Sunday, June 23, 2013

Harvest Monday–24 Jun 2013

Today I am on the road, driving to Missouri to visit family (so I will be a bit out of touch for over a week). I will be travelling from Monsoon Alley to Tornado Alley, and I’m not sure that is an improvement. We continue to have a lot of rain, but at least we are getting some sun and warmth now. Last week, as of Wednesday, Bolton received another 5.6 inches of rain in the previous 7 days. Add that to the previous week and we have received 16.3 inches (41.4 cm) of rain in just two weeks. At least we now have some sun and heat with an occasional thunderstorm, so plants that didn't rot are now perking up a bit.


I still don’t have an ID for the fungal disease contracted by my peppers, but in one day it spread down 15 feet of row to affect all 22 of my pepper plants. I was worried I would lose all my peppers (most of which are special choices I started from seeds back in March and have babied all this time). I had some leftover copper spray I used on Saturday and went back on Monday with a fresh gallon of spray. I found the peppers much improved after the initial spray. So I decide to give the plants a chance. I removed the disease leaves and then sprayed heavily with copper. Looks like I may save my plants and even get a few peppers.




You can see the lesions on the lower leaf but all of the grey-brown blotches are gone.




The Aconcagua peppers, which were badly affected, stripped of their infected lower leaves. There are lots of tiny leaves emerging from the leaf axils which will replace the lost foliage.




Meanwhile, I was still harvesting produce from the rest of the garden. Broccoli and a few scapes and snow peas, above.




The last of the Choi and the first of the Flamingo chard.




New Red Fire lettuce and the first big batch of snow peas, with a few of the first snap peas.




Broccoli, more snow peas, and a few small fava beans We tried these tossed in olive oil and grilled, but the jury is out on whether we liked the favas that way. Oh well, I’m gone for over a week just as the favas start maturing. Hopefully the backup crew is up to monitoring them and picking them as they mature.




Four large heads of escarole. Three are given away and one is for me.




More lettuce and a large pile of scapes from the Red Chesnok garlic.


That’s all from here. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their gardens,please visit Daphne's Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Harvest Monday–17 June2013


Despite all of the rain (12-14 inches) the past 10 days, the garden has been hanging in there. I do think the plants would really, really enjoy seeing the sun again. At least the raised beds have kept them from being submerged in the puddles, see here. The community gardens are officially in a wetland, about 30 feet from Great Brook and the water table is maybe 2 feet down. With all the rain the soil is super-saturated and the least amount of rain will just puddle if it can’t run downhill toward the brook. So the Girl Scouts and I are high and dry in our raised bed gardens, we just have to garden in our galoshes. And you do have to be careful when stooping not to dip your posterior in the water (don’t ask how I know that). Our neighbors in the garden are not so lucky.




I did harvest quite a bit last week, enough to overfill the refrigerator. I didn’t cut any lettuce because I still have bags in the refrigerator, but I am going to cut some this week so my wife can take it to work. Other things did have to be harvested. The tatsoi below came from squares where my eggplant is going to go this week. The flea beetle damage on the older leaves is obvious.




A pair of Win-Win pac choi were looking like they might bolt so I cut them. They are destined for soup and stir fries.




I got a nice pile of garlic scapes, my first ever, and a pile of herbs, The broccoli is a tiny head of Purple Peacock which was starting to open, so I harvested it.




As I cut the purplish head from the very green Purple Peacock below, I was surprised to see it had already started to send out a bunch of side shoots. You can see at least three side shoots in the photo. This is my first year growing this variety so I have no idea what to expect from it. The leaves are also supposed to be edible just like kale.




There were some other surprises in the garden. Below you can see the only kohlrabi in 4 squares that actually germinated, and it is actively growing now and starting to form a bulb. So it looks like I may actually get a kohlrabi this year, although I do plan to plant more for the fall. Since the kohlrabies didn’t germinate, I put some radicchio transplants in their squares. The one below is now starting to form a head. So far they have been completely resistant to flea beetles and slugs, maybe too bitter?




Another radicchio making good use of the square forfeited by the kohlrabies, below. The spinach in the adjacent squares are not happy, not bolting but not the deep green they were. Maybe lack of sun or a foot of rain washing nutrients out of the soil? Time for some fish emulsion fertilizer, and some sunlight, please.




That is what is happening here in Soggy Bottoms. To see what other gardeners are harvesting from their gardens around the world, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Need an ark

I knew we had a lot of rain recently, since I am trying to get the final things into the garden in between showers, but I was not thinking that much! Thursday I got the weekly issue of the UMass Extension Vegetable Newsletter with their late blight forecast for the state. My town is lucky to have an agricultural  reporting station just a mile from me. Scanning the table, I was astounded to see that  Bolton reported on Thursday that 10.7 inches or rain had been recorded (not estimated) in the past seven days! And Thursday afternoon through Friday morning we got another 2-3 inches.




So what does my garden look like after all that? To see, you will need to put on some rubber boots or Wellingtons. Your garden clogs or Crocs will not do. Here we go. Below, the paths around my raised beds have 3-4 inches of water in them. The beds are sitting in the water but at least the plants are high and dry.




These beds are my newest and were placed off soil level on concrete blocks, once I realized how often the garden floods. You still need your waders to garden in them.




While all the plants look in good condition after 14-15 inches of rain in ten days, four of my Lipstick peppers have developed some sort of fungal crud (below). I think this may be leaf mold (Fulvia fulva). I am going to try a copper spray but I may have to destroy all of these plants to save the rest of the peppers.




The other bright/high spot in the gardens is the Girl Scout plot with its newly installed raised beds modeled after my own. Even with the flooding in their plot, all plants are high and dry and just needing a little warmth and sunlight.




Hopefully we get some decent weather and this can all dry out. Regardless, it is shaping up to be a very challenging garden season.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Harvest Monday–10 Jun 2013



The Kousa dogwood is blooming on time but might be regretting it. Another wild week of weather: rain, drought, heat and cold, all in one week. I gave up on trying to direct seed some plants and now have them in cell packs on the heat pad. At least I can control conditions inside.  I still have to prepare the beds for the cucumbers and beans., but I still have plenty of time to do that. Bean seeds are not going to like sitting in soggy 50F soil anyway.




Despite the crazy weather the garden is still producing large quantities of lettuce, spinach, kale and herbs. The spinach shows no sign of bolting but its time is limited because yesterday I planted the summer squash that is going to eventually occupy that bed.






I finally found out what my Chinese garden neighbor does with the garlic chives he grows and mows in big patches: jiaozi, or dumplings, filled with pork, chives and napa. Another neighbor with a husband from Taiwan explained to me how they are made and where to buy the wrappers, so I cut my own patch of chives from the big bed that has taken over what passes for my herb garden these days. I found a great online tutorial on Jennifer Che‘s blog, Tiny Urban Kitchen. I made two servings as potstickers we had for dinner and the rest as dumplings that I froze. The one big disappointment was reading the wrapper label and finding a serving of six wrappers has 43 grams of carbs! Wow! Maybe I will just be making them as meatballs in the future. The filling and dipping sauce are the tastiest parts anyway.




Some of my brassicas have recovered enough from the fierce flea beetle attack of early spring to grow large enough to be harvestable size. This is a head of Win-Win choi and a rosette of tatsoi. The tatsoi has to vacate its squares because that is where the eggplants are destined to go.




The broccolis are also doing well, with heads starting to form on some of the Di Ciccio and Purple Peacock plants. Below is a Purple Peacock developing what looks like may become a purple head on a plant with green leaves and stem. My other plants have the purple stems typical of Red Russian kale, one of the parents in this cross between kale and broccoli. There is quite a lot of variability in this variety.




Finally, the grafted tomato plants have settled in nicely and are starting to beef up and grow. I have to keep an eye on the graft joint, which has to remain above the soil line to keep the scion from rooting and negating the disease-resistance properties of the rootstock. And boy do they have a desire to root. The picture below is a little hard to see but it shows the mass of roots being sent out from the scion end of the graft. You can not tell from the photo but the roots have not reached the soil level, but they sure are trying.




To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their gardens, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Flea Beetle Management

A few years ago, the flea beetles were a curiosity in the community garden. I noticed a few shot holes in my eggplant. which were waist high at the time and not really bothered by the beetles. But every year since then the beetles have increased their numbers and their appetites. It has gotten so bad that I cannot grow eggplant at all and the quality of many of my Cole crops is affected. I’m pissed off and I declared war on the flea beetles this year, which is kind of ridiculous considering how tiny they are. Flea beetles are nasty and really hard to control, so I only used the term management in my title, but here is what I am trying.




First, you have to understand the enemy. Flea beetles winter over as adults in the soil, usually in wooded areas near the field or your garden. They emerge in spring as soon as temperatures get to 40F and go looking for breakfast. There are as many as 3-4 generations a year and adults can live up to 2 months, so that's a lot of munching. In my area, flea beetles are present up to frost and beyond.  The larvae live in the soil and feed on the roots of the plant before emerging as adults. Usually the damage to roots is minimal except in the case of the potato flea beetle, where the larva can significantly damage the crop.


There are many kinds of flea beetles and they usually feed on one type of plant. In my garden the two biggest pests are probably (I'm not an entomologist) the crucifer flea beetle (Phyllotreta crucifera) that feeds on brassicas, and the eggplant flea beetle (Epitrix fuscula) that feeds on solanaceous plants (tomatoes, peppers, but mostly eggplant). Whatever type of flea beetle, the adults feed on the leaves of the plant, chewing tiny holes all over the leaf (an effect called shot holing, looking like the leaf has been hit with shotgun pellets)


Row cover works if you put it on early enough and seal the edges very well. That's assuming the beetles didn't overwinter in the soil under the covers. I tried covering my eggplants last year (in brand new Mel’s Mix so no eggs) but they still got in. And they eventually killed all my eggplants, even the ones with 4-5 leaves, so much for that theory.


You can try physically removing the beetles. Last year, each visit to the garden started with an examination of the eggplants and brassicas to pick and kill flea beetles. They are tiny, hard-bodied beetles and hard to catch and squish. I find it more effective to use my thumb to trap them and then, with my fingers under the leaf, roll the beetle to the edge of the leaf. If the beetle hasn’t disintegrated by then,you can roll them between your thumb and finger until they do. A trick I haven't tried yet is to use a hand-held vacuum (dustbuster) to vacuum up the beetles. This sounds tedious but my theory is every beetle you destroy is one less beetle laying eggs and multiplying.


Trap crops properly done probably work for farmers who, say, surround their field of broccoli with a 4-foot band of mustard. The beetles flying out from the woods land on the mustard, and the farmer then heavily sprays the trap crop with insecticide. I don't believe planting some radishes next to your broccoli is going to lure the beetles away. In fact I know it won't, because the radishes I have near the broccoli are ones I actually want to eat, and both the radishes and the broccoli are being chewed up. And I guarantee you planting radishes near your eggplant is not going to lure eggplant beetles away. The beetles you see on the radishes are crucifer beetles, not eggplant beetles, and are now ready to move on to the main course, your brassicas. And obviously, garden areas should be kept free of weeds where beetles can shelter and feed, particularly weeds in the mustard and solanaceous families (and I include volunteers in the category of weeds).


You can try dusting the leaves with DE (diatomaceous earth), which either irritates them or slashes their little bodies. I haven't found this very effective but you can give it a try. I have also used a garlic chili spray, which seems to repel (but not kill) them for about a day. I make the spray by putting 2-3 cloves of garlic and a chili in a food processor with a cup of water. Puree then let steep for a day. Strain into a quart spray bottle, add a few drops of dish soap, and dilute with water to a quart.


If you are willing to use organic sprays, pyrethrin sprays are moderately effective but short lived. They degrade quickly with exposure to sunlight. Look for a spray that has an OMRI label and is not mixed with piperonyl butoxide, which makes it unsuitable for organic gardens. Also avoid spraying it when pollinators are active in the area.


A new and better substance is spinosad, an organic insecticide produced by fermentation with a common soil bacteria. Spinosad is a stomach/nerve poison and has to be ingested, so it is safe for beneficial insects, earthworms, and pollinators as long as it dries before contact. It can be used up to day of harvest. Flea beetles were recently added to the insects it will control and in tests it is more effective than pyrethrin and persists longer. In addition, it will also control cabbage loopers and caterpillars, so you get a two-fer when you spray your brassicas. It also controls leaf miners and will penetrate and kill the maggots inside the leaf. I sprayed my brassicas and observation the next day showed only a few flea beetles present. I also bought some pyrethrin spray and plan to try alternating spinosad and pyrethrin through the season so resistance does not build up.


Another product used by commercial growers is Surround WP, a kaolin clay compound that coats the leaves and acts as a repellant and protectant. When mixed with water, transplants can be dipped in a bucket of it before setting them in the ground. Rain will eventually wash it off so you have to spray to reapply it. And it will discolor fruit like eggplant so it can’t be used after fruit has set. For flea beetles it was not as effective as spinosad but works well on other pests.


Hopefully, you don’t even know what a flea beetle is. But if you have them, good luck in managing them. If you have other techniques that work, I would be interested in what you have done.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Garden Progress 3 Jun 2013

It was a wild week with cool weather to begin, rain on Wednesday, then four days of 90F+sun and heat. I decided to plant my tomatoes on Tuesday, figuring a cool, rainy day on Wednesday would help them settle in before the heat. They were  hardened by being out in the sun for days prior to planting and  I watered them everyday during the heat wave, so they are doing fine. Three of the tomatoes are grafted onto a special rootstock. I have also planted ungrafted versions of the Big Beef and Juliet tomatoes for comparison.



On the left above is the grafted Big Beef, with the ungrafted transplant I bought from Applefield Farm on the right. The ungrafted plant is stocky and very healthy, the type of plant I look for when purchasing a transplant. The grafted tomato has improved greatly since it was potted after removing it from the shipping carton. Right now I would bet on the ungrafted plant, but we still have the whole growing season ahead.



Again on the left above is the grafted Juliet tomato, with the ungrafted tomato on the right. The grafted plants are tied to a bamboo stake to give some support to the joint of the graft so it is not excessively stressed by all the wind we are getting.


Above is a grafted Cherokee Purple. I am hoping the vigor and disease resistance of the rootstock will give me a healthier plant and more fruit than I usually get from this heirloom. I have planted Cherokee Purple for years now because of its great taste.

On Sunday, which did not reach the extreme heat of the three prior days, I decided to set out the peppers, with rain and moderate weather forecast for the following week. I planted 22 pepper plants, seen below:



On the left of the box are four Aconcagua peppers, an heirloom cubanelle-type from Argentina. I tried growing them last year and failed, so here goes again. Next are two Tiburon Ancho and two Jalapeno. On the right side are four Jimmy Nardello. The row of onions in the back is Copra, with tomatoes behind them.



This box has three Padron and a mystery pepper on the left. I started the peppers in 3/4 inch soil blocks which tend to move around in the tray. I’m hoping the mystery pepper is my missing Padron. To their right in the front square is Red Cherry. The plan was for four of these but I had poor germination. Behind it is an heirloom pepper from Baltimore called Fish that I bought from Jem Mix, which should be fun to try. To their right are four Lipstick peppers. The onions behind the peppers are Red Bull and those are tomatoes along the back row and wrapped around to the right.


The fava beans are getting tall and I placed unfolded wire tomato cages along the sides of the box to keep them from flopping. Even more exciting is they are now flowering and they are pretty heavily loaded with buds. The flowers are white with black spots, which is quite unusual but attractive. So far no aphids, just a spittle bug or two, but I keep watching and waiting for their appearance.






On the harvest front, I cut a lot of salad greens before the hot weather. Below is some nine ounces of spinach I clipped. The spinach survived the heat and now we have a week of cool weather so I am hoping I will get more. I also clipped a large bag of lettuces I didn’t photograph, including my first head of escarole. I thinned out the Buttercrunch lettuce by removing a couple of heads to give it more room. I also noted the need to re-apply the Sluggo, since the slugs have really enjoyed hiding out in the cool of the lettuce bed. The lettuce will have to washed carefully.






To see what other gardeners around the world are doing in their gardens, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday

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