More About Planting Tomatoes and Other Heat Loving Vegetables

carefully transplanting

carefully transplanting

Yesterday I posted a warning about planting tomatoes and other heat loving vegetables too early and suggested that planting after Memorial Day would be safe  Then I looked at the calendar and realized that Memorial Day is about a week early this year. Better to give you specific guidelines about the necessary conditions for success.  After checking my own opinion against the information available I have these instructions to share:

Plant when the nighttime temperatures will not drop lower than 55 degrees.  There are some who say they can get by as long as the temperatures don’t dip below the high 40s, and that may be true for some cold tolerant varieties, but to be safe stick with 55 degrees.  Wagon Hill is windy and on the cool side anyway.

Harden off. If your tomatoes have been living in a warm, controlled environment like a greenhouse, cold frame, or living room, they need a little time to get used to the wilder climate outside. Give them a few days to adjust to the swinging temperatures, harsh sunlight and strong wind by bringing them outside for a few hours, then increasing to half a day, a full day, and finally a day and night.

Choose a cloudy day, or the cool of evening. To alleviate seedlings from shock, transplant on a cloudy day, or if it’s not in the forecast, plan toward the end of the day, when air and soil temperatures cool and the sun is won’t scorch the young plants.

In the case of tomatoes, plant them deeply.  Tomatoes can develop roots all along the stem so planting them nice and deep builds a stronger root system that will provide more support for the crop.

Tickle the soil around the roots to loosen them from the root ball and to help them absorb the water you will be sure to give them.   Water well and often as the plants establish themselves.

And, just for perspective:  Imagine transplanting rice!  Hope this helps!

agri-rice-planting images

Flower Density Improves Tomato Yield

Dear Gardeners,  Last season we encouraged gardeners to plant flowers, for pollination and beauty’s sake.  Now, a study done in San Francisco’s community gardens and urban setting has shown that flower density has a significant impact on tomato yield.  I’m sure we can extrapolate to other vegetables.

Even more surprising, neither the size of the garden nor the amount of green space in the surrounding area impacted the amount of pollinator service a plant received. Instead, the key factor was the “floral resource density,” or the abundance of flowers present within the garden in which the tomato plant was located. The more densely flowers were grown within each garden, the higher the yield of tomatoes.

Here is the link to the entire article. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/sfsu-upg021215.php

Let’s continue to include flowers in our garden plans!  See you tomorrow afternoon.  EllenIMG_0961

 

Garden Inspiration

Welcome to the new growing season. By way of inspiration during this snowy time, I thought I’d share with you a sampling of vegetable and garden products I am still enjoying from last year’s harvest.

In the basket are russet potatoes, beets, a cabbage, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. In jars are mixed pickled veggies, bread and butter pickles, green beans,tomatoes,  salsa and pesto. In my freezer I have chard, roasted tomatoes, and pumpkin puree. They weren’t photogenic enough for the photo op.

The potatoes, beets and cabbage have all ambitiously started to grow roots and sprouts. I am wondering if I should really eat them or just replant them! The cabbage,which I stored in the refrigerator is also growing little cabbages around the base. I also stored the beets in the refrigerator and while they are now starting to get a little soft up until a couple of weeks ago they were still crisp and firm. I can eat the softer ones and they taste fine. The squash and potatoes were stored in my basement. They do need to be eaten soon or I could cook and freeze them. The vegetables pictured are just a few of the ones I have left to eat.

So, as you page through your seed catalogs, be sure to consider some vegetables for storing. You will enjoy having them in the depths of winter.

Think Spring! Garden Steward, Wagon Hill Community Gardenstorage vegetables

Flower Power

At our Garden Opening this year we encouraged gardeners to plant more flowers.  They did and the gardens are beautiful with blooms.  Here are just a few to enjoy.

Pink Zinnia

Pink Zinnia

IMG_0961

Zinnia

Cleome

Cleome

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Red and White Zinnia

Red and White Zinnia

 

 

Cosmos

Cosmos

Gardener with dog and flowers

Gardener with dog and flowers

IMG_0962

Tomato News

Well here I am again with more challenging news about the gardens.  Tomato season is almost upon us.  Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown in our garden and very much anticipated.  That’s why it’s disappointing to see some tomato problems starting.  Just this week, my tomatoes began to exhibit Tomato Leaf Septoria.  This disease is caused by a fungus that thrives in humid, moist conditions.  The bottom leaves of the plant develop small black spots , turn yellow, and then brown.  The fungus doesn’t get on the tomatoes themselves but does weaken the plant and shorten it’s production period.  Removing the yellow, diseased leaves and branches is the first thing to do.  These should not be put into the compost pile but should removed from the garden area.   When watering, try to avoid watering the leaves of the plant and focus the water around the base of the tomato plant.  The idea is to improve air circulation and discourage the moist conditions that promote the fungus.  A copper spray can be used on the healthy foliage to help protect it from the fungus.

And, while I was cleaning the diseased leaves from my tomatoes, I was lucky enough to find the first tomato hornworm on my tomato plants .  The one I found was still on the small side and I couldn’t find others but I am sure they are there.  They are like mice, if you see one, that means you probably have dozens.  I will remind gardeners of my quick and easy way to deal with them:  a pair of scissors cuts them in half .  It’s  faster than trying to pull them off since they have strong grasping feet and pulling on them usually means they end up exploding in your hand –not pleasant.  However, if you see one carting around a bunch of grains of rice, leave it alone.  Those are the eggs of a parasitic wasp whose larvae feed on  the hornworm and kill it.  We want to encourage  those wasps.

By the way, I did harvest my first yellow Garden Peach tomato and a handful of Sungold cherry tomatoes.  Happy Gardening

septoria leaf spot

septoria leaf spot

Septoria leaf spot

Septoria leaf spot

tomato hornworm with parasitic wasp eggs

tomato hornworm with parasitic wasp eggs

Tomato hornworm larvae and adult moth

Tomato hornworm larvae and adult moth

Salsa? Yes! Mexican Bean Beetles ? No!

I’m a fan of multiculturalism, diversity, ethnic cuisine, but my enthusiasm pales when it comes to Mexican Bean Beetles.  This morning I was reveling in picking my first crop of green beans when I came face to face with a Mexican Bean Beetle.  Darn!  Here is a great picture of their life cycle and, yes,as adults,  they do look a lot like ladybugs which is probably how they escape our wrath.  I’m providing some information about organic controls.

Consider these natural controls for Mexican bean beetles, listed in seasonal order:

Handpick adults and larvae whenever you see them. Squash egg clusters with your fingers. Once you see a few larvae, handpick daily to achieve good early season control.
Interplant petunias with beans. Another popular companion planting approach involves growing rows of beans between rows of potatoes.
Install floating row covers over bush beans in early summer, after the young seedlings have been weeded. Open the covers weekly to check for the presence of any adults or larvae, and remove them. Row covers work beautifully to prevent this bean pest, but lucky individuals occasionally emerge and prosper beneath them.

If you have a home chicken flock, have the birds work over pulled bean plants before they are composted.
In large plantings of more than a quarter acre, these organic interventions may be worth their substantial cost:

Spray with a product based on the fungus Beauvaria bassiana (such as Mycotrol) as soon as Mexican bean beetle larvae are seen. When the first generation of larvae becomes infected with this fungus, sufficient spores are usually present to infect later generations.
Release an imported, commercially-reared parasitic wasp called Pediobus foveolatus after Mexican bean beetle larvae have appeared. State support may be available to growers in New Jersey and Maryland.

More Advice on Organic Mexican Bean Beetle Control

Keep a close watch on your growing beans in spring, and do not allow the first generation of Mexican bean beetles to triple itself by the time your beans grow into big, robust plants. Do all you can to provide food and habitat for beneficial wasps, flies, ladybeetles, and predatory stink bugs. Scout for eggs if adults are seen, using a small hand-held mirror to get a good look at leaf undersides.

Planting plenty of flowers that attract beneficial insects is a sound strategy, along with maintaining seldom-disturbed islands that provide habitat for ground beetles and other beneficials.

More information on organic Mexican bean beetle control is available from the University of Massachusetts, Cornell University and Florida State University.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/mexican-bean-beetle-organic-control-zw0z1304zkin.aspx#ixzz381JxTKhu

life_cycle : Mexican Bean Beetle

Organic Pest Spray

This recipe for an organic pest spray comes from Strawbery Banke.  We are suggesting it for use in the Community Garden and will welcome feedback on it’s effectiveness.  Note that this spray will only work if it is applied frequently and reapplied after rain or heavy morning dew.

Cornell Mix
This is the organic pesticide mix that we use on our plants at Strawbery Banke. The ingredients are inexpensive and the uses are versatile. Works great for a wide range of insect pests and mildews.

You will need:
Spray bottle
1 gallon jug
1 TBS Dr. Bronner’s liquid concentrate soap (or other all-natural liquid soap without phosphates)
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS baking soda
Warm water

Put small amount of warm water in the bottom of the jug. Add soap, olive oil and baking soda. Swirl ingredients to blend them. Fill the rest of the jug with warm water and then put the cap on. Shake thoroughly. Dispense into spray bottle.

When applying to plants, make sure to get the undersides of leaves, tight crevices and tender new growth. Keep shaking mixture to keep ingredients well incorporated (oil will try to separate). Apply once a week for prevention and more often for an active problem.

Pest ID. and Elimination

Dear Gardeners,  Our gardens are all looking beautiful and are about to burst with fresh food.  Just when we are starting to count our squash, tomatoes, beans etc.  insect pests also arrive to enjoy the bounty.  Here are several that I have seen in the garden.

Squash Beetles:  There are several varieties of squash beetle.  The most common is the gray beetle shown below.  These can easily become swarms that destroy your squash plants if not controlled.  The easiest way to control them is to search your leaves for the eggs.  They can appear on the tops or undersides of the leaves  You will need to examine each leaf because they can be lurking anywhere.  Using duct tape(available in the shed)  wrapped around your hand sticky side up,  pat the eggs to remove them from the leaves.  You will probably need to make several loops of duct tape to remove them all.  Dispose of the tape at home and not in the trash cans at Wagon Hill.  The gray larvae have wings and can fly everywhere.  If you see them. you can try to squish them but a better method would be to get a Safer insecticidal spray to use.   Destroying the adults is harder because they do not squish so easily.  If you bring a plastic bottle with a narrow opening and a lid you can pick them up and drop them in the bottle.  Put the lid on and throw away at home.   You will need to check your plants regularly because they keep reappearing all summer long.

 

Adult Squash Beetle

Adult Squash Beetle

 

Squash Beetle Larvae

Squash Beetle Larvae

 

Squash Beetle Eggs

Squash Beetle Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is another type of squash beetle I have seen.  They are not as numerous as the gray ones but just as destructive.  Treat them in the same way,  destroy any eggs you find on leaves and kill larvae and adults.

Squash Beetle Larvae

Squash Beetle Larvae

Squash Beetle

Squash Beetle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another insect that we have in abundance, right now is the Colorado Potato Beetle.   Again, the best method is to destroy any eggs you see in yellow clusters on the leaves.  The larvae are easily squished but I would wear gloves since squishing them bare handed is pretty gross .  I have done it in desperation and know from experience.  The adults can be picked off and dropped into a bottle.

I would encourage all gardeners to “take matters into your own hands”  whenever you see any of these creatures on your plants or your neighbors and destroy them.  This is something we all can do towards honoring our 4 hour work commitment.  Keeping these guys in check is of great benefit to everyone.

Finally, a reminder to check your garden at least once a week for pests and, more importantly, for food that is ready to harvest.  With the rain and sun we have been getting,  things are growing fast and you may be surprised to find your plants producing very quickly now.   You want to be sure to reap the benefit of  your labors and harvest your food at it’s peak.  Baseball bat zucchini is not very tasty.

Potato Beetle Eggs

Potato Beetle Eggs

Colorado Potato Beetle larvae

Colorado Potato Beetle larvae

Adult Colorado Potato Beetle

Adult Colorado Potato Beetle

Weeds to Wildflowers

When I see them in my garden, they are weeds to be pulled up immediately, so scorned that they can’t even be added to the compost pile.  Yet , early in the day in the meadow at Wagon Hill, with the dew still glistening on them, those same weeds turn into wildflowers.  Here are some pictures of these Cinderella flowers.   And, as a floral designer, I am just as happy with a vase full of milkweed as I am the most beautiful orchid stem.

Milkweed in a Vase

Milkweed in a Vase

Euphoribia

Euphoribia

Clover

Clover

Bindweed

Bindweed

Yarrow

Yarrow

Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed

Notes From Ellen: Pest Control

Out at the garden today, I saw lots of cucumber beetles and my first squash beetle!  UgH!

I used a Tomato Vegetable Spray that has pyrethrum, an organic pesticide.  It seemed to knock the beetles down.  I sprayed and weeded and came back,–no beetles.  However, I will have to keep spraying.
If you do not have any bugs on your squash and cucumbers yet, you could try covering them with a row cover called “Remay”.  You will notice that many gardeners have this white filmy fabric over their plants.  You can buy it by the roll or in a package at Wentworth Greenhouse in Rollinsford.  My squash plants that were covered with Remay did not have bugs.  You have to remove the Remay once the plants get large enough to start vining out.  The Remay does protect young seedlings from cucumber beetles, cabbage butterflies, and squash vine borer moths.
The good news is that I saw a number of lady bugs–always our friends– and there are a number of papery praying mantis egg cases in the garden.  The mantis is an excellent predator.  There are many wasps that have useful phases in their life cycles that help to rid the garden of pests. One type lays eggs on the tomato hornworm caterpillar.  When the larvae hatch they devour the caterpillar!   I love to let the bugs duke it out if possible.
See you in the garden.  Ellen