Monthly Archives: June 2014

Friday PhotoEssay

The garden here is loving all the rain for a change! I guess that is the flip side of our sandy soil – when it is dry it is really dry, but when it is wet it is only kind of wet instead of soggy.

Here’s a look at the whole garden for this week. It’s hard to see, but the potatoes are starting to fade a bit as are some of the onions. The tomatoes and pumpkins are growing like crazy.

 This is the Bitter Gourd (aka Bitter melon) vine. It is just starting to tendril, and the leaves are so different from our other vines. It is also very tender. The leaves and stem almost feel soft, especially compared to cucumbers and other vines that we grow.

This ‘Maraschino’ sage has grown well and is starting to bloom. We will have some happy bees and other insects this summer!

There were two little strawberries on the ‘Mara des Bois’ plant this morning. The three of us that were in the garden split them and gave them a try. They were good, but not exceptionally flavorful. They had almost a sweet-floral flavor and not much acid. Of course, given the rain, I’m surprised they tasted like anything at all.

The creeping savory is doing a pretty impressive job of creeping, since it started out in a tiny 2″ pot. Savory is the Herb of the Year next year, so it will be nice to have some good healthy plants growing.

We have green tomatoes! I went through all the plants this morning to check fruit set, and we have tomatoes on 5 of the 7 heirloom varieties. The two varieties that I couldn’t find any fruit set on were Opalka and Amana Orange. They are 80 and 90 days respectively, so I’m not surprised that they are lagging. I am also wondering if we are getting a little bit delayed fruit set due to high nitrogen. It is warm enough that the compost is starting to break down and release nitrogen, so it is possible that could be promoting foliar growth and inhibiting fruit set somewhat, because there weren’t lots of tomatoes set on any plants. Or it could just be that these are heirlooms and that is what they do!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – June 6th

Earlier in the week I was just getting ready to write a post complaining a little bit about the short lull in garden activity at this time of year (meaning no planting or harvesting to speak of, just lots of weeding and watering). And then it hailed. Which didn’t seem to bother the Demo Garden very much, but I did have to go prune up some damaged tomato plants and re-stake a peach tree. No more thinking about complaining!

I like this vista of the garden more and more this year. I guess it just shows different beds close up. Maybe I’ll have to alternate weeks on the two views. As you can see, the straw has settled and the plants just keep on growing!

We’ve had Citrus Marigolds in the garden several times recently, and they have never looked as good as they do this year! I can’t wait until they are covered with flowers.

The peanuts came up quickly after planting last week. They were just peaking out of the soil on Tuesday, and they had a few leaves on them by this morning. We have so many neat things in the garden this year!

Yes, this looks like lambsquarter. But it isn’t. It is the Quinoa. Quinoa is in the same family as lambsquarter, so it understandably looks very similar. I know it is confusing people when they visit the garden. I’m tempted to put up a sign that says something like, “No, this isn’t a weed. It is Quinoa. It just looks like a weed.” And did you notice the tiny green grasshopper on the leaf? This is the size grasshopper that is easy to kill with pesticides, not the big crunchy kind.

We have tomatoes! This is the ‘Silvery Fir Tree’ plant in the accessible raised bed. It has two nice looking tomatoes on it and the plant as a whole looks great. I’m so glad we decided to try this one. It is supposed to be 54 days to maturity, and that would be June 29th. It’s going to make a run for it, although I suspect that these will be ready closer to July 4th. Still, that’s not bad, especially considering the cold snap we had in May. The ‘Northern Lights’ plants, also purported to be 54 days, do not have fruit set, that I could see, so they won’t be living up to the “early” reputation at least.

It is getting to be the time of year when most of the cool season plants either bolt (flower and go to seed) or go dormant. If you look closely at our cilantro, you can see that the leaves are looking more fern-like and there is the start of a flower in the middle.

Have a great weekend!

Watch for Diseases in Your Garden

As nice as the rain and hot-but-not-scorching weather is, it is creating something of a perfect storm for tomato diseases this summer. Our two most common tomato diseases are Septoria Leaf Spot and Early Blight. While they are two different diseases, we usually talk about them as one disease because they develop in the same conditions and have the same overall effects on the tomato plants.

This is a tomato leaf that is infected with Early Blight. The lesions usually have concentric circles, and spread to have something of a V-shape on the edge of a leaf. In contrast, Septoria Leaf Spot has small round spots over the whole leaf. Some years we see more of one or the other. Some years we have both. The disease typically starts on the lower leaves of the plant and works up the plant. Most of the time, we don’t really start noticing a problem until the first infected leaves start to turn yellow and die.

The disease spreads from splashing water, which is why it is usually worse when we get rain. It also requires humidity and warm nights, which we have had in spades the past week! We have also had lots of dew, which is great for disease development.

As with most garden problems, the best thing to do is to try to prevent the disease from starting. There are a number of cultural practices that can help prevent these diseases or reduce their spread.

1. Mulch under plants to prevent water splashing from the soil onto lower leaves. (The disease overwinters on plant debris, often in the soil. No, there isn’t any soil treatment.)

2. Use cages, staking, or some method to help your plants grow upright rather than sprawling on the ground.

3. Space your tomato plants 2-3 feet apart to promote airflow.

4. Water the soil and avoid getting water on the leaves if at all possible when watering.

5. Prune out suckers below the first flower cluster (especially on indeterminate tomatoes) to promote airflow.

6. Scout regularly for signs of disease and remove infected leaves right away.

7. Rotate where you plant your tomatoes as much as possible.

8. Remove infected plants from your garden every year at the end of the season and do not compost them.

Sometimes, even if we do everything “right” we still end up with these diseases, especially when the weather conditions are ideal for disease to develop.

The good news is that these diseases usually do not kill the plants, and they will not spread as quickly if it turns hot and dry. The worst damage (other than a weaker plant that is more susceptible to spider mites) is that if there is too much defoliation, then there is a much higher risk of sunscald on the fruit.

Using Fungicides

If you want to try to prevent development of these diseases, now is the time to start spraying a fungicide. You will probably need to spray once a week as long as we are experiencing this type of weather pattern.

If you are looking for organic options, you can use a copper-containing fungicide, such as a Copper Soap. There is also a biological fungicide that contains Bacillus subtilis, usually sold under the name Serenade. The key with the organic options is to use them regularly, especially before you have lots of disease, because they will work better if the disease pressure is low.

Conventional fungicides that are commonly used are chlorothalonil and maneb, which are found in several different garden products. They are a little bit stronger, but will still be most effective if they are used preventatively.

Fungicides are not usually curative, they just prevent the further spread of the disease. None of them are perfect either – the weather and how you apply them affect the efficacy of the treatment.

On that happy note, I hope your gardens all got a good drink this morning! We had about 1.5″ in the rain gauge, so no watering for us for a few days.

Thinning Seedlings

I think one of the hardest gardening tasks is thinning out seedlings. It is too easy to just let it go, because you are so excited to see the plants growing, and then everything is an overgrown, tangled mess that you can’t thin out. That’s one of the reasons that I try really hard to space things out when I plant the seeds. However, that doesn’t always work out.

On our trellises for growing vining vegetables, we usually want no more than 2-3 plants per side of the trellis. It seems like so little when you are planting just a few seeds, but planting too many can be a disaster later on!

You can see that there are at least 5 plants along this trellis, and I think there may have been another one or two that I didn’t get in the picture. Even though these plants will be growing up the trellis, if we left all of the plants in place, they would be so thick that we could have problems with diseases – especially if this hot, humid weather keeps on.

We removed all but 3 plants from each of the trellises, which will still be plenty thick by the time the plants are full grown.