Extending the Season-Making a Low Tunnel

low-tunnel-2016

These broccoli transplants were put in on Aug 24, 2106

I taught a class in late August on Planting for a Fall Harvest where I showed the students you don’t have to have a Greenhouse to extend the season. You can also have a cold frame or even simpler is what I call a low tunnel. Now with the cold nights, you definitely need something over your new fall transplants.

low-tunnel-before-row-cover

Here is the frame of the low tunnel before row cover-just fencing material curled into a u-shape ready for plants underneath it

I like to make my low tunnels out of 2″ x 4″ fencing or even concrete reinforcement wire.  I just open up the fence roll, cut off enough so it will be curved above my plants and turn it upside down on the soil.

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row cover over the low tunnel protects crops at night

Cover it with winter weight row cover (1.0 ml).  I put rocks on mine to keep it from blowing away. Now you have a secure low tunnel that will protect your plants during the shoulder season that is closing in on us quickly. What is a shoulder season? It is the time of year when the temperatures can drop quickly at night near freezing and then heat up in the day. The temperature shifts can swing wildly during the shoulder season. We have a shoulder season in spring and fall. By making a low tunnel, you can extend the season and grow vegetables like spinach, arugula, kale, lettuce, bok choy, mustard, mesclun, radicchio and other cool season crops much later. Fall is a great time to plant cool season crops and it’s not too late if you get transplants now. It might be too late if you start from seed unless it’s lettuce. Try to pick varieties that are cold tolerant.

Tomato Hornworms – finding them with UV light at night

tomato-hornworm1

I read that you can see tomato hornworms with a UV (ultraviolet) light. Two nights ago we went out to see if we could spot them. I had gotten a UV flashlight last year but didn’t receive it till after the first freeze so there wasn’t much to see. But not that night!  In the daylight I could only see the chewed up leaves on 2 plants but could not find the hornworms. But at night they are easy to spot with the UV light. We found many small ones as well as big ones that we would have missed if not for the UV light.

tomato-hornworm-bitemarks

Also we noticed that there seem to be either fluorescent bite marks or trails where they had been so if we saw these we would see if any were hiding. We probably got 30 tomato hornworms in all. What a great way to find them.

What’s with all these green tomatoes?

tomato_green tomatoes

I’ve lived here for 21 years and have never seen the tomatoes ripen this late. In fact the majority of them in my garden are still green. I have a few sungolds and black cherry tomatoes and one Pink Berkley Tie Dye and a couple of red ones ripen but that’s it-the rest are still green on the vine.

tomato_healthy plants

The plants are big and healthy. So what’s happening here?

Problem #1
The first problem was we had a hot June (except for one weekend) and an unbelievably hot July here with day after day of 92+°F. Why does that matter? Tomatoes won’t pollinate themselves over 92°f-they drop their blossoms, which is commonly known as blossom drop. They will keep producing blossoms but won’t set them producing tomatoes until it’s cooler. So we lost a whole month, putting us behind schedule.

Problem # 2
So once the monsoons thankfully came in, it got cooler and now we have green tomatoes in various stages of ripening. But suddenly, it got even cooler. So much so that it is starting to feel like autumn in August with temperatures dropping at night into the 50’s and daytime temps are much lower in the 70s. So although the tomatoes can’t have extreme heat to set fruit, they need heat to ripen. With cooler temps, it takes longer for tomatoes to turn red, or yellow, or black or whatever color they should be when ripe.

Normally I show up at the Farmers Market middle of August with 6-8 boxes of tomatoes that then increases to 15-20 boxes every week.

tomatoes_first harvest

Here is what I have now. Only 2 little bowls of tomatoes, getting a bowl a day-hardly enough to go to market with.

Now it is a race to get some tomatoes to ripen before our first frost which usually comes in October but one year it came in early September. Let’s hope not this year!

Last year I decided to slow down and take a little time off (farmer’s burnout) and that I might not go to the market as much nor grow as many tomatoes either. I have 40 tomatoes this year (lost three to curly top virus) so now I have 37 compared to 125 tomato plants last year. I guess I made a good choice as I’m not sure how long into Sept it will be before I have enough to go to market if at all before a frost.

Kitchen Garden & Coop Tour this Sunday August 7th!

 “Another great tour with 5 outstanding homes for 2016. Anyone interested in beautiful vegetable gardening and sustainable living should go to this. I’ve gotten some great ideas for my garden from these tours”
The Tomato Lady

HG TOUR LOGO

The 6th Annual
Kitchen Garden and Coop Tour
Sunday, August 7, 2016
9 am to 3 pm

Home Grown New Mexico’s – Main Fundraising Event! Come support us so we can continue to provide all of our great classes! (We are a 501c-3 Non-Profit Corporation run solely by volunteers, so your ticket may be tax-deductible)

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2016 KITCHEN GARDEN & COOP TOUR

Date: August 7, 2016

Time: 9 am-3 pm

Location: Various locations around Santa Fe, NM (see MAP below)
Fee: FREE to members/ $25 per person for non-members

For more detailed info on the tour and the properties go here: Home Grown New Mexico Kitchen Garden & Coop tour

See five kitchen gardens in Santa Fe. Pick up ideas that you can use at your place or just enjoy these beautiful, edible and functional landscapes. COME GET INSPIRED FOR YOUR GARDEN!

The properties this year feature many gardening ideas—beautiful vegetable gardens, herb gardens, potagers, fruit and nut trees, backyard chicken coops, goats, beehives, backyard composting, green house, a neighborhood community garden with goats, edible landscapes and rainwater harvesting systems.  They range from small properties to large properties in town in Santa Fe. The owners will be at each location with Master Gardeners to answer gardening questions and support the event.

Get Map Here: 2016 Kitchen Garden Tour map-revised (Please note this map was revised as of Aug 3)

Weeds-Not all that bad?

Photo courtesy of Permaculture Reseach Institute

Purslane-Photo courtesy of Permaculture Research Institute

I just read an article about weeds and how they are not all bad and in fact serve a purpose. I know this and yet I still do pull a lot of them but I leave some as well, like purslane which is a great food source and has more Omega 3’s than salmon. I just try to pull it before it flowers and goes to seed. I have friends which come by regularly and we harvest them. I pull the other ‘weeds’ around them but leave them.

We define ‘weeds’ as a plant growing in the wrong place. Now I still have my share of weeds to pull from my gardens (and am doing so right after I write this) but this article opened my eyes about the benefits of weeds too. I really enjoy reading the info sent out from the Permaculture Research Institute and became a subscriber. Check them out. So in the meantime, if you want a great excuse to NOT to pull weeds, read this article from them, written byJonathon Engels, WORKING WISELY WITH WEEDS.

Organic Pesticide and Disease Control Class Review

class pests picToday I taught the Organic Pesticide class and added Disease Control too as we are or will  be dealing with pests and disease soon in the middle of the gardening season. The class was great and we had good comments from some of the attendees. I talked about what’s going on the our gardens now and what insect and disease controls we can implement. Attached is the pdf from the class for anyone who wants to know what I do.

ORGANIC PEST and DISEASE CONTROLS

Also attached is the pdf with photos of certain insects that may be attacking our plants now as well. This is in color so it would be a great reference for you to keep when you need to identify a bug you may think is a pest.

CLass pests pics

I recommended the book, Good Bug, Bad Bug for everyone to get which is a great ID book that will show which ones are good beneficial bugs and which ones we consider pests and what crops they attack.  I got mine at Amazon.

Good Bug Bad Bug book

Then we walked around the community garden and looked for plants that are being attacked or are sick and I showed everyone the plants so hopefully it will help them go back to their gardens and look at their plants and see what is going on.

Other than the heat, I thought the class was great. Thanks to all 20 of you that attended!

What’s wrong with my tomato plant?

This has some excerpts from an earlier post in 2015 in June and new info as well in 2016. We are experiencing heavy pressure from the Beet Leafhopper which transmit a virus called Curly Top Virus (CTV) to tomato plants now in 2016. Please read below.

Photo credits: curly top disease - photo courtesy of http://ucanr.org/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=3352

Curly Top Virus (CTV) on tomatoes
Last year, the Beet Leafhopper which transmits ‘Curly Top Tomato Virus’ was rampant in our gardens and devastated many of our tomato plants. I lost only 1 plants out of 125  in 2015 to it but only because I take extraordinary measures to protect them. Here is some information on the beet leafhopper, how to identify it, symptoms and how to protect your plants.

The Beet Leafhopper flies in on the winds in early June through early July, jump on the tomato plants and taste them. It is a big problem in the Southwest and inland in California where it is hot. They don’t even like to eat tomato plants but sample them, transmitting the disease in the process, then fly off to visit other plants.

Identifying Beet Leafhoppers
The beet leafhopper is very small-about 1/8 inch long, pale green to light brownish green and has wings that look like a tent when folded up vs spread out like a moth. See photo on left. They come when conditions are dry, hot and windy. Sound familiar? This is typical June-early July weather here in the greater Santa Fe area.

You will know if they are in your garden as they come in and when you walk around your garden, you’ll see jumping little green bugs that fly off when you walk by. Then they leave—flying to the next garden. Because of this, you can’t really spray anything to get them because they hop so fast and only stay in the garden a short time—here today, gone tomorrow. By the time you notice something is wrong with your tomato plant, they are long gone. It takes about 2 weeks for symptoms to show up.

 

Symptoms
Your tomato plant leaves will start to curl and the underside of the leaves and veins will turn a purplish color.

curly top virus_helthy plant

Tomato Curly Top Virus-beginning stages on left and advanced stages on right


The leaves then start to wilt and the plant will look stunted. You might think it needs water but it doesn’t, it is sick and won’t recover. There is no cure for tomato plants with this disease. ‘Curly-Top Virus’ is only transmitted from bug to plant and is NOT transmitted from plant to plant hence you will see a healthy plant next to a sick plant. The pictures above show 2 plants with curly top. The first one is beginning to be sick with curly leaves and the veins will turn purple.  The second plant in the picture is advanced.

There is NO CURE for this virus and if your tomato (or pepper for that matter) shows signs of the disease, you should pull the plant. You could leave the plant in BUT if another wave of leafhoppers come by and a healthy leafhopper bites your sick plant, it only takes 10 minutes in 90°F weather for it to be able to transmit the disease to one of your healthy plants. The best thing to do is pull any sick plant and dispose of it. I don’t compost ANY tomato plant that shows disease.

Here are some remedies:
• Leafhoppers do not like shade and if your plants are partly shaded, that may help keep them off but since most of us grow tomatoes in full sun that might be difficult.

Create a physical barrier with row cover

Put row cover over tomato plants

• The main thing I do is create a physical barrier between the bugs and the plants.  I now cover all tomato plants with row cover until the bugs leave. Wrap the row cover around your tomato cage and put a piece on top of the cage BEFORE they come. I observe they either leave or are suppressed after the monsoons come in July when it is cooler and wetter. After the monsoons roll in, I take off the row covers BUT NOT UNTIL THEN.  I hope they come in soon as they are late right now. Tomatoes are self pollinating so they aren’t pollinated by bees or other pollinators. Another thing I’ve noticed is many of my purple or black tomato varieties seem to get hit hard. I wonder if they give off something that attracts the leafhopper? Right now all of my tomatoes are covered.

• Lastly you could put out some tomatoes later in the season after the bugs leave but you’ll have to put in early season varieties so you can still harvest before the season ends. I buy gallon size at that point so as not to be too far behind. Agua Fria Nursery still has 1 gallon tomatoes as of now. A couple of years ago when I was out at the Santa Fe Community Garden, I noticed many rows of sick tomato plants but one row of perfectly healthy plants and when I asked about them, it turned out they were put out about a month later than the rest of them and by then the leafhoppers were gone.

Dry, sunny, windy weather are perfect conditions for the leafhoppers so look out this summer-conditions are ripe again until the monsoons come!

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IMPORTANT NOTE:Now there are three cases where you may think you have curly top virus but may or may not have it.

Denver Downs Farm, Anderson, SC; High temperature on black plastic; lower leaves only.

Physiological Leaf Roll-Photo courtesy Clemson University

The first condition that may not be Tomato Curly top Virus is Physiological Leaf Roll that can happen on some tomatoes and could be caused by various factors including stress and that is not necessarily curly top-if you plant has rolled leaves but no purple veins as shown above, it possibly has physiological leaf roll and look for why it may be stressed. It is getting enough water, too much water, too much nitrogen? Also drought, pruning, root damage and transplant shock can all be reasons for leaf roll. For more info on this condition go here.

purple tomato_purlple leaves

Phosphorus deficiency in tomatoes happen when the weather is still cold-not in June.

The second condition is early in the season, not now. Sometimes the leaves turn purple when it is still cold outside. This is a phosphorus deficiency. This never happens in June or later when it is warm but more in May if you plant early and it is still cold outside.

The third condition (no pic) is if you are growing a purple or black variety of tomato your plant may have purple veins  so don’t pull it unless it start to looks sick with the curly leaves and looks like it needs water.