The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

July 23, 2014

Golden eggs in our garden

Filed under: Insects — bob @ 1:57 pm

We all know the story about the goose that laid golden eggs. Last week in my garden I found golden eggs that were definitely not laid by a goose.

It happened while I was hand weeding. I came across  a blade of grass with tiny, metallic-gold eggs all in a row. They are quite striking when you first see them. The eggs really do look like they’re made of gold but of course they are not. It’s just the way the light reflects off of them that gives the gold appearance.

Even though the eggs are small, their golden color makes them easy to spot.

Even though the eggs are small, their golden color makes them easy to spot.

I kept the leaf in a jar and watched the eggs. What hatched were evil-looking spiny, red-colored nymphs — probably one of the Euthochtha species of stink bugs. Most likely one of the plant eaters.

This is the nymph stage in the lifecycle of a stick bug.

This is the nymph stage in the lifecycle of a stick bug.

It’s not uncommon to find these eggs but it does provide a bit of a diversion from the otherwise tedious job of weeding by hand.

Bob

 

July 22, 2014

Once in a lifetime agave blooming

Filed under: Events,Flowers — bob @ 1:22 pm

A few days ago, I had a chance to see the blooming agave plant at University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens Desert House — the one you’ve been hearing everyone talking about.

It is very rare for an agave to have variegated leaves. It was probably why the plant was originally collected

It is very rare for an agave to have variegated leaves. It was probably why the plant was originally collected

When I first saw this plant over 30 years ago, it was already 50 years old. Through the years it didn’t appear to change much but of course it has been growing and maturing all that time. Now after 80 years, it is finally blossoming.

The agave has produced at tall flower stalk

The agave has produced at tall flower stalk

It has produced a flower stalk so tall that they’ve had to take out some roof glass from the greenhouse in order to give it more room to grow.

The agave flower stalk has grown through the roof.

The agave flower stalk has grown through the roof.

I encourage you to get out to the Botanical Gardens and see it. This type of agave blooms only once in its lifetime so, when it’s over, it’s over.

The agave flowers are producing real agave nectar, not the manufactured stuff you buy in the store.

The agave flowers are producing real agave nectar, not the manufactured stuff you buy in the store.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located on Dixboro Road south of Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, directions and hours are available on their website.

Bob

July 8, 2014

Nitrogen deficiency in sweet corn

Filed under: Fertilizers,Vegetables — bob @ 2:21 pm

I just got back from a relaxing week-long vacation at Bear Lake in northern Michigan.

The first thing I did, even before unloading the car, was to take a look at the garden. It’s amazing how much a garden changes in a week at this time of year.

Everything looked great except for my sweet corn; it’s looking a bit peaked. The lower leaves are turning yellow, which is a sure sign of nitrogen deficiency.

If plants can’t get enough nitrogen from the soil, they will rob it from older leaves and use it to grow new leaves — that’s what causes the discoloration.

Plant use nitrogen to make chlorophyll, the green part of a leaf that is responsible for photosynthesis .

Plant use nitrogen to make chlorophyll, the green part of a leaf that is responsible for photosynthesis .

I can trace the problem back to last season. In that spot last year, I mulched the growing vegetables with a generous covering of wheat straw. This spring, instead of raking out the old mulch, I left it in place and tilled it under.

Since then, soil microorganisms have been working overtime trying to decompose all of that straw. They require loads of nitrogen to do the work of decomposition. As a result, there is not much nitrogen left over for the sweet corn to use.

Now I’ll have to add nitrogen fertilizer to make up the difference. I have some urea fertilizer left in a fifty-pound bag that I have been dipping into for several years now, it’s finally almost empty.

Urea is an artificial fertilizer that contains forty six percent nitrogen and nothing else. That makes it a “hot” fertilizer, meaning it is very easy to burn growing plants with it if you’re not careful. I like to mix it with sand to help make it easier to spread evenly.

Other types of fertilizers, such as fish emulsion and blood meal, contain nitrogen in a different form and will provide nitrogen without the danger of plant damage. Because those types of fertilizers contain less nitrogen on a pound for pound basis as urea, you’ll have to apply more to get the same results.

Nitrogen deficiency results in weaker plants and lower yields so it’s a good idea to correct the problem early, while the plants still have time to recover.

Bob

June 25, 2014

Moldy strawberries in the garden

Filed under: Fruit — bob @ 9:36 am

Strawberries are ready for picking! I always get a big kick out of picking that first strawberry out of my garden.

I have a major problem with moldy berries this year. Botrytis, also known as gray mold, has infected a fairly large percentage of my crop. It’s called gray mold because of the fuzzy gray appearance of the fungus covering the berries.

Like most molds, botrytis needs a damp environment to get a foothold. The regular rains we’ve had during this early ripening period has kept the plants damp encouraging the mold.

A healthy strawberry will easily become infected with gray mold when touching an infected berry.

A healthy strawberry will easily become infected with gray mold when touching an infected berry.

Selecting a good planting site will eliminate a lion’s share of the mold problem.  A large part of my problem is the location of the strawberry patch. It’s near the side of a building and is partially shaded by a couple of trees that grew since I started my strawberry patch, that is a recipe for disaster. If my strawberries were growing in full sun where there would have been plenty of air movement to allow the plants to dry off quickly, the mold problem would have been drastically reduced.

Strawberries touching the soil will also become infected with botrytis more easily. Strawberry farmers use straw as a mulch to help keep the berries away from direct contact with the soil.

Sanitation will  help control gray mold. So, I’m picking off moldy berries as I come across them. If I don’t, they will release more spores and infect the other fruit.

It’s critical to refrigerate newly picked berries as soon as possible. Strawberries can look fine but still be infected with the mold. You’ve probably seen this in berries that have already been picked but left out in a warm spot, they quickly get moldy.

This will be the last season for my strawberries in that damp location. I’ve already picked out a nice sunny spot for my next strawberry patch.

Bob

 

 

 

 

 

June 19, 2014

Pruning tomato plants

Filed under: Vegetables — bob @ 11:46 am

It’s always best to keep tomato plants off of the ground rather than letting them sprawl all over the place. Leaves and fruit in contact with the soil are more prone to disease problems. Tomatoes laying on the ground are often damaged by insects and slugs.

I usually use tomato cages but, most of the time, the plants grow so much that they topple the cages and end up on the ground anyway.

This year I’m going retro with my tomatoes by using old-fashioned staking and pruning. Pruning was very popular before tomato cages became the most prominent way of growing tomatoes. There are many gardeners who still prefer this method.

The objective to pruning tomatoes is to train the plant to grow a single main stem.  You do that by pinching off any side shoots or “suckers” that develop in the joint of leaf stems. When left to grow, the suckers form side branches making a bushy tomato plant. Pruning eliminates all side branching.

Pinch off side shoots -- or suckers -- under four inches with your fingers. Larger shoots may have to removed with flowers snips or a small pruner.

Pinch off side shoots — or suckers — under four inches with your fingers. Larger shoots may have to removed with flowers snips or a small pruner.

You have to be diligent about your pruning or else the plant will tend revert back to it’s natural bushy growth habit. I think the main reason why pruning fell out of favor was the time involved.

Pruned tomatoes must be staked.  And you need to tie each tomato vine to a stake at least four or five feet high since pruning stimulates so much upward growth. In late summer you can limit the height by pinching out the tops of the plants.

By staking, I’m saving a lot of space too. I’ve got my plants only two feet apart instead of my usual three or four feet apart.

One other side benefit is staked and pruned plants produce tomatoes up to two weeks earlier than non-pruned plants.

Bob

 

 

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress