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Water is the driver of Nature.  –   Leonardo da Vinci

When, Who, How, & How Much to Water

Midday, on a hot day, watering will burn the leaves.
Evening watering promotes mildew, fungus growth.  Plants drink during the day, so AM watering is best.

Plants that need little or no water and why:
Onions, garlic, that are flowering, going to bulb, needing to dry
End of season tomatoes that you want to have a stronger flavor
Tomatoes in soil with Fusarium and Verticillium Wilt fungi in the soil.  Fungi don’t do well in dry soil.

Plants that need water almost daily, sometimes twice daily 
Shallow rooted beans, beets, bunch onions, cucumbers, peas, strawberries
Celery and chard, lettuce, arugula – leaf crops, to keep them growing fast, tender and tasting sweet.
Planted seeds, seedlings, newly planted transplants, must be kept moist; if they dry, they die.  Put up temporary shade.

Use a watering can for seeds and tender seedlings so seeds aren’t washed away or seedlings broken.

Most plants need only an inch of water once a week unless it is hot and/or windy weather.  Most gardeners over water by two times as much as is needed!  Overwatering drowns plants, and kills micro soil organisms; they don’t get oxygen.  Soil structure is destroyed as air spaces cave in.  Overwatering also causes poor root growth making it difficult to move enough water to the leaves during hot weather.

Irregular watering results in misshapen fruits, tomato flower drop, can stop production

Fuzzy plants like tomatoes, eggplant, don’t do well with watering on their leaves.  Water underneath please.

Plants that are mulched generally need less water.  Poke your finger in the soil to see how deeply it is moist.  More on mulching next week.

Water and Pests & Diseases 

Overhead watering contributes to mildew on beans, squash, peas.  It spreads Strawberry Leaf Spot and other waterborne diseases 

Tomatoes:  stop watering when about a foot tall.  Water around them, but not right at them.  Keep back about a 2’ perimeter to reduce Fusarium and Verticillium Wilt fungi.  If you do water them, on mature plants, cut off the lower leaves, up to 18” high, to prevent soil splash when watering.  The fungi are especially taken up by leaves touching the ground.

Flush off aphids and the undersides of broccoli leaves and broc side shoots, kale leaves, especially the curly varieties.

Flush white flies from the undersides of broccoli leaves, kale, beans

BE JUICY!

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Powdery Mildew on Peas

Select powdery mildew resistant or tolerant varieties!

Disease Resistant Varieties Right from the Beginning!

  • Green beans:  Provider – (Green/Bush): Bean Mosaic Virus Race 15, Common Bean Mosaic, Downy Mildew, Powdery Mildew. Contender – (Stringless Green/Bush): tolerates heat and powdery mildew, resistant to common bean mosaic virus.
  • Cucumber: Diva, Cumlaude, Media F1. Larry Hodgson lists no less than 71 PM resistant varieties! One of the old standards, Marketmore 76 and 97 are on the list. He doesn’t specify what kind of cucumbers they are, but you can have a ton of fun looking some of them up! I see several familiar names.
  • Muskmelon:  Ambrosia F1 – Downy & Powdery Mildew. Primo (western type) – Tolerance to Powdery Mildew 1 & 2, and Sulphur. There are many melon possibilities. Take a little time looking them up.
  • Pea:
    • Ambassador – Resistant to powdery mildew, entation virus and fusarium wilt
    • Cavalier – Good resistance to powdery mildew.
    • Greenshaft – Resistant to downy mildew and fusarium wilt
    • Rondo – Resistant to fusarium wilt
    • Downy Mildew resistant peas:  Kelevdon Wonder, Oasis, Twinkle, Avola, Hurst Greenshaft, Ambassador, Cavalier and Peawee.
  • Pumpkin:  Per SFGate – ‘Large varieties include “Alladin” and “Gladiator.” Try “Hobbit” and “Scarecrow,” for medium-sized pumpkins. Small, mildew resistant varieties include “Pure Gold” and “Touch of Autumn.” ‘ In 2015 the Ashland Garden Club posted this great list Powdery Mildew-resistant Pumpkin & Squash Varieties compiled by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
  • Winter Squash:  almost all varieties
  • Yellow Summer Squash: Success, Sunray, Sunglo
  • Zucchini: Ambassador, Wildcat

Clearly there are many more plants and many more varieties than covered by this sampling. Things change each year as some supplies dwindle, new strong varieties are presented! Enjoy a scan around the net for the latest info!

Healthy Practices Make a Difference!

  • Plant in full sun!
  • Plant so leaves of one plant don’t touch another and spread the spores.
  • Have plenty of airflow. If the plant is too dense in its interior, thin it.
  • Remove any debris or dead leaves breeding habitat.
  • Remove and don’t compost infected leaves. If you don’t remove them, you reinfect your plant each time you water.
  • Wash tools and your hands before you go from one plant to the next.
  • Water in the AM, at ground level.  No overhead watering.

Prevention is the key word!

BEFORE you have mildew, while your plants are still babies, here is a natural homemade remedy. Drench the leaves with a baking soda/milk mix.  Tablespoon Soda, ¼ cup nonfat milk powder, 1 regular aspirin crushed, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish detergent in a watering can. Baking Soda alkalizes your plant, inhibits germination of the spores. Milk and Aspirin boost your plant’s immune system. Please also see IPM Powdery Mildew on Vegetables including tomatoes!

Drench weekly with your mix before the sun gets on the leaves and dries it. You want to give the solution time to be absorbed. Be sure to apply to both tops and bottoms of leaves and the stems. See Keeping Your Veggie Garden Happy – Foliar Plant Care! This is excellent for Roses too!

Roguing. When a bacterial or viral infection is suspected, if you think it’s too late, experience tells you that you aren’t going to be able to get rid of the mildew, sadly, do the one cut prune. Rogues are removed from the fields to preserve the quality of the crop being grown. Remove that plant asap so it doesn’t spread mildew to uninfected plants – yours or your neighbors’. Trash it, don’t compost it.  Mildew is windborne, so the more mildew, the more is spread.

Mildew is a temperature related disease – warm temperatures between 70 and 80F. And when plants are older in the season they are more likely to get it. They have been working hard producing and no longer have their youthful vitality, spent. I see that as a natural part of their life, a signal to thank them and let them go.

Mildew is usually not fatal, but it can bring your plant to a standstill. No production, suffering plant. Sometimes a change of weather will revive it. A lot depends on the strength of your plant. Choose the most resistant varieties, feed them the best and enough. But if no immediate recovery, let yourself grieve, you had high hopes. Then get on with it, get a better variety, start over. Be a good plant keeper. Pay attention to it, keep it watered per its needs.

Best of luck. Thank you for caring. Plants are dear living beings.

Updated 5.16.20


Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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