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Thursday, June 30, 2011

25,000 Page Views: Help Spread the Word! Thanks.

Well my blog hit 25,000 page views. Of course 10,000 are probably mine from the early goings. I do get about 5,000 views a month lately. I want to thank those that come and dig around. If you like my blog please join up as a member if you wish and for the email alerts too. I would appreciate any help in spreading the word of my blog's existence.

I do have a Q & A forum open as a test run but would you believe, seriously, that they get hit with African spammers. The forum attracts dozens of out of US people that post advertisements on them. That is their job. The forum has software where you can track IP addresses and see where they come from. The forum has like 4 legit members and 87 banned IP addresses. I probably will close the Q & A forum.

My website My Tomato and Vegetable Garden is coming along. As I have mentioned it will differ from this blog by mainly holding videos, I am developing this summer. That will grow over time. I know pictures help to teach but short concise videos can be even greater tools for passing on knowledge. Plus I am learning about web design, video hosting, and other things to keep my mind from becoming feeble.

Journal, Blog, Take Notes: What Tomatoes are a Keeper? When did the Disease/Bugs Arrive?

My blog is a way for me to keep notes indirectly on things I have historically done in the garden. I also keep a notebook in my grow-closet. It is important to jot down things like what tomatoes you liked and didn't like for the season. I would say keep track of time from planting to time of picking but I find it difficult enough to take any notes. Sometimes my last entry for my notebook is May when the light in the closet go off. Hence... the blog.

But if you are one for details... a journal of what tastes great and what is a keeper can help you plan your future gardens. The notes will help you have a healthier garden. You just have to be disciplined to write in it.

Things we don't think to write are the arrival of white moths/butterflies. They are the insects that bring the green cabbage worms to your garden. Knowing when they arrive, allows you to spray BT on you leaves the week before they show.

Early Blight will show in a specific time frame. As will Powdery Mildew.  Over time you might collect data that helps you prevent the start and spread of these diseases.

Other things to keep track of is location. In case your have room to rotate crops or notice certain plants grow better in certain places. Sometimes location are drier, get more sun, or get early sun verses late sun.
Referring back to your notes on these details, over 5 years, will help you plan. Whose memory is that good that they can recall 5 years of garden details?

I am concentrating on tomato varieties this years. I am keep track of which ones get disease first. Tomato taste and production will be main factors in what I keep for the garden next year. So far...

'Delicious', 'Polish Linguisa', and 'Homestead' are mainstays for all the above reasons.

'Sivery Fir' will not be back due to disease and really the tomatoes tasted awful. Yes they were first to ripen but so what.

Anyway, keep notes on things you will need for next year. It can make a big difference.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Response to a Question from Florida: I finally have space, is July to late for tomatoes?

I finally have a space to grow things! But I'm in Florida and was searching around to find out if July was too late to plant tomato seeds. What do you think? Would it be a good idea to stick to cold-tolerant varieties or will Florida heat help instead of burn? Thanks for posting your experiences. Hope your garden is doing well!

I actually think you are blessed with a forever season for tomatoes. They are tropical. Some varieties have trouble setting fruit when temperatures stay in the high 90's. I have not experienced that issue before. Not only can you start tomatoes from seed but you can keep them growing year round. You probably have to plant rotations of tomatoes because disease and time will beat them up.

I would recommend you see if there are transplants ready at your local nurseries and garden centers. It will save you some time. But if you start seeds now and keep them watered... they will sprout quickly and grow fantastically. You don't want cold tolerant varieties in your area. You want the HEAT loving varieties. If you have time google search tomato seed catalogs. Most catalogs are free. Get them coming to you and soon you will have more varieties of seeds then land to grow them.

Check your average temperatures by month. I think you are good with standard tomatoes July through October. Cold tolerant are more for the 50's - 60's daily temps.

Let me know how they grow.

Good Luck!

Tomato Damage: Spot and Ugly Tasteless Tomatoes

I had 30 or so tomatoes going for many weeks with no spot disease. The temperatures changed to the optimal breeding ground so to speak for the spores and it returned. Five tomatoes showed signs. The damaged leaves were removed and I sprayed all the plants again with sulfur spray and added copper to the solution. I also aspirined up the tomatoes.

The plant that had it the worst was one of my cold tolerant varieties. I think it was 'Silvery Fir'. I wasn't going to pull it but I tasted a red tomato from it. God awful. Acidic and no flavor. No sweetness. No point. So I yanked it. It will  be replaced by a transplant.

I have 72 transplants of different tomato varieties ready. Anyone in the neighborhood that needs more tomatoes... they are free just email me. They will grow quickly. I have actually been treating them for disease as a precaution. I will be doing prevention religiously for all plants from now on. After 10 years of growing in this area, I have to accept the diseases are here to stay. Cucumbers and tomatoes seemed to be the most susceptible in our area. The peppers get a dot or two on a leaf but removing the leaves work fine.

Powdery mildew will be coming for the cukes, zukes, squashes, and melons. Preventative spray is the best.

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Pest - The Squash Bug: Check for Eggs and Signs

Now is the time to find Squash Bug eggs under your zuke and squash leaves. You can't miss them. I will be doing a more extensive blog with pictures of eggs found in my garden. Look under all your leaves and you will see the eggs. Remove them. You can tear off the piece of leaf that has the eggs.

I found 5 leaves which amount to nearly 100 bugs. It is worth your time to look for them ASAP.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Updates on Other Vegetables and Such: Don't Forget Tomato Disease

I just found my Marshmallow plant has spots. I have to research to see what it is. Different plants can harbor the diseases that get our tomatoes. I bring it up regularly that we have 2 diseases in Maryland. They are leaf spot (Septoria) and early blight. I have yet to find a garden that doesn't have it. You  might notice the humidity in our area. That is the life blood of these fungi (I believe). If you have solutions to battling them, I would love to post them.  I use 5 main methods from the get go. These year, I increased my spraying. IT WORKS!

  • Mulch to cover your soil and create a disease barrier
  • Prune the bottom leaves off your tomatoes (12-24 inches) to create a disease gap
  • Maintain air circulation by pruning the center of the tomatoes
  • Spray with a preventative solution you feel fit. I use sulfur spray
  • Remove suspected leaves that show disease signs ASAP
  • I also am using aspirin but that is an experiment as my 6th method

If you were lucky enough to prevail over diseases so far, it is Early Blight time. You might want to consider a plan.

Wettable Sulfur, Aspirin, and Tomato Disease Prevention: Pilarchik
Some other pictures from the garden:

Green Beans are Ready: Pilarchik
Flowering Cilantro to Attract Hover Flies/Bees: Pilarchik
Prune out Your Tomatoes: Pilarchik
This pruning is from 4 plants. I did this a few days ago. It looks like an entire plant! I am still going to have 100's of tomatoes. If you click to enlarge the above picture you cans see the gap I create beneath the tomato. These tomatoes are pruned and staked with what I call the artistic method. 

Below is a close-up of the tomato in the above picture. It is winning the prize for most productive. I will be a keeper for my garden.

'Homestead Variety' a Productive Tomato: Pilarchik

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Update on My Sunken Container Garden: Just Pictures

This container garden I blogged about as creating 'a sunken container garden' is... well you be the judge.

Cucumbers and Melons: Pilarchik
Close Up of the Maturing Melon and Cucumbers: Pilarchik
The Sunken Container Garden After: Pilarchik
The Sunken Container Garden Before: Pilarchik
The Sunken Container Garden Conception: Pilarchik
Not bad for 4 to 5 weeks worth of growth.  A space I wasn't using but to grow grass I had to cut. I am eating cucumbers out of it as of a few days ago.

Spaghetti Squash: Male and Female Flowers and Cooking It!

The spaghetti squash is an outstanding addition to the garden. I get tired of slicing zukes and other squashes. You can actually bake a spaghetti squash, split in half, face down in a Pyrex dish with some water in it. You bake uncovered for about 30 minutes at a temperature of 350-375 degrees. When it is cooked you scrape the inside out with a fork and you actually end up with spaghetti looking strands of squash. Season it with sauce or dressing and your have a great side dish and even a meal.

I am growing two spaghetti squash plants along my railing. What you see is two plants. I have already pruned off some growing tips of the plants and it is still growing. It needs regular fertilizing and plenty of water to stay healthy. I spray the leaves with a preventative to protect it against powdery mildew.

Spaghetti Squash Plants: Pilarchik
Spaghetti Squash Female Flower: Pilarchik
Above is a perfect example of a female flower. You can see the flower about to open and the miniature spaghetti squash attached to it. When it opens, I can pick a male flower and pollinate it.

Below you can see a male flower that is newly open. Notice again the long plain stem below the flower. You can also see a nearly mature spaghetti squash. I will pick that in a few days.

Spaghetti Squash Male Flower and Mature Fruit: Pilarchik

Male and Female Flowers: Cukes, Zukes, Squashes and Vines

I am not an expert on vine crops. There is a basic way to tell the difference between male and female flowers. The female flower typically has a miniature version of the mature vegetable or fruit the plant produces directly below it. The male flower is typically a flower on a common looking stem.

Just because you see miniature fruits like a squash or cucumber or watermelon... that doesn't mean it will mature. That is why you see yellowing green finger size zucchini sometimes. It produced a female flower but it was not pollinated and it dies, yellows.

Depending on what you grow a vine may have male and female flowers. That is probably much of what we would grow. I am growing Kiwi's and they do however have a male flowering plant and female flowering plant. 

Squash Male Flower: Pilarchik
Notice in the picture above you see a long green stem where my finger is pointing. It is unremarkable and looks nothing like a yellow crook neck squash. It is a stem about 2 or 3 inches long and a flower. That is a male flower. You can see other male flowers around it.

In the picture below you see a flower with a miniature squash directly under it. That is a female flower.
Right next to it, you can see a male flower. It has the long basic stem.

Squash Female Flower: Pilarchik
A Variety of Squash Flowers and Fruit Sizes: Pilarchik

Above you can see the stages of development once a female flower is pollinated. You might notice the white powder. That is the Sevin Dust I use to kill the boring beetles. I wish I meant not very entertaining.

Below is a zucchini plant and you can see a yellowing green zuke. That is a female flower with a fruit that did not get pollinated. You can see the brown dried flower and yellow tip. They should just be removed.

Yellowing Zucchini was not Pollinated: Pilarchik
Male Flower with a Long Stem: Pilarchik
In the above picture, a little bit to the left of my finger, is the stem of a male flower. It is just like the yellow squash. No fruit shape under the flower only a plain stem.

Below you can see some large zukes. They will be picked today. If you look in the middle you see another tiny zuke that is starting to turn yellow. When you use Sevin Dust make sure it goes directly on the stem and not on the flowers or you will kill the pollinating insects.

Zucchini Plant: Pilarchik

Why is this important? When you see female flowers, you can pick a mature male flower and pollinate the fruit. You will increase your yield by knowing the difference between the male and female vine flowers.

The Beets are Ready: Transplants and Direct Sow

I once said beets must be planted directley in the ground. I was wrong. I planted them as direct sow and I grew beet seedlings in trays and then transplanted them. Three of these beets are transplants. 

I baked them for 60 minutes in foil with olive oil and salt. They were wrapped in foil.

Beets: Pilarchik
Beets: Pilarchik
Beets Freshly Picked: Pilarchik

Flowers are the Theme for this Weekend: Flower Pictures

Everything is blooming in my gardens. I am eating cukes, zukes, and squashes. There are 100's of tomatoes. Not red yet but tomatoes none the less. The peas are about done and have been enjoyed. Green beans have been on the menu and we had beets last night.

Here are some flowers from my garden. I will also put another blog entry in about vine flowers and how to tell the difference between male and female flowers.

Butterfly Weed or Asclepias: Pilarchik
Butterfly Weed or Asclepias: Pilarchik
Butterfly Weed or Asclepias: Pilarchik
Butterfly weed brings in the bumble bees. Hundreds of them. Did you know they don't have stingers. The orange yellow flowers are brilliant in the garden and last for quite a while. If you dead-head them the will produce more flowers. These bees are the bees that do a great job pollinating you vine crops.

Keeping with the them of beneficial insects... the Butterfly Bush. They will go from bushes, to large shrubs, to trees. You can hack them to the ground each Spring to keep the small. They come in all shades. I have purple, white, and pink.

Butterfly Bush or Buddleja: Pilarchik
Butterfly Bush or Buddleja: Pilarchik

Other flowers are the Purple Coneflower and Rudbeckias.

Rudbeckia: Pilarchik
Purple Coneflower or Echinacea Purpurea: Pilarchik
Rudbeckia: Pilarchik

One plant that doesn't do much for beneficial insects is the annual Strawflower. The leaves feel fake... like paper. They are excellent for drying and last a long time in the garden. The flowers are about the size of a quarter.

Strawflower: Pilarchik
A very good foliage plant is the Amaranth. This variety is a mix for the leaves. The flower heads also get pretty wild. I haven't had these mature yet to see them.

Amaranth: Pilarchik

I also grow Asiatic Lillies. They start from bulbs and winter in Maryland. The keep coming back and I like the orange color. The pollen stains clothing. So be careful picking flowers. If you bring them in the house... cut of the pollen tips. You can miss them.

Asiatic Lillies: Pilarchik

And finally, I keep a perennial bed in the middle of my garden area for the beneficial insect attraction. I also grow flowering plants in the garden beds. This year I am letting my cilantro flower and growing Alyssum. The flowers attract hover bees. I am told they are good.

Perennials Along My South Wall: Pilarchik

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Late June is Time to Clean Up the Garden in Zone 7

Some things to do now in the garden, if you haven't done them. I let spots on my cucumbers go to long and had to remove one plant. I got lazy. Late June is a good time to clean-up and remove spent plants and give the warm season vegetables a boost.

Epsom salts. I give my tomatoes a dose of epsom salts for magnesium. A handful sprinkled around the base of the plant. You can water it or let the rain disolve it.

  • Lettuces will be bitter and bolting, time to remove them
  • Radishes will be woody, no point in letting them grow
  • Kohlrabi should fully bulb up soon, if it isn't, it is going the woody route
  • Peas can be looked at for removal
  • Remove weeds as always

  • Cucumbers, zukes, and squash could use some liquid fertilizer.
  • Tomatoes could use a little boost of the above

Disease Prevention/Insect Prevention
  • Check your tomato leaves, I found 2 with spots
  • Check you cucumbers for mildew and spots
  • Remove any infected leaves from all plants and spray
  • Sevin Dust or similar the bases of cukes, zukes, and squashes (beetles are coming)
  • Sevin Dust or similar your eggplants (flea beetles are around)
  • Look for holes in plant leaves and treat
  • Remove bottom growth of tomatoes to prevent soil splashing
  • Remove center growth of tomatoes (a bit) to allow for air circulation
  • Mulch Mulch Mulch and create a barrier over your soil

  • Put in your beans or second rotation
  • Plants some zukes, cukes, and squashes in cups for back-ups
  • Sunflower can go in the ground
  • Cilantro and basil can be dropped in the ground again
  • All fast growing herbs should go in the ground

Make a general assessment of your plants. I removed 1 tomato from a container because it wasn't growing well and looked pale in comparison to the other 32. Now I do have the luxury of having many plants. Sometimes it is better to remove and replant, if a plant isn't doing well.

I have one tomato with a nasty leaf distortion and curl. Worse the the leaf curl/mosiac pictures look on-line. That is probably what it has but I wonder if my aspirin baths did it. It is only one plant. I'll get some picture up for any passer by plant detectives.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Identifying Tomato Types: Fruit Shapes

You can't really pick out a tomato variety by looks. You do have standard leaf, potato leaf, and small leaf. Tomatoes also come in shapes. Here are some basic fruit shapes.

*taken by my new camera*

Click the photos to enlarge them. You can click them 2x's.

This is my 'Polish Linguisa' variety. It is a large paste/roma type tomato shape.  This was also my damaged tomato stem plant. It is doing just fine. These tomatoes are often elongated and have very thick meaty cores. They have less seeds and water inside. The thick walls make great paste. Seeds aren't wanted for sauces because they can be bitter. These fruits will get a little bit bigger before turning red.

Paste/Roma Shape (large size)

This is a 'Black Plum' variety. It is a cherry type plant that will have masses of grape shaped tomatoes. The picture of the lower tomato is about the mature size of the fruit.

Plum Grape Shape

This variety is 'Silvery Fir'. You can't tell but the leaves are standard type but much smaller. The tomato shape is a picture of what many heirloom tomatoes will look like. They haven't been bred to be perfectly round. You can see the variation in lobe shapes and the many wrinkles. I haven't grown this before but I bought it to be cold tolerant and a early fruiter. So far so good.  It also got Septoria/Leaf Spot. It survived fine with some pruning and spray.

General Heirloom Shape

'Oregon Spring' variety, again a plant for cold tolerance and early fruit. Though not perfectly round, a standard 6-8 oz tomato.

Standard 6-8 oz Round Fruit

This is a cherry tomato, 'Baxter Bush' variety.  Cherry tomatoes can range in size. This is a mid size cherry. You can see the clusters of fruit in various sizes.

Cherry Shape
I don't have pictures of three other types. I am growing 'Jersey Devil' which is a elongated tomato much like a banana pepper. I have a currant type tomato which is the 'Sarah's Galapagos'. They are very tiny and you can get 6 to 10 in your hand. The other variety are the beefsteaks or 12-24 oz. The big ones. They just aren't ready yet.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Building A Disease Barrier with Newspaper: Cucumber Disease

Leaf spot and other diseases seem to hang around Maryland. This year I am being more vigilant in disease control. In as little as 3 days, diseases can take hold. The last few days have been warm, wet, and muggy.

Two cucumbers have a leaf spot. I should have addressed it 5 days ago but I was still in denial. I wanted it, the spots, to be burns from my sulfur spray. It wasn't.

This is how you tend to the disease:

  • Nip the leaves off right at where the stem meets the leaf
  • Remove flowers or damaged fruit
  • Leave only disease free leaves
  • Put down newspaper
  • Spray plants and paper with sulfur spray or your choice

I remove the leaf at the leaf stem. You could remove the leaf and stem at the vine. I prefer leaving some stem to make it harder for bugs to get to the stem. This is just a preference not a fact. There is good chance the stem has spores too. SO your choice.

The two diseased cucumbers. (click photos to enlarge)

Leaf Spot on Two Cucumbers
The Spot to be Cleaned up and Disease Managed
I removed the disease leaves, stems, cucumbers,  and flowers. Take off all plant leaves that show signs. I evaluated both plants and decided one wasn't worth saving. I keep plants growing in cups and trays. Don't get attached to a plant, remove it, and replace it. You will forget about it. 

Infected Leaves are Removed
The leaves were removed. There just wasn't enough left on the plant in the right corner. I replaced it.

A Pile of Diseased Cucumber Leaves
Cleaned Up the Space, Removed the Cuke
Planted an 'Armenian' cucumber
Once the plants and garden are tended and planted, put down a layer or two of newspaper. The diseases that get our plants are mostly soil born and splash up to the plant's leaves. 

Lay Down a Layer or Two of Newspaper
You can tear a slit where the paper needs to surround the stem of the plant and just slip it in.

Spray the Plants and Newspaper with Spray
Make sure you spray the newspaper with the sulfur spray. Make sure you spray the ENTIRE cucumber plant. The upper and lower sides of leaves, stems, flowers, and vines. I will put grass on top of the newspaper when I get it. I could not wait longer. I didn't want the disease to spread to the four cucumbers I planted a few days ago.

Diseased Leaves and Plant Never Compost Them.
The Doctored Plant and the New Plant

Woohoo!: First Video of the Garden

Alright! Technology is amazing. This is the first video of The Rusted Garden. It is shot with the camera, I take pictures with, so the quality isn't there. Now I know what I want for Father's Day.

A Tee-Pee Trellis for Container Cucumbers

When the container is large enough, you can use 6 foot bamboo poles to build a tee-pee. I think the pictures show how to do it. Just place them in a triangle and tie the tops together. You can see how I use string to build climbing levels for the cucumbers. These pictures are from about a week ago. I will be updating the blog this weekend with all the growth and changes.

In the container are two plants. I think 'sumter' cucumbers. If I have the name wrong, I know they are a 4 inch pickle variety.