Moreau Community Garden Work Day May 17th

Hello all –

After the long winter, I am so happy to be back at the Moreau Community Garden helping others gardeners and coordinating the Family Gardening Program.

Our start-up date is this Saturday and we will be roto-tilling the beds to work in the cow manure we spread last fall. This will enrich the soil. While you are tilling your beds, keep an eye open for wireworms. These larvae of the Click Beetle were in the garden this year and I did spot one this season as I weeded.

They are a reddish-brown worm about and inch or so long. This is a picture of the damage they do: wireworm damage

Wireworms were one of three problems we had at the garden last year.

The other two were Squash Bugs and Early Blight.There are things we can do now to keep these troublesome three from becoming issues this year.

Wireworms

As you work in the soil, look for them and if you find wireworms remove them by hand. If the numbers are few in your plot, this will work. To be certain, you can slice a potato in half and bury each half beneath the soil in your plot. If there are wireworms, they will find the potato. Check back the next day and dig up the potato. If you see wireworm damage, you might decide to: 1-not grow root crops, their preferred food. 2 – grow radishes early to lure the wireworms and then plant what you actually want. Radishes act as a bait. 3 – Keep turning the bed for the next week to expose the worms to birds.

You’ll note that we are really trying the attract birds this season through birdhouses and a soon to be bird bath. Birds can help keep the insect population down.

Which brings us to. . .

Squash Bugs

SquashbugsLast season they feasted in the garden. There are strategies to try to keep them at bay which I will outline below. For in-depth knowledge, you can check out http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05609.html

Squash bugs suck the sap from squash and pumpkin plants causing wilting and death. We had a lot of them in the garden last season. The adults overwinter in debris, which is why we cleaned the beds last fall of all plant matter. Surviving squash bugs have emerged now and will begin to look for mates and lay eggs on the underside of leaves in the next month. One strategy is to cover the squash seedlings with row cover, a lightweight material available through garden catalogs. This keeps these pests off plants. Period. Come the end of June – when most of the eggs have been laid – we remove the row covers and let the pollinating of flowers begin.

If you find bugs on your plants, hand-picking can help. Another organic help is the spread a little Diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants as this is where the bugs are likely to shelter. In mid-June, begin to look for eggs – which are copper colored. If you find them, remove and crush them.

Another thing we can try is companion planting. From internet research I found that dill repels squash bugs as do petunias.

Everyone in the garden needs to be aware of these insects as they are voracious and will do a lot of damage if not controlled.

Early Blight

Last season, Early Blight was the heart breaker and spread through our garden just as our tomatoes were getting ready to ripen. Early blight is carried in the wind and very difficult to control. However, we can: grow varieties of tomatoes that are resistant to this disease, keep the beds very clean, and avoid wetting the leaves of our plants when we water.

I will be trying a few varieties that are resistant to this disease and we will see how they do this year. Resistance helps, but it is not a sure thing.

This Saturday, I will plant peas and a few other vegetables that can handle a frost should one come, which technically can happen but I hope not!

I will also be available to answer questions and help in anyway possible. I am looking forward to seeing you then, Natalie Walsh, Master Gardener

Cleaning Up the Garden

We rolled up our sleeves this morning and really tidied up the garden.

Gina, Cecelia, Mary, Bill, Lois and a friend, Joe, Lucas, Tammy, Nick and Faith were all in the garden this morning. We cleared the early blight out of our plots. Remember when you clean up remove the roots and any tomatoes that drop. Early blight can overwinter on plant debris, so be thorough please.

And we weeded and weeded.

It was fun to do it as a group and we really got a lot accomplished.

In addition, I brought green beans, carrots, basil to the Moreau Community Center. I was hoping to meet the kind lady who cooked the produce for the campers this summer. She wasn’t there but I did learn her name…Laurie Collins. If you see her, please let her know how much I appreciate what she did.

There are still veggies growing like this pumpkin. giantp

We also have cabbage, Brussels sprouts, tomatillos, sunflowers and herbs coming along. Some other gardeners have carrots, potatoes, onions, cabbages, peppers and more growing.

It has been a wonderful season. I wish the early blight didn’t damage our tomatoes but I’m hopeful we can get on top of the problem by amending the soil and using organic fungicides next season.

We will need to meet a few more times once the cow manure arrives to spread it among the beds. And also for fun!

In September we are going to have a gathering. Details to follow. 🙂

Natalie

Butterflies, Herbs and Cleaning Up

I was in the garden today and Jeremy showed me these two swallowtail caterpillars on the dill in his plot. I had noticed another on parsley in another plot.swallowtailcaterpillars

An adult swallowtail lays eggs on plants that will provide food for the caterpillars. These include dill, parsley, fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace, and carrots which is one of the reasons I included some of these plants in our Family Gardening Program plots. Look around these plants for caterpillars and you may be lucky and see one.

From the time the eggs are laid to when the caterpillar creates a chrysalis is about 14 days. Once the chrysalis is formed, it takes about 2 more weeks before a butterfly emerges. You will know the chrysalis is nearing the time it will open when it becomes transparent. It is hard work for the butterfly to emerge and when it does it will stay in place for a while and dry its wings. This is a great time to get photos.

Communal Herb Garden

Plot34My first order of business this morning was moving herbs to plot #34. This will be the communal herb plot for all Moreau Community Garden gardeners. Right now dill, thyme, marjoram, cilantro, basil and tarragon are growing in the bed. Some will reseed, some won’t and others are hardy enough that they will come back next year.

Having a communal bed means we don’t all have to grow these herbs, gardeners can take a snippet or two as needed from the communal bed.

If you have a hardy herb to share — such as Greek oregano — please feel free to add it to plot 34. But don’t add any invasive herbs, such as mint or lemon balm. These would take over and defeat our goal.

Cleaning up after Early Blight

As you clean tomatoes that have early blight out of your plots, remember that you need to remove the roots as well. I noticed that some people are clearing their plots but not weeding or removing roots. Early Blight can overwinter on plant debris, so it is important that everyone be meticulous and do a good job cleaning our beds and the weeds around them.

We are expecting a delivery of cow manure. When it arrives, add it to your cleaned bed and work it into the soil. The nutrients and microbes in the manure will do wonders to improve the health of our garden.

The donation of the cow manure is coming from Todd Kusnierz – one of our Town Board members – and is truly appreciated. It will really help improve the soil.

Tomorrow’s Garden Plans

I will be in the garden tomorrow morning cleaning up and tending to Family Gardening Program plots.

Anyone who hasn’t been able to come during the week and who would like to talk about what is happening in their plots is welcome to join me starting at 10 a.m., ask questions and get assistance. If it is your home garden that has an issue, bring a sample of the insect or diseased plant in a plastic bag.

Disinfecting Tools

If you have Early Blight remember to clean your tools in a solution of bleach and water to disinfect them. And, after you handle your diseased plants wash your hands to avoid spreading the problem.

How I disinfect my clippers, trowels, etc. Start by putting on old clothes.

Then: mix 2 gallons of water with 4 cups of bleach in a five-gallon bucket. I place the tools into the water/bleach solution for 15 minutes. Don’t rush it, just let them soak.

If you only have a few tools to clean, the formula is 1/2 cup bleach to a quart of water. I like the bucket because I can place shovels next to trowels, etc.

After 15 minutes, I use rubber gloves and take the tools out of the bucket. Rinse them in water and dry them with a cloth. Then I let them sit in the sun for a while before rubbing the tools with a drop of oil on a cloth to keep them from rusting.

I recycle the bleach water by: going after mildew and algae with a scrub brush, washing down plastic lawn furniture, and cleaning the trash cans.

See you in the garden.

Natalie

Our Garden Today

camper7There’s plenty of great stuff going on at the Moreau Community Garden….and there are also some insects and diseases that need to be addressed.

Let’s start with the good.

Today gardeners in the Family Gardening Program harvested handfuls of cherry tomatoes, the last of the green beans and peppers, fistfuls of baby carrots and some sweet basil.camper3 campers2

camper1 Most of the harvest went into bags to go to the community center where they are eaten as snacks, but a few green beans were enjoyed right on the spot. YUM!

Tomato Taste Test

The gardeners also tried two different varieties of tomatoes in a taste test to determine which was better…Moskvich or Opalka. The children liked the Moskvich, a very meaty tomato.tasting

Garden Detectives

We also walked around the garden discussing problems. The gardeners looked at examples of Septoria Leaf Spot and Early Blight under a magnifying glass. I discussed the symptoms and what to look for on the plants. Once they knew the symptoms, I asked them to diagnose the problem in their plot of tomatoes.

It is like being a detective looking at clues.

They got it right, early blight had infected the plants. We cleaned the plants out of the plot and will do more to be certain to remove all plant debris, even the roots so it can’t overwinter.EarlyBlight2

We also spotted several parasitized tomato hornworms much to everyone’s amazement and, in some cases, horror. Certain wasps belonging to the Braconidae family lay eggs on the tomato hornworm. That is what those white eggs in the photo are. As the eggs hatch and develop, these wasps eat the tomato hornworm killing it.
hornworm1
We also saw Japanese beetles and squash bugs. If you have these in you garden, clean them up. Thank you.japbeetlesSquashbugs

Garden Meeting Rescheduled

Hi MCG gardeners – Because of the rain, we must postpone our meeting until Wednesday at 10 a.m.

I hope you can make it. We will be discussing Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot and how to tell the difference.
Bring your questions! We will talk about what we can do now and what we need to do next season.

Thursday at 10:30 – when the young gardeners can be there – we will have a tomato taste test of the Moskovich and Opalka tomatoes. . . and hopeful a Celebrity tomato or two.

See you in the garden.

Natalie

Tomato Alert – Early Blight!

I was in the garden this afternoon and noticed plot 9 has Early Blight. If that is your plot, please clean it up as soon as possible. We don’t want this disease to spread.

What does it look like? There are lesions on the leaves, stems and fruit. The lesions have concentric rings, like a target. Look for them on the stems and leaves.

What to do now: Remove the plants from the plot and place them in a plastic bag. Throw in the trash. Apply a mulch to keep the spores, which are in the soil, from splashing onto any remaining plants.

Future control of Early Blight depends on:
• crop rotation, that is not growing tomatoes in the same spot year after year.
• remove and throw away any diseased debris. Clean up is vital.
• staking to keep leaves off the ground
• mulching to protect from splashing fungi from the ground to the plant
• providing good air circulation around every plant
• weed since weeds can harbor diseases and insects.
• Water from below. If you water from above, time it so the plants dry before nightfall.

Tomato Troubleshooting

I’ve been in contact with gardeners in both the Saratoga Springs and Moreau Community Gardens who are experiencing tomato troubles.

The main question was how to distinguish between Septoria Leaf Spot and Early Blight and what to do.

Screen Shot 2013-08-04 at 11.50.22 AM The problem on this plant is Septoria Leaf Spot and the solution is extreme cleanliness and careful watering.

A Septoria Leaf Spot shows itself as many small spots on the lower leaves of the plant. The spots get larger, have dark borders, tan centers and often a halo of yellow. Infected leaves wither and die and often drop off onto the soil. Don’t leave these leaves in the garden. Prune off infected branches plants, pick up infected leaves and throw them in the trash not the compost bin.

The best way to control Septoria is to clean thoroughly and water only at the bottom of the tomatoes. Don’t let water splash around as you will spread the disease.

Another good strategy is when you plant in the Spring, leave room around tomatoes for good air flow. That will help keep fungal issues in check.

Some of you have asked how to tell if it is Early Blight. These spots have a grayish cast with a dark border and appear on the stems and fruit as well as leaves. Look carefully at the spots, if there are concentric rings (like a target) in the spots then it is Early Blight.

Early blight infects tomatoes, potatoes, and sometimes eggplant and peppers.

Another gardener discovered a tomato hornworm on her plants. This hornworm had white, capsule-shaped eggs protruding from its back. She left it in the garden. She did the right thing.

The hornworm was carrying the eggs of a parasitic wasp. As they mature, the wasp’s larvae literally eat the hornworm eradicating not only this hornworm but future tomato destroying hornworms as well.

They are a gardener’s friend!