The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

September 7, 2018

Be on the lookout for tomato fruit worms

It seems like it’s been a tougher season than normal for our tomatoes. First they got a late start because of the cold wet spring. Then we had a blast of heat just when they were blooming, causing the flowers to fall off. Now insects are attacking any tomatoes that have made it this far.

In one of my gardens, well over half of my tomatoes have tomato fruit worm damage. This is the same insect that bores into ears of sweet corn and other vegetables.

Typical tomato fruit worm damage.

Typical tomato fruit worm damage.

On tomatoes the damage shows up as holes or depressions that are clearly caused by something eating them. Tomatoes can look fine one day, then bam! holes in them the next. Often the worms tunnel into the fruit and leave behind frass –worm poo — if nothing is done to stop them.

The problem is you can’t find who doing the eating. You might suspect bird pecking or mice bites or even tomato horn worm damage. Tomato fruit worms are hard to find. I saw one today on a plant and by the time I retrieved my phone to take a picture for you it was gone, or at least I couldn’t find it again.

Holes chewed in the tomato fruit are a passageway for fungus to enter potentially causing serious fruit rot. When the holes are new, you can just cut away the damaged portion and still use the rest of the tomato.

About the only way you can control these critters once they found your garden is to spray an insecticide. I prefer to use the biological insecticide BT since it will not harm pollinators. Most other garden insecticides work well too.

If you are seeing symptoms of tomato fruit worm on your tomatoes, I suggest getting them under control ASAP before they do any more damage.

Bob

Gardeners disregard blemishes on home grown produce

Gardeners are fortunate to have the opportunity to grow the freshest and highest quality vegetables. Even now when organic produce is widely available, it’s no match for home grown.

When it comes to their own produce, most gardeners disregard one major criterion that defines quality ; that is appearance. Even ahead of taste, nutrition or freshness, appearance is still what matters most to shoppers. You really can’t blame folks for judging produce by how it looks, how else would you know if there was anything wrong with it? You could smell it, squeeze it or knock on it to hear how it sounds I suppose. Over 30 percent of food is wasted each year and much of that waste is because something doesn’t look perfect.

Gardeners on the other know exactly how their produce was grown because they did it themselves. So generally, appearance is less likely to be a factor in judging their produce. For example, some heirloom tomatoes are very prone to cracking or splitting. Selling blemished tomatoes like that would completely out of the question in a produce department and for good reason. Cracks and splits and other kinds of blemishes provide an entry for microorganisms to enter into the fruit. But if a gardener grew it, he would know that some types of tomatoes crack and wouldn’t worry about it. Most likely it would go from the tomato vine directly to the table reducing the chance of spoilage.

Carrots are prone to cosmetic damage too. Any number of things can cause a carrot to become misshapen such as a virus disease, insects, nematodes, soil moisture, soil texture, inadequately prepared soil, a pebble in the soil, even a tiny granule of fertilizer or who knows what else. So many carrots are deformed in a typical field that farmers had to develop a new use for them. They invented baby carrots. Those bagged baby carrots are cut and shaped from crooked carrots that otherwise would end up being thrown away.

Crooked carrots are harder to peel but are still tasty.

Crooked carrots are harder to peel but are still tasty.

 

A gardener knows most of the time there is nothing wrong with a misshapen carrot, there are some exceptions. I met a new gardener the other day who was digging carrots and tossed most of his crop into the compost because they were not perfectly carrot shaped. There was no convincing this person otherwise.

I eat all kinds of damaged, deformed, blemish and bruised produce from my garden that I would never pay money for at a grocery store or farmer’s market. I trim around the unusable parts like most gardeners do. The trimmings and any produce that is too far gone gets fed to the chickens. The hens in turn use the nutrition from those garden scraps to produce eggs. With their help, my food waste percentage is close to zero.

Bob

 

Powdery mildew on cucumbers

Powdery mildew is a serious fungal disease of cucumbers and other related plants. It can completely wipe out an entire crop in a garden if nothing is done to control it. Regular rains, warm temperatures and high humidities this season have come together to make ideal conditions for powdery mildew development.

The standard method of battling this disease is applying fungicides of one type or another. Some are chemical, others are plant derived and there’s even bacterial fungicides. The drawback to each of these fungicides is that you have to apply them early when the plants are young and continue using them through the rest of the season. But there is another way.

Recently I had a chance to compare cucumber plants growing in two nearby gardens. Neither garden had any fungicide applied to them.

In the first garden, the gardener is growing a standard, run-of-the-mill variety of cucumber obtained from a garden department somewhere. The plants in that garden were nearly overwhelmed by mildew.

A non-resistant cucumber variety has no chance against mildew.

A non-resistant cucumber variety has no chance against mildew.

In the second garden, the cucumbers show little sign of mildew. That gardener opted to grow a mildew resistant variety from seed that he sowed directly in the soil.

A resistant cucumber variety stays healthy when other varieties fail.

A resistant cucumber variety stays healthy when other varieties fail.

The difference between the two crops is very impressive. If you are one of those gardeners who have given up on growing cucumbers and don’t like to spray fungicides, then planting resistant varieties is the way to go. Really, it’s something every gardener should look for when choosing cucumber seeds. Make a note of it in your garden journal as reminder for next year.

Bob

 

 

July 31, 2018

High temperatures can damage tomato plants

Last week I saw a lot of gardens having problems with tomato plants not producing fruit. When discussing this problem with gardeners, the first thing I hear from them is usually,” I’m growing lots of leaves but no tomatoes”. Then they go on to attribute it to an overabundance of fertilizer of one sort or another.

Nutrient imbalance may cause problems, but this season it is likely due to the extended hot temperatures we had until the break in the weather happened this week.  Temperatures in the mid-nineties can damage tomato blossom causing them to fall off the plant — no blossoms means no tomatoes. This phenomenon is known as “tomato blossom blast”.

Heat damaged tomato blossoms turn brown.

Heat damaged tomato blossoms turn brown.

There is really nothing we can do to prevent flower damage when the temperatures are so high except wait it out. Now that the weather has moderated, our tomato plants will start producing more blossoms and setting more fruit.

If another heat wave occurs, it’s likely we’ll see another round of tomato flower blast.

Bob

 

July 11, 2018

Lovin’ that lovage

Filed under: Herbs,Vegetables — Tags: , , , — bob @ 9:22 pm

Every once in a while we’ll be making something that calls for celery, like potato salad or chicken soup. I’ll check the fridge only to find out there’s no celery in the crisper drawer. Not to fear, there’s a perennial plant growing in the garden that’s always on stand by for such an eventuality — that plant is my cherished lovage.

I’ve been growing lovage for many years, it such an easy plant to grow. And once it gets established, it seems to grow forever barring any drastic; like letting the chickens roam in the garden in early spring forgetting that the lovage was there. But I digress.

It’s celery flavor is what I go for but it has other uses too, uses I’ve never tried. The herb is stronger tasting than celery but is much sweeter. All parts are edible. Homemakers in the past have used it’s seeds for flavoring breads, cakes and a whole lot of other foods. They’ve even added lovage leaves to cookie dough. A type of candy made from lovage was very popular at one time. The root is edible too.

Want to impress your friends and influence people? Use a lovage stem as a straw when serving Bloody Marys.

Want to impress your friends and go on more dates? Lovage stems are hollow, use them instead of straws when serving Bloody Marys.

My lovage is well over four feet tall and full of blossoms. It is really enjoying the regular rains we’ve been getting this spring. I have it growing in a sandy, well-drained area but my guess it will grow just about anywhere.

Lovage also has medicinal value helping to ease digestive problems.

You don’t hear much about lovage being used in the kitchen very often these days. Maybe back in the olden days it was grown a lot more because it has so many uses.  Then as people became more prosperous they started using store-bought herbs and spices, that’s just a guess on my part.

Chefs nowadays are always looking for that next big thing or that unique taste sensation that will bring them adulation from their patrons and admiration from their peers. I reckon lovage might be that flavor they’re looking for — it’s poised for a comeback in a big way. H-m-m, maybe I’ll start a lovage farm.

Bob

 

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