Monthly Archives: June 2010

Early Early Blight

Well, it’s happened. Every year tomatoes in Kansas suffer through one onslaught of disease, destruction, and disaster after another. (Okay, it’s not that bad, but I just couldn’t resist the alliteration!) Now that the weather has turned hot and humid, following a period of rainy weather, tomato diseases are starting to come out of the woodwork!

There’s our first sign of early blight, and a stellar sample it is, too! This is on our Brandywine tomato plant (dratted heirlooms!), near the bottom of the plant. Also of interest, notice that the leaf shape for this plant is more like a potato than a tomato. That’s because Brandywine is a “potato-leaf” type of tomato.

Typically we see either Early Blight or Septoria Leaf Spot (or both at the same time) show up right about now. The Early Blight is distinguished by the triangular yellowing with lesions that frequently have concentric circles in them. Septoria, on the other hand, is characterized by yellowing and lots of little black spots. In fact, the above leaf may have a few spots of Septoria on them as well.

Most gardeners first notice the bottom leaves of their tomato plants turning yellow and then brown. The diseases come from the soil, get splashed onto the lower leaves by rain or irrigation, and then work up the plants. We always try to mulch our tomatoes to prevent some of the disease problems. Drip irrigation, tomato cages, and appropriate spacing of the plants helps too. We usually try to pick off diseased leaves, and then the last resort is spraying. We haven’t sprayed anything yet. If you want to, you can use Chlorothalonil. Organic options include a copper-based fungicide, biologicals like Actinovate that are Bacillus subtilis or other bacteria that feed on fungus, or do nothing. Some years doing nothing works just fine, other years it can be disastrous. Of course, it’s hard to tell that before it’s too late!

Watering in the Summer

I’m sure that some of you have noticed some of your plants looking a little bit stressed with the onset of hot weather and suddenly no rain. Even when you water, things still look a little bit droopy. The main reason for this is that our plants have gotten used to having plenty of rain – in fact, TONS of rain. They haven’t developed deep root systems because of the rain AND/OR they have had their root systems damaged because of all the rain. I watered this morning, and I’m still noticing plants wilting in the heat of the mid-afternoon sun. These plants just aren’t able to pull up enough water to make up for what they’re losing.

It can be really tempting in this situation to just keep pouring on the water, but that isn’t the best thing to do. You want to water regularly, but try to gradually wean your garden off of inches and inches of water each week. One thing that will help you do that is to have an idea how much water you are actually giving your garden. Since we have a drip system, here’s what I did:

I buried a plastic lid (about 1.5″ deep) under one of the emitters, and then turned the system on for 1 hour. After 1 hour, my catch cup was just starting to overflow a little bit. When I saw that, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe that I’m putting a whole 1.5″ of water on in only 1 hour, but…I guess I’ll turn it off.”

Silly me. As I’m sitting here thinking about it, I realized that technically, yes, that one spot had gotten 1.5″ of water, but our drip system has emitters only every 12″. Water tends to soak into the soil in a rather triangular pattern. Let’s see if I can explain this clearly. (Probably not, but here goes nothing.) From one drip, the water soaks into the soil, but instead of soaking straight down, it spreads out as it soaks in. (Okay, it just took me 10 minutes to find a reference for that! Here’s a link to a rather poor drawing.) In clay soils, the water spreads out more, and in sandy soils the water soaks in straight down more. Our soil is really rather sandy with high organic matter and not as much clay as you might think. It’s a blessing most of the time, truly! However, that fact means that with emitters 12″ apart and 2 drip lines running down a 4′ wide bed, it is actually pretty hard for these beds to get a good, uniform, thorough drink of water. I should have let the drip system run another hour before turning it off, and even then I should probably plan to hand water any young seedlings that are growing in between the drip lines. (Poor summer lettuces!)

Friday PhotoEssay

The handout from today’s Lunch in the Garden is available on that page, including this week’s recipe, Spring Lemon & Thyme Dressing. Yum! Thanks to Lisa for sharing this recipe with us!

Everything may not be “coming up roses” in the Demo Garden right now, but there sure are a lot of things in bloom! Herbs, squash, flowers, and more every day. Sadly, one thing that isn’t going to be producing any more roses  is the climbing rose bush that was on the trellis of our Quiet Garden.

The rose had just started putting on some new growth after being pruned, and that new growth came out dark red with excessive thorniness – a sign of Rose Rosette, an incurable disease. Any rosebush with this disease needs to be removed ASAP. For all the sad, gory details about Rose Rosette, you can view the K-State Fact Sheet.

The tomato plant with the best looking fruit right now is the ‘Orange Blossom’ Tomato. It is a determinate, and it does have a much smaller plant than some of the others. It looks like it’s going to have a nice crop of early fruit!

The Monarda (sometimes called Bee Balm) is in bloom in the center of the herb garden. I’m not sure why some of it is lighter pink – maybe it’s a different variety and I just didn’t realize it.

It’s so pretty that it almost makes you think that grasshopper is harmless! Yeah, right. There are tons of tiny grasshoppers hopping all over right now. They are cute enough, except that they will become huge, destructive grasshoppers by the end of the summer!

This is a flashback to the end of last summer…now that’s a big grasshopper! You could really sink your teeth into one of those. (Yes, I’m kidding…sort of.)

I’ll leave you with this as your warm, fuzzy picture for the weekend. This is one of our thyme plants that is just gorgeous right now. (There, is that better than another grasshopper picture?)

Out and About

I’m out in the garden all day today, leading about 75 kids from the McConnell Air Force Base Day Camp in a garden scavenger hunt. We’ll be counting up tomato flowers, smelling our favorite herbs, and learning to identify oak and maple leaves all day. Then I’m going to go home and take a long nap. (I don’t know how teachers do it all day!)

I will be back in action for Lunch in the Garden tomorrow, however! Our feature this week is Thyme, and Lisa Friesen, our Foods & Nutrition agent will be presenting the recipe. I know that I’m looking forward to it!

More Signs of Summer

Despite all the rain, the warm temperatures have been keeping all the plants growing quickly. Things are still moving forward! One plant that I’m a little bit surprised by is the ‘Honey Bun’ Cantaloupe. Remember, it is supposed to be a more compact, bush type cantaloupe that is good for small gardens. It is a few weeks old and not very big yet. It looks like it might be just starting to think about vining a little bit, but surprise! It already has flowers on it!

Now, a close inspection of the plant showed me that while there are lots and lots of flowers, they are all male flowers right now. This means that we can’t expect to see any melon for awhile yet, because the plant needs both male and female flowers to produce fruit. The same goes for the zucchini and other squash and melon plants. Just because you are seeing lots and lots of flowers doesn’t mean that you should expect a squash or melon for every flower. Only the female flowers produce. (You can tell the difference because female flowers usually have a swollen area behind the flower – a tiny baby squash or melon.) Most vines produce male flowers first, then eventually balance out to both male and female flowers.

Interestingly, our gold zucchini actually produced a female flower first, but I’m expecting that zucchini to start rotting here in the next couple of days because there were no male flowers to pollinate it. If I’d been on my game, I would have picked it on the day it bloomed for a gourmet treat!