Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Late Blight Warning!!!

Last year my tomato plants became infected with the Late Blight fungus, so I have been watching for any reports telling me to start prevention treatments.  Well, it finally happened.  It is extremely important for the home gardener in Wisconsin to treat their plants with an anti-fungal spray or powder, not only to prevent Late Blight on your own crops, but to prevent Late Blight from spreading to the commercial potato industry.  Not many people know that Wisconsin grows and exports potatoes every year, or that it is a big part of our farming industry, but it is right up there with dairy on the 'foods that come from Wisconsin' list.  There have already been reports in Michigan, so that is why they have been sounding the alarm for preventative measures here in WI.  

To see what Late Blight looks like on different parts of the plant with a descriptor, click on the "Managing Late Blight in Tomatoes" link on the above page.  You will need Adobe Reader or a similar program to see it. 

Late Blight used to only be prevalent South of Wisconsin, but it has finally made it up North and seems to be here to stay.  If you want to find out if Late Blight is affecting crops in your area, or about other plant diseases, I suggest contacting your local Cooperative Extension Office. You can find yours here: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ You'll want to look under "horticulture" when you get to the extension homepage if there is nothing right out in front.  Also, local greenhouses and garden stores that sell tomato and/or potato plants, should have information as well.  

Once the plant gets infected, it is very difficult to control the spread meaning you have to completely destroy your plants.  The anti-fungal products that work against Late Blight do best as preventatives.  Their success at control is limited, and they cannot get rid of the Blight all together.  If you have Blight infected plants you should pull them completely out of the ground and put them in a plastic bag to go out with the trash.  DO NOT COMPOST INFECTED PLANTS!  

If your plants are still disease free, then you will want to get a fungicide spray or powder.  They have Copper based products (like Bonide Copper Fungicide) that work well and are considered safe for use in organic gardening.  There are also other products like Bonide Fung-Onil Multi-purpose Fungicide that will not only prevent Late Blight on tomatoes and potatoes, but will also prevent and/or kill a bunch of other fungus based plant diseases on several different plants.  Either way, you'll be good to go!

PLEASE take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of Late Blight.  Your tomatoes (and neighbors) will thank you!

Things are Fruiting!!

I have been avoiding working in the garden as of late, because of the insane amount of mosquitoes we now have.  Due to the massive amounts of rain that have fallen on us this month, mosquito populations have exploded seemingly overnight!  Our local news station said that they should all die off in a couple of weeks without leaving millions of offspring, IF there is no more rain in the near future.  Well the forecast for this week looks dry so far, but that doesn't mean it won't rain again next week!  So in the interest of retaining as much of my own blood supply as possible, I sprayed Cutter Bug Control on the lawn.  I sprayed it Saturday, and when I went out today (Monday), I noticed a huge difference!  Thank you Cutter Bug Spray!  I was careful not to spray it in the garden, or even up in the air in a manner that would allow it to drift in and affect the plants.  It is not that I don't want to prevent bad bugs from being in my garden, but I would rather not consume chemicals that come with a warning label specifically telling me NOT to consume them.  Crazy, I know!

As the above title claims, things in the garden are fruiting!  One of the Jalapeño, two of the Cayenne, and one of the Hungarian Wax plants have peppers on them.  Many of the others have been flowering, so I expect they will soon have fruits as well!  And there are a bunch of zucchini fruits growing with a ton more flowers forming.  I think I will have to start my canning efforts before the end of July!  I also noticed my very first tomatoes of the season beginning on my "Husky" Cherry Tomato plant.  The other tomato plants in the garden are growing taller and taller with more and more flowers on every new branch.  They should have there own fruits forming very soon.  I brought the big Tumbling Tom plant out with the intention of transplanting it into the garden today, but after a good hour and a half weeding session, I decided I would save that for tomorrow.  It is rather big now, and I should be able to bury a good number of 'baby' branches while still leaving some foliage on top.  I imagine it will start growing insanely as soon as it realizes it has a ton more space!  I can't wait!

Another little adventure in gardening that I dabbled in this last week was SURPRISE! flower planting at my parent's house.  On the evenings of the 24th and 25th, Tom and I made a trip down to my parent's place to plant some annual flowers and to drop off the tomato and pepper plants I had been plant-sitting.  I should probably mention that Tom didn't actually plant anything, and was inside the air-conditioned house for most of the time we were at my parent's, but he did participate.  He was SURPRISE! updating my parent's computers as well as cutting the tomato cages so that they would fit in the pots.  So he did do something, it was just much cleaner, cooler work.  My parents were enjoying their final days overseas while we worked away.  They just arrived home Sunday and are pleased with what they have found!  You could say 'we done good'.  ;-)

I have attached two photo albums to this post.  One is of the flowers I planted and the other is a progress report on the garden.  Enjoy!

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rain, Rain, and More Rain! 6/22/2010

June 22, 2010:
Our wet and wild summer continues!  There have been storms and flash flooding with more on the way.  I have only watered the garden manually a couple of times this season, and it doesn't look like I will have to be watering it much in the near future.  And with all the water that has been dumped on my garden, I am amazed that everything is still doing so well!  There is one pepper, my serraño, that is not doing well.  Ironically it is wilted and looks like it needs water!  I am pretty sure that is not the case though.  I am holding out hope that it will bounce back.

I did get out into the garden today to do some weeding and stake the tomatoes.  I used tomato spirals for the first time last year, and I really liked them.  I put additional supports around the plant after it has grown more, but it seems to be easier for me to get to the produce and to manage the indeterminate tomato plants with the spiral. Of course you have to make sure you keep the main stem working it's way up the spiral, so if you have a ton of tomato plants, or not a lot of time to spend in the garden, you may want to stick with a cage or something similar. You can see two of my tomato plants on the spirals in the album below!

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Cabbage Nibbler

Bad news on the cabbage front. Turns out the blood meal didn't do the trick and more leaves got eaten. Some bean leaves are missing as well and carrot leaves. I decided to bring out the big guns; aka Liquid Fence Spray. I used it last year after I noticed nibbling and it seemed to help. The only issue is it smells horrendous when you first spray it, and last year I started gaging when I was using it. It dries odorless to humans, so that is good, but that initial application can be brutal! They suggest you apply it a couple of times the first month you use it as well, so I will probably have to go through it again. Because of my experience last year I wrapped my face in a scarf before using the spray. Worked like a charm! No gaging, though I did look ridiculous. I like the spray though, because it doesn't harm the animals or the plants, and it uses odor and bad taste to 'train' animals not to eat your plants. With the nice weed fence we have growing in and around the actual fence, it makes it even easier to apply, since all I have to do is spray the weeds on the parameter of the garden and that keeps bunnies and other culprits away!

I finished planting all the peppers bringing the total to 21. Two of my seedling peppers didn't make it out in the garden. I think they got flooded and it was just a bit too much for them. I bought replacements for them and planted them in their place. Luckily it was the two Jalapeño seedlings and not the Peter Pepper seedlings. They don't sell Peter Pepper plants anywhere around here, so I would not be able to replace them. The three Hungarian Wax seedlings are doing well, though they could be replaced if needed. They are continuing to get bigger though, so I think they will survive.

I have yet to put my Tumbling Tom tomato plant out in the garden, and there is space for at least one other tomato plant. There are actually two Tumbling Tom tomato seedlings that survived, but only one of them is getting bigger at the moment. I put a picture of it in the album below. Once it gets a bit bigger I will transplant it. I want it to be big enough that I can bury some of the branches after trimming them, so that the tomato plant will make more roots quickly. It is pretty neat that tomatoes can do that! Really helps them get a firm foundation right away. The other, tiny Tumbling Tom plant hasn't died, but hasn't really grown any more either. I replanted it into a bigger pot while also checking to see if it had any signs of damping-off. It's stem and roots are in good shape, so maybe the change in scenery will get it growing. I also replanted some Mr. Stripey seeds, and two seedlings emerged. It is now a race to see who wins the final spot in the garden, the tiny Tumbling Tom, or Mr. Stripey! Although Tumbling Tom had the leg up, I am betting Mr. Stripey will win this one. Feel free to start a pool amongst yourselves, and I will let you know the winner!

You will also see in the album that the peanut plants have started flowering! It is very exciting and fascinating, since I have never seen peanuts grow. At least I know they are doing well! Check out the beets and updated photos of my giant zucchini plants! I noticed there are some flowers starting to form on the zucchini as well, so that means soon I will have WAY too many zucchinis. Can't wait to start sharing them! And last but not least, the watermelon replacement I planted is doing well. That means the extra pumpkins are not needed. They hung in there well, but I am afraid I will have to bid them adieu! Enjoy the photos!

Monday, June 7, 2010

More Plantings in the Garden

Today I did quite a bit of work out in the garden and yet, as often happens, there were still things left undone. When it comes to gardening, the job is never done! But that is fine by me. :-)
I got all but one of my remaining pepper plants in the ground today. That included eleven plants I purchased at the store and three of my own plants that survived the damping-off debacle. That brings the grand total to 20 pepper plants, with one more on the way! I also got the replacement watermelon in the ground, so there are three watermelon plants in the mound once again! If the replacement dies off as well, I will probably put one of the left over pumpkins in it's place. There are two left over pumpkin seedlings, and they are desperate for more space! I have only kept them around in the event that they would be needed, so their days are numbered. Hang in there guys!

I also did some more weeding today and took some pictures of my plants' progress. Most everyone is doing well, which is great news! The weather this past weekend had me crossing my fingers, as it went back and forth between sun and torrential down pour Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was afraid that the tiny pepper seedlings I had gotten in the ground before all the rain, might get flooded and die. Luckily they survived and will hopefully start to thrive! Of course more rain is in the forecast, so I might have to keep my fingers crossed a bit longer.

There appeared to be more nibbles on my cabbage baby plants, though what ever is doing the nibbling is rather selective. Only a couple of the plants have had their leaves nibbled and those plants aren't even right next to each other! I put down some blood meal today in hopes that the smell will drive away the culprit. I have no doubt that the cabbage will enjoy the extra nutrients, so it is a win-win... if it does the trick! And speaking of nibblers, I discovered two caterpillars on my parsley plant over the weekend. Most people would probably remove the caterpillars, since they can do quite a bit of damage with all the feeding they need to do. I, however, have left them to their munching. My parsley plant is rather large and can definitely sustain me and two caterpillars. I did not post any pictures of them in the album below, but I will in a future album I am putting together that will feature the 'Friends and Foes' of the insect world. Yep, I like bugs!

And this is where I will leave you! Enjoy the photos.  (Click on the picture below!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bad News: Damping-Off

Well It has been awhile since I posted and a lot has happened!  Not all good stuff, sadly.  And since it is best to end on a positive note, let's start with the bad.

I started noticing around the week of May 25th that some of the plants out on the porch were looking a bit off.  The leaves were starting to yellow on the tomato and pepper seedlings, and so I did some online research and decided that it was a lack of nitrogen.  Well it turns out that was not the problem.  What was actually occurring was a process called 'damping-off'.  Basically what happens is a fungus develops and causes the stem of the seedling to die.  I actually had to dig into the pots a bit to see the part of the stem that was wasting away.  Most likely I was over-watering, which created the perfect conditions for fungus to grow.  I should also mention that the yellowing of the seedlings was my only clue, since the fungus is not visible.  If there gets to be a large amount of fungus, then you would be able to see it, but that is normally long after the plants have died.

So in short, I have lost SEVERAL of the seedlings I worked so hard to grow.  Since I had such great success last year, In am sort of scratching my head as to how this happened this year.  It is probably a result of the very humid weather and the large amount of rainfall we have had this year.  Last year it seemed like the rain was taking a vacation!  And even though the seedlings were under the overhang of the roof, they still got wet when it rained.  I will definitely be more vigilant next year!

But not all the news is bad.  I transplanted three bell pepper plants into big pots that they will be in for the rest of the season.  Luckily they were still in good shape when I transplanted them on May 27th, and they have yet to fall prey to over-watering or fungus!  I also transplanted some of the Aquilegia flowers and planted Zinnias as well (also on May 27th).  I am happy to report that the Aquilegia are still doing well and the Zinnias have come up!  I continue to monitor the sunflower seeds I planted in the back, but have not seen much in the way of seedling growth.  It is sort of hard to tell with all the weeds that seem to be popping up everywhere!

Because of the sad state of affairs involving the death of many of my seedlings, I made the decision to purchase replacement plants from the store.  In the tomato department I got two Big Boy plants, one Mr. Stripey, and one cherry variety called Husky Cherry Tomato.  I also purchased two replacement plants for my mom, since I had planted some seeds for her as well.  There is a chance that a few of the surviving seedlings I planted will get big enough to also put out in the garden, so I did not buy enough replacements to take the place of all the tomatoes and peppers I planted.  In the pepper department, I got one Jalapeño, one Hungarian Wax, three Long Slim Cayenne, two Habañero, and two varieties I did not plant myself; Tabasco (two plants), and Serraño (one plant).   I was able to get all four tomato plants in the ground today, as well as the Serraño, Jalapeño (one from the store; two of mine), and the two surviving Peter Pepper plants I had.  The rest will be planted as soon as I can get it done.  I am hoping that is very soon!

And one last thing before closing off this post (and going to bed!).  Well maybe two things. :-)  I forgot to mention earlier that I purchased new gardening gloves.  Normally this is not that big of a deal, but I LOVE them!  The ones I had last year were used to the point of falling apart, so it was not that I didn't like my old gloves, it was more that I just really needed some new ones.  I decided to try something a little different than the rubber dipped gloves I had last year.  The new ones are still dipped, but they are dipped in Nitrile. ( Atlas Nitrile Gloves  )  The information said that it is like you aren't wearing gloves, or being "bare handed", and I would say it is pretty close.  The gloves do not have nerves though, so I would suggest handling tiny seedlings with your actual fingers.  Something that is much nicer than my last gloves, in addition to the "bare-ness", is they aren't obnoxious when they get wet!  I can literally spray my gloved hand with the hose, and I don't have the take the gloves off because of heaviness or water pooling.  It is great.  They also seem to clean off easier since the Nitrile is smooth, and doesn't have the built in grooves of the rubber dipped kind.  I know I sound like I am getting paid by the Atlas company, and if they want to pay me I am all for it, but I just really love these gloves!!

And that other thing?  Well photos of course!
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