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Archive for August 2011

Can I Plant Potatoes For A Fall Crop?

August 31st, 2011

I am interested in planting fall potatoes. First frost looks like it\’s around October 10-11 for zone 5b. Is it possible to plant now? Also, what potato would be the best variety to plant? Thanks, Lydia

Answer: Unless you are planning to just harvest “new” potatoes right before the frost, there is not enough time for them to mature. Next year you need to count back about 80-90 days before the first fall frost in order to have a fall potato crop. Unless you plan ahead, you will have a hard time seed potatoes this late in the season. Happy Gardening, GHS

Hydrangea Plant Not Growing Well?

August 28th, 2011

I have hydrangeas which are in pots outside but the flowers have died and the leaves are green and look healthy. Would they survive being planted out in the back yard? Some of my neighbors have large hydrangea plants in their yards. Second question – will a kalanchoe plant (in a pot) grow if I plant it in my flower bed? Thank you.I have hydrangeas which are in pots outside but the flowers have died and the leaves are green and look healthy. Would they survive being planted out in the back yard? Some of my neighbors have large hydrangea plants in their yards. Second question – will a kalanchoe plant (in a pot) grow if I plant it in my flower bed? Thank you, Phyllis

Answer:

Phyllis,

You did not specify what variety you were growing: quercifolia, macrophylla, arborescens or paniculata. Most hydrangeas are hardy from Zone 5 to 9, with a few being even more cold hardy. Since you are in Zone 9B, the hydrangeas will do OK for you in the ground, but you are on the high end of the their tolerance range. If others are growing them successfully then you should be able to as well, if you give them the right conditions. Check the ones that are the most successful and see how much shade or sun they are receiving, and how much moisture they are getting. If you are growing the macrophylla (mophead) variety, then you will probably want to check the acidity level of your soil if you want them to be blue. Typically hydrangeas like some shade from the hot midday sun. They are heavy drinkers (of water, please!) and need soil acidification if your pH is too low. Even though you are in a warm climate, they will still most likely have a resting period, like the dormancy they undergo in colder climates. Don’t push them if that is the case.

The kalanchoe is technically a hardiness Zone 10.  Since you are 9B, you might try to find a well-protected area to see if it will survive. Keep it protected from any frost and keep it in a partially shaded location; it is not a full sun lover.

Happy Gardening!
Karen

Invasion of the Squash Vine Borer

August 25th, 2011

You might have fallen victim to the Squash Vine Borer, without knowing how they get inside your squash plants, or where they come from. You might not have even been aware they are there until your vines have wilted and died. The Squash Vine Borer attacks cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins, melons and both winter and summer squashes. Blue and Butternut squash seem to be the most resistant, but Hubbard squash seems to be the castle most preferred by this voracious pest.

Recognizing the Squash Vine Borer Moth

So, how do you identify the problem to begin with? The best way is to be aware of what to look for. As your squash-like plants are just about to blossom, you may notice wasps flying around your vegetable garden, paying particular attention to your squash, melons or cucumbers. Look closely; these wasps may actually be the moth that lays the eggs of the squash vine borer. They will look somewhat like a giant hornet, having a wing span of about 1.5 inches. The wings will be translucent, but colored in shades of orange and black. These female moths will have a bright orange or red and black abdomen and femurs. They can be quite elusive, prefer daytime flight, are rather noisy and will lay their eggs at the base of your plants, right on the soil. In the south, this will usually occur sometime in April or May, but it may happen later in the north, normally in June and July. The eggs will be flat, brown circles about 1/10 inch across and nearly impossible to see.

The Destructive Squash Vine Borer Larvae

In one to two weeks, depending upon the heat and weather, the eggs will hatch and become larvae. The larvae are grub-like, about an inch long, white with a dark brown head and itty bitty brown legs. They bore into the stems of your plants and are gluttonous eaters, which is what ultimately kills your plants. Inspect the stems about an inch above the soil level for tiny holes through which the larvae have entered. You may even see a yellowish saw-dust looking material near the hole or at the base of your plants. You can confirm their presence further by using a knife to make a slit lengthwise along the stem, from the bore hole and about an inch up. You will see the worm and more of the yellowish excrement inside the stem. At this point you can kill the worms with the knife blade and then mound soil up above the wound to encourage root growth along that particular section of the stem. Be aware though, that this method will only work at the very earliest stages of infestation and can be quite time-consuming and messy.

Perpetuating Their Life Cycle

Once the larvae have matured, they can leave the insides of your plants’ stems and start feasting on the maturing fruit. They will finally mature to the point where they leave the plant, burrow into the soil and spin a mahogany brown cocoon in which to hibernate until the following spring when the orange, red and black moths will appear once again.

Control with Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Now, how do you control them? I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”; and in this case, that is SO true. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is one of the best preventive measures. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a naturally occurring, organic pesticide in dust form that cuts the exoskeletons of the moths, both as they emerge from the soil and as they land to lay their eggs. A little goes a long, long way and it is easy to apply, especially if using a duster designed for DE, but the best part is that Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth will also deter and destroy a whole host of other garden pests with absolutely no ill-effects on your family, your pets or the environment. Dust with DE from the ground up, paying special attention to the undersides of the leaves, as this is where most insects will lay their eggs. Application is recommended once a month or after a very heavy rain, but as long as dust is evident at the base of the plants and under the leaves, you do not have to reapply heavily.

Deterring with a Plant & Seed Blanket

If, on the other hand, you’ve never had Squash Vine Borers in your garden, you may be able to get away with a simple cover. There are a number available, but the one that seems to work best is the Plant & Seed Blanket by Easy Gardener®. This lightweight, breathable blanket can be applied when you seed or first transplant seedlings. It allows essential air and moisture to reach your growing plants, but will prevent the Squash Borer moth from being able to lay her eggs. Just apply the blanket over your seed bed or transplants with plenty of slack to allow for plant growth and blooming. The ends and sides can be held down with garden stakes or with loose soil. Once the blossoms have wilted, giving way to the fruit, it should be safe to remove the plant and seed blanket.

Use Hot Pepper Wax Spray to Make Their Lives Miserable

Another preventative measure that is used very successfully is Hot Pepper Wax Spray. Made by combining capsaicin (what makes cayenne peppers hot) and a thin, food grade paraffin, the spray coats your plants with an unpleasantly irritating liquid that stays in place by being bound to the waxy paraffin. Apply to the bottom couple of inches of the stems to prevent the larvae from boring as they hatch, or apply to the whole plant, including the undersides of the leaves, to also deter aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, lace bugs, leafhoppers, thrips and many more pests. Be aware though, that when checking growth progress, weeding or harvesting your produce, the capsaicin can transfer to your skin and be quite irritating, especially if you have open wounds or you rub your eyes. It will sting, but warm water will wash the residue away. Young children who put their hands in their mouths will also experience an unpleasant heat.

Kill Them with BT

Finally, for the very worst infestations and to completely prevent the larvae from spinning cocoons that will produce Squash Vine Borer moths next year, we recommend using Bacillus Thuringiensis, a.k.a. BT. BT occurs naturally and is a soil-borne organism that has the ability to control squash vine borers and other insects that are in the worm or caterpillar stage of development. It can be applied to the foliage of plants on which larvae are feeding, but it can also be used as an injection to the insides of the stems to destroy the borers. Bacillus Thuringiensis effectively paralyzes the digestive tract of the larvae, which means they can’t feed anymore, which causes them to die. BT is effectively used as a pre-emptive measure, when injected into your plants right after the first blossoms appear and then again in a week to 10 days. You simply mix it as you normally would for external application, and then use a disposable syringe that you can buy at any drug store. You can also use a wood worker’s glue injector, but be sure to rinse the needle with a mixture of chlorine bleach and water between injections in order to prevent possible cross-contamination of other diseases that you are not yet aware of. Mix the BT just prior to use and inject the stem about 1.5″ above the soil line. The borers will eat it as they first start to feed, causing them to die. The recommended amount is about 1cc of BT for each injection. It will wash the hollow interior of the stem, but will flow back out of the stem through the injection site if you use too much.

We here at Garden Harvest Supply hope that we’ve provided you some much needed, valuable information about Squash Vine Borers and how best to deal with them. We are always available to answer any of your questions and concerns. You can contact us here, or contact our Master Gardener directly.

Happy Gardening, Everyone!

GHS Guide to Extending the Growing Season

August 20th, 2011

Wouldn’t it be great if your garden were like a 24/7 farmer’s market, providing you with fresh produce year-round? Sure, that would take a lot of work, but extended harvests are within every gardener’s grasp. With a little planning, you can harvest at least one or two crops right through the winter.

In this newsletter we’ll discuss ways to extend the growing season, starting with a review of fall planting and continuing with to how to cover and protect your plants in cold weather. Finally we’ll discuss measures that serious gardeners take to ensure year-long harvests, such as the use of cold frames and greenhouses.

Late Season Planting

The simplest way to extend the growing season is to plant a second round of vegetable plants in late summer or early fall. Fall is an easier time to plant than spring: the critters and weeds decrease, there’s less need to irrigate, and there are no heat waves to drive you indoors, panting.

There’s also less prep work involved; consult our Guide to Fall Vegetable Planting for the details, but basically what you need to do is clear out the old debris and amend the soil.

In choosing what to plant, most gardeners like a mix of plants with varying degrees of hardiness. Tender and very tender plants need to mature before the first frost or else they’ll be damaged.  Semi-hardy plants can weather a frost or two, and hardy plants can weather repeated frosts.

To plant tender and very tender plants, you have to find out what date they need to be planted by in order to mature before the first frost.  First find their growing times by looking at the product details section of the GHS web pages that describe them. Then find the approximate first frost date by looking at the Frost Chart at the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Count backwards from the first frost date to determine your deadline for getting those plants into the ground.

With semi-hardy vegetables, you don’t need to be concerned about the first frost date but you’ll want them to mature before repeated frosts occur. Again, compare the growing times with the first frost date, and make your selection based on what will be ready soon after that first frost.

When planting hardy veggies, you don’t need to worry about the cold weather at all. Just get them in the ground and mark on your calendar when they’ll be ready to harvest.

Help Them Make It Through the Night

When temperatures drop, most plants need to be covered. Coverings also help them grow faster in the colder weather. Some gardeners simply throw old bed sheets or towels over their less hardy plants when the nightly news predicts a cold snap. To improve on this method, support such materials with stakes or wire. Individual plants can be protected with buckets or gallon milk jugs with the bottoms cut out. Put them on in the afternoon while it’s still relatively warm and remove them in the morning after temperatures have risen again. Root crops can be covered with a thick layer of hay, straw, dry leaves, or pine needles.

We sell several products that have been engineered to provide optimal cold-weather protection. The most popular is the Wall O’ Water Plant Protector, which is like a plant-sized teepee whose insulating walls can be filled up with water. The Wall O’ Water absorbs heat during the day and releases it during the night, keeping your plants comfy on chilly nights. In fact, it will protect them down to 16°F!

For larger plants as well as sensitive shrubs, our Plant Protector Bags are great at keeping in the heat while still allowing for air circulation. Simply bag the plants when they are at risk, and remove as soon as the danger is past. The Fleece Frost Protection Bags offer even more of a defense against cold, maintaining your plants down to 20F. And for even larger plants, shrubs, and seedlings, use the 8’x 6’ Harvest Guard Plant Protection Bag with an adjustable closure for a custom fit.

If you have many plants to protect, Haxnicks Easy Tunnel Row Cover is the way to grow. It offers shelter to an entire row, forming a barrier that retains humidity and warmth, while protecting against frosts and harsh weather. Made of polyethylene supported by galvanized steel hoops, you’ll get years of use out of it, and the hoops can be stacked against each other for easy storage.

Cold Frames

A more solid way to protect your plants is by building a cold frame, which is like a mini greenhouse. You can get instructions on how to build and use cold frames from the extensions of Cornell University, the University of Missouri and Ohio State University. There are also do-it-yourself videos available on YouTube.

If you want to save time and don’t want to search for materials, we sell a Cold Frame Mini-Greenhouse kit that is easily assembled and provides more than 5 sq. feet of growing space. Constructed of durable, UV-protected panels, the adjustable polycarbonate roof provides maximum light, adequate ventilation, UV protection, and easy access.

Its older brother is also on sale: the Cold Frame Double Mini-Greenhouse, which is the same design but twice the size. Measuring 41” x 41” x 21”, it provides ample space to grow and protect at least 10 sq. feet of veggies.

Greenhouses

Serious gardeners will want to build or buy a greenhouse sooner or later. Actually, sooner is better, because you’ll get so much benefit from a greenhouse that whenever you get one, you’ll wish you had gotten it sooner!

Naturally, building a greenhouse is more involved than building a cold frame. If you’re up for a project of this size, instructions and plans are available from West Virginia University Extension as well as from North Carolina State University Extension.

If you’d rather get a greenhouse kit, be sure that the kit itself isn’t too difficult to assemble. As we said in 2009, the last time we had a greenhouse sale, “The gardening blogosphere resounds with little yelps of frustration from people whose jubilant smile turned to a grimace worthy of a gremlin as they realized—after bolting and unbolting, starting and stopping, moving forward and backtracking—that ‘the instructions are rubbish.’”

To spare our customers this kind of frustration, we sell only Snap & Grow Greenhouse kits made by Poly-Tex, a family-run business located in Castle Rock, MN. What we like about their greenhouses is that the parts snap together with SmartLockConnectors, a unique system that makes Snap & Grow kits the quickest and simplest on the market.

The other great benefit is that you’re not limited to the greenhouse you started with—you can expand it whenever you desire, thanks again to those SmartLock Connectors. What’s more, Poly-Tex produces a full range of accessories: automatic vent openers, shade kits, even plant hangers.

As with many of the best greenhouses, the greenhouse panels are made of polycarbonate, a polymer that is as clear as glass but offers 100% UV protection and is virtually unbreakable. The heavy-duty frame is molded out of corrosion-resistant aluminum, and the kit includes an innovative split-style door and window, both of which come pre-assembled, right down to the attached weather stripping.

If you’ve been thinking about getting a greenhouse, we know you’ll love the advantages of Snap & Grow, and we hope you’ll carefully consider each of the five models we offer, and perhaps give us a call at 1-888-907-4769 to discuss which one would best meet your needs. Just think: you can keep gardening all winter, and have as much space as you want to do it in!

Always More to Grow and Know

To learn more about extending the growing season, there is one book we particularly recommend: Four Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch. This book has gotten rave reviews from beginning gardeners and veterans alike. It gathers together a wealth of information and presents it in a really fun and interesting way. The authors’ enthusiasm for gardening really shines through as well, and you might find your own gardening spark rekindled as you “hang out” with the authors by reading this refreshing and informative book.

That’s all for now. Happy Growing from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

What Does A Tomato Horn Worm Look Like?

August 2nd, 2011

tomato horn worm on a tomato plantThe tomato horn worm is the biggest pest your tomato plants will have. You will know one has moved onto one of your plants when you notice leaves being eaten off of the stems.  They will also eat into the side of your tomatoes. Tomato horn worms have large appetites.  It will not take too many days before you will see the damage they create. Once you see the signs, start looking very carefully on the bottom of each leaf stem until you spot the worm.

After you hand remove the horn worm, kill it by cutting it in half. You can smash it; just beware that it will make a bit of a mess this way.

tomato horn worm with parasitic eggs on its back

If you find a worm that has white sacks hanging onto its back, do NOT remove it! Leave it right where it is on your tomato plant. The white sacks are the eggs of the parasitic wasp, one of nature’s beneficial insects. These eggs survive by sucking the life out of the horn worm. Once these eggs hatch, the wasp will go out looking for more horn worms to lay eggs into and kill.

 

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