No Giant Pumpkin This Year :(

Courtesy of pumpkin pic_history.org

Pumpkin picture courtesy of http://www.history.org

So disappointing. No giant pumpkin this year-not even a little one. I started with 3 plants. Two died of a wilt. I checked to make sure they didn’t have a squash vine borer in them-which they didn’t. I pulled both by the end of July. I just pulled my third and last giant pumpkin plant and sent it to the State Lab last week to see if they could diagnosis what disease it had. The leaves were weird – they were stiff and broke easily, the stems were weird with galls and the blossoms wouldn’t open or stayed small and dropped off—all of them. I didn’t even have one to pollinate. This is the first time since I started growing giant pumpkins that I’ve had this kind of trouble. Some years I’ve grown great pumpkins, some years not so great but I’ve always had at least one giant pumpkin. Not this year – nada and no annual pumpkin bash! What a bummer.

The results just came in from the State Lab. They had to send  it to an independent lab to confirm their diagnosis. They both came to the same conclusion-CURLY TOP VIRUS!! No. no. I know Curly Top Virus is transmitted to tomato plants via the beet leafhopper but didn’t know it could transmit this virus to giant pumpkin plants as well. And I even had it covered with row cover until July but I guess that wasn’t long enough as it only takes one leafhopper to infect plants. :(

History of Mozzerella cheese

water buffalo

Water Buffalo milk was the original milk for making mozzarella

Mozzarella is most commonly made with cows milk here in the US. It can also made with goats milk as well. But it didn’t start out with either of those. In Italy it is made with milk from a water buffalo which is the richest creamiest flavor of all because it has the highest butterfat in it.  You can NOT buy water buffalo milk here in the states (how the hell do you milk a water buffalo anyways, even if it is domestic?!!) Mozzarella made with water buffalo milk is called buffala mozzarella. Buffala means female water buffalo. I learned how to make mozzarella with cow’s milk and goats milk because I want it for my Caprese salad with my homegrown tomatoes that I’m growing.

The history of mozzarella starts with the water buffalo and how it came to Italy. How and when the animals arrived in Italy is the source of some debate. Some say it was introduced by Arab invasions, others say it was introduced by the Normans from Sicily and still others say that India was the source. What we do know is that they began to be raised in the 12th century, at a time when many peasants, fleeing war and invasions, abandoned their land. That land turned marshy, which is exactly what water buffalo like. “In ancient times, the buffalo was a familiar sight in the countryside, since it was widely used in ploughing compact and watery terrains, both because of its strength and the size of its hooves, which did not sink too deeply into moist soils” (wikipedia). 

References to cheese products made from water buffalo milk appeared for the first time at the beginning of the twelfth century. Buffalo mozzarella became widespread throughout the south of Italy from the second half of the eighteenth century on.

mozzarelaSeveral centuries later, northern Italy became concerned about cleaning up the marshlands, and in 1930, the south began a massive agrarian reform. The herds of water buffalo dwindled. Cow’s milk began to replace bufala milk in the recipe. Then, in 1940 the Nazis destroyed the remaining herds.

After the war, water buffalo imported from India were reintroduced to Italy, but the cheese introduced to North America by Italian immigrants in New York at the turn of the 20th century and in Canada around 1949 was made with cow’s milk probably because they couldn’t get buffala milk.

You can find pre-made buffala mozzarella at Trader’s Joes and I highly recommend you try it for comparison although it is expensive.

 

Fall harvest season is full blast right now!

Harvest season is full blast right now. Started out with our Home Grown New Mexico ‘Jam On’ class where we made a Strawberry-balsamic jam and a terrific Blueberry jam.

Himrod grapes-yum!

Then the grapes ripened-ate lots and dried some into raisins for later.

bread n butter pickles

The cucumbers ripened so fast I was making lots of pickles. First I made bread and butter pickles, then cornichon pickles and then dill pickles-crock, refrigerator and canned. Must have about 30 jars+ and now the 5 gallon crock is full where I am fermenting some with salt brine. After I was bored with pickles,  I made some sweet pickle relish which I haven’t tasted yet. Will probably make more of that with the giant cucumbers I miss when looking for little ones. So far I’ve made pickles with Jody, Nick and Elodie.

peach jam and raisins

Then I bought 20 lbs of peaches from the Farmer’s Market and Mernie and I made 3 different peach jams.

9tomato sauce-finished in bags

Now the tomatoes are coming in and I’m starting to make the raw tomato sauce that I freeze in gallon plastic freezer bags. Later in November after I recover from harvesting, I will take them out of the freezer and make different pasta sauces like puttenesca, marinara, penne alla vodka and good ole spaghetti sauce.

 

Potatoes dug out just in the nick of time!

Potatoes dug out just in the nick of time!

Soon I will harvest potatoes too.

2013-part of the fall honey harvest

and we will harvest honey from the bee hive.

Of course then there is all I take to the Farmer’s Market that I harvest every week-tomatoes, eggplants, shishito peppers, beans, tomatillos and sometimes rhubarb, kale and chard when I have the room on the tables. Phew! Busy time of year!

The best part of it all is I haven’t bought any vegetables in the store since early July and I’ll have a full pantry for winter when harvest season is done.

My tomatoes love the sun and warmth!

tomatoes ready for market

Tomatoes ready for the Santa Fe Farmer’s market

Last week was warm and sunny-just what tomatoes need to ripen. Temperatures in the mid 80s. It’s a little cooler this week but still nice. Suddenly I have all kinds of tomatoes ripening-yea!

tomato lady at Santa Fe Farmer's Market

Up till last week I’ve barely had enough ripe ones to go to the Farmer’s Market much less make tomato sauce but now I have plenty to sell-just get there early as I sell out pretty early even with all these tomatoes. Here’s my booth at the Farmer’s Market. It is located inside the big building. Just look up for a big sign that says, ‘Tomato Lady’ to find me.

I noticed the number of ripe tomatoes have been growing here at my little farm and now they are exploding! Yea! I’m hoping for an Indian summer-that means the rest of September will be nice and warm which should keep them coming.

Sunflowers in the fall

sunflowers sunset

I love sunflowers. Every year I plant many varieties because they are so beautiful in the garden. An added bonus is that many bees both native and honeybees love them too. Being a beekeeper I want to help my bees by planting bee friendly plants. Bees like both nectar and pollen from sunflowers so they are a great flower to plant for honeybees and native bees. Individual sunflowers rarely self-pollinate but depend on the bee to help them. In fact bees are the major pollinators of sunflowers. The bees get covered in pollen when they visit a sunflower and then visit other sunflowers pollinating them. Here are some pictures from the garden of my sunflowers. They are particularly beautiful in the fall.

 

Tomato Disease-more info on Early Blight

Early BlightSomeone replied to my last post on Early Blight, “Will this contaminate the soil (for next year)?” Great question. Here is more info on this subject.

If you have a garden, it’s pretty much in the soil. One key is to provide a barrier between the soil and your plant, hence I add straw as a mulch around them to act as a barrier and use fungicides to catch it early or before it starts.

Some years are better as they are drier but when you have a wet summer, it can be a problem. I’m not sure if you took out the soil if that would help because who can remove all the soil? Unless you put them in pots-maybe that would work.

You should consider crop rotation, not growing in the same spot for 2 years and then coming back to it 3 years later. Crop rotation is used to control diseases that can become established in the soil over time. Changing your tomato crops to a new bed or area tends to decrease the population level of the pathogens.  That is why I have 3 sections in my garden so I can rotate the tomatoes to a new section each year. If you have raised beds, you could rotate the tomatoes to a new bed each year coming back to the original bed 3 years later to get the same effect.

I don’t look at Early Blight as a major killer of tomato plants if we do close monitoring and take action. By using fungicides early on and crop rotation every year, we can usually control it.

Also good clean-up in the fall after the garden is done is important. Do not compost the dead plants but bag them and put in the garbage.

You can read the first post about Early Blight here.

 

Tomato Disease-Early Blight

early blight_plant

This is a tomato with severe Early Blight. Notice it has worked it’s way up through the plant. I should have removed the diseased leaves while it was till on the bottom leaves and then sprayed with Serenade. I may not be able to save it.

 

Early Blight is a fungal disease caused by the fungus Alternaria solani  which lives in the soil. When rain or water splashes the soil up on the lower leaves, the fungal pathogen gets on the plant. It starts as some yellow mottling on the lower leaves which left unattended, then proceeds to work its way up the plant branch by branch on the leaves as shown on the photo above. It is contagious to the other tomato plants next to it so you should get on this pronto if you see any sign of it. Some tomato plants are more susceptible to it as well.

Early Blight

Closeup of Early Blight on lower leaf

With all this cool rainy weather (we got 1″ on Tuesday night!) I have noticed more plants starting to get it especially as the season goes on. The older plants (just like people) get more susceptible to diseases as they get older. Here is a closeup of what it looks like on the leaves.

tomato plant trimmed

Tomato plant trimmed off of all diseased leaves-notice there are hardly any leaves

If you see any of this going on, you should immediately trim off all the branches that show signs of it. Be sure to disinfect your cutting trimmers between plants so as not to spread it. Your plant may not have many leaves  left like this one.

bleach water

Use a 10 % bleach solution in water to disinfect trimmers

I use a small container, pour some water in it to cover your trimmers and put some bleach in the water – 10% is good. But I don’t measure. I just pour some in-much less than if you were to put it in your laundry. The key is to dip the trimmers and your hand or hand in glove into the bleach solution and dry them off before I go to the next plant so not to pass the disease on to a healthy plant.

tomato fungicides

I Start with Serenade and then move to Copper Fungicide if it gets worse. Be sure to wash your tomatoes really well if you use the copper fungicide. Both are organic but the copper fungicide is stronger.

After you’ve trimmed off all the bad stuff,  you need to spray with a good organic fungicide like Serenade to help slow it down. Also Copper Fungicide works but be careful using it. They are both organic fungicides. It’s best if you start the season spraying your tomato plants early BEFORE you ever have signs of Early Blight because then it’s a preventative but you may be able to control it if it hasn’t gotten out of hand, maybe not depending how bad it is.

Some of my plants (about 5 have it bad and don’t have many leaves left on because I trimmed them all off but they are loaded with tomatoes and the disease won’t hurt the fruit so I’m letting them stay in till I harvest and then I will pull the plant. It is interesting to note I only have one double row of tomatoes where it started with one plant and has now spread to 7 plants. (I already pulled out 2 others that showed it real early) Now I’m up to 7 plants out of 12 in the bed that have it. The rest of the beds look pretty good. I wish I followed my own advice but was crazy busy in the garden this year and wasn’t paying attention.

How to deal with Early Blight

1. After you plant the tomato transplants and make a well and add your drip system (if you have one), put straw all around the base to keep water from splashing the soil up on the plants. This applies for either hand watering or even if you have them on a drip system because of the rain. And just because you put straw around your plants doesn’t mean it won’t get the disease, but it helps most plants.

2. Start spraying ALL YOUR TOMATO PLANTS with Serenade as a preventative right away. It has a bacteria that won’t let the Early Blight bacteria colonize on the leaves thereby thwarting the disease. Plus it doesn’t wash off as the good bacteria attach themselves to the leaves. Do spray about every 2 weeks even if it doesn’t rain as a preventative.

3. Once it starts raining, spray weekly. Be sure to add more straw if soil starts to show.

4. When you first notice the lower leaves yellowing, cut away any branches with the disease present.

5. Disinfect with bleach water between cutting limbs off different plants so not to spread it. You can use bleach water as mentioned above or alcohol on the blades. I use bleach as I have a lot of plants and it’s cheaper.

6. Spray immediately after trimming but I would wait to trim if rain is in the forecast for that day. I like to let the spray dry and let those good bacteria attach to the leaves so I don’t trim on rainy days.

7. If your plant continues to go downhill, keep trimming and spraying and of course you should be spraying ALL of your plants not just the infected ones. You can move to Copper Fungicide if you have to but I always take the least toxic organic methods first. And just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it can’t be toxic. Copper is organic and yet is toxic in great amounts but doesn’t last long on the plant so just wash your tomatoes before you eat them. You can also pull the plant early if it only has tiny fruit on it or wait if it’s loaded with bigger fruit but be aware it might pass it on to other plants nearby, especially those that it touches.

This might not help as much this year but keep this info for next year.

PS—Early Blight is not like Late Blight found on the East Coast. Early Blight if caught early can be controlled. Late Blight is always terminal for a tomato plant if it gets it. Luckily we don’t get Late Blight out here in the Southwest. It is currently confined to the North East part of the US.