zucchini plants instead of two, no cucumbers and the bonus of an aphid infestation. I am really regretting my decision to even have a garden this year. Plus I will never buy another plant from that store again.
I am giving serious consideration to ripping out the zucchini, cantaloupe and the “cucumber” plants and hope that the aphids go to the yard recycling heaven and feasts to their hearts content someplace else.