Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bean Golden Mosaic Virus



This is the leaf canopy for the Musica pole beans. The trellis is 8 foot tall and the vines are over the top and loaded with beans. The top of the canopy looks dark green and healthy but look at the bottom. The leaves are starting to yellow and are mottled. Since taking this photo last week, the yellowing is now half way up the vines, so it spreads fast.




Here is a closer look. The leaf at the top is showing the top surface and the lower leaf is flipped over to show the underside. The leaves are yellow with a mottled pattern.




From what I can gather, this looks like Bean Golden Mosaic virus, something I have never encountered before. It is fatal and all you can do is remove the plants and destroy them. It is not a seed-borne disease, which makes sense because these plants came from the same seed packet I used successfully last year. The disease is spread by insects, most likely aphids or whiteflies. That is puzzling because I generally never see an aphid in my garden. I have Japanese Beetles taking up their favorite dining spot at the top of the vines, but no aphids.


BGM is apparently a major problem in South America, Mexico, and parts of southern US and limits production of bean crops in those areas. Any legume plant can host the disease, including all the clover and vetch I have growing as weeds in the paths in the garden. Serves me right for not keeping up with my weeding. I hope to be able to at least harvest the pods now on the vines, but it does affect pods and I am starting to see signs of that. My Gold Marie  bean plants did poorly right from the start but their leaves don’t look this. I don’t know what their problem is but that crop is mostly lost.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Harvest Monday 27 July 2015




I cleared out the rest of the turnip bed for fall plantings and got a few more of the Royal Crown turnips. Pulled a few more beets and probably have one more picking before they are done.




This is my first big picking of the Musica pole beans, over 2 pounds. I knew I had beans on the vines but I thought they were not quite ready. A closer look and I filled up a bag with beans.




You do have to check the Romanesco squash every day. Another couple of large squash surprised me. I also have not been checking on the Padron peppers and these may be too large. And I am now starting to get some Sunburst patty pan squash. I did find and squish three squash bugs which I flushed out (literally) when I watered the plants. So far I have not found eggs on the leaves.




My first Gold Marie bean and I will not get many more. The vines looked unhealthy from the very beginning and obviously have some disease I have not identified. These are the last peas. The vines were covered with PM so I pulled all of them and got showered with a white cloud of spores. I have to do some preventive spraying now once it stops raining.




More Musica beans and a few Fortex beans. The two larger tomatoes are Jaune Flamme. They need to ripen more but I decided to pick them because we were facing a couple days of rain and I did not want them to crack on me.




The Ambition shallots looked ready so they were pulled and set out to dry. About 20 bulbs, most pretty good size. Too bad I had such a hard time growing the transplants, but I am happy with these. They are much larger than the Saffron shallots I grew last year, just hope they store as well. My few remaining Saffron shallots are still rock hard.


That’s what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tower Hill Garden–July 2015



We visited Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts last week. Dawn Davies, the garden horticulturist, gave a guided tour of the kitchen garden behind the old farmhouse. She designs the garden each year around a colors theme and an educational theme. This year it was Hot, Hot, Hot! Hot colors, spicy flavors, and the effect of air and soil temperature on crops. Her tour is hands on and always informative, as she gives the background of the plants she selected and culture information.




She recycled some towers she used two years ago, taking them apart and painting them hot colors. You can see them in the photos above. She also painted the metal tomato cages and the rebar she uses as tomato stakes (those are not going to suddenly snap when the plant gets loaded with tomatoes, as happens to me almost every year).


I enjoy seeing the various plants actually growing in conditions similar to my garden, far better than just a picture in a seed catalog. Plants I am growing this year that I first saw at Tower Hill include Boro King radish, Magenta Sunset chard, Sweet Treats  and Opalka tomatoes, Marshall lettuce, and Azur Star kohlrabi.  I am always looking for new and interesting vegetables to try in my garden. This year there were no blow your socks off plants but many attractive and interesting varieties, shown below.




In the Beta vulgaris family, this stunning red chard is called Charlotte, and seed is available from Pinetree and the Cook’s Garden. It features a deep red stem with puckered, dark green leaves. The deep red of the fairly narrow stalk is striking in its depth of color. Remember, eat your colors.




In the same family was Beet Olympic, with beautiful dark purple foliage. Dawn emphasized this beet was largely grown for its foliage (greens doesn’t seem the right term), but some of us kept pointing at the roots under all that foliage.




Here are two Olympic beets growing next to each other, with roots maybe 9-10 cm. in diameter and touching. Her brochure claims seed was sourced from West Coast Seeds but they do not list it on their web site, and Google fails to find a single reference to this beet (but lots of hits on Olympians juicing beets for a natural performance boost).




My impulse when I saw this was to pull it. This is chicory, or Italian dandelion, a variety called Garnet Stem. It is a very attractive plant and is supposed to taste very good when cut young as a salad green. Seed was sourced from Johnny’s Seeds.




Now this plant is a knockout. This is Jagallo Nero , a kale of probable Italian origin. Restoration Seeds describes it as an oak leaf form of Cavolo Nero.




The leaves are very lacy and a beautiful grey-green color. Taste is supposed to be sweet and mild. The plant, however, is not cold hardy and can be killed by a freeze, so it won’t winter over in the Northeast US nor the North UK. Dawn sourced her seeds from Chiltern Seeds in the UK.




Another kale caught my eye, this one is called Scarlet and is similar to Redbor, the difference being Scarlet is open pollinated and Redbor is an F1 hybrid. Dawn said she slightly preferred Redbor, but Scarlet makes fantastic chips because the frills are good at holding on to the oil and salt. Seed is available from Johnny’s and Baker Creek in the US and Thompson & Morgan in the UK.




And yet another kale, sorry I did not get a closer shot. This is a variety of Cavollo Nero called Black Magic.  It is a very large plant producing lots of long, deeply puckered leaves that are so dark green they are almost black. It is supposed to be very cold tolerant. Seeds are available from traditional seed vendors such as Park, Gurneys, Harris and Jung in the US, William Dam in Canada and Suttons and Marshalls in the UK. This is one I may try next year. Never can have too much nutritious, delicious kale (although the food pantries here are not wild about receiving big bags of kale and the seniors at the senior housing project flee in terror).




Color and attractiveness always influence the selections for this garden and the Indigo tomatoes have been used both in the kitchen garden and around the garden grounds. This is a new one, Indigo Kumquat, I guess named for its shape. It certainly looks more like a kumquat than grape or plum tomatoes look like their fruit.




This is another new Indigo variety, a small cherry shape called Indigo Cherry Drops. Neither tomato was fully ripe so they don’t yet show that shiny, black metallic coloring that makes the Indigos so striking. These have not been tasted yet, but Dawn says flavor of Indigo Rose is good, with a tomato flavor rather than the candy sweet flavor of a lot of cherry tomatoes.


I did not not get pictures of everything but I will mention a few more interesting plants:


A tomato I did not photograph is Ildi, a yellow grape tomato that sounds very attractive. It produces clusters (multiple trusses) of yellow, tear drop shaped tomatoes, 50-75 tomatoes per cluster. It is early, seldom drops fruit, and clusters can be harvested and hung indoors where the tomatoes keep well. Vines quickly grow to 5-6 feet in height and then set large clusters of fruit. although it is considered indeterminate. Seeds are carried by Totally Tomatoes and Thompson Morgan. I am intrigued by this tomato and will have to make a trip back in August to see what the fruit clusters look like.


Among basils (Ocimum basilicum and tenuiflorum), Dawn likes to grow Holy Basil in the garden. The plant and flowers are very fragrant and the flowers drive the bees crazy, so it is a great pollinator attractant. An interesting culinary basil is Cardinal, which is a Thai basil with a beautiful red plume of flowers. It is similar to Siam Queen but taller, leaves are larger and its flowering doesn’t impact it, so you can harvest all summer while enjoying the flowers. Seeds are available from Baker Creek, Burpee and Cooks Garden.





Monday, July 20, 2015

Harvest Monday 20 July 2015



The Costata Romanesco is out-producing Dunja about 3 to 1. Of course it is cheating by trying to shade out its neighbor. It really needs at least a 5-foot plot of its own. And it tends to flop around. It is now lurching its way towards Dunja when it could of gone in three other directions. The tomatoes are Juliet which are starting to ripen now. This week I should also be picking Jaune Flamme and Esterina cherries.




Last week I showed some nice heads of broccoli starting to form. Well, they did not get bigger, they did this instead. I am not sure what causes this, probably stress from the heat. At least they are easy to cut up for a stir fry. I have started more seeds for a fall planting which will hopefully do better. For spring planting I should probably plant a fast maturing type like Blue Wind.




The mustard greens have started to bolt so this is my last cutting and I will pull those plants  The last of the lettuce was picked but not photographed. The rest has bolted and will be pulled. I also picked another 3 pounds of mostly snap peas. And I found another Romanesco squash hiding low under a leaf. This one is big, about 15 inches.




The last of the garlic was dug and is now drying in the garage. This is German Red, a large hardneck that I purchased last year at the MDI garlic festival. Some of the bulbs are very large, with 4-5 cloves per head.


That’s what came from my garden last week. To see what other gardeners are harvesting, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Blossom End Rot



Last week I was looking at my one, nice-sized tomato on the Pruden’s Purple tomato plant. I knew it was cat faced, as early tomatoes often are. Cat facing is a problem with pollination caused by weather conditions. When I looked at that tomato again, I noticed it had now developed a bad case of blossom end rot (BER). My experience is the BER allows disease like fungal rots to penetrate the tomato and spread throughout before the tomato gets a chance to mature and ripen. So I removed and tossed it so the plant can put its energy into hopefully healthy fruit.


BER is a common nuisance and we gardeners spend a lot of time trying to avoid it, although what causes it is kind of a mystery. You hear all kinds of theories and advice. It’s a lack of soil calcium, a problem with calcium transport, too much nitrogen, too little or too much water, soil pH, yada yada. To prevent it add lime, add egg shells, add bone meal, add Epsom salts, spray with calcium, water more, water less, water consistently, and so forth. Paste tomatoes and some heirlooms seem to be particularly prone to it. I just try not to think of it and hope it does not happen, because all the advice seems to be all over the place and I doubt any of that is really going to help.


Coincidentally, I read an interesting article on BER in the UMass Extension Vegetable Notes newsletter. They excerpted an article by Gordon Johnson of the UDel extension service. Rather than excerpt their excerpt, you can find the UMass newsletter at this link so you can read it for yourself. The article does a good job of explaining what can cause BER. If you understand that, you can hopefully speculate what might be  happening in your garden. All of the suggested causes above have some truth to them, but as you might expect, it is complex.


Calcium is an essential component of plant cell structure. Lack of sufficient calcium in the cells at the blossom end of the fruit, farthest away from the stem, is what causes BER. In fact, all parts of a growing plant need calcium, it is just harder to transport it to the growing end of the fruit (the blossom end) and if the quantity is not adequate., the cells collapse, resulting in an ugly scar. There are many reasons why this could be the case. Calcium must be absorbed by the roots and transported in its ionic form, as the cation Ca++. To get calcium to an area, there has to a flow of water through the plant’s vascular system. Anything that disrupts the quantity of calcium or water flow can cause problems.


Some possible causes can be:

  • Reduced absorption of calcium by the roots. The soil pH may be too low (less than 5.2), or there may be competing cations (e.g., ammonium, potassium, phosphorous), or there can rarely be a lack of sufficient calcium in the soil. Lime can correct the pH and supply problem. Do not over-fertilize and avoid ammonium and urea fertilizers to help reduce competing cations.
  • There can be competition for water and minerals within the plant. A rapidly growing plant (as happens in the spring and early summer) will preferentially use its resources to build the plant structure (leaves and stems) rather than fruit.
  • There may be insufficient water flow through  the plant. The soil may be too dry, too wet (reduces soil oxygen which impairs root function), compacted, root pests or pathogens, or high soil temperatures. If vascular flow is reduced, so is the transport of minerals.
  • A lot of water flow is used to support transpiration, the evaporation of water from leaves that cools the plant. The parts that transpire more (leaves) will receive more minerals along with the fluid. Fruits transpire very little so get less. Humidity can also affect transpiration, with high humidity reducing it considerably. Plants covered with row cover have less air flow over them and consequently less transpiration happens.


See, I said it was complex. What it boils down to is: make sure plants and roots are healthy and actively growing, soil pH is within range, plants are not over-fertilized, and water is applied adequately and consistently, which of course is what we all try to do. After that, it’s out of your hands, unless you think your egg shells or Epsom salts or whatever really works. Then do that.


Artistic note: I do not have a photo of a tomato with BER I could use. I usually just toss those tomatoes in the compost, why would I want to photograph my failures? I looked for public domain photos but they were all butt ugly. So I used a photo of my Pineapple tomatoes grown in 2014, showing some cracking and cat facing but no BER. Hooray. Just shows my method of avoiding the whole subject works pretty well.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Harvest Monday 13 July 2015




It seemed like I tried to avoid the garden last week, but a lot happened despite that. Maybe I am just really efficient when I do visit the garden. So this post might be a little long, sorry. Let’s start with onions. The onion thrips essentially killed the White Candy onions so I pulled all of them to get them out of the garden (the white onions at the top). Everything else is doing OK. I pulled a couple of Tropea and Red Candy onions and a Super Star to use in cooking.




I finally uncovered the cucumbers and chard and will take my chances with pests. The chard has again shaded the cukes so I trimmed just the offending leaves on the edges of the chard bed.




The mustard greens also got a haircut and will probably be removed soon because they are starting to bolt. I may get one more cutting before that happens. I also pulled out all the Soloist cabbages which were riddled with holes and starting to bolt. Planting them without protection turned into a complete waste  of time and space.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Harvest Monday 6 July 2015



I had to clear out some of the beets shading my cucumber plants, resulting in this. Finally, a harvest the wife actually likes, and so do I . Greens get boring after a while. These are Touchstone Gold and Shiraz.




Next some turnips and the first Azur Star kohlrabi. The white turnips are Hakurei and the others, according to my planting map, are Boule D’Or, but clearly are not. Hmm, where did I plant the Boule D’Or? These are Royal Crown, a purple top F1 hybrid from Sakata I purchased from Pinetree. They look very nice compared to the typical dried out store-bought turnip. Besides being good roasted or mashed, they are a good low-carb substitute for potatoes in some recipes.




Finally, I picked some lettuce. I was very bad about planting lettuce this year, but these two did get in the ground. These are Winter Density and Marshall, both Romaines. Unfortunately, they are showing signs of bolting, so I have about a dozen heads to harvest soon. Why did I plant 6 of each?




More peas, and plenty more where these came from. This is 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg). So my plan to trellis them rather than grow them in a block seems to be paying off, and they are much easier to pick. Next year I only need to plant half as many.




The onions are starting to size up, so I need to start pulling and using some of the ones I want fresh (and there are a lot of them). These are Red Candy, Tropea, and White Candy. The White Candy went into the lemon risotto for our Fourth of July salmon. The foliage on the Copra storage onions is already showing signs of falling over. The leaves are very tall and at first I thought it was wind from one of the storms that pushed them over. I think I will be harvesting them soon.


What I also noticed is that many of the onions are showing thrip damage. Onions for me have been pretty trouble free, but last year I figured out I had some apparent thrip damage and even some purple blotch. Thrips are hard to control. They are hard to see, being about a millimeter in size, and they produce 8-10 generations a year. The rapid reproduction means they can quickly develop resistance to whatever you spray them with, so you have to alternate sprays. Apparently spraying Surround clay on onion foliage repels thrips and they can’t build up a resistance to what is a mechanical control. Maybe I will try that next year. I have to find some more uses for my 40 pound bag of Surround.


That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Crystalline Ice Plant



Crystalline ice plant, or ficoïde glaciale in French and Eiskraut/Kristallkraut in German, is a South African succulent plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) and is popular in France and Spain and very trendy in New York restaurants. While it grows wild and has spread around the world, the only place you can score some around here is from my garden.


I first saw ice plant on a John Kohler You Tube video. It was one of several strange greens he was growing in his front yard garden (tyfon was another and I also have seeds for that). Pinetree has the seeds so I decided to plant a small patch of the stuff this year just to see what it is like. Ice plant is in the Aizoaceae family and is actually related to tetragon or New Zealand spinach.





The heart-shaped leaves are broad and light green colored in the Spring and covered with crystalline bumps used to store water. The plant is salt tolerant, often growing on the coast and on sand dunes. The leaves are edible and the taste is very subtle. It has a briny, slightly salty taste. Since it is a succulent, when you eat it, it sort of melts in your mouth, releasing the briny juices. Chefs often pair it with seafood for that reason.




I have yet to experience it, but in summer the foliage changes form to smaller grey leaves with pink flower buds and white aster-like flowers. The buds are edible and attractive and are prized by chefs. The flowers are attractive and you can see a picture of them in the Baker Creek catalog. They describe them as looking like sea anemones, and they do.


In climates without frost, the plants can become invasive. There is another ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis), another succulent from South Africa, that was used for ground cover and is now an invasive species causing a lot of trouble in California. That plant is also called Hottentot fig, highway ice plant, pigface and sour fig. It produces a tart fruit that is used to make jam. I am not sure if the two plants are related.


So far I have only had a few leaves to add to a salad, where it does not stand out. The plants are now large enough to produce enough leaves for a more substantial dish, but I am not sure what I will do with them. While this is certainly an intriguing and attractive plant, I surely will not plant it again. The little taste and texture it has is just not worth the space in my small garden.

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