Holy Cow! Hail the size of quarters and bigger!

hail

Wednesday we got two huge storms where hail was between the size of quarters and ping-pong balls in some places. I’ve never seen hail that big here in Santa Fe. Sorry for the blurry picture but our hands were shaking! Lots of damage was done in many people’s gardens, destroying or severely damaging many vegetables and fruits. Whole leaves were torn off or plants shredded. Most of mine were spared as I had the vegetable plants covered with row cover, and it took the hit instead of the plants.

Believe it or not some plants will come back and be ok for those of you hit hard. We will be a couple of weeks behind but the season is not necessarily over. Check your plants and if the center of it where new growth comes from is intact, it will probably grow back so don’t be so quick to pull it. I will wait for about a week to see if they show signs of new growth. If they do, I will trim back the damaged foliage but not before. Remember their root systems were not hurt so they have a good chance to recover.

Meanwhile I would spray a fungicide on them as they are weakened and more susceptible to disease, especially fungal diseases like early blight and powdery mildew with all this wet weather. You could use Neem, OR Copper spray OR Serenade to help ward off fungal diseases. All are organic.

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.

Master Gardener Intern Class-Vegetables

I’ve been totally busy teaching classes lately and the last class I taught was the Santa Fe Master Gardener Intern Class on Vegetables. All I can say to the interns is hang in there. Yes there are some difficult classes to get through but there are some great instructional classes as well that are like a breath of fresh air. It wasn’t till I became a Master Gardener that I really blossomed as a gardener. And now I am a rabid gardener! The knowledge you will continue to gain afterwards, the contacts, camaraderie and friendships you will develop will help you grow as well as the plants you will be growing! Hopefully you enjoyed and learned a lot from the Vegetable class. (Yes it was my favorite class when I was an intern!) So for those of you who couldn’t come to class or aren’t in the program but are interested, here are the information sheets. I want to make them available to all.

VEGETABLE GARDENING IN SANTA FE  gives an overview of vegetable gardening in Santa Fe.

INFORMATION SHEET covers what the differences are  between an Heirloom, Hybrid and GMO plant and explains what mycorrhizae fungi is and how it helps plants grow.

HERBS is a list of perennial and annual herbs we can grow here in Santa Fe.

PLANTING TOMATOES and PLANTING SQUASH both address how to transplant them into the garden and some of the things I add to help grow these beautiful vegetables and also how to help thwart the dreaded squash vine borer and squash bugs.

SEED STARTING DATE CALCULATOR from Johnny’s Seeds is the same one from the previous post but if you didn’t read it, then here it is. A great tool for when to start seeds or transplant them into the garden.

And now if you will excuse me, I will continue starting my seeds inside! Perfect day-cold, windy and snowy!

Fall Garden Projects-First up-putting the pumpkin patch to rest

Horse manure on top of pumpkin patch

I’ve been really busy this fall around the garden since the Pumpkin Bash. It seems like I never have time to do any projects when the garden is going so I try and get some of the projects done in the fall before the dead of winter. Last week cleaned out the pumpkin patch and then I rented that Bobcat where I spread out about 4 yards of horse manure on top of it. I really needed to dig it in or it would blow away before spring.

giant rototiller-16 hp

So yesterday I rented a giant rototiller (16 hp) and plowed in the 4 yards of manure, 50 lbs dried molasses (it smells so sweet), 50 lbs mushroom compost (are we cooking here?), and 50 lbs of gypsum (for calcium-makes strong bones, I mean strong plants!) in the pumpkin patch.

final pumpkin patch done

Now it looks so beautiful and is ALMOST ready for next spring! I still have to dig in some leaves (in the holes where I will be planting the pumpkin plants next spring) and a little (I mean very little) composted chicken manure to start the decomposition process so they can decompose over the winter and become leaf mold or should I say leaf gold by spring. This will be the third year for this pumpkin patch and boy what a difference three years makes when you add amendments each year. It’s starting to look good and the rototiller just cut through it fluffing it up together. I don’t like to rototill very much because of how hard it is on the soil microbes but felt that I needed to do it for now since this dirt was so void of any organic material and hard as a rock. I think after this year I’ll won’t have to do it again. I will add more mychorrizial next spring to help replenish the soil microbes.

Mycorrhizal products here in Santa Fe

Someone just wrote me if I knew a source for Mycorrhizal (also called Mycorrhizae) products here in Santa Fe. So I thought I’d respond in a post in more detail as well as reply to him in the comment sections.

Mycorrhizal is a fungi that help protects plants from many diseases and drought like conditions. It forms a symbiotic relationship with the roots, making water and soil mineral nutrients more available to the roots of a plant while the plant feeds the mycorrhizae sugars it produces. It is found in nature in most UNDISTURBED soils. Gardens do not have undisturbed soil- we work the soil to various degrees adding amendments and tilling soil.

There are two main types of Mycorrhizal.

ECTOMycorrhizal works on more woody crops like trees. I don’t use it myself on my trees.

ENDOmycorrhizal works for most (90%) but not all vegetable crops (some crops do not respond to any Mycorrhizal like Brassica crops, spinach and beet crops). I used myco products for both my giant pumpkins and tomatoes in previous years but will also try it on all my curcubit crops this year as well as they seem to get the most diseases and the prices seem to be coming down on mycorrhizal products as it starts to become mainstream.

I just saw that Santa Fe Greenhouse has some Mycorizzial products. I bought ‘BUSHDOCTOR MICROBE BREW’ (by Foxfarm products) from SFGH and will try it this year. It is a liquid. It says on the directions to use 2 tsp/gal of water every 2 weeks as a drench. I think a bottle would last the whole gardening season for most people. I can’t remember what it cost (I bought it a month ago), but didn’t seem like it was exorbitant. I use to have to order myco on the internet so I’m anxious to see how it works. The Microbe Brew also has a bunch of soil bacteria and microbes in it besides the Mycorrhizal that will be good for the soil and plants as well. All these things help the plants either protect or fight off diseases-all organically.