Sunday, July 24, 2011
Failure of the pumpkin crop - coyotes like watermelons
Drew's gardening expertise is using intensive raised beds. But, hoping to start a larger scale U-pick pumpkin farm we had put in a trial field plot near the river last spring. The almost organic plants flourished. Straw was placed between all of the rows to give a resting place for each pumpkin. But, not very long after this photo was taken the plants started to wither. Tiny holes appeared at the base of every plant. Squash vine borers destroyed the entire crop. We expect to try again next year. Then we'll have to use some chemicals. We'll spray before the fruit forms. Nobody is likely to eat the pumpkins anyway.
We had also put in an trial plot of watermelons. The plants at first did not thrive. Not until the hot weather of mid June did the plants start to grow rapidly and form fruit. Lots of healthy melons of various varieties appeared. I poured on the water using our irrigation well. The melons were nearly ripe when in one night something ate 20 or more. In a couple of days, nearly all of our melons were destroyed. The damage didn't look like raccoons who typically make a small hole and hollow out the middle with their hands. Teeth marks looked like small bears ate the watermelons. "Coyotes ..." a commercial farmer told me "... absolutely love watermelons." That fit. We do hear a lot of coyotes singing at night very near the house. And the plants had been crushed down by animals larger than raccoons or woodchucks. It still might have been a family of bears. The previous owner killed 3 bears on this property in the 1990's. But, my bet is on our resident pack of coyotes.
Finally, the good news. Drew's raised beds are doing very well. This year we had every type of garden vegetable we tried. Nearly everything was commercial quality. We anticipate only improvement as we yearly enrich the soils and get more experience with Arkansas conditions.