spotty

Last year my cucumbers, cantaloupe and watermelons were humming along, with big lush vines and lots of fruits. Then suddenly the leaves turned spotty and within a week they were all brown and shriveled and useless.

The cukes managed a bumper crop before that happened, but after tending the melons for a couple of months I had nothing to show for it. I’ve generally had putrid success with my vining crops for the past few years. Most likely some soil-borne fungus that hangs on from year to year.

This year the cucumbers were iffy from the get-go, but they’re still hanging on with spotty lower leaves.

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I read about an organic product called Serenade, ‘a broad spectrum, preventative biofungicide recommended for the suppression of many plant diseases.’ It’s OMRI listed so I feel comfortable using it. It’s supposed to control some of the potential culprits of my cucurbits, anthracnose, downy mildew and leaf spot.

I treated the vines about a week ago, and so far so good. The leaves are still spotty, but they haven’t yet started to turn brown. I sprayed some on my pepper plants too, because they’ve had some nasty problem since the big rains in June.

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Cantaloupe vines…still there

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

The watermelons got a late start like the cukes and cantaloupe, but so far they don’t show any signs of disease.

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It was also time to pull the first planting of corn stalks and turn the chicken tiller lose. What fun for all of us.

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And one funny, but no so funny side story; for the second day in a row, user error led to another chicken break. As I was lifting the chicken tractor to move it, I inadvertently lifted too high, and two quick-thinking prisoners made their getaway.

I caught one easily, but the last holdout ended up in a chicken rodeo that lasted a good twenty minutes. They really want to be in that woods. But we finally got her close enough to her caged sisters to leave freedom voluntarily. No harm, no foul.

concrete (reinforcing wire) jungle part 2

It’s kind of like singing Christmas carols in February I guess, talking about cantaloupe in November.  But it’ll be a long winter, so I’m ok with that.

Last spring I had some extra tomato cages, the ones made out of 5′ concrete reinforcing wire.  There was quite a bit of information available about growing cantaloupe vertically on fencing, but not much at all about growing them in cages. This made me a little leery of the concept, but I plunged in anyway (the cages are marked in red, because they’re a little hard to detect). I placed a piece of cattle panel over the top of the four neighboring cages, just in case the vines needed more support or real estate once they made it to the top…

cantaloupe cages 1As the melons grew, things became more and more hopeful.  I watched them daily and restrained the over-eager pioneers that wanted to shoot right to the top by winding them around the circumference.  Baby melons started to appear and I made sure to train them to grow outside of the cages, because the openings are only 6″ (one drawback of the system).  The melon hills thrived and grew nicely up the towers.

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melon towersLong story short, I got lots of nice-sized cantaloupes, supported by salvaged apple bags tied to the cages.

But disaster struck before they could be harvested.  The beautiful healthy cantaloupe and watermelon crop was attacked by a soil-borne virus and died within a week.

The extension agent I talked to said there was nothing I could do.  So I may try one cantaloupe tower next year, but it was too wrenching an experience to repeat.  Live and learn.