September 12, 2012
This has been one of our worst vegetable gardening years ever for garden pests and disease (and other annoying issues).
How’s that saying go? “If you’re not killing plants, you’re not growing as a gardener.” Something like that anyway, and my apologies for not knowing who to credit. I think I read this first on a magnet on a fellow gardener’s fridge years ago.
There are a number of reasons for our crap year:
I’ve been traveling a lot this growing season, so my timing’s been off and my ability to monitor crops daily hasn’t been possible.
For a number of personal reasons, last fall we didn’t give our soil the careful attendance we have in years past.
Despite our efforts at crop rotation, pests and disease still found their way to many of our crops. It happens.
So we’re rolling with the punches, savoring what we’re actually harvesting, disposing of disease as we see it, and planning to do better next year. We’ve sown some cover crops already and will be pulling soil soon for testing and amending properly over the dormant months.
Here’s a brief photo rundown of the pests, damage and disease we’ve had in over-abundance this edible gardening year. (more…)
September 06, 2011
Below the bright, shining faces of late summer sunflowers…
Beside the mildew-infested squash…
Rooted among tasty, golden nightshade nuggets…
Dripping across the water-filled pot from which the honeybees sip — yet, dry itself.
September’s Love lies bleeding in fuchsia-red — brilliant and cheerfully painted.
Yet, posture & color are at odds.
It sweeps & hangs & sways — almost mournful in its stance — clothing the garden in its fabric flowers.
Like a chenille?
But never a papillon to be.
(Thanks to Renee’s Garden Seeds for sending us this year’s selection to try for free; we love it – even better than other varieties we’ve grown in years past.
Grown from seed earlier this year, this potentially edible, definitely dry-able flower is bleeding all over the garden. But unlike its fauna-lookalike chenille, this flora won’t chomp through the garden. Instead, it brightens even as it sways and sweeps and lies mournfully about.
Oh, and yes, my French is beyond rusty, so pardonnez moi s’il vous plait.)
August 08, 2011
Seeing white powdery mildew on cucumbers, squash, melon or other curcurbit plants?
It’s cucumbers galore for us right now. The plants are over-crowded and the vines are intermingling all over the greenhouse, which is dripping with cucumber-y goodness. Unfortunately, the powdery mildew has arrived as well.
I’m not surprised about the mildew. I’ve never made it through a growing season when cucumbers and squash didn’t get hit with this disease of decimation. And, given how crowded these plants are, it was just a matter of time. Even with close monitoring, good air-flow and disease-resistant varieties, I expected a hardy mildew crop at some point.
Today’s that day.
Fortunately, I check the greenhouse crops several times a day. I check for and complete needed watering in the morning. This gets the plants through any overly hot stresses on a summer day. It also gives the plants time to dry out; water resting on leaves is a great way to encourage disease. When I see mildew, I cut out the leaves and dispose of them. This thins the foliage and encourages better airflow & light to the inner portions of the plant while also reducing the speed disease spreads throughout the plants. It also removes disease from the plants themselves and usually keeps it at bay.
In past years, I have tried home-grown mixtures of baking soda sprays to keep the mildew away. But, I find it tedious to spray all over the leaves multiple times a day, and frankly, it didn’t work very well. Instead, I cut the plants to take out the infections. And, these plants are resilient. They just add on more foliage to feed themselves. It is just critical that the leaves be checked and cleaned of infected foliage at least once or twice a day — every day.
But guess what? When you cut back foliage, you’ll probably also be harvesting. This morning, when I was trimming out the powdery nasties, I revealed a large, ripe cucumber that I hadn’t even seen forming. And, this tasty morsel had to have been maturing over the last week or so. A big leaf hid it from view!
So, with that, I cut out about 10 diseased leaves from a total of about 9 plants. And, I harvested three big cukes to add to our drawerful in the fridge. And, there are many more coming on fast.
Harvesting the cukes before they get really big is also important. Left on the vine too long, cucumbers can become tough and bitter. And, if a cucumber fruit gets to a point where the seeds begin to mature inside the fruit, the plant will really divert a lot of energy to those fruits. The reason the plant forms the fruit, filled with seed, is to spread its genetics by way of new babies from those seeds. So, at a certain point, the plant will begin to give up its own short life to get those seeds good and ripe and read to form new babies. But, if you cut out a maturing fruit, the plant will start over, refocusing its efforts on newer, younger fruit.
So, harvest early and harvest often. And, if you harvest more than you can eat, share it with a friend or donate it to a local food distribution center. Guaranteed somebody out there will really appreciate getting some of your homegrown goodness!
August 15, 2010
It’s not hard to find blooms in the garden in August. The hardest part is choosing which to photograph and finding a time to take photos when the light isn’t glaring or the hot, easterly winds aren’t blowing.
This morning, before the sun began blasting out all the colors and while the air was still, I captured a few shots among the many glorious blossoms including, finally, capturing a photo of one my favorite sights in summer – Swallow Tail Butterflies. They are absolutely in love with my the fragrant, white garden Phlox all over my garden. This plant can become invasive — seeding and spreading underground. But, I am in love with its fragrance — as well as the butterflies that pollinate it! (more…)
July 26, 2010
The summer crops are starting to roll in. I spied my first cherry tomato flushing an orange-red yesterday. Last night, I pulled out the biggest atomic purple carrot I’ve ever seen. I picked our first cucumber right off the vine and sliced it onto our plates last night. And, this morning, as I ran the irrigation in stages throughout the garden, I took some time to pinch back our various basil plants.
Basil is a plant that is best harvested through pinching out the tips rather than cutting off lateral leaves. Pinching out the tips removes the growth hormone controlling other buds down the stem. This encourages the plant to produce more, bushier growth through the season. If Basil isn’t pinched this way, it will get tough and leggy as it forms flowers, then seeds, and then the plant will go kaput. (Although basil is good to prune this way, don’t assume all plants are going to respond to this kind of pruning. In most cases, this kind of pruning is actually bad for plants like woody shrubs and trees.)
The genovese, lettuce leaf and fine verde basils I harvested this morning were washed, spun and placed in a freezer bag. As I continue to harvest basil through summer, I’ll continue to fill the bag. During the winter, I’ll be able to grab a fishful of freshly-flavored basil for stews, spaghetti and other dishes. No, it won’t hold its beautiful green color for salads, but I do believe it tastes better frozen than dried. Between freezing fresh basil and making pesto, which I will also freeze, we’ll be able to reach into the freezer for the basil-y summer goodness even during winter storms in December.
Oh, and the cucumber in the photo? Well, that’s the second one I’ve harvested this summer. It’s chilling in the fridge. There are several growing on our vines in the greenhouse. By continuing to harvest them young not only to do I get to enjoy tender, sweet cukes right away, but the plants will continue to throw energy into producing new flowers and more fruit through the months ahead. More on cukes and squash in the coming weeks!
July 05, 2010
We’ve had good corn growing years, and we’ve had not-so-good corn growing years in our small urban space. Two years ago, we were gorging ourselves on delicious, home-grown cobs. Ironically, we hadn’t even planned to grow it that year. I simply ended up with leftover starts that we tucked into open spots in the parking-hellstrip. And, bam! We were enjoying sweet corn right off the stalk daily for weeks. We had so much of it, we froze much and enjoyed it throughout the winter. Then, last year, our corn was fit for feeding pigs — what little we harvested.
Because we live in a small urban setting and because we rotate crop locations, it takes some finesse to create a good corn growing spot each year. Last year we had a fairly good spot for the corn, but the stalks, despite being planted at the same time, simply didn’t mature together – with some started early in the greenhouse and a second round direct seeded into the ground later in spring. The plants bolted quickly in the early and incredible heat. Tassles and silks simply didn’t have their timing down, and the end result was stumpy, chewy, starchy cobs — and very few of them at that. I should have let them dry for the birds in winter.
There could be something to say for the varieties of corn I selected. But, I can’t attribute all the success to just the variety. In 2008 and in 2009 we grew F-1 Sugar Pearls. Each year they came from different sources and performed with very mixed results. So what about this year? (more…)