Chinese Proverb: The Best Fertilizer is The Gardener’s Shadow…

July 18th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

The Gardener and Her Shadow Delivering Fish Emulsion to Cippolini Onions… Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Morning Chores After the Rain Storm. Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

High winds, driving rain, thunder and lighting; a violent band of storms shook me wide awake last night and when I heard hail on the tin roof, I immediately began fretting about the garden. Fortunately, when I headed to the potager this morning to inspect the damage, I discovered but a few minor knock-downs and some torn leaves on the summer squash. A wren house, no longer occupied, fell to the ground, and my weeding baskets were tossed about here and there. Lucky this time, even the morning glories seemed to smile at the new day…

Morning Glories in the Potager ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

We gardeners can not control the weather, but there are some other hazards we can at least try to prevent. Fungal infections, insect infestations, excess competition from weeds; these are a few of the expected garden threats which I can control. I tend my vegetable garden daily, and by doing so, I keep my work load light. If the weather is particularly dry, I may spend most of my time watering the root zone of thirsty plants and potted herbs. And if things are wet and humid, evening hours will be occupied by plucking slugs from my broccoli plants and alpine strawberries. There’s always something to do…

Serenade Garden Disease Control from Gardener’s Supply Company Online

Serenade and Bonide organic disease and insect control products are also available to order online at Amazon.com and in most garden supply stores

Last year, much of the United States was troubled by late blight, causing the loss of tomato and potato crops, particularly in the Northeast. I was fortunate, and the blight missed my garden last summer, but I didn’t want to take any chances this year. There is no cure for late blight, and once infected with the disease, tomato and potato plants are doomed and must be removed from the garden and burned. Prevention is the key, and although there are no guarantees, OMRI approved copper fungicide has proven somewhat successful in keeping late blight at bay. I regularly dust or spray my plants with Serenade or Bonide (copper fungicide) and keep my tomato and potato plants clear of weeds and debris. Burpee also sells organic insecticides and fungicides for online…

Burpee Organic Fungicide/Insecticide

In truth, diagnosing a problem can be difficult without seeing, and learning to identify diseases first hand. Such skill comes to all gardeners eventually, with time, experience and education. Vegetable MD Online, the diagnostics page from Cornell University’s horticulture department, is an excellent, free online resource for all gardeners. Good photography combined with a wealth of great, up-to-the-minute information on plant disease and control makes this site my top choice for diagnostics. If you want to be a successful organic gardener, then learning natural ways to maintain healthy plants is key. The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control, from Rodale, is my favorite resource for the latest information on disease and organic trouble shooting. Keep in mind that even organic solutions can be harmful to beneficial insects, such as honeybees, when applied to plants indiscriminately. Insecticidal soaps and oils should only be used on targeted problems as they appear.

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control

Weeding, pinching and pruning, mulching, dusting, fertilizing and harvesting; yes, my garden is frequently visited by the gardener’s shadow. But unlike Peter Pan, I haven’t quite figured out how to separate from my silhouette. If I could, maybe it would be willing to do half of the work…

The Ever-Present, yet Elusive Shadow ⓒ TGE

Disney’s Peter Pan

Hello Shadow, Won’t You Come Help With the Watering, Weeding and Harvest?

See these gorgeous steel baskets and more wire caddies, plus metal flower buckets and other garden treasures I have found online in The Potting Shed.

Inspiration/Image: Walt Disney’s Peter Pan

Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All other images are copyright as noted or linked.

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Simple Pleasures & Hard Won Treasures

July 30th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

Salad of sun-ripened ‘Orange Blossom’ tomatoes and basil. The beautiful gunmetal-glaze plate is by artist Aletha Soule.

There is nothing in this world quite like the flavor of a sun-ripened ‘Orange Blossom’ tomato picked fresh from the garden. For my lunch today I enjoyed a salad of home grown tomatoes and basil, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh ground black pepper; one of my favorite simple pleasures. In honor of the first ‘Orange Blossoms’ harvest, I served my salad on one of artist Aletha Soule’s beautiful ceramic plates, decorated with purple and green basil leaves. Isn’t it amazing how such a simple thing can feel so special?

This year, I almost think I should rename my favorite tomatoes ‘Gold Blossom’, for they certainly have been a hard-won treasure. It has been a tough summer for growing tomatoes in New England. Last year at this time, I had a bumper crop of tomatoes. I harvested four different heirloom varieties as well as ‘Early girl’ and ‘Lemon boy’s to beat the band. ‘Sungold cherry’ tomatoes were so abundant I was giving them away to anyone willing to take them off my hands. No such luck this year. My tomatoes went in early this summer, (protected by small hoop houses), and were off to a fantastic start. But a cold, rainy June and soggy July soon followed the removal of my protective hoops. The weather in the northeast hasn’t been good for warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. My vegetable plants were all slow to establish. Then just as the tomatoes began to blossom, and in spite of all my preventative measures, I noticed the tell-tale yellow spots of early blight on my tomato foliage. Fungus is a real problem in the garden this year, and though my tomatoes have so far been spared the dreaded late blight, I am carefully keeping watch. Cherry tomatoes have been appearing on my table for about a month now, but I only began harvesting ‘Orange Blossoms’ (pictured below), last week, (late for me), and so far my yield is significantly lower. Is it human nature to want what is less plentiful? Maybe its just me, but this precious crop seems to taste even sweeter and more delicious this year.

orange blossom tomatoesOrange Blossom Tomatoes

I garden organically, and of course the best way to deal with fungal infections like Alternaria solani, (the cause of early blight), is to prevent them before they start.  I began applying copper fungicide early, (see photo below), and reapplied after every rain. However this year’s weather, (the constant wet with little sunshine), created ideal conditions for early blight. By the first week of July, I began to notice yellowish spots on the lower leaves of my tomato plants. Immediately I pruned out the diseased foliage, and removed it from the garden. I will continue to snip off diseased leaves as spots appear throughout the remainder of the season. I am certain that my methods are helping to contain the spread of early blight and preserving the unripe fruit, even if my storm-battered plants are looking less-than-stellar this year. And though I may have fewer tomatoes, I can not really complain. Due to the cooler temperatures, this is the first year I have a steady supply of snow-peas in late July, as well as abundant arugula and lettuce. I will take the greens thank you, and try to be grateful for what nature provides.

organic fungus controlSerenade and Bonide fungicides for organic gardeners.

For further information on identifying and controlling diseases and pests in the vegetable garden, see the Vegetable MD Online.  This excellent resource is available to all of us courtesy of Cornell University. You will also find the Vegetable MD link on the sidebar to the right ,(beneath garden resources and vegetable gardening headers). Many thanks Cornell !

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Article and Photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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