The Charlie Brown Cucumber Patch4
It’s Labor Day. To my knowledge, there are no Charlie Brown holiday specials to celebrate this occasion. I’m talking about those classic Charlie Brown cartoons celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas that we watched as kids. Who doesn’t think of this at least once around Christmas time?
Lest you worry that Labor Day will be deprived of its own iconic holiday plant, I give you, the Charlie Brown Cucumber Patch.
Yup… those sad looking twigs winding through the fence are cucumber vines. You see, a couple of weeks ago my curcubits (cucumbers, melons, squashes) started developing yellowish-brown spots that almost looked like frostbite. It was subtle at first so I thought they were just drying out. Cue the water. But it continued… and seemed to affect all the curcurbits in a wave, even in different parts of the yard. I noticed it wasn’t impacting the neighboring plants of different families (like the beans) so figured it must be some kind of disease. (Poor curcubits… why do the diseases pick on the tastiest plants?)
For better or worse, the end of our summer has been a busy one. I kept meaning to do some research into the situation and figure out how to address it before it got too far along… But before I knew it, it was very far along. See:
Now a sane person would probably just pull the plants out and move on. Being outside of that category, and having noticed that there were healthy, new, green leaves growing on many of the vines, I decided to do surgery. So yesterday I removed all of the diseased parts of the plants in the fenceline garden and sprayed with an ‘organic’ (more on this in an upcoming post) anti-fungal spray all over. (I noticed some white powdery mildew on the base of some of the vines.) I also fertilized all of the plants with fish emulsion diluted in water. Three hours later, they looked like this:
After doing some research this morning, I’ve determined that this is the calamitous curcubit culprit: Anthracnose. According an article published by North Carolina State University:
“The fungus may live two years in the absence of a suitable host. The fungus can be seed-borne and this is often the source of primary inoculum. The spores depend upon water for spread and infection; warm and humid rainy weather at frequent intervals is necessary for disease development. Spread by wash water on harvested fruit is important when cucumbers or melons are cleaned before packing. Spores may also be spread by cultivating equipment or workers when the foliage is wet. The spotted or striped cucumber beetle can carry the spores from plant to plant within a field or to adjoining fields.”
Spotted or striped cucumber beetle? You mean those yellow lady bugs I’ve seen everywhere lately? Yup, these guys:
But it gets worse. I (and our members) have been waiting patiently for the green flesh melons, watermelons and cantaloupe to ripen. Sadly, they’ve been ruined by Anthracnose before their time. The plants are dead. While the other melons seem to be stunted-yet-disease-free, the watermelons themselves have spots on them. I harvested the existing, usable melons and will distribute them this week with the hope that they are ripe enough to eat (and the disclaimer that they may not be). Sadly there aren’t enough “survivors” for all of our members to even try one. Hopefully I can find another local, pesticide-free grower with some melons to share. It’s sad because there were so many baby melons, I thought we were going to have them coming out of our ears. *sigh*
I guess I’ll be making a plan for how to deal with a disease that can linger for two years without any food. (Read: No curcubits). Clearly I can’t go two years with no cucumbers, melons or squash… stay tuned. And stay tuned to see what happens with our Charlie Brown Cucumber Plants. I’ll keep you posted!