Thursday, April 22, 2010

Our third meeting notes

It was a lot of fun during our third meeting. We had a little time to walk Becky's yard and see what her plans were. It's nice to tell someone that they have a great Southern exposure! I remember in the heat of wine country in Ca. I was always looking to avoid the south part of the yard, here we adore any Southern sun we can get!

We looked at Becky's collection for mels mix and talked a bit about compost and compressed peat moss. Remember it makes double what you see in the cubic feet of the bag

Inside we found out that a lot of the group has made their square foot gardens! YEAH. Many people feel it is too late well not here in the Pacific Northwest. The real gardening gets going on in may and June so persevere please and make your gardens!

A lot of foes visit our garden but all can be looked in the eye and managed as long as we can recognize they are friend or foe.

I gave you a chart of the plants most attacked and what the attacker looks like. You may never see any of these bugs. I moved my garden to another side of the yard and I had one free year of no bugs but they find you and you need to be ready. Once you identify a foe with your chart go online and look the beast up and you will find tons of ways of dealing with it.

Go for the natural ways and your garden will love you.

Understanding the cycle of each bug helps us protect ourselves. Each bug does it's thing in an order we can understand. These things helps us be ready.

1) use a floating cover over sensitive plants (cabbage family, broccoli, carrots, all loved by bugs) most of the these bugs start laying their eggs in April so cover your plants from seed on.

2) make collars of cardboard (I use cereal boxes) make it 3" wide and long enough to wrap around your plant. I cover mine with foil to make it last longer in our rain. You push it into the ground about 1" and leave 2" up around the plant. This leaves the cut worms wondering where those tasty cabbage stems went! Put this fairly close to the stem so nothing will fly down and lay something else that will hatch.

3) Many bugs can be picked off, just clean up any signs that they were there. In Mel's earlier book he tells how cleaning all signs (cut off the leave that was nibbled, stir in any poop) will let you see when something is being attacked again. Aphids can be sprayed off with water.

This flashing or gutter material should be put up against your box with the curl facing out of the garden. I have not tested this but hope to.

4) Slugs can be contained with a romantic late evening walk, just drop them in a bucket of salt water and once they have expired pour it over your compost. I know I cringe too! Some people like to use bait in a pop bottle, others use yeast ( that seems to be what they like in the beer) well mixed in water to bait them. This beast will be with everyone of you in every garden so decide what you will do. In one night you can loose a whole square!

You can surround your garden with a wide strip of sawdust, or a copper band standing upward. I trust picking them up but have had some success with the sawdust band about 6 inches wide.

5) Remember that keeping your garden area clear of places for slugs and earwigs and other bugs to hide leaves them NO home in your garden! Get rid of those cool dark damp places. It does make a difference.

6) When it comes to blight we have to know some wise gardening practices. This fungus can infect so easily and it takes forever to rid your garden of it. It likes the upper 70's and cloudy rainy days and that is US in the late summer! I have never had early blight only late just as I want to collect those soon to be red tomatoes.

Here is a list of things to do to prevent the blight.

A. Keep space between tomato plants and potato plants. Air flow prevents. pruning tomatoes for optimum production will also leave lots of air flow.

B. Water only the base of the plant and avoid moisture on the leaves. Don't water in the evening. This will prevent slugs too so don't water in the late afternoon and evening. Slugs love a wet garden to move around in.

C Don't use seed potatoes from any blight infected plants. Also do not compost store bought potatoes.

D. Remove plants! You can not cure this but you can prevent it. But the infected plants in a black plastic bag and put it in the sun for several days before tossing.

E. The common method of protecting the rest of the plants that are uninfected is to spray them with chlorothalonil and fixed copper. I just covered the tomato and potato plants at the end of the season and we didn't have any problems last year.

7. To protect against powdery mildew which appears here when it's wet and warm spray both front and back of leaves with a spray made from

1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1/2 teas liquid soap to one gallon of water.

Make and use this, do not store it. There are cautions about doing it on a sunny day it is possible to burn the leaves. This has to be done when you start having that wet weather and not once you see the powdery mold. I seem to get it at the end of every summer. I cut off the few infected leaves when I see it and start spray treating. It's the baking soda that is the treatment in this mix. Get a big spray bottle! IT WORKS! We see this mildew on pumpkins, squash and of course Roses!
Tricking the weather

A lot has been said about covering your gardens, It's not hard to do at all. Mel's book has some ways and you are welcome to stop and see how mine are covered any time. It's on Here are a few photos of my frame work.

Covering your plants:
1 keeps them from hail and hard rain damage
2 protects them from early wind drying
3 if well done can stop egg laying bugs from leaving their families on your plants
4 Warms the area so your plants grow better earlier
5 Seeds and plants can be put out a head of schedule if they are protected.

1 Can the helpful bees get in? and so can the not helpful bugs
2 lack of airflow can cause mold to grow on the ground and plants and other nasty thing
3 Makes access to plants harder
4 takes time to set up and use

Tricking the season not only comes from covering but from where you placed your garden. We covered this when we talked about air flow within your yard.

You can try red colored plastic under the tomatoes to help them ripen. I put a garden against a southern wall of the house for some reflective warmth. Things did ripen better in this garden.

There are Tricks for making a vining plants produce fruit faster by pinching out all but the main trunk and it's horizontal branches. You remove all the suckers at the V points

You can also trim cucumbers to stay within their growing zone and this puts more energy to the main production.

This posting talks about pinching Basil for a bushy plant

We trick Mother nature when we plant a seed that says "early". It gives us a jump on the weather. When we put in a plant and a seed in the same square we plan for two seasons of harvest such a trick!

I will continue to put many of these tricks on the blog. So just because the weekly meetings are soon past don't stop reading the blog!

Gardening is a pleasure so no matter what happens remember how lovely a garden can be if we just keep an eye on it.

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