Gardening Tips: July 30, 2014
Garden Problems and Solutions
Late July to early August is usually when we begin to seriously harvest some of our favorite vegetables and of course, this is when the problems usually begin in earnest. The following disorders are commonly observed at this time of the year. I think I first wrote this in 2004 but some things never change!
Your very first tomatoes to ripen have a large black spot on the bottom of the fruit that eventually rots the whole tomato. This is blossom end rot, caused by a complex of many factors. It is not a disease caused by any sort of pathogen but rather a physiological disorder caused by an imbalance of calcium in the plant. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done right now to remedy the problem as frustrating as this may be. It will cure itself as the season progresses and your later tomatoes will be just fine. If this happens year after year I would suggest growing different varieties of tomatoes. Most cherry tomatoes are immune and I rarely see it on my favorite large fruited variety “Big Beef.” My friend Lester thought I grew a variety called “Big Beast” which he was unable to locate.
Potato plants are producing what appear to be small tomatoes. These are the fruit of the potato plant. There presence will not affect your yield and there is no need to pinch them off but don’t try to eat them either. All parts of the potato plant except the potatoes are poisonous. Green tomatoes, on the other hand, may be fried and they taste pretty good.
In general I am hearing that there are fewer squash beetles, flea beetles and cucumber beetles than usual this summer. I judged some beautiful summer squash at the Greene County Youth Fair on Tuesday night. Perhaps the cold winter did have some positive effects. On the downside, there also seem to be fewer bees and other pollinating insects. The cold winter also killed or damaged some borderline hardy trees such as black walnuts.
Zucchini and other summer squash begin to form and then rot on the bottom end before getting big enough to pick. This is caused by inadequate pollination and will also cure itself as the season progresses. (if bees arrive) Soon you will be overrun with zucchini.
Broccoli beginning to produce yellow flowers before forming a good-sized head is caused by hot weather. Cut the main head of and leave the plants in the garden. They will produce side shoots that will ripen in September. Neither cauliflower nor cabbage will produce side shoots however. If they start to flower they are shot. Beans and peas will quit producing if they are not kept picked.
I have observed many ornamental trees in the apple family (crabapple, Hawthorne, Mountain Ash) with leaves dropping due to a variety of fungal diseases. Close examination of the leaves shows many rusty colored spots or brown tissue. These are the result of infections that occurred months ago (rust and scab) and there is little to do now except rake up the dead leaves and get rid of them. To prevent these leaf diseases protective fungicide sprays must be applied just as the new leaves are expanding, two months or more ago.
In general it is a good idea to prune off any dead branches on trees and shrubs as soon as the damage is noticed. The most common insect pest I have had inquiries about are Japanese beetles, although some folks are reporting huge swarms of a different type of beetle rising from the ground at dusk. These are most likely European chafer beetles and they also lay eggs in turf, which hatch into root eating white grubs. There are many insecticides available at local garden centers that will kill these pests. Please read and follow label directions before spraying and always avoid spraying anything that has flowers since honeybees may be inadvertently killed as a result. As my friend Dick Johnson would say “Give Bees a Chance!”