Thursday, August 1, 2013

Key The Trumpet

I have been having so much fun with my garden this summer.  What I started on a whim in the way-too-hot days of Texas summer heat has become a source of peace and joy.  I wander (a purposeful wander, mind you) to the gate every morning in the early shadows (and before the triple digits make their claim) to see what magic occurred over night.  The bees always beat me to it and are the first to greet the new bright orange squash and gourd blossoms.  But this is a eulogy of happier times.

Ready the trumpets.

I have noticed a change in my brave troopers over the past couple weeks.  I feared the summer heat might be proving too much for them as I watched some of the newer leaves curl tight as if saying, "Enough, you brutish sun!  Enough!"  I gently checked them for their common enemies like squash beetles, stink bugs, white flies, and aphids.  I gave them healthy soaks of water in the evening to help them recover from their duty of growing in heat of the day.

Trumpets ready.

I did what every home gardener getting their hands dirty and blistered for the first time would do in this modern age in a town known for its agricultural college; I went to the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension web page looking for answers.  I was horrified by the pictures of dead and dying plants afflicted with various diseases and viruses with scientific names too long to say.  In brief there was rot, wilt, and blight. Nematodes, scabs, and mildew.  Oh my.

Bow your heads and remove your hats, please.

I was overwhelmed with the information.  I read page after page and painstakingly poured over every detail in the photo examples.  I did not want to accept what I diagnosed.  I wanted to close my laptop and ignore the signs that could not be ignored.  I chose to continue to water diligently and hope that my research was wrong, just a waste of my time.  Surely it was just the heat and all would be well.  But I was wrong.

Cue the Trumpeteer.

Deciding it was time for a second opinion (last hope), one more knowledgeable than my own, I contacted the experts at Agrilife for their opinion.  Sadly, my worst fear was true.  My plants had CMV.  You know it must be bad if it has an acronym.  CMV stands for Cucumber Mosaic Virus and there is no cure.

My beauties continue to soldier on, developing wonderful crook neck squash, fall gourds, and jalapenos (yes, even my pepper was not immune from a disease that takes it name from a cucumber), so I will make them comfortable with water and harvesting until they no longer are productive.  Then, I will remove them from the dirt I made rich with compost and peat under the Texas sun, take them to the fire pit en mass, and cremate every last leaf and stem so the murderous pathogens in their core cannot spread to my new crops.

Lower trumpets.  Take a deep breath.  Let it go slowly.

I am conflicted.  I find solace in knowing there is not only no treatment for CMV, but it can also not be prevented.   I did nothing wrong.  There is no magic dust or preventive shower of chemicals that would have kept my garden safe.  The tiny aphid carriers that spread this virus did so within 1 minute of biting into the tender leaves.  I took care of the aphids when I saw them, yes, but the damage was done.  The only preventative measure I could have taken would have been to shroud my garden in a fabric that would not have allowed them through  But then I would have a beautiful, healthy garden of sterile flowers which need bees to fertilize them.   Can I live with this?  Knowing that it will happen again and again, can I replant?  Yes.

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

I can plant my own seeds, nurture tiny seedlings, keep weeds at bay, and harvest a bounty.  I can be diligent in spotting harmful enemies, but there will be things out of my control.  Now, I will venture out to the gate in morning shadows and see how my first generation garden is fairing today.

* Update:  I did in fact have to remove one squash plant (the fruit were white when they should be yellow), one pole bean (yes, they get it too), and part of my Crown of Thorns gourd plant (tendrils too close to my last bean plant) to try and minimize the spread.  One gourd is still very healthy and the other pole bean has no symptoms.  The last squash is still making yellow fruit so I left it.