Rainy days and Sundays always get me down when I can not garden!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Q. What is it?

A.  Blossom-End Rot

Twice this week someone asked me why their tomatoes look like the ones pictured below.  

Blossom-end rot is not a disease.  It is a disorder within the plant do to a calcium imbalance.  (Avoiding blossom-end rot relies on the proper supply of water and calcium to the ripening fruit.)  Blossom-end rot does not spread from plant to plant, or from fruit to fruit. (The same disorder can happen to peppers, squash, cucumbers, and melons.) 

Water soaked lessons first appear on the blossom side when the fruit is about 1/2 to 1/3 in size.  As the fruit develops, the spot darkens and grows.  This fruits should be picked and discarded. 

There are various causes to blossom-end rot.  Improper hardening off of tomato seedlings, starting plants outdoors in cold soil, poor soil conditions, drought or excessive moisture, and not maintaining a soil pH of around 6.5.

Blossom end rot is not a death sentence for your tomatoes plants.  If treated, the plants can go on to produce ripe,red (yellow, orange etc.) tomatoes.  Before planting, add crushed eggshells to the bottom of the hole.  Sprinkle lime around the plants as needed, fallowing directions on the bag.  Once blossom-end rot strikes, a mixture of 1/2 cup Epsom Salts to one gallon of water can be applied weekly to each tomato plant.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Here we go again, another late blight (Phytophthora infestans-Plant Destroyer) warning for tomatoes and potato plants.

Late blight is highly contagious oomycete (water mold) producing millions of spores which travel 30-40 miles a day by wind.  Late blight effects even disease resistant plants and unlike early blight, which does not kill the plant,  late blight is normally a death sentence for tomato and potato plants.

 In 2009, late blight affected tomatoes in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.  In  2012 late blight was reported on tomatoes and potatoes in PA.   As of July 2nd, late blight was found in Delaware and in South Jersey.  Late blight was responsible for the Irish potato famine of 1845, and the death of over 1 million people, who's diets were dependent on potatoes.

Home growers should check their plants daily and take appropriate action. Protecting plants in advance of disease infestation, seems to be a better approach.   Apply a fungicide that targets late blight, making sure the product is safe for tomatoes and potatoes.  (Unfortunately, copper, sold as an organic fungicide, has not been successful in preventing late blight.)

There are roughly 19 diseases (fungal, bacterial, and viral) that target tomato plants.  Take steps to help reduce the risk of one or more of these infestation. Proper spacing of plants, good air circulation, weed control, and proper watering techniques help reduce diseases in the garden.  Water from below with either a garden hose, irrigation system or soaker hose to avoid splashing the leaves (which spreads the spores). If you must water from above, do so before late morning, to give the plants plenty of time to dry off.  Mulching around your plants helps reduce the need to water frequently, controls weeds, and reduces splashing of spores from the soil onto the plant itself.  For tomatoes, remove suckers plus damaged or weak looking stems.  I also remove about the first 8" of stems from all my tomato plants.  Tomatoes are actually vines and unless supported, will crawl on the ground, making them more susceptible to disease and insects.  Supported plants are easier to prune and treat with garden dust or sprays.

Eventually, infected plants need to be puled and destroyed.  Never compost diseased plants (of any kind).  Remove the entire plant, place in a black trash bag, and "bake' in the sun to kill spores etc.  Burn or throw away in the trash.

Be mindful of airborne diseases and their effect on not only your garden, but your neighbors gardens as well as local agriculture farms.


pinch at the base using your fingers

and remove the sucker

removing the first 8" 

More info on Late Blight



Fall Seed Starting

Picked this up over the weekend at Home Depot, just in time for fall seed starting.   The all steel frame was very easy to put together.  It has a UV-resistant cover and four mesh shelves.  
My grow lights fit nicely as well!

Check out these other sizes/styles by clicking on the images below.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Garden Song (inch by inch)

Garden Song

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Garden Song" is a popular children's song and American folk song written by David Mallett in 1975
The song has become a part of American folklore since being recorded by
 the Muppets in 1995.[1] The song has been also recorded by
 Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary, John Denver,Pete Seeger, David LaMotte, and Arlo Guthrie.[2] The version of "Garden Song" 
covered by John Denver made the national charts.[3] The song also inspired a book called Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni in 1995.[4
]"Garden Song" is a popular children's song and American folk song written by David Mallett in 1975

Which version is your favorite?

By Pete Seeger


By John Denver


By Arlo Guthrie


By Peter, Paul and Mary


And then there is the Anti-Garden Song!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Freedom from Gardening in July!

July, hot, humid, and the start of the dog days of summer.  A time to reflect on what you have done, enjoy the results of your efforts thus far, and anticipate the harvest to come.  July gives us permission to slow down, and take a break, from gardening chores, and the heat.  Or does it?

Gardening in July has its challenges.   It is hard to keep the beds moist for sprouting, due to the  hot temperatures and the even hotter soil temperatures.  Many of the cooler weather seeds will not germinate in soil temperatures of 85 degrees or higher.   Anything that is able to grow, needs to have a maturity date prior to the first killing frost.   Plants that are heat tolerant/cold sensitive have just enough time to mature before cold weather sets in, slowing, stopping or killing them.  Plants that are heat sensitive/cold tolerant need to be planted late enough to avoid the heat, yet early enough to take on the cold.   Consider beans, beets, carrots, cucumber's, chard and even corn in July

July 4, the 185 day of the year (186 leap year), also known as Independence Day in the US.  It marks the time to trim back mums and other plants and shrubs to stimulate fall flower production, strengthen stems,and  encourage  berry production, with enough warm weather remaining, before fall.   Keep an eye on garlic planted last fall.  The tops begin to turn yellow and fall over, signaling that it is close to harvest time.  (I actually harvest soft neck garlic today!)

July is also the time to start planning your fall garden, ordering seeds and starting your indoor seedlings.  For fall planting, cabbage and broccoli need at least 8 weeks in the ground before the first frost.  To compensate for the shorter days, add 3 weeks to the "days to maturity" on the seed packets for direct sowing.  Take that number and count back from the "average frost date" for your outdoor planting.  

About 12-14 weeks before the first frost date, start seeds of cole crops indoors.  This is also your last chance to direct sow warm season vegies of beans, cukes, and squash.  Opt for fast-maturing varieties.

10-12 weeks before before the first frost date, seedlings started indoors should be ready to be set out.  Try quick growing peas and potatoes, and direct sow lettuce, radish, beets, carrots etc.

8-10 weeks before the first killing frost, continue to direst sow lettuce and radishes, along with turnips, spinach, and other cold hardy greens.

At 6-8 weeks before the first frost, do a final sowing of your most winter-hardiness crops.  Incorporate hoop houses, tunnels, or cold frames to extend the gardening season.

And don't forget garlic and onions shortly before the first frost date!

Happy fourth and happy gardening!