Monthly Archives: June 2009

Watch Out For Diseases!

Since our dry spell was broken last week with some damp weather, followed by quite a bit of rain, and now humidity, we are seeing great weather for disease problems!

The two diseases that I will be keeping a lookout for in the Demo Garden are Black Rot on the grapes and Septoria Leaf Spot/Early Blight on the tomatoes.

I have already seen some indications of the Black Rot on the grapevines. LastBlack Rot week I saw this leaf with the characteristic lesions.  This morning I am seeing the first of the green grapes with the spots on them. Last year I think we lost half of the grapes to this fungus. The best way to prevent the disease is to spray with either a copper-containing fungicide or myclobutanil (Immunox, but not Immunox Plus!). The fungicides should be sprayed every 7-10 days when the conditions are right for infection.  At temperatures between 70 and 85, 6-9 hours of continuous leaf wetness will result in infection. As the temperature climbs to 90 or hotter, it takes 12 hours of leaf wetness for infection to occur.

Septoria Leaf Spot and Early Blight are two extremely common tomato diseases in this area. We haven’t seen any sign of them yet, but the symptoms and signs will probably start showing up after this warm, moist spell. Classic Septoria

This tomato leaf shows classic symptoms of Septoria. If you click on the picture, you can clearly see the tiny black spots all over the leaves. The spots generally appear on the lowest leaves first, causing the leaves to turn yellow and die. The disease moves up the plant as the summer progresses. Early Blight is very similar, except that instead of small black spots, you see 1/2″ lesions with concentric circles (bull’s eye) on the leaves.

There are numerous cultural controls for this diseases, including removing diseased leaves, using clean straw or other mulch around the plants, using cages/other methods to keep plants off the ground, and spacing plants to allow for good air movement.

Applying a copper-containing fungicide or chlorothalonil will also help prevent disease problems.

Friday PhotoEssay

It’s been a rather dreary week weather-wise, so I’ve chosen some bright pictures of flowers and fruit from the Demo Garden for this week’s Friday PhotoEssay.

AngeloniaMy photo is a little blurry, but I just could resist this brightly colored Angelonia. I was working in a greenhouse the first summer this plant was on the market for annual sales, and I really love the delicate florets on the flower stalk.

Tomato BloomsNot as showy, but no less beautiful! The cherry tomatoes are going to town putting on flowers. I have a feeling we will have more tomatoes than we care to have this summer!

Bean BloomThe beans are also going crazy with blooms. Anyone up for bean picking in a couple weeks?

Anise HyssopThe anise hyssop is starting to bloom. This is one of my favorite herbs to just walk through the garden and pick a leaf to eat. I’m not a huge fan of the anise flavor, but this herb is so sweet it’s okay!

Red Currant BerryDo you see that flash of red among the leaves? The currants are just starting to ripen. The translucent red currants are almost too beautiful to eat!

PentasI’ll leave you today with these gorgeous pentas!

Have a great weekend!

The First Time Gardener: Plants Need Fertilizer!

It seems so obvious, and yet it can be a challenge for even an experienced gardener at times. Plants need nutrients. Most soils contain at least some of the necessary nutrients for plant growth, but sometimes there are deficiencies. The soil can lack nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium – one of the essential nutrients. Sometimes we will see a deficiency of one of the less important nutrients (less important in that plants need smaller amounts), but that is not common.

You may think that a new garden won’t need fertilizer. That can be true, but not always. Some of our city soils are pretty depleted! In the Demo Garden right now, we have some good examples of plants that are healthy and plants that are hungry – they could use some more fertilizer.

Nitrogen Deficiency These are some cherry tomatoes that are in gallon pots. (They are for a youth gardening project I’ll be starting next week.) The potting soil doesn’t have fertilizer, and I haven’t been doing a good job of watering with fertilizer either. The plants have kind of a sickly yellow tinge to them. Some of the lower leaves also show some purple color. The yellow is indicative of nitrogen deficiency, and the purple indicates phosphorus deficiency. However, to clearly see the deficiency, let’s compare to a nice, healthy, dark green tomato plant.

Healthy Cherry TomatoesCan you see the difference? This is the row of cherry tomatoes, and we incorporated compost and a pound of an 11-15-9 granular fertilizer before planting. These plants are dark green, healthy, and growing well. They are not over-fertilized because they are setting fruit, but they certainly aren’t starving!

The other place we are seeing nutrient deficiencies is in our Family of 4 Garden. The reason for this is that we have had it continuously planted since the spring of 2008. This garden has hardly had a break! Because of that, it didn’t get very much compost this spring, nor has it had a full dose of fertilizer. Pepper deficiency Look at these peppers. Can you see the differences? The back two rows are nice and green, while the front two rows are small and yellowish. I fertilized the back rows almost 3 weeks ago, and they have really taken off. The front two rows were planted amongst the lettuce plants, and didn’t get fertilized until a week ago after the lettuce was harvested. They are starting to green up, but they are still behind.

FoF Tomatoes The tomatoes in the Family of 4 Garden are also a little bit yellow. They just haven’t been growing as well as the other tomatoes in the Demo Garden. This is a good example of the dangers of interplanting different crops. Undoubtedly these plants need some additional fertilizer. However, cabbage plants are a notoriously heavy nitrogen feeder. They are probably using a lot of the available nitrogen, depriving the tomatoes!

The best solution to deficiencies like these is to sidedress a granular fertilizer (either synthetic or organic) around the plants. Don’t use too much, or you’ll burn the plants! I’ll probably use about 1/6 pound in the  4 x 4 tomato area. You can also use a water soluble fertilizer if you prefer. Topdressing with an inch or two of compost can also help provide additional nutrients.

I’d better go fertilize before I forget!

When is a Blackberry not a Blackberry?

The northwest corner of the Demo Garden is where all the fruit are planted. Half of the area is strawberries, the rest is currants, gooseberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Or at least what I thought were blackberries. When I came here, everything was labeled, and I took the labels at their word. The two blackberry plants were labeled as ‘Chester’ Blackberry. Blackberries and raspberries are fairly similar, so I didn’t think anything of it.

The blackberries have started ripening, which seemed a little early, and the fruit is very small for a blackberry. I was all ready to chalk it up to the variety, determined to make a point that it was the most pitiful blackberry plant I’d every seen.

But when I went to pull one of the ripe fruit off…it came off the plant without the core! This is one of the hallmarks of a raspberry. When blackberries are harvested, the “core,” scientifically called the receptacle, remains in the fruit and is consumed with the fruit. Raspberries separate from the receptacle when harvested. I have to say that I was a little miffed about the whole thing, because there were any number of indications that these plants were not blackberries, and I ignored them.

So, we apparently have a mystery black raspberry plant in the garden, and another mystery raspberry that as yet has produced no fruit. Which leaves us with no blackberries.

Family of 4 Garden Tour – June Edition

The Family of 4 Garden is changing rapidly, so I thought I’d give you the virtual tour!

Tiny PepperThe pepper plants are looking much better after I sidedressed them with fertilizer late last week. The are just starting to set some peppers. I should probably pick them off to encourage the plants go get bigger, but I just don’t have the heart to do it!

Last of the LettuceWe harvested the last of the lettuce from the Family of 4 Garden this morning. We got a little over a pound of lettuce. We harvested for 2 reasons: 1) The lettuce is starting to get bitter due to the heat. 2) We needed the space to plant the squash!

We planted the squash seeds this morning. ‘Honey Bear’ is an acorn squash, and ‘Cornell’s Bush Delicata’ is a type of delicata squash. Both are winter squashes. They are supposed to fit in a 2 x 2 ft space, so we will see how that works out!

Tiny Cabbage HeadsThe unplanned red cabbage in the middle of the tomato patch is starting to form heads. I hope we can get it harvested here in another couple weeks to give the tomatoes more space to grow!

Speaking of the tomatoes:

First TomatoWe have our first tomato set on in the Family of 4 Garden! This tomato is one of the ‘Fabulous’ plants.

CheddarThe ‘Cheddar’ Cauliflower should be large enough to harvest by next week sometime.

Onions sizing upThe onions are getting bigger every day. It is hard to resist the temptation to start pulling them out now! A few of the Texas 1015Y onions continue to rot. They have probably been getting too much water. I don’t think this week will help that cause.

Dust and Cucumber BeetleThe beets, carrots, and Swiss chard look good, if a little bit holey. We sprinkled them with some Rotenone dust (organic) this morning, since I had seen some critters on them. This picture shows a cucumber beetle. I don’t know what he thinks he’s doing eating beet greens, but apparently he’s hungry.

That’s what’s up in the Family of 4 Garden this week. Now that lettuce harvesting season is over, we’ll have a few weeks before it gets really busy again with peppers, tomatoes, etc.