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Transplant Roots

I know these are not veggies. What I want you to see is the roots. Healthy, opened out, pointing down, not rootbound. These little guys will get a good start.

Many wouldn’t think how you transplant your veggies would make much difference, but it can! Here are some tips for smoothing and soothing that step in your gardening for your plants’ health and the soonest harvest!

Rather than popping your transplants out of the six pack and stuffing them into the ground unceremoniously, throwing some water at them, 5 minutes and you’re gone, consider enhancing that process! It’s an investment.

Think how big that root ball will get and generously give the planting spots some wholesome nutrients. Remember, also, hungry micro feeder roots grow laterally searching for food, like from naturally decomposing leaves and insects, so make your planting hole a little larger than that – at least out to the dripline of the mature plant! Do as nature would do.

Put your plant fuels right where they will be used, right in that planting hole! Throw in compost, what you estimate to be 5% organic matter by weight, 10% by volume if that area hasn’t had compost added recently. Be sure that is acidic compost for beans, celery and strawberries. Add 3/4 cup or so of chicken manure (or your choice), a good handful of bonemeal, handful of nonfat powdered milk and maybe a little bit of landscape mix from Island Seed & Feed bulk bins. Coffee grounds help prevent soil diseases. Could put in 1/4 C or less of them – go very lightly, all that is needed is 1/2%! That’s not a typo! Compost and manures add N (Nitrogen), necessary for growth. Bone meal is high in Phosphorous (for blooming) and takes 6 to 8 weeks before it starts working – perfect timing! It is also high in calcium, which helps prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes. Nonfat powdered milk, also high in calcium, is for immediate uptake, a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. 25% Worm castings is research approved as optimum. Worm castings have special plant-growth hormones, improve water holding capacity, suppress several diseases and significantly reduce parasitic nematodes, aphids, mealybugs and mites. They are not fertilizer.

If the roots of your transplant are jammed up a bit, gently pull down their little legs, spread them out in four directions. Dig your planting hole wide and deep enough that you can make a little cone of soil in the bottom. The longer roots will dangle down around the cone, happy to be in their natural direction, already starting to be able to reach for deeper soil nutrients and moisture.

Some gardeners trim or cut off any extra long roots rather than have them curl and fold. It’s better to dig a deeper hole and leave the roots intact rather than lose time in ‘transplant shock’ recovery. If you do trim the roots, also trim the canopy because now that there is less root, the canopy is too large for them to feed properly. Clearly you can’t do that with a plant like corn.

Transplant Technique Separating Lemon Cucumbers - John KohlerSelecting Transplants to save money! Not everyone wants to plant from seed! Not everyone wants to spend a ton of bucks on transplants either! Ok, so do it John Kohler style! See this video of him separating out ELEVEN lemon cucumbers from one 4″ container he purchased for $1.79 (those were the days, ha, ha) ! I didn’t believe it, but he did it easy! And I’ll bet they all grew! You can use this technique with many plants.

Sprinkle Mycorrhizal fungi right ON the roots of your transplants when you put them in the ground. Gently pat it on so it sticks. It increases uptake of nutrients, water, and phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop. The exception is the Brassica family – for example, won’t work on broccoli, kale, turnips, radish – save your time and money. Ask for it at Island Seed & Feed in Goleta.

If you have a spritz bottle handy, spray the roots and saturate the planting hole with hydrogen peroxide. It gives the little guys a boost of oxygen, uptake of nutrients, kills many disease causing organisms, pests, algae, fungus and spores. H2O2  Important details!

It may take some getting used to these next two ideas…  1) When you install your transplant, add soil in gently and water as you go. Let the wet soil flow into the spaces so your plant has soil contact and it can eat. 2) Especially don’t tamp down the soil with your foot because it may break some roots, slowing your plant’s growth. Compacting your soil presses the oxygen out of the soil and soil needs to breathe. Channels for soil organisms are closed – they can’t get around and closed water channels deprive your plant of deeper moist soil! Leave your soil light and loose!

Be sure where your water will flow. Use trenches, basins/wells, mini berms, to keep it where you want it, where it is needed. For plants like melon or winter squash, put a stake in the center of the basin where the seeds or transplants are, so you can water right where the roots are. As your super healthy plant matures, finding where it starts is often lost among prolific monster foliage. Time to time, restore the basin. The rest of the soil doesn’t need watering. Good hot soil keeps those melons and squash producing and dry soil grows less weeds!

After your transplants are in the ground, give them an Aspirin+ bath! Yup. One Aspirin, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (surfactant), per gallon of water. While you are at it, add a 1/4 C nonfat powdered milk and a heaping Tablespoon of Baking Soda as well. Aspirin, triggers a defense response and stimulates growth! As stated above, powdered milk is a natural germicide and boosts the immune system. Baking Soda makes the leaves alkaline and inhibits fungal spores! Use especially on your young bean plants, all your cucurbits – cukes, zuchs, any mildew prone plant. Use a watering can that has a rose (nozzle) that turns upward to get the undersides of leaves as well as their tops. Especially do this for tomatoes! Sometimes I plant one day, give the new babies their treatment the next, depending on how much time and energy I have, how many plants I need to plant.

Special treatment for Peppers! Rather than in the soil, do foliar sulphur, Epsom Salts! A cheap home remedy that can keep plants greener and bushier, enhance production of healthier fruit later in the season, and potentially help reduce blossom-end rot. You could apply 1 tablespoon of granules around each transplant, but research has shown a foliar spray of a solution of 1 tablespoon Epsom salts + a 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap (the original plain Dawn) per gallon of water at transplanting, first flowering, and fruit set is quite effective! As a foliar spray, Epsom salts can be taken up quickly by plants, otherwise, it is sometimes hard for the plant to get it out of the soil because of calcium competition.

Last, if it is warm weather, if your soil has the wilts/blight fungi, top off the soil around cucumbers and tomatoes with soil feeding mulch. Straw is simple. Apply it no more than 1″ deep, enough to allow some airflow. Mulch keeps tomato leaves from picking up wilts from soil. It keeps cucumbers, winter squash and strawberries up off the ground, less susceptible to insects and rot, keeps fruits clean. See more tips about planting in fungi infected soil – tomatoes and cucumbers especially!

With bigger plants, plant an understory of living mulch! That can be two-for-one edible companion plants that enhance, repel pests and/or diseases, or a legume cover crop that feeds your soil while your plant grows! An understory of edible plants like lettuce, carrots, beets, are a wise use of space – no need for a special bed for them. As your bigger plants make shade, remove the lower leaves so the littles get enough light. Legume cover crops save time by feeding your soil while your primary crop is growing! White Clover is a good choice. See more on Living Mulch.

Don’t forget to put down an organic snail/slug bait a couple times BEFORE you plant an area, or you may not have plants the next day. If you live in a bird area, cover your new planties with bird net, aviary wire, row covers or a wire cloche. Make your cloches quite big – healthy plants grow pdq, pretty d— quick!

Soon, very soon, put up trellises by beans and cukes, and install sturdy cages for tomatoes and peppers. Going vertical gives you more space to plant, and keeps fruits clean up off the ground, they ripen all the way around, are free of soil diseases and ground crawlies! Convenient picking height too. Eat ’em as you stand there!

Planting Seeds!  Do your soil preparations the same as for transplants! Worm castings are especially good for seeds! Seeds germinate more quickly, seedlings grow faster! If you aren’t putting in your seeds at the same time as you do your soil prep, stake the center of the spots where the seeds will go so when you plant their roots will have maximum opportunities for tasty nutrition! If it will be a bed, stake and label the areas for each kind of seed so you plant in the best places for each.

Again, lay down that snail/slug stuff a few days before you plant. Do it twice to get the generations. If you miss that step, then put it down right when you plant. Otherwise you may think they never came up. Soil predators feast overnight. Stake the area where the seeds are so you don’t over water or step in the bed and compact the soil, damage delicate seedlings before you can even see them. Cover the area if you have birds. Seeds are tasty, tiny sprouts are a delicacy. Water gently, set your water wand on the fine mist setting, so your seeds stay where you put them and aren’t uncovered; keep them moist until they are up. When your little ones are up about 3, 4 inches, give them their aspirin+ bath, mulch them, promptly install their trellises and cages.

Mazel tov!

Updated 4.16.18, 2.24.19

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area 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. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

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Strawberry Tips for Tasty Super Berries!

  • Strawberries are in the Rose family.
  • The average berry has 200 seeds, the only fruit whose seeds are on its exterior surface!  The seeds are really the fruit!
  • Usually grown from runner daughters, they will grow from seed.  Just throw down caps you bit the berry from.  Sooner or later, you will have a plant you didn’t ‘plant.’  Strawberry seed saving is simple.
  • Eight out of 10 strawberries grown in the U.S. are grown in California!
  • Strawberries came in second to blueberries in the USDA’s analysis of antioxidant capacity of 40 fruits and vegetables. They are also rich in dietary fiber and manganese, and contain more vitamin C than any other berry.

Image courtesy of StrawberryPlants.org

When do I plant strawberries?  Not now, NOVEMBER 1 to 10!  Yes, it’s that specific for winter chill at the perfect time!  They start producing runners now, but cut them off until early July!  Then let them grow, and cut off the new baby plants mid October for November planting.  Or, just let them grow to fill spots where, for one reason or another, a plant has gone missing, needs replacing, and/or another could fit in.  When those needs are taken care of, cut off the rest of the runners.  These runner plant babies will grow so fast you will be getting berries from them late summer and fall if you have everbearers/day neutral types!!

My plant isn’t producing….  

Variety
 – If it is an everbearer, day neutral, variety it will produce almost all year.  June/spring bearers put out a prolific batch in June, then it’s over.  No amount of care or feeding is going to make that plant have berries after June.  Sorry.  Best to get the varieties your local nursery carries.  Or talk with them about special ordering well in advance, so they can get the ones you want.
Temps – cold weather slows down pollinators.
Shaded – believe me, strawberries like all-day sun!  If you are going to tuck them in among other plants, be sure to put them on the sunny side!
Hungry – think about it!  A strawberry plant is often pumping out several berries at a time!  They are using up soil nutrition, so feed them!  Try a light solution of fish emulsion/kelp every other week over some sprinkled seabird guano or a well aged manure.  Give your strawberries a little fertilizer in the 0-10-10 proportions; that’s lots of phosphorus and potassium for strong roots and uptake of nutrients, blooms and fruits!
Water – don’t let them dry out, they will stop producing.  This month they tend to grow more leaves, send out runners.  Clip off the runners for now, so they don’t take your plant’s energy away from producing berries, unless you want more plants right away.
Mulching is good.  They love pine needle mulch, if you have some about, because they prefer slightly acidic soil.  Drape your berries over pine cones to keep them off the ground, out of the slug zone.
Age – First year plants and 3rd year plants don’t produce as well.

My berries are really tiny! 
Strawberry varieties vary from mammoth chocolatiers, to midget but mighty tasty alpines.  If it isn’t a variety issue, it may be diseased.  See below please.

Misshapen berries or split in two sections with a hole in the center 
Irregular watering  Your berry grows fast when it has water, then is restricted when it doesn’t….
Western Tarnished Plant Bugs,
feed on the flowers and developing surface seeds that stimulate growth causing misshapen berries, hard clusters of yellow seeds on the tip of the fruit.  Clean up debris.  Once you see this, you are too late to prevent it any further.  Bummer.  UC Davis IPM Integrated Pest Management on Lygus Hesperus.  Image of typical cat-faced berries.
Pollination Strawberry flowers are usually open and attractive to bees only a day or less.  Temperatures below 60F, low night temperatures, & high humidity result in inadequate pollination, low yields of small or misshapen fruit.  Strawberries require multiple pollination for perfect fruit formation. Generally, as the number of pollinator visits increases, there will be an increase in fruit set, number of seed per fruit, fruit shape, and fruit weight.  ABOUT BEES:  per NCSU ‘Bees rarely fly when the temperature is below 55°F. Flights seldom intensify until the temperature reaches 70°F. Wind speed beyond 15 miles per hour seriously slows bee activity. Cool, cloudy weather and threatening storms greatly reduce bee flights. In poor weather, bees foraging at more distant locations will remain in the hive, and only those that have been foraging nearby will be active.  Pumpkin, squash, and watermelon flowers normally open around daybreak and close by noon; whereas, cucumbers, strawberries, and muskmelons generally remain open the entire day.’  So if the weather isn’t right THE DAY OR MORNING your flower opens…..

Whole plant has yellow leaves.  The most common cause is nutrient deficiencies due to overwatering.  Overwatering causes poor root growth making it difficult to move enough water to the leaves during hot weather.  Lay back on watering; give your babies some Nitrogen –fish emulsion/kelp.

Strawberry Pests
Pecked   If birds are pecking your berries, put bird netting or a wire dome over them.

Rebecca & David Barker, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden, Plot 41, staked the chicken wire in place, push it up to harvest, down to just the right height when done!

Holes in them, Chewed  Silvery slime trails are the giveaway!  Use the pine cones to drape your berries over to keep them off the ground.  Put down some Sluggo or the like, to kill off night-time nibblers, slugs, snails.  Harvest regularly before the berry gets soft and smelly, just before the buglets are attracted!  Those little black pointy worms?  I’m trying to find out what they are.  If you know, let me know, ok?!
Uprooted  Sad to say, that sounds like ‘possums, raccoon, or skunk.  They are looking for your earth worms or grubs.  Just like bunnies, these critters won’t jump a low barrier.  They just go around it.  So install a foot tall perimeter of wire pieces, black plastic plant flats, old trellis parts, whatever you have around, or go get something that looks good to you so you will be happy.  Relocating the critters is a good choice because, they do have children, that have children, that…

Strawberry Diseases  StrawberryPlants.org for full list of diseases.  Here’s a link to the 3 Most common leaf diseases with images.

Angular Leaf Spot – exactly that.  Spotted leaves.  A cosmetic problem until it isn’t.  Your plant will produce, but it won’t thrive.  Spread by water, harvest before you water, water under the leaves, remove badly spotted leaves, don’t use them as mulch, wash your hands before going on to another plant.
Strawberry Blight – the fungus is often confused with angular leaf spot, overwinters in old leaves, remove them.  Remove old leaves from runner plants before setting.  All day sun, well-drained soil, in an area with circulation, equals less fungus.  For good air circulation, plant far enough apart, remove weeds, remove, replant and/or give away runner baby sets.  Plant resistant varieties for your area of your state.  Discussion of SoCal varieties.  When you buy new plants be sure they are certified from a disease-free nursery.  If you use a fungicide, spray the underside of leaves as well as the tops.

Successful SoCal varieties!

Chandler is the most widely commercially grown strawberry in California.  High yield, early producer, large southern berry.  It’s a June bearer, so if you want year round supply, this is not your berry.
Seascape is an ever-bearing, big day neutral, all year strawberry, harvests are more abundant in late spring. High yield, resistant to most diseases except leaf spot.  Reliable producer in fall, performs well in hot, dry climates.  Berry is bright red inside and out!
Oso Grande Another June bearer, high yield big berry, good in warm climates.

Eat your red  plump strawberries!  Fresh from your garden, strawberry Sundae, strawberry sauce, strawberry pie, cake, bread, strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, yoghurt, cream cheese, cheesecake, strawberry shake, chocolate dipped, strawberry lemonade, strawberry Syrah, and, as always, the traditional, Strawberry Shortcake!! 

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APRIL is for Heat Lovers! Pull back your mulches, let soil heat up, PLANT!

Why not start with an AAS (All America Selections) 2011 Winner?!
Pepper ‘Orange Blaze’ F1  Early ripening orange variety, very sweet flavor, multiple disease resistances!

AAS 2011 Winner - Orange Blaze F1 Pepper

Get out last year’s garden notes if you made any, and review for varieties you liked, where you got ‘em, how much to plant!

CORN!
Plant in blocks, not rows, for pollination.  When tassels bloom, break off pieces and whap them on the silks!  Each silk is one kernel, each needs one grain of pollen!
Corn hybridizes – plant only one variety, or varieties that don’t have pollen at the same time.  This is pretty much not doable at a community garden since everyone is planting all kinds at any time, so if you harvest seeds, don’t expect true results!

Heat tolerant, tipburn resistant lettuces – Nevada, Sierra, Black Seeded Simpson, Jericho Romaine
     Slo bolt cilantro, arugula in semi shade (among your corn?!)
Eggplant love humidity and heat.  Tuck ‘em in between, right up against, other plants.  Near the cooler coast plant the longer length varieties that mature earlier.
Jicama, limas, melons, okra, peppers, seed potatoes, pumpkins
From Seed:  basil (Nufar is wilt resistant), chard, green beans (while peas finishing), beets, carrots, corn, endive, New Zealand spinach, parsley, radish, squash – summer & WINTER, sunflowers, turnips.  Coastal gardeners, get your winter squash in NOW so it will have ample time to mature.
The radish variety French Breakfast holds up and grows better than most early types in summer heat if water is supplied regularly.

PreSoak and/or PreSprout for 100% success!  Click here for details!  Per eHow:  How to Soak Watermelon Seeds in Milk Before Growing.  Sometimes the seed coat carries a virus, and the proteins in milk will also help deactivate the virus.  Read more 

Transplants:  cucumbers (hand pollinate?), tomatoes, watermelon
WAIT FOR MAY to plant cantaloupe
Herbs from transplants – oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme 

Plant successively!  If you put in transplants now, also put in seeds for an automatic 6 week succession!  Plant different varieties (except of corn if you want true seed – see above)! 

If you overplant, thin for greens, or transplant when they are about 2 to 3 inches high.  Lettuce, carrots, onions.  Too many stunt each other.  OR, this from Santa Barbara Westsiders Lili & Gabor:  Overplant mesclun on purpose, then mow the little guys!  If you are at home, plant densely in a planter bowl, cut off, leaving 1 ½” of stem still in your soil.  They will regrow, you will have several months’ supply of tasty baby greens.  Plant two or three bowls for more people or more frequent harvest!  Give a bowl as a gift! 

Tomatoes
Plant for excellence
 – Throw a handful of bone meal in your planting hole along with a handful of nonfat powdered milk, worm castings, compost/manures, mix it all up with your soil.  Sprinkle the roots of your transplant with mycorrhizal fungi!  That’ll do it!  Stand back for bounty!
REMOVE LOWER LEAVES OF TOMATOES  Wilt prevention.  Water sparingly or not at all after about a foot tall.  Wilt comes from the ground up the leaves and is airborne. Remove any leaves that touch the ground or could get water splashed.  Don’t remove suckers – airborne fungi can enter open wounds.
Sorry, NO HEIRLOOMS if you know the soil has the wilts.  Heirlooms don’t have resistance.  Get varieties with VF on the tag or that you know have resistance/tolerance.
Mid day, rap tomato cages or the main stem, to help pollination.  55 degrees or lower, higher than 75 at night, or 105 in daytime = bud drop.  Not your fault.  Grow early varieties first that tolerate cooler temps.
Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden Kevin and Mary Smith have had successes with 2 blight resistant/tolerant determinate varieties, New Hampshire Surecrop, a 78 day, great tasting slicer/canner, and Legend, a very early 68 day!  Ask for them, and more Jetsetters, with unbelievable VFFNTA resistance/tolerance, at your nursery.  See Tomatoes and Wilts here at the Green Bean Connection Blog for a list of additional resistant/tolerant varieties and tips!   

Maintenance!  Sidedress when blooms start.  Fish/kelp, foliar feed Epsom salt for Solanaceaes, seabird guano (not bat) for more blooms, manures for lettuces and leaf crops like chard, collards.

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Jetsetter Tomatoes, Early, VFFNTA!!!!

It may seem a bit early to talk about tomatoes, but tisn’t!  Hey, it’s always ok to talk about tomatoes, right?!  There are important things to know about that start well before planting time!  Read on….

Last year I tried the dandelion cure – either I didn’t do it right, not enough dandelions soon enough, or it doesn’t work.  But this year I am going to plant toms where the dandelions grew into big patches, just in case there are any residual benefits!  This year I found this info from Gene Bazan, Ph.D, about toms and favas and I have fava seeds!!!!

Favas First, then Tomatoes!  Or….

Gene says:  Many years ago I introduced a diseased Early Girl tomato plant I purchased at a greenhouse. Unknown to me, it had verticillium wilt. I thought the wilted look was just due to dry conditions, but didn’t think much about it. I composted the debris, and unwittingly used the diseased compost in the following year’s tomato bed. That year I lost 3/4 of our tomatoes to wilt. I then took a diseased plant to the pathology lab at Penn State, and got the diagnosis. I remembered that Jeavons wrote that fava (bell) beans counteract wilt, so the next year I planted fava beans in early April, and put the same tomato varieties in the same bed. Mortality dropped to 1/4th. Since that time, we always precede tomatoes with bell beans. We have reduced wilt even further.

Clearly, here in SoCal, we have missed the usual Sep to Nov fava planting window, so let’s do as Gene did, plant favas and tomatoes at the same time!  I already have one Jetsetter (those are Jetsetters in the image), unbelievable VFFNTA resistance/tolerance, in the ground surrounded with a six pack’s worth of favas.  All doing fine so far.  Next fall decide where you will plant your 2012 toms and put in a patch of favas then and there!  Plant your toms, as usual, starting in March.

Basil and Wilts Since so many of us like to companion plant basil with our tomatoes, and tomatoes are so wilt susceptible, and the wilt fungi are in the soil and windborne to boot, what’s a Pesto Lover to do?!  Get wilt resistant basil variety Nufar! Pesto lovers, Nufar is the first basil that is wilt resistant, developed in Israel in 2006.  It is a Genovese basil, heat and humidity tolerant, and very tasty!  ArcaMax Publishing says:  …some of the specialty basils (such as lemon and purple basil) have shown some resistance to the disease.  If you can’t find Nufar basil locally, do send for seeds ASAP, and ask our local nurseries to stock it!

And please, do NOT compost diseased tomatoes, or any other diseased plant.  Better to trash it, not even put it in green waste that the City will make into compost.  That’s how you spread soil born fungi, let alone that they are also windborne.  If your neighbor has a diseased plant, don’t be shy to respectfully and gently ask them to remove it.  Remember, they raised that child, besides having paid for it.  How hard was it for you to give up your plant?  Especially the first time.  See?  They may not even know about wilts.  Educate them if possible.  Tell them how you learned about it.  Offer to forward this info to them.

TOLERANT.  Some varieties like Surecrop, mentioned below, are wilt tolerant.  They keep producing well though diseased.  What to do?  At Pilgrim Terrace, the soil has the wilts and wilt is virtually unavoidable.  Slowing it down is probably the best we are going to do.  So, find out what variety your neighbor has planted before you make your request for them to pull a producing plant.  If the plant is simply dead, then it is a nonproducing disease factory, better for everyone that it is removed ASAP.  Use your discretion and kindness. 

If you have success with a particular variety, do let your nursery know so they will stock it again!  A couple gardeners at the Terrace have had good luck with 2 blight resistant/tolerant determinate varieties, New Hampshire Surecrop, a 78 day, great tasting slicer/canner, and Legend, a very early 68 day!  The best to you with yours!

See Tomatoes & Wilt, Part 1 for a list of Wilt Resistant Varieties, How to Save Your Plant Tips

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What’s happening with my tomatoes?! 

Early BlightFusarium Wilt, Verticillium WiltLate Blight

Tomato – Healthy SunGold!

Tomato – Verticillium Wilt, Yellow Flag effect

This?!                                                 Or this?

This is bar none, the most common summer question I get asked! Potatoes, tomatoes, and the various forms of lettuce are the top three favorite vegetables in the US, so you can see why this is THE question! Since fungi spread as simply as by the wind, I will be campaigning for more tomato plant care, starting with what people can do now to keep the fungi from overwintering, then in the spring to lessen its chances. There are more things that can be done than I knew! Read on!

About Fungi  To emphasize the potency of these fungi: Late Blight of potatoes and tomatoes, the disease that was responsible for the Irish potato famine in the mid-nineteenth century, is caused by the fungus-like oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans. It can infect and destroy the leaves, stems, fruits, and tubers of potato and tomato plants. Before the disease appeared in Ireland it caused a devastating epidemic in the early 1840s in the northeastern United States. Not only do the fungi feed on your tomato plants, but take a look at your potatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and beans! See those yellowing leaves? Remove and dispose of them ASAP! That removes zillions of spores so they can’t spread. The wilts and blights also affect trees! Sadly, not only do your plants look depressing, production is zilch, they die an unnatural death. Remove, replace. Be happy.

How do fungi work?  Spores are spread by rain/watering splash, insects, and wind, and through our hands and tools (wash your hands and tools after handling infected plants) and through these mediums, can travel distances. That’s why it is so important, in our community garden, to tend our plants, so our neighbors’ plants won’t also be infected.  Educate your plot neighbors, better yet, send this to them! Spore spread is most rapid during conditions of high moisture, marine layer days, and moderate temperatures (60°-80°F). Once established, the fungi can over winter in your garden on debris and weeds.

What they look like on your plant: 

Tomato – Early Blight

15 Fungi Preventions!

Cultural control practices alone won’t prevent disease during seasons with wet, cool weather. However, the following measures will improve your chances of raising a successful crop.

Things you can still do this season!** Things you can do now to prepare for next season!**
  1. Buy toms that are tagged VFN, or just VF – that’s Verticillium Wilt and Fusarium resistant or tolerant. Varieties that set fruit early, at lower temps, are Early Girl Improved, Fourth of July, Enchantment. Excellent resistant varieties are Champion, Husky Red, Better Boy, Ace Hybrid, Celebrity.  
  2. Plant only healthy-appearing tomato transplants. Check to make sure plants are free of dark lesions on leaves or stems. If starting transplants from seed, air-dry freshly harvested seed at least 3 days.
  3. Plant cukes and toms on a special raised mound/basin with the bottom of the basin above the regular soil level. See more on this page in the section, Special Planting and Growing Tips!
  4. Remove volunteer tomatoes and potatoes.  If they are a not a resistant or tolerant variety, when they get sick, they increase the chances of your resistant varieties having to fight harder to live, and your good plants may not win the battle.  Do not let volunteers grow, even on compost piles, cute as they are. Infected tomato refuse should be put in the trash, NOT in green waste or your compost.  
  5. **Create a soil barrier, mulch! Newspaper/cardboard covered with mulch or grass clippings doesn’t let the soil dry out. Moist soil is fungi habitat – we want that soil to dry. Use no more than one inch of straw. It is easy to lay on and allows light to get through and air to flow and dry the soil, stops the splash factor. Above all, you don’t want wet soil to contact your plant’s leaves. When that straw gets tired and flattens, trash it and replace with new clean light fluffy straw.   
  6. **Avoid wetting foliage when watering, especially in late afternoon and evening. Water at ground level! Watering the leaves creates a humid micro climate; the fungus produces spores. Dry leaves. Dry leaves. Dry leaves. No moisture, no spores.  
  7. **Air circulation, plant staking and no touching. Air circulation allows the wind to blow through your plants. This allows the timely drying of leaves and it helps break up micro climates. If your plants are packed too tightly together, they themselves become barriers to drying. Staking your plants to poles and using cages helps them grow upright and it creates gaps between the tomato plants. You want wind and sun to reach through and around your plants. And getting more sun, your toms will ripen sooner! Moisture is needed for fungi to spread. Dry is good. Tomatoes should be planted with enough distance that only minor pruning is needed to keep them from touching each other. In the case of tomatoes, scattered interplanting, biodiversity, is always a better choice than row planting where disease easily spreads from plant to plant.  
  8. **Spray proactively. Wettable sulfur works. It is acceptable as an organic pesticide/fungicide, is a broad spectrum poison, follow the precautions. It creates an environment on the leaves the spores don’t like. The key to spraying with wettable sulfur is to do it weekly BEFORE signs of the disease shows. Other products also help stop the spread. Whatever you select, the key is to spray early and regularly.  
  9. **When your toms are about a foot tall, water neighboring plants, but not your toms. Plant water loving companion plants, like Basil or the Plant Dr Chamomile, next to your toms; water them all you want! Make a basin around your toms to keep water OUT! That keeps the soil drier near your plant, so the fungi can’t thrive there. Your tomatoes will get plenty of water by their deep roots.  
  10. **Remove bottom leaves, again, no touching (the ground), and prune your plants. Barbara Pleasant at Mother Earth News says, ‘When the lowest leaves are removed just as the first leaf spots appear, you also remove millions (zillions) of spores. And, because the bases of pruned plants dry quickly, the spread of the disease is slowed because early blight fungi need damp leaves in order to germinate and grow.’ Create an 18 to 24 inch barrier gap or safe space between your garden soil or mulch and the first leaves of the tomato plant. If the spores can’t splash upwards and reach the leaves, they can’t take hold. The stem usually isn’t a place for the spores, though it can be. Best is to remove the bottom leaves before the spores start!
    .
    If you have large plants, you might consider thinning some branches to let the sun and wind blow through the main body of your tomato plant. But, some gardeners don’t recommend pruning or snipping the suckers, the mini branches formed between the trunk and branches, because spores can enter through these cuts. If you decide to prune, the less cuts the better. Prune on hot, dry, unwindy days, mid morning to midday, after dew has dried, so cuts can dry and heal with less chance of airborne fungi getting into them. Try not to touch the cuts after they have been made. Use clippers for a clean cut. Wash your hands, in a rinse of water & alcohol, frequently so you don’t further infect healthy parts of your plant.  
  11. **Remove infected leaves immediately. A leaf should be completely green. Look for brown spots or yellow spots or distress. Remove leaves and prune when it is dry and sunny, not windy. Wash your tools and hands often.  
  12. After the tomatoes set, add some nitrogen. A healthy plant tends to fight off the spores. You don’t want to add too much nitrogen to your tomatoes before they set fruit. Too much nitrogen before fruiting leads to more leaves and less fruit. Add N only once.  
  13. **Rotate your crop if possible. Because fungi also affect other plants, rotation in small gardens isn’t practical or even possible. But if you have the room, move your tomatoes to areas that are fungi free.  
  14. ****At the end of the season remove & trash, don’t compost or put in green waste, all infected debris and surrounding debris. Pull all the weeds because spores can over winter on weed hosts. You want to reduce the number of spores laying in wait.  
  15. **The spores aren’t super spores. During our winter season, turn your soil about 10 inches, burying the spores helps remove them, and it also exposes snail eggs to die.

Preventive Foliar Mix that does wonders! 

Apply every 2 to 3 weeks, so new growth will be covered.  Wet under and over the leaves.  Per gallon add:

  • One crushed regular strength aspirin
  • 1/4 Cup nonfat powdered milk
  • Heaping tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon mild liquid dish soap

Water your plants with an aspirin?!  Salicylic acid, in aspirin, triggers a defense response in tomatoes and other plants as well! Adapted from eHow:  The main benefit of aspirin in planting involves aspirin’s ability to fend off potential plant diseases.

  1. Purchase regular strength aspirin. The brand does not matter; purchase the cheapest brand that is available.
  2. Mix together one aspirin with one gallon of water. Combine the ingredients well, so that the aspirin is distributed evenly throughout the liquid.
  3. Add a half teaspoon of mild liquid soap to the mixture. This is used as a way to help the aspirin water stick better to the tomato plants. Once the soap is added, attach a spray nozzle to the gallon jug and it is ready to use.
  4. Spray the tomatoes when you first set them in the ground. Aspirin sprayed directly on seeds improves germination, on plants it stimulates the growing process. There is no need to soak the area. A light and gentle spray will suffice.
  5. Continue to spray the aspirin mixture on the tomato plants every 2 to 3 weeks. You are going to notice that the plants stay healthier and attract fewer insects.

Per a comment by Leroy Cheuvront at Heavy Petal blog:  I have had the blight and have stopped it from destroying my tomato plants. All you have to do is mix 1/4 cup of bleach to a gallon of water and drown the plant from top to bottom, it will not kill the plant. I do it every seven days and the blight has not returned.  — June 18, 2010. It sounds scary, but I bet it works! I would test this principle on ONE plant to be sure it is safe to use.

Solarization  In the past ten years, some enterprising Israelis came up with solarizing. Moist soil is covered with transparent plastic film for four to six/eight weeks in the summer. It takes that long to heat the soil to a temperature and depth that will kill harmful fungi, bacteria, nematodes, weeds, and certain insects in the soil. Some gardeners won’t use solarizing because it kills beneficial soil organisms too… Solarization can be a useful soil disinfestation method in regions with full sun and high temperatures, but it is not effective where lower temperatures, clouds, or fog limit soil heating. Solarization stimulates the release of nutrients from organic matter present in the soil.

Solarization

Solarization also kills grass by heating up the soil when daily temperatures exceed 80°F. Weed eat or mow the area as short as possible. Moisten the soil and cover the area in clear plastic for 10-14 days, until the grass is dead. Although cloudy weather will slow things down by cooling the soil under the film, a few weeks of sunshine will improve your soil dramatically, easily, and inexpensively. If you live in an area with cool or cloudy summers, or if you just don’t want to wait all season, you can speed up the process by adding a second sheet of plastic. Using the hoops commonly used to elevate row covers or bird netting, raise the second sheet of plastic over the ground-level sheet. The airspace between acts as a temperature buffer zone during cloudy weather and the combination of the two sheets of plastic serves to raise the soil temperature an additional 6 degrees. The goal is to raise and maintain temperatures in the top 6 inches of soil to a level between 110 to 125 degrees F. After several days of sunshine, soil temperatures rise to as high as 140 degrees at the surface and well over 100 degrees as far down as 18 inches. Do not mix untreated soil into the solarized bed!

And please, do NOT compost diseased tomatoes, infected trimmings or removed leaves, or any other diseased plant. That’s how you spread soil borne fungi, let alone that they are also spread by wind, are airborne. Put them in the trash, not green waste. If your neighbor has a diseased plant, don’t be shy to respectfully and gently ask them to remove it. Remember, they raised that child. How hard was it for you to give up your plant? Especially the first time. See? They may not even know about wilts. Educate them if possible. Tell them how you learned about it. Offer to send them the link to this page.

Biofumigation  Biofumigation is a sustainable strategy to manage soil-borne pathogens, nematodes, insects, and weeds. Initially it was defined as the pest suppressive action of decomposing Brassica tissues, but it was later expanded to include animal and plant residues. 

Other Tomato Questions & Cures – Holes, spots, brown areas?  Here is an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) image page from UC Davis that is likely to answer your question! It includes diseases and pests. Do take a good look at it!

To the fattest, bestest tomatoes ever!!!! 

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Updated 6.11.19


The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area 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. Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic!

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Tomatoes, Fusarium Wilt, and Dandelion, a Virtuous Plant!

Dandelion, Diente de Lion

Dandelion, Diente De Lion!

Canadian researchers have discovered that the dandelion weed can protect tomato plants from fusarium disease.  Fusarium attacks the plant roots.  It reduces the number of tomatoes that the plant produces.  Dandelion roots produce cichoric acid.  This acid prevents the disease from getting iron from the soil.  Fusarium needs iron to survive.

Plus, dandelion greens have superior nutritional and medicinal properties, 4 times the Vitamin A in spinach, in fact, the highest of all greens!  The cultivated dandelion variety, Taraxacum officinale, is said to be far superior to the rest in taste!  It has broad upright leaves that seem to multiply in great stands right before your eyes.  These dandelions like rich, moist soil.  Commercial varieties include Thick Leaf, Improved Thick Leaf, and Arlington Thick Leaf. Most American dandelion growers cultivate San Pasquale and Catalogn chicories, but call them dandelion greens, which are similar.  Oh, and after a frost, their protective bitterness disappears.

Wild Man Steve Brill says:  ‘The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They’re higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium [more than milk!] content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.’  Low in calories, a terrific liver cleanser, people have eaten dandelions for centuries. The name comes from the French, who called them dent de lion, or “lion’s teeth” because of their sharp, serrated leaves. All parts of the dandelion are edible, but the youngest leaves, less bitter before blooms form, are most commonly eaten, in salads, sautéed or steamed.  Drizzle with a deliciously tangy vinaigrette made of honey, Dijon mustard, orange juice, and fresh rosemary.  Or toss with garlic, olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper, or with bacon fat (pancetta if you prefer) and a little wine vinegar.  Island Seed & Feed has some seeds!

Do know that many weeds, including dandelions and lambsquarters, are known to host verticillium wilt. Remove them when your crops are done. Don’t let them overwinter or leave them lying about.

More Tomato Tips! 

Buy toms that are tagged VFN, or just VF – that’s Verticillium Wilt and Fusarium resistant.  When they are about a foot tall, water their neighboring plants, but not them.  That keeps a drier soil the fungi can’t thrive in.  Once a plant has the diseases, the leaves curl lengthwise and black spots appear on the lower stems and leaves, pull it and start over.  Months of lost production time and poor production are not worth it.  If your plant gets diseased, but is producing and you decide to keep it, don’t prune out the suckers (the little branches that are between the main stalk and a branch) because blight can enter your plant through these cuts.  For more pollination, tap your stakes and cages, or the main stalk, to shake the flowers – around 11 AM is best!  If your toms aren’t well pollinated, they may be strangely shaped!  Plant different kinds of toms apart from each other so 1) they don’t hybridize on the spot 2) the wilts don’t spread from one plant to the next.  Since toms are true heat lovers, you can plant a U perimeter of tall plants, leaving the South side open, and plant your toms in the U!  Water those neighbor plants, not the toms directly, regularly, so your tomato’s tap root can get regular water.  That prevents blossom-end rot.

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