Pest Management around two zucchini plants

Two gorgeously healthy zucchini plants have been blooming in my garden for a month.  But during this period, Chicago has had extraordinarily unusual weather (this Sunday morning there’s thunderstorm again like the thunderstorm Friday night/Saturday morning).  And in between this plentiful rain, are extraordinary hot sunny days in the 90’s with a heat index in the 100’s!!!  In this climate MIX of lots of water and sun, my tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and the two zucchini plants are HAPPILY GROWING:  taller, wider, lots of green leaves, BUT FEW BLOOMS OR BUDS.  And, all female flowers, no males.  What might be going in with my plants?  Even with vegetables, more females are “born” yet males are preferred.

But the real threat to my healthy zucchini plants are the squash bugs that lay dormant in the soil in the winter and ravage my veggies in the summer; unless, I can keep up with the eggs that are laid on the underside of the leaves.  When I see their diamond formation on the leaf, I cut the leaf, burn each if I can, or wrap them carefully in a trash bag to put in the dumpster.  I’ve been doing that every other day and cut almost 10-15 leaves but it seems like a losing battle.  I’m not ready to give up despite observing some nymphs that are the hatched eggs growing up!  My son James says once they’ve reached that stage, they have multiplied beyond my control reach.  Nevertheless, I put my fortress of defense to surround the zucchini plants with ten nasturtium plants and six marigolds.  Organic pest management is tough.  Working with the hot/rain environment of the past 30 days, fighting the squash bugs lying dormant in the winter and resurrecting in the spring, the gardener still doesn’t “control” enough of the factors that affect the zucchini to produce fruits!  The growing process is frustrating despite the plants looking good.  See photo.


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Pruning my Queen of the Night houseplant

Queen of the Night is the common name for Night-blooming Cereus or Epiphylum. This almost ten year old plant of mine is more than 5 ft tall,  gangly, overgrown and top heavy.  While a white trellis supports its weight, the trellis had given up sometime ago and began to droop (not quite fall yet).  I buttressed the Queen and her trellis with a thick tree branch that was once a walking stick from a park.  But today, I noticed a bud dangling in the front, attached to a new leaf.  This is the first sign of the typical Midsummer night phenomenon that flowers will bloom, one night only, and the fragrance will fill the whole apartment.

I decided finally to prune the gangly, overgrown Queen, to give it some shape and balance, and more important,  to grown with plenty of room.  As I carefully eased my sight and arm through the brown branches, cut each close to the base of the Queen,  I could see better the green leaves,  with more space in between.  After half an hour of pruning, the bucket was filled with perhaps half the original size of the Queen.

It truly is a paradox that pruning, i.e. cutting the whole plant to size is a healthy act that benefits the plant even as it might “hurt” to be cut.   It saddened me to have done the “surgery” with my sanitized pruner but I knew the Queen would be happier if she was not all over the place, especially being top-heavy.  There is something about being overgrown and top heavy that seemed not quite correct, like when one’s physical body is too fat or too heavy.  Suffering and pain seems necessary which might come with dieting and exercise for the body to come to come to its “true” size.  And when that “true” size is reached, growth  follows naturally again and flowers bloom and fragrance and beauty surrounds the body.

But alas, when I took a photograph of the Queen’s new figure, I discovered that by cutting some old brown branches, I had also cut the new flower bud that was at the far, far end of the branch.  With regret, I took a photograph as well of the bucket where all the cuttings were placed, with the bud prominently in the center position.  Perhaps it will bloom anyway as a cutting.  And I pray, the pruned Queen of the Night will not punish me by denying me that one night of fragrance and beauty sometime this summer.

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Last night’s totally unpredicted sudden thunderstorm came soon after I got off the No. 6 bus. A university graduate student ran with me to the Illinois Central aqueduct area for shelter. He tried to call the university’s SAFE RIDE to ask for a ride for us but no one answered. It is summer vacation and almost 8 p.m. I called a neighbor who valiantly braved the thunderstorm to pick us up and take us home. There was hail with the strong rain. There were thunderous thunder claps. And very strong winds that made us think there might be a tornado coming. When Don picked us up, the aqueduct was beginning to flood and he reported that the Severe weather report that interrupted his TV watching (including my call of HELP!) reported 50-60 miles per hour winds. Thus, early this morning, I went out to check the garden to see if there was extensive damage. It was not the usual summer morning…no birds tweeting…no stray cats watching me…no sun shine. But despite last night’s stormy experience, there was really no damage, except a few leaves that fell to the ground. Leaves from my favorite bitter melon vine, eggplant, sweet red pepper, and a leaf from one zucchini plant. How does Mother Nature come down in such fury and leave us still connected to some trunk. I believe it is because we have roots…roots that keep us grounded firmly. Today, I am grateful for having deep roots.

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