Artichokes-you can grow them in Santa Fe!

Lot’s of wonderful surprises this year in the veggie garden. Just for kicks, I transplanted two globe artichoke plants this year in my veggie garden entry way. I was thinking the thistle flowers would be beautiful if it had enough time to grow it here. Artichokes are a perennial in zones 8 and higher but are an annual here in zone 6 and take 90-100 days to mature.

I forgot before it makes ‘flowers’ it has to make the artichoke flower bud, which is the part we eat. To my surprise the plant is thriving. Other than adding extra compost when planting and of course watering, I haven’t had to do anything. It doesn’t seem to have any pests or diseases. Not only is the plant beautiful with it silver spikes but the artichoke buds add wonderful interest and that is before it even gets to the flower stage which is a beautiful purple thistle. Looking at these artichoke buds, I’m not sure they are going to make it to the flower stage. I know what I’m eating for dinner tonight!

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Tomato Lady now at Santa Fe Farmers Market this Saturday, Sept 9

Hi I returned last Saturday to the Santa Fe Farmers Market with a few boxes. Starting tomorrow (Sat Sept 9), I will be there from 7 am-1 pm throughout the rest of the tomato season. The tomatoes are starting to come in now after a long wait. Don’t wait too long to come to my booth as I will run out before the end of the market. I am located INSIDE THE BUILDING. Just look UP for my ‘Tomato Lady’ sign above my booth. The market people may be moving me around a little inside the building so be sure to look around to see the sign. I have many new great varieties and of course my favorites I bring like Paul Robeson, Purple Cherokee, Sun Gold, Costuluto Genevese, Pink Berkley Tie Dye and more. Over 20 varieties grown this season from all over the world.  And of course I will have some Shishito peppers, and small eggplants as well. This is my last season at the market so be sure to come by and say hi and pick up a few.

Powdery Mildew on Curcubits (squash)

 

Powdery mildew has appeared on my squashes-both winter squash and summer squash. Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease that affects many plants from roses to squashes. Infected plants display white powdery spots on the leaves and stems that eventually will cover the leaves of the plants if left untouched. Powdery Mildew grows well when the monsoons come into Santa Fe. The higher humidity and moderate temperatures are idea for powdery mildew. Also how we manage our gardens can cause it to go rampant. For instance, I planted my winter squash too close to some other plants essentially crowding them. Plus fearing a hail storm this summer, I covered it with some hoops and row cover, holding the heat and humidity underneath creating a perfect environment for powdery mildew. It usually shows up in late August through September.

Controlling it depends on when we catch it. If we let it go too far, it will destroy the plant in which case we should pull the plant and destroy or bag it for refuse. Do not put it in you compost pile and spread the disease around. If it has just started, indicated by the white spots on the leaves, you can spray it with a fungal disease spray like Green Cure. Green Cure is my favorite spray for Powdery Mildew as it is quite effective in halting its progress but you will have to spray it 2-3 times depending on how advanced it is on the plant. We should jump on it as soon as we see it and not wait till it gets out of hand.

 

 

Early Blight on Tomato Plants

This tomato plant has severe Early Blight as it has worked its way up the plant

Now that the monsoons are in full blast, tomato fungal diseases are showing up with all the moisture. One of them is Early Blight. It is caused by a fungus called Alternaria solani. Early Blight is a fungal disease that attacks tomato plants starting on the bottom leaves of the plant and works it’s way upwards. The leaves start turning yellow and get blotchy. If left unchecked, it can take over your plant killing it although it won’t die immediately. Where does it come from? It comes from water splashing soil up on the lower leaves, allowing the fungal spores to colonize on the leaves. The culprit is a bad soil fungus (there are good soil fungus as well). That’s why you always see it start on the bottom leaves. Early Blight should not be confused with Late Blight which is prevalent in northeastern United States. We don’t have Late Blight out here in the southwest (at least not yet).

Here is a close up of Early Blight on the leaves

-There are several things you can immediately do to help with this disease if you get this. The first thing you do is trim off the affected branches where the leaves are yellow. Keep trimming up your plant as needed and spray with an organic fungicide like Serenade.

-Disinfect your shears between plants by dipping the shears and your hand in a container of water with about 10% bleach solution. Alcohol also works. Be sure to disinfect your shears between plants because you can spread Early Blight.

-I like Serenade, an organic fungicide which provides protection from a broad spectrum of common fungal and bacterial diseases. It is a biological fungicide, meaning it uses other spores that crowd out the Early Blight spores. Spray it on when the leaves are dry. It is rainproof, non-toxic for bees and other beneficial insects. Respray every 5-7 days. Spray all parts of the plant-both on top and underneath till dripping. Serenade is also good to spray on other vegetables. Spray for powdery mildew on squash, cucumbers and melons and leaf rust on beans. I use it for all my vegetables. Don’t wait till you get the disease—it works best as a preventative but you can control many fungal diseases with Serenade.

-In addition to trimming the affected leaves, trim off any branches or leaves that touch the ground. I never let any leaves or branches touch the ground, trimming them up about 12 or more inches.

-Another option is to stake or tie up any branches that might touch the ground.

Mulch with straw underneath the plant so the soil can’t splash up on plant when it rains or if you water overhead. This is key to help prevent Early Blight on your tomatoes. I do it the minute I plant my tomato plants in the spring and add more straw as the plant spreads till eventually the whole bed is covered with straw. If you didn’t do it this year, you can still add straw now. Besides it’s also great for keeping moisture from evaporating in our hot sun.

-If space allows, rotate susceptible crops every 3 years. Just change where you plant tomatoes every year.

Tomato Tar

I always wonder what is that substance on my hands after working with my tomato plants with my bare hands. My hands turn kinda green and eventually brownish. I wash my hands over and over again and the soapy foam on my hands turn yellow and worse, the towel I use to dry my hands gets green stains.

What is this? It is called ‘tomato tar’ and comes from trichomes on the surface of the tomato plant. Trichomes contain chemicals in the form of essential oils that give tomato plants their smell and repels some insects and has another substance called acylsugars. Alcylsugars are part of the defensive system of the tomato by producing a sort of oil that stops insects from wanting to walk on them. This is exactly what gets on our hands and turns them green or even brown if you leave it on your hands long enough. Getting it off is not easy as I mentioned above but I just read a solution to brown tomato hands that I have to try.

I learned the acylsugars are not water soluble.  Most soaps are alkaline which turns the soap foam yellow and still keep your hands brown. If we wash our hands in a weak solution of white vinegar and water, really wash our hands with it-no soap and then rinse it off and then wash in soap, our hands should turn human color again! Also use paper towels or a designated towel to dry your hands as the soap residue from our laundry can turn the towels green. I prefer a black or dark brown towel so if there are some stains (they don’t come out) at least I can’t see them.

Lastly I’ve had some luck taking a piece of fresh lemon and rub it over my hands squeezing the juice to make sure my hands are wet. I have to wait about 5 minutes and then rinse in water and then use soap and water and that seems to work too. I know lemons become alkaline when we mix them with water and drink it but pure lemon juice is acidic and works on my hands. It’s been a year since I’ve had tomato hands and I know when I get them, it’s just a short time till I’ll be eating those wonderful tomatoes!

Why are my tomato plants dropping their blossoms?

When the temperature outside is 92°F or hotter, the tomatoes will drop their flowers (blossoms) and will not set any fruit. This is called Tomato Blossom Drop and is normal for a tomato to do. Basically they self-abort their blossoms. Why? Because they want to survive. They will continue to produce new blossoms and once the temperatures is BELOW 92°F, they will start to set fruit from the blossoms.

What can we do to prevent blossom drop? Nothing. We really are at the hands of mother nature. The funny thing is once they do pollinate (tomatoes are self-pollinating and wind-pollinated and don’t need pollinators) and they produce baby fruit, they do fine when it’s hot-it’s just while they are trying to set fruit that the temperature is critical. There is also a low temperature where they will drop the blossoms, but we don’t have to worry about that here.

Last year we had 3 months of intense heat with everyday being 92°F or warmer and the blossom just couldn’t set fruit. Finally when the monsoons came mid-August (which is one month later than normal), and it cooled down, they were able to set their fruit. Luckily for us we had a long fall and were able to harvest before we got a freeze. So don’t despair, they will set fruit from their blossoms when the time is right. Hopefully the monsoons will come in July. So for now, just surrender and chill out (if you can).

Row cover protects tomato plants and more

Here is what my garden looks like right now. Just about everything is covered with a material called row cover (also called Remay). My tomato cages are covered from top to bottom with it. This acts as a physical barrier to keep a bug called the beet leafhopper from biting them and transferring a disease called Curly Top Virus (CTV). I’ll take it off my tomatoes when the monsoons arrive.  The bug leaves when the monsoons come.

I also put row cover over my other veggie transplants while they adjust to the heat and wind when I transplant them into the garden. And I put it over other veggies that I plant by seeds like beans, cucumber and corn. I just plant the seeds in the ground and put a sheet of row cover over them tacking it down with rocks so the wind doesn’t blow it away-but don’t make it too tight.  Give the plants some room to grow under it. When the seeds germinate, row cover keeps the birds from eating the sprouts and I don’t have to replant seeds as often. Plus you can water right through it. Row cover comes in 3 weights. A heavy weight (1.0) for fall-winter, a mid-weight for summer (.5) and a light weight (.3) which does not work well here because of the winds-it rips easily. I use a mid-weight in the summer in my garden.

So basically I use row cover in the beginning of the growing season on almost everything. You can get it at most nurseries.  And you won’t have to keep it on all summer. Once your corn and beans grow up about 4 inches, and your transplants adjust to outdoor growing and the bugs leave, you can take it off and enjoy watching your garden grow. Another plus is it gives some protection against hail. Great stuff. I highly recommend it to be a more successful gardener.