August 2012 Newsletter

Here’s the latest growing news from:

THE VEGGIE CLINIC

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DR. TOMATO

The Doctor is always in! No appointment necessary!

THE PHOTOTRON – SHINING A WHOLE NEW LIGHT ON ORGANIC GROWING!

THE VEGGIE CLINIC – WHERE SCIENCE MEETS THE SOIL!

GREETINGS FELLOW GROWERS:

You can probably guess by the fact that you are getting this newsletter in this format that I have not yet quite done the switch over to a new newsletter platform. As usual, it has been extraordinarily busy between here at the Veggie Clinic and the Manchester program. I’m working on the switch so I again thank you for your patience. You I Pad users may see a few of the “normal” format glitches.

I feel quite sure that when I say “this has been another strange growing year” most, if not all, of you will undoubtedly agree. The record breaking early heat in March and April, followed by cool and damp weather, interspersed with some frosty nights that threatened the entire fruit crop and the current heat wave/drought…..Well, you get the picture!

For all us gardeners/growers, the year started off with a bumper crop of cut worms and slugs. If you had your supply of SLUGGO and SLUGGO PLUS, you probably survived that onslaught. Then, for many of us, the start of the grasshopper invasion! In all my years of growing, I can’t remember a year with a higher infestation of the little *&%$#@* s! It approached biblical proportions! Many people had to replant several crops due to the damage done by the eating machines.

I am getting many questions about crops that just sat there for weeks doing seemingly nothing before they started to grow at all. Tomato and pepper plants with healthy foliage but few or no blossoms or flowers. Deformed squash and cucumber fruits. You get the picture.

In general, the broad brushed answers to virtually all these problems – the erratic early temperatures disrupting some of the plants’ genetic sensors, the heat and erratic/low moisture. Try to keep your gardens watered to the best of your ability. Use rain water collection systems (for when we get that scarce rain) and mulch. Mulching makes a HUGE difference in the soil’s water retention and loss profile. Be patient and be thankful that we are not living in the Central and Western parts of the country and trying to make our living growing food!

If you are having concerns over the number of fruit starting on your tomato plants or the fact that they don’t seem to be ripening, be patient. First, the high temperatures can affect both the pollinators and the flower/fruit setting mechanisms. Temperatures ranging over the middle 8o’s generally create a situation that does not favor flower/fruit set or pollination. The same with the ripening process. Go back and read the article on tomato ripening in the August 2010 issue of this newsletter. Once again, high temperatures equate to the slowing or indeed halting of the ripening process. So, as we so often have to do – be patient grasshopper! Things will generally even out.

TOMATO HORNWORM ADVISORY:

That time is rapidly approaching! That dreaded morning when you go out to check your garden and see that half of one or more of your tomato plants has been devoured and now looks like a tomato plant grown by the Stick people. Go back and read the article in the October 2011 issue of this newsletter. If you are not into the Zen exercise of picking tomato hornworms off your plants every day, here is a much simpler method. Buy some BT biological insecticide. This is just what its name suggests. The form most effective against hornworms (and a host of other pest caterpillars/worms such as bagworms, sod Webworms, Gypsy Moth larvae, cabbage worms, cutworms, loppers, etc.) is Bacillus thuringiensis variety Kurstaki. There are many brand names – such as DIPEL – that are OMRI listed for use on organic gardens. If you buy the powdered version, do yourself a favor and buy a little dust applicator. Blue Seal in Rochester sells a CHAPIN model 5000 Rose and Plant Duster for $14.99. It makes life MUCH easier and will give you years of service. You can cover a lot of plants fast. And while you are dusting your tomatoes, don’t forget to do your cabbages to eliminate those little green cabbage worms! Remember though, DO NOT SPRAY OR KILL THE HORNWORMS WITH THE WHITE EGGS STICKING OUT OF THEIR BACKS!! Those are the eggs of Braconid wasps that are friends of your garden. If the eggs are there, the worm is already toasted and will do no more damage. And when the eggs hatch, you will have a whole new army of these friendly little wasps just looking for more tomato hornworms to lay THEIR eggs on. These wasps are a good definition of what “earth friendly” gardening is all about!!

Oh, and by the way. I went out into my garden this morning and found 4 tomato hornworms with wasp eggs on them. So, they’re baaaaack!

These two items will make a good addition to your garden arsenal. For tomato hornworms and cabbage worms (the work of those little white “butterflies” that are always fluttering around your garden) this combination is difficult to beat!

CUCUMBER BEETLES:

I have done several articles before on cucumber beetles as we have all had to deal with these ever present and destructive garden pests. Here is a link to a very good site from the Utah Extension Service. Read this and you will have a good idea of the life cycle, control techniques and destructive potential of these ubiquitous beetles. As with most garden and field pests, to effectively deal with them you need to understand their life cycle and be prepared to intervene at several different stages. In a nutshell, this includes early spring when the adults re-emerge to feed and prepare to lay eggs. Adults can be monitored, hand-picked and/or treated with insecticides. As environmentally aware growers, you can use “organic” insecticides such as OMRI rated pyrethrins or Neem based insecticides with the active ingredient Azadirachtin. These will effectively deal with the adults. To deal with the equally destructive larval stage, the base of the plant and the soil around the base can be treated with a Spinosad product. Remember Spinosad from the last newsletter? When you combine early monitoring, hand picking, organic adult insecticide application and Spinosad treatment of the base of the plant and surrounding soil – quite effective control levels can be attained. Read this interesting and informative site.

http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/cucumber-beetle08.pdf

INTERESTING SCIENCE:

You know how I am always drawn to research that involves anything plant/growing related. Here is an interesting little article from the June 2, 2012 issue of SCIENCE NEWS. It is by Devin Powell and is titled BUGS JOIN FORCES AGAINST PESTICIDE. Here are some excerpts.

Insects and microbes have teamed up against a pesticide commonly sprayed on crops. In lab tests, swallowing a bellyful of certain bacteria protected bugs from the toxic chemical.

This detoxifying diet is the first example of a symbiotic relationship that provides insecticide resistance, scientists report online April 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Mechanisms of insecticide resistance have been thought to be encoded by the insect genomes themselves,” says Yoshimoto Kikuchi, a microbiologist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Hokkaido, Japan. “Our findings overturn the common sense.”

Kikuchi and his colleagues treated pots of soil with fenitrothion, a cheap insecticide used worldwide. Burkholderia bacteria, which can disarm the pesticide and break it down for its carbon, flourished in the dirt.

The insecticide- munching microbes also thrived inside young bean bugs, Riptortus pedestris, exposed to seedlings grown in the pots or fed the bacteria by the researchers. A single insect can support an estimated 100 million Burkholderia cells in its gut. In return for providing a comfortable living space, infected bean bugs acquired new tolerance to the pesticide in the lab. Most of the insects survived doses of Fenitrothion that killed 80 percent or more of their undefended comrades within 5 days.

Some scientists worry that this resistance could spread quickly. Insecticide resistance typically evolves slowly, as genetic changes arise and spread in successive insect generations. Snatching up soil bacteria, which reproduce quickly and thus evolve much faster, seems an easy shortcut. Insects flying from place to place could also spread their microbial allies.

“This could explain why insecticides are more effective some times than other times,” says Nancy Moran, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University.

GARDEN PHOTOS:

This is an overall view of the Castle flower gardens. We tour the gardens every morning looking at the flowers and watching the hummingbirds and butterflies.
If you don’t think you have enough room to grow some onions, take a look at this. There are around 2 dozen onions growing in this small space. This planter is a section of drainage culvert and sits in the middle of the gravel parking lot! They are in soilless mix and fed with Dr. Tomato’s Organic Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer.

TOMATO DISEASE CONTROL:

I have done several articles in past issues of this newsletter discussing tomato (and other plant) diseases and techniques and products to control them. I am adding another product to that “should be in your arsenal” list. I know that some of you might wince at the suggestion of a product from this company – BONIDE – because they also produce some pretty potent chemical brews that most of us would never even consider putting onto the earth. I will, however, acknowledge that Bonide has also been producing some products that are both very effective AND approved for “Organic” growing. One of those products is Bonide LIQUID COPPER FUNGICIDE. Copper fungicides come in a variety of different configurations and chemical compositions. This product is Copper Octanoate, basically a copper soap.

I have researched many tests and reviews of the product and also put it through its paces on plants here at the Veggie Clinic. My short version conclusion is simply this – this stuff works well where some of the other products don’t. I have found it quite effective for most disease problems on tomatoes. In fact, I have so far found it to be one of the most effective products I have yet used for control of things like Early Blight, Alternaria, Septoria, Anthracnose, rusts, blights, black spot… Well, you get the picture. Here is a picture of the bottle of RTU (ready to use) Copper Fungicide. It also comes in a concentrate you can mix yourself. I bought mine at Blue Seal in Rochester. Price for the 32 oz. ready to use spray bottle – $7.99. If you are already seeing the signs of Early Blight or other diseases on your tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or other garden vegetables, I would recommend that you try a bottle of this stuff. I don’t think you will regret it!

But remember, use it only as directed. Copper fungicides are generally approved for Organic production but have, like most things in life, a flip side to the coin. Copper can build up in the soil if it is overused. In the home garden, a product with this low concentration, used as directed – the concern is very limited. In a larger field where it might be used several times, year after year, in higher concentrations – the concern level definitely rises.

OH HAPPY DAY!!!!!!

The HIGG’S BOSON has been coaxed from its field!

RECENT VISITORS:

Recently, we had a wonderful group of visitors from the SOCC gardens in Dover. These inspirational young people remind us of why we do all this!

First, we all had a wonderful time touring the greenhouses and the gardens. These kids have been under the loving, mentoring wing of a couple of area Master Gardeners and were quite savvy on garden varieties and techniques.

As you can see from the picture above, we then gathered around one of the banquet tables in the Castle for a “picnic” and some joyous laughter.

Of course – what is a visit to the Castle if you don’t try on some medieval armor!?!

PARTING THOUGHT:

I’ve always lived my life believing that if you are not willing to fight for your philosophical beliefs and risk those things that society tells you are so important – comfort, material possessions, physical well-being, group acceptance, financial gain, community respectability – then you really have no true beliefs. If you only “TALK THE TALK” but don’t “WALK THE WALK” then it is all a show. You will never TRULY live until your every action comes from inside YOUR head and YOUR heart and reflects YOUR philosophical beliefs. Faced with the choice of “HAVING IT ALL” or committing my body and life force to stand up against hatred, the violation of human rights, racism, oppression, intolerance or the suppression of intellectual freedom – I will be in the streets.

My list of “MOST RESPECTED PEOPLE” contains no politicians, no financiers or investment bankers, no power brokers or government agents. Who is on it? People like the lone protester in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China in 1989, standing in front of a tank. The Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights movement. The young woman protester in Tahrir Square, Egypt. All those individuals who – scared, afraid to possibly die, marked as “rebels” and worse – realize that for life to have ANY meaning, they MUST take a stand. If they don’t – they have already died!

I really like this little saying from a woodcut done by Dalia Sapon-Shevin after the WTO protests in Seattle, 1999:

YOUR HEART IS A MUSCLE AS BIG AS YOUR FIST

KEEP LOVING

KEEP FIGHTING!

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