Heating, Sweating, Wilting

The Northeast heat wave ended last week. Heat will return. This is summer. I'll take it, especially now that I have an air conditioner. The nice thing is that it is still early enough in the season for cool nights. In evening, turning off the AC and running fans in open windows cools well enough for a light blanket, and brings fresh air. In my mid-Atlantic home, middle to high 90s constitutes a heat wave. My younger sister currently lives in Hastings, Nebraska, with temperatures well over 100 degrees.

Becoming a gardener has made me appreciate cool weather, too. Broccoli and peas are two of my favorites, and both grow best in the cool seasons of spring and fall. Another favorite is beans. My black bean bushes are on schedule; at a little over 80s days since I planted the seeds, some of the pretty purple flowers have been replaced by long skinny pods! I can't wait until they fatten. The green pole beans have flowered, so I hope soon they will have pods.

A lot of the cucurbits seem to prefer heat. My yellow squash produced a prolific 13 fruits in the heat wave.

Both of my cucumber plants and one of my squash plants have wilted, most assuredly not from the heat. The ubiquitous cucumber beetles infested our community garden plants with bacterial wilt, which is common to cucurbits. A good site for photos and information, including a photo with the cucumber beetles, is:


Cucumber beetles can have spots or stripes. Flea beetles, another pest, are small, black and hop like fleas when disturbed; my eggplant plant is infested with them. Amazingly, it's trying to produce a fruit.

Fortunately, I've harvested a number of yellow squash already, but I won't have any cucumbers in my first year growing them. My organic approach has helped so far, though, to reduce the number of cucumber and flea beetles...just in time for the Japanese beetles' descent onto the gardens! What have I used? Safer brand insecticidal soap and Neem concentrate, both available from Lowes and other places. In addition, I handpick beetles.

In case you're wondering what cucurbits are, it's not what Noah used to build the ark. That was "cubits". Sorry, bad pun. (I'm thinking of one of Bill Cosby's stand-up routines from the 1970s where Noah, after receiving specific instructions on how to build the ark, asks God, "God? Um, what's a cubit?")

Cucurbits, whose scientific name is cucurbitaceae, includes plants such as: cucumbers, squash, gourd, melon, pumpkin, etc. Want to learn more? Well, believe it or not, there's a site...

www. cucurbit.org

...dedicated to this popular plant family with the funny name. Cool, eh? Or maybe I should say, "Phat and hot!"

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