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First Seeds Started for 2011

Can you believe that it’s time to pore over catalogs and start planning the garden for 2011? We are having our first planning meeting for the Demonstration Garden next week, and I already know there are some great ideas for this summer!

One project that I’ve been meaning to try for a year and a half now is to try grafting some tomatoes. This is a fairly new and emerging technology in the U. S., although they’ve been doing it in Asia for a long time. If you want to read a very thorough article about the history of the technique and how it is done, check out this publication from North Carolina: Grafting for Disease Resistance in Heirloom Tomatoes (PDF). (The primary author on this article is our new K-State vegetable specialist, Cary Rivard. We’re excited to have him!)

Here’s the first step in the grafting procedure. I planted some seeds of 4 types of Heirloom tomatoes that I had on hand (Large Barred Boar, Rose, Brandywine, and Purple Russian). On the other side of the tray are the rootstocks, which are the variety ‘Maxifort.’ It is intended to be a rootstock variety, so it isn’t a commonly know variety. Theoretically you could use a regular hybrid that is disease resistant.

What I’m hoping to learn from this planting of seeds is how long it takes all of them to germinate. (This will be even more exciting, since all the seeds are older!) If they all happen to germinate within a 2 day window, then I will try the grafting technique when the plants reach the right size. If they don’t germinate within a 2 day window, then I will replant, staggering the plantings to get them to germinate at the same time. It should be a fun experiment for the late winter!

Friday PhotoEssay

I just got the second round of planting in the Spinach Fall Trial done. I was out looking at the garden and thinking about when I would need to plant again, when I realized that this week was the 2nd scheduled planting for the spinach and other greens! I grabbed my seeds and labels and headed right out to get the ‘Space’ Spinach, Red and Green Saladbowl Lettuces, ‘Winter Density’ Lettuce, Elegance Greens Mix, and as a random idea some of the ‘Bleu de Solaize’ Leek seed. I thought I’d see if the leeks would be transplantable size by spring, just for fun.

Our poor Swiss Chard! It has had a rough year between insects and diseases. This leaf is primarily riddled with what I believe to be Cercospora Leaf Spot lesions. We are picking off the diseased leaves, spraying with neem oil, and hopefully avoiding anymore overhead watering for the rest of the season. (Even though we have a drip system, when it was so hot, it was just too tempting to use the hose!)

Now that the weather is getting cooler, we are starting to see a rebound in the flea beetle population, as I mentioned last week in the photoessay. You can see another one of the marauding bugs on the lower edge of this radish leaf, as well as observe the progress they made in just a few days. We sprayed all our radishes and Asian greens with neem oil this week to knock the beetles back a bit.

Now for a more uplifting, less depressing photo! The peppers are loaded down and bending over after being pokey about producing earlier this year. The jalapenos are particularly productive.

One of the leeks is actually starting to look like a leek! This was the very first seedling that germinated when I planted the seeds 6 weeks ago, and it is still maintaining its edge. It almost looks like a plant that is going to do something rather than a little wisp of green that maybe isn’t meant to be there.

I have to say that I’m impressed with the gardening fortitude of you all, because based on the poll from last week, all but one of you have every intention of sticking with your tomato plants until the bitter end this year. I guess we are not all tomatoed out yet!

In other housekeeping news, we did have about 1.25 lbs of tomatoes and 1.25 lbs of peppers from the Family of 4 Garden this week. That’s $5.63 worth, which makes our running total $221.58.

Have a great weekend! Be watching for more garden results next week!

10 Days Later…

I really did think that I might post something while I was on vacation, but I guess that didn’t happen. Sorry…I was enjoying the less than 80 degree weather!

Since it rained last Tuesday and again this morning, the activity has been pretty slim since I left.

Here’s a few things I found upon my return to the garden this morning:

Surprise, surprise! Left to its own devices, the zucchini is a bit over-sized.

The fall radishes seem to be doing fine and growing quickly. The carrots next to them are also growing well. I’m not sure why the row of radishes on the end is smaller. I suspect that there’s either more clay soil there due to putting in the sign post or that area didn’t get as much water.

I knew there were a couple melons on our ‘Honey Bun’ Cantaloupe when I left, but I was surprised to see that there are now at least 4 melons set! I’m getting more and more impressed with these plants.

On the less-than-happy side, our rapsberries are definitely looking worse. Just when you think they can’t possibly look worse, they do. Most of the green fruit have shriveled up to nothing. I guess we will be planting something else in this spot next year!

After it dries out a bit, I’ll try to go out and harvest some things. I already know there’s at least one tomato that looks tasty! We’ll also get caught up with the Family of 4 Garden.

Rotting Raspberries

Our ‘Caroline’ Fall-bearing Raspberries have been looking sickly recently, which prompted me to do some investigating into the cause.

The plants were getting rather faded looking, the tops of the plants were showing lots of water stress – more than I expected to see even with the weather changing from very wet to hot and dry, and some of the canes were falling over and dying.

These symptoms told me that something was going on, either with the roots or the canes. I inspected the canes, and this is what I found:

You can see some brown lesions on the canes as well as a brown area near the base of the plant. I was expecting to see lesions on the canes, but I was hoping to see anthracnose lesions, since that is fairly treatable. This didn’t look like anthracnose. I consulted with our Plant Pathology folks and then sent in a sample of a cane and part of some roots.

The diagnosis? Phytophthora crown/root rot. Phytophthora is a particularly nasty organism…technically not a fungus (an oomycete), but just to make our lives easier, let’s consider it enough like a fungus to call it a fungus. Phythophthora loves wet soils and standing water. (Gee…do you see where this story is going?) Late blight of the Irish Potato Famine fame is also a type of Phytophthora.

These raspberries are planted on a raised bed (although not a very good one) in clay soil that hasn’t been much amended with compost. They’ve been awesome for the last couple years, but this seems likely to be the death knell.  The only fungicide available cannot be applied within 45 days of harvest, and sadly these plants are just starting to flower. We would have to try to keep the plants from fruiting, which is likely to be a challenge and also to make sure that no one came along and ate one. Not likely in this demonstration garden!

So the moral of this story is to plant your raspberries in a well-drained location and don’t let it rain incessantly for a month. We will let the plants keep going and see if dry weather will let the plants recover and put up strong canes again next spring. I’m largely skeptical, but it’s possible!

Friday PhotoEssay

It’s Friday, and that means pictures! Which reminds me…you all should go out and take a couple great tomato pictures to enter in our Tomato Day Photo Contest! Categories are Mr. Tomato Head, The Artistic Tomato, and Unique Tomato Growing Methods. (Maybe we need a category for critters that eat tomatoes?!?)

Speaking of critters eating plants, we have some quite content Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars on our fennel.

Then there’s this ugly guy on the long beans. I’m definitely not thrilled to have him around. It looks like either a corn earworm/tomato fruitworm (very lost, granted), or some sort of cutworm. Either way, he was smushed into the ground after I snapped a good picture!

Our ‘Mars’ seedless grape is starting to ripen. It is always the first of the three grapevines, and usually the most affected by black rot. You can see a shriveled grape that probably had black rot. There were whole clusters that were affected this year. This vine also has more leaf cover, which probably caused the disease to be worse than on the other two vines.

The ‘Orange Blossom’ looks like it will be the first non-cherry or non-early tomato to ripen. I have a picture of this same cluster from Tuesday and they are all green. This morning there are two beginning to turn orange. This isn’t the fully ripe color, but it will be exciting to see what they’re like!

Our Suhyo Cross Cucumbers are starting to take over their territory too. The plants went from being fairly small to covering the whole section of the garden in just a couple weeks! The cucumbers aren’t quite ready to pick yet, but they should be by sometime next week.

Have a great weekend!