Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Peak foliage and peak damage

It's that time of year when the vegetable garden is about as green as it's going to get.  Those little green solar panels are everywhere, taking that solar energy and 'fixing' it into usable chemicals - food.  It seems like just a few weeks ago I was wondering if the winter squash were ever going to get going, and before I knew it they made a jungle.  I stood on top of the compost bin to get this shot.  Most everything can be seen here, including the two apple trees in back.

The bed in the foreground got the first plantings of cole crops which are mostly out.  It's been seeded with a cover crop of buckwheat and berseem clover.  The buckwheat comes up very fast, the clover is just starting to show underneath.

The winter squash, seven plants, has mostly taken over the large bed.  A Golden Nugget squash was lost to the borer.  There was the telltale frass at the base.  A tug on the leaves and the stem broke clean off.  Well it's a buttercup so it's not surprising.  I believe I planted two of these and had spritzed the stems with Bt two or three times.  The borer got to this one but the other one looks sound, knock on wood.  I pointed the vines of the other squash into the vacant area left by this one.  In a few days it should all be overgrown.

The pole beans, Fortex and Kentucky Blue, have covered the trellis.  It's looking like a very good year for beans and the Kentucky Blue seems to have shaken off whatever was wilting some of the leaves.  The vines are thick with blossoms.

The lone summer squash plant also got the borer.  This one got in higher up the stem, so I cut off the top just below the damage.  I don't know if zucchini can start a new growing tip and continue.  There was one immmature fruit below the cut.

What concerns me the most are the tomatoes.  Again this year they have early blight.  The worst damage was to the Big Beef tomatoes.  There's one cage of Big Beef paired with a cage of Super San Marzano, and another pair of cages with all San Marzano plants.   I was pretty much resigned to losing the Big Beef by the end of the month, hoping to get a few slicers from it, and the San Marzano in the adjacent cage looked worse than the San Marzano's in cages by themselves, indicating that much of the blight was starting with the Big Beef and spreading.  I have been removing infected foliage but at some point there won't be any foliage left.

Yesterday I went into town and when I got home the blight had expanded greatly in the cages of San Marzano tomatoes.  That happened in just one day, which had intermittent downpours, not helpful.  These tomatoes have set a lot of fruit, but I may only get the ones that are nearly ripe.   At first the blight appeared in just the older leaves, starting at the tips and working toward the stem.   But now it is showing up everywhere.  It may be a combination of blight (fungal) and bacterial infection.

I still think that I'll get a batch of sauce tomatoes for salsa, but at some point I'll probably have to take out the tomatoes and burn them.  Now I'm thinking about strategies for next year.  I rotate plantings every year.  Some mulch on the soil might have helped.  I think that I will unroll the tomato cages, which are 4 foot by 4 foot with some overlap, about a 21 inch diameter cage, and cut them in two.  That would make a 14 inch diameter cage.  Instead of planting two plants per large cage I'll plant one per small cage.  I'll have to ensure better air flow through the plants and the smaller cages may help.

There aren't many varieties of tomato resistant to early blight, but I noticed Juliet is one of them, so next year I'll try a few of those.  I may also try some of the grafted tomato plants.  They are expensive but if the plants stay disease-free they would be worth the money.  Right now I'm researching chemical controls for this.  I'll post later with hopefully not too bad news.


Mark Willis said...

Growing tomatoes is a real big challenge for the amateur. Lots of research is being done into blight-resistant tomatoes, and a few varieties are now available on the market here in the UK - for instance "Crimson Crush", "Primavera" "Romello", "Mountain Magic" and "Primabella". They are only blight-resistant though, not blight immune. I hope you manage to salvage at least part of your crop.

k said...

That's bad news about the blight. I don't know much about it, but I think I might have some on a few tomatoes myself, and my plants are spread out a little more than yours. I do hope you can harvest some tomatoes, as I think a bad tomato crop is the most disappointing of all.

Phuong said...

Your tomato plants are definitely loaded, hopefully they'll ripen soon. Our summer squash and zucchini have been hit with vine borers as well, but the winter squash have just begun to vine so we shall see. Your pole beans look pretty amazing, it looks like you'll be swimming in beans soon.

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