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Posts Tagged ‘suppression’

Reporting on the Great Fava Versus Wilt Experiment!

Some of you have been following my fava experiment, that, per John Jeavons, favas counteract the tomato Fusarium and Verticillium Wilts fungi, hoping it would work. Issues for me were lower leaves, humidity, low spots, nearby plant water needs. I religiously watered only nearby plants. But that was still a problem because the neighboring plants needed a LOT of water, and the toms were in low spots. The fava ring, planted around each tomato, grew really well and was so bushy I forgot to reach in and trim the lowest ground-touching leaves off my tomatoes. The favas created a humid environment, blocked air flow. They got the wilt first, kind of like a trap plant. But then it spread to the tomatoes because I had planted them closely, not knowing how far apart I should plant them. Perhaps I should have removed the favas at first signs of the wilt?

I didn’t give up on favas.

  • As per the long-term plan, I decided where I would plant some of this summer’s toms, and put in dense fava patches in those places. They are now ready to be used as green manure.  Tip!  Cut them down just as they begin to flower.  When they flower, the energy of the plant no longer goes into making leaves, but production.  And the stalks get tougher the longer they grow – harder to chop up.
  • At planting time, I will add a good dose of animal manures and compost, and my usuals – a huge handful of bone meal, a handful of non-fat powdered milk, and worm castings, and a new item, a tad of coffee grounds (see below), as well, to the planting holes.
  • I’ll plant in wells/basins on slightly raised mounds for drainage, and plant only plants that need less water nearby, ie no basil.
  • I’ll top the area with a one inch layer of compost, then cover with a thin layer of straw mulch to prevent the splash factor. When water splashes up from infected soil onto the lower leaves, the plant is infected. I will replenish the straw monthly. Straw has air flow through its tube structure, allowing the soil to be drier even though straw is a mulch.
  • I’ll plant my resistant and tolerant varieties far enough apart so their leaves don’t touch, and trim the lowest splash susceptible leaves away, remove infected leaves promptly. I don’t expect to stop the wilt, just slow it down, a LOT.
  • Instead of long living indeterminate varieties, I’m going to plant determinate faster producing varieties successively, removing infected plants when they finish producing.
  • I’m going to plant later. Rather than put young vulnerable plants in cool fungi laden soil, depending on the weather, I’m going to wait until late May, even June, when the warmer soil is drier. In the past I have had volunteers come up in July and gotten good crops from them late August, September!

Coffee Grounds: Myths, Miracles or Marketing?!

Here’s some study results adapted from the Washington State U report! Disease suppression As they decompose, coffee grounds appear to suppress some common fungal rots and wilts, including FUSARIUM! In these studies, coffee grounds were part of a compost mix, in one case comprising as little as 0.5 percent of the material. Researchers suggest that the bacterial and fungal species normally found on decomposing coffee grounds prevent pathogenic fungi, like Fusarium, from establishing. Currently, disease suppression from coffee grounds has only been demonstrated under controlled conditions on a handful of veggies, bean, cucumber, spinach, and tomato. Their efficacy in gardens and landscapes is unknown, as is any protective activity on other plant materials such as trees or shrubs.

Not all get a jolt – Weed Suppression
Not all plants get a jolt from coffee grounds. Seed germination can be inhibited by water leached through coffee grounds. Growth of crops such as Chinese mustard (Brassica juncea), komatsuna (Brassica campestris) and Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) were all inhibited by coffee grounds, as was that of ornamentals including inch plant (Tradescantia albiflora), geranium, and asparagus fern. One investigator speculated that toxic substances released from decomposing coffee grounds were responsible for their inhibitory effect. This effect also reduces weeds, and perhaps in a landscape dominated by large shrubs and trees, only germinating seeds and seedlings would be injured. But as there has been no experimental research on coffee grounds and woody plants, this is only speculation, says the author.

Moral of the story is go lightly, only 0.5 % in your compost – that’s a 1/2 of a %!
That’s very little! Just as our soil only needs 5% humus, over composting is not helpful, so is too much coffee grounds. When I first started gardening, I laid some grounds down as mulch. Bad beginners move. The plants there died, and that area grew plants poorly for the following two seasons.
May you and your tomatoes have a happy summer!

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Fine Bright Lights Chard

To start, especially tomatoes, 4 things!

  • First, throw a big handful of bone meal in your planting hole and mix it in with your soil.  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.  Water regularly or it won’t help.  Fine ground bone meal releases quicker, coarse ground lasts longer.
  • Second, throw in a handful of nonfat powdered milk!  It’s also high in calcium, that your plant can uptake right away, but more importantly, it is a natural germicide, and boosts your plant’s immune system!!!
  • And what about tossing in some worm castings?  They have special plant-growth hormones in the humic acids of the castings.
  • This is indirect, but makes sense.  Sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi ON the roots of your transplants when you plant them!  To live, the fungi need the sugars the roots give.  The fungi, in turn, make a wonderful web of filaments, mycelium, that work in harmony with your plant, increasing its uptake of nutrients and water, reducing transplant shock, and helps with disease and pathogen suppression!  One of the great things mycorrhiza does is assist Phosphorus uptake.  Of the NPK on fertilizers, P is Phosphorus that helps roots and flowers grow and develop.  Buy them fresh at Island Seed & Feed.  Ask them, they will weigh out whatever amount you want.  A quarter pound would be $4.99 (2-24-11/Matt).  Mycorrhiza & Farmers video

When your plants start blooming

  • Sidedress them with seabird quano (NOT bat guano) that is high in phosphorus, stimulates blooms, more blooms!  More blooms, more tomatoes!
  • Foliar drench or spray with Epsom Salt mix – 1 Tablespoon/watering can.  Fastest way to feed plant, and often the most efficient, is to foliar feed it.  Epsom Salt, right from your grocery store or pharmacy, is high in magnesium sulfate.  Peppers love it too.  It really gives your plants a boost, and fruits are bigger, peppers are thicker walled.  I drench all my Solanaceaes – toms, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, tomatillos – with Epsom salt.  Some say apply 1 tablespoon of granules around each transplant, or spray a solution of 1 tablespoon Epsom salt per gallon of water at transplanting, first flowering, and fruit set.

Fish/kelp mixes are for light feeding, are well balanced, but stinky, even when the fish emulsion is deodorized.  If you want a more potent mix, use the hydrolyzed powder.  Maxicrop is great stuff!

Along the way, if leaves start yellowing, green ‘em up quick with emergency doctoring!  Bloodmeal!  It’s very high in quickly usable Nitrogen (N).  Dig it lightly into the top soil, water well.  Be aware, it and fish/kelp mixes are stinky and bring predators.

Give everybody a little manure, dig into the top 6” of soil, but only on two sides of your plant.  We want most of the near-the-surface roots to be undisturbed. Steer manure is cheap.   Chicken stores in less space per what it can do, but it can be hot (burn your plants’ roots), so go lightly with it.  Lettuces like manures.  Compost is good stuff but sometimes not strong enough on N.  Sometimes you can get FREE compost from the city.

Again, indirect, but organic mulch not only keeps your soil cool, moist and weed free, but feeds your soil as it decomposes.  Apply coarse mulch that decomposes slowly so it doesn’t use up your plants’ Nitrogen in the decomposition process.

Well fed and maintained plants are more disease and pest resistant, are lusty and productive – they pay back with abundant  larger tasty fruits and potent seeds for the next generation!

“Earth turns to Gold in the hands of the Wise” Rumi

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

Culinary Dandelion Whole Plant Root Allelopathic Fusarium

It turn out that culinary Dandelions are super Companion Plants for Tomatoes! 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.

Here is a link to the extensive and fascinating abstract on Dandelion in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science , 2002, 82(4): 825-853. It says ‘Taraxacum officinale possesses allelopathic properties that can reduce germination of other plant species (Falkowski et al. 1990). In addition, phenolic compounds produced by T. officinale are considered responsible for allelopathic biological control of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici in greenhouse tomato plantings in Canadian experiments (Kasenberg and Traquair 1988). Satisfactory control of this pathogen was achieved when residues of T. officinale were incorporated into sterilized greenhouse soil. The mode of action is unknown but it may act directly by secretion of allelochemicals or promotion of antagonistic microflora (Jarvis 1989).

In this case, allelopathic is good! Allelopathic can happen 3 ways. 1) Release of chemical compounds from their roots into the soil. 2) Release of allelochemicals in gaseous forms. 3) Like with Brassicas dying/dead leaves that fall, gaseous allelochemicals are released from the small pores of their leaves. In fact, Brassica species are so potent they are grown for weed management by using them as cover crops, companion crops, and intercrops, for mulching and residue incorporation, or simply by including them in crop rotations. However! Some seeds can’t germinate there – that’s one reason why we remove dead Brassica leaves ASAP.

Allelopathy is great for weed suppression, but be mindful. Permaculture News advises CAUTION! They explain that ‘residues of allelochemicals may exist in the soil for a long time after the plant is removed; which results in soil sickness and makes some sites unsuitable for general plant growing.’

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 these weeds overwinter or leave them lying about.

Clearly this is a very careful game to play to keep a healthy balance. 1) You might not want to put Brassicas or dandelions in your compost? 2) As a gardener carefully choose where you will plant dandelions or Brassicas. In a greenhouse is one thing, but in the ground is another. If you have space you might dedicate a special area for your Dandelions – a place where you don’t plan to plant something else later.

Not only are Dandelions dandy tomato savers, but also 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. Don’t be confused! 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. Grow your own, 100% organic! In Santa Barbara area Island Seed & Feed has some seeds!

What a beauty! Perennial Italian Red Rib Heirloom Dandelion!

ITALIAN RED RIB DANDELION, Heirloom Variety, perennial, 30-70 Days

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.

There are many super ways of eating them! In breads, pasta dishes, soups and stews, quiche, omelets, fat sandwiches, avocado/dandelion wraps, sautéed, stir fried and wilted, tea and tarts, fritters and pancakes, pesto, and, of course, Dandelion Wine!

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! Make homes for wild bees!

Plant toms quite apart from each other so 1) they don’t hybridize on the spot 2) their leaves don’t touch and the wilts can’t spread from one plant to the next.

Since toms are true heat lovers, if your planting area is a bit cool, you can plant a U perimeter of tall plants, leaving the South side open, and plant your toms in the warm center of the U! Water those neighbor plants, but not the toms directly. Water regularly so your tomato’s tap root can gets its regular water. That prevents blossom-end rot. The wilts like moist soil, so the idea is to keep the soil right next to your tom dry. Let them get their water by their tap root below the moist upper soil level where the wilt lives. See more wilt prevention tips!

See also Wilts & Cucumber Beetles, Tomatoes & Cukes! for special planting details!

Between wonderful companion plant Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, and your specialized growing techniques here and at those links, the Wilts may become history!

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Last updated 12.23.19



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. In 2018 they lasted into September and October! Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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