The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

July 18, 2013

Renew strawberry plants

Filed under: Fruit — bob @ 10:00 am

Strawberry picking is over in our area, but that doesn’t mean all the work is done. Now’s the time to get your strawberry patch in shape for a big harvest next year.

Strawberry plants if left on their own will produce good yields and quality fruit for two years or so. With your help, they’ll stay strong for four or five years.

It may seem illogical, but mowing strawberries right after picking is the best thing you can do for them. Mowing removes diseased leaves and reduces harmful insect populations.

Mowing is best done right after harvesting, before too many new leaves begin to grow.  This means in extreme southern Michigan, it must be finished soon, more northern areas have some time yet.

Use a lawn-mower and set it so that the cutting height is about one and one-half  inches above the crown,  then go at it. Rake out the clippings and dispose of them, then sprinkle a light application of garden fertilizer.

Since strawberry plants produce more berries on the edges of a row, reduce the width of the row to somewhere around 12 to 18 inches. A rototiller works great, but you can hoe them out if necessary.

For best results, finish mowing your strawberries very soon.

Through the rest of the season, water the plants during dry periods. And, just like the rest of the garden, weed the area when needed.

Later you can add mulch, but that is a topic for another time.


July 16, 2013

Cabbage root maggot

Filed under: Insects,Vegetables — bob @ 6:59 am

If you have never seen it before, it seems perplexing — one or two dying cabbage plants in among a row of healthy plants. This is the work of the cabbage root maggot.

These maggots are the larval stage of a fly that looks very similar to a housefly, only smaller. And like houseflies, they go though part of their life-cycle as a maggot. They attack all plants categorized in the cabbage family which includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and others.

During the time when the adults are active, they buzz around looking for suitable plants — such as your broccoli or cauliflower. The female fly lays its eggs right where the stem of the plant meets the soil. When the eggs hatch, the larvae begin feeding on the roots.

Infested plants lose so many roots to maggot feeding that they can’t sustain themselves so, the plant begins to wilt and eventually  dies.

Cabbage root maggots thrive in a cool, wet soil environment. Our rainy growing season has provided ideal living conditions for this pest which is why you may be more likely to see them in your garden this year. Warm dry weather reduces the maggot population.

By the way, if you’ve ever come across wormy radishes or turnips, you’ve seen cabbage root maggots — they’re the same insect.

July 11, 2013

Summer heirloom apples

Filed under: Fruit — bob @ 8:34 am

Picking apples, for most people, is thought as something you do in the fall along with drinking cider and eating fresh donuts. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

My two summer apple trees have fruit on them that are ripening right now. As a matter of fact, I’ve been picking a dozen apples every day from them for the past week.

These are a couple of heirloom trees I planted about ten years ago. I couldn’t find my planting notes on time for this blog, but I think they’re a variety called “Early Harvest”.

They have smallish apples that are crisp and a bit tart, especially if they’re picked before they are fully ripe. Once they ripen all the way, they lose their texture and

complex flavor.

The apples are about 2- 1/2 to 3- 1/2 inches in diameter. They develop a red blush as the start to ripen.

My grandmother Rose – a Polish immigrant -was an excellent gardener, she had a summer apple tree in her garden. I remember my brother and I climbing that tree to find the very best apple to pick.

My trees are dwarf, which means they don’t take up much space.  One tree grows in a circle seven feet in diameter while the other is a bit more vigorous and has a nine foot diameter and have them planted about 12 feet apart. I keep them pruned to a height of eight feet, which means I don’t need a ladder to pick.

Their small foot-print and early maturity would make them an ideal candidate for use in an urban agriculture situation.

Summer apples will never replace our wonderful traditional fall apples, especially considering all of the other types of  fruit ripening right now. However, they might make some nice memories for children or visiting grandchildren!

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