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Archive for July, 2009

While one of my Better Boys has successfully battled off the leaf spot disease, the other one has not.  But, both plants seem to be doing well, despite the attack.  This is likely due at least in part to the lack of rain we’ve had in DC over the past two weeks.  Drying out the bed has given the fungus less inviting environments in which to multiply.  As I say, the maters look good, though.  Pictures forthcoming!

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Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Love,

Me

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Squash bloom

The garden is beautiful right now!  The squash has a gorgeous sunset orange flower (pictured left) and the bell pepper has sprung up a dainty white blossom.  The eggplant has three beautiful purple flowers and the cucumber plant is numbering nearly three dozen small sunny yellow blooms – you can see those, too, in the photo to the left.  On top of that, the tomato plants have produced a few more lovely yellow tomato flowers.

These flowers mean good things!  After the flower has had its time to show off its beauty and charm, the fruit will begin to emerge from each of these plants – and then the harvest begins!

But let’s be real.  Getting these beautiful plants to this place hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies.  First, there were the squirrels.  Large holes dug into my bed three nights in a row leaving baby lettuce plants strewn around the back yard.  You, dear readers, suggested a number of helpful solutions but ultimately I determined that giving up those two squares to the whims of nature was only fair.  After all, those pesky beasts only ruined a few small lettuce plants and have since left all of the remaining residents of the garden perfectly intact.  I conceded the battle to win the war.

Now, however, we’re faced with a new kind of beast.  A beast of the microscopic variety.  There is, in fact, fungus among us.

Gardeners living all over the mid-Atlantic are facing an onslaught of fungi known as “blight” in their gardens this summer, namely because the great amount of rain we have been enjoying has kept a good deal of moisture in the air and stagnant water sitting on the leaves of the plants – great breeding grounds for fungus.  To read more about the northeast blight epidemic you can read here.  My garden is currently facing two types of deadly fungi.

Septoria leaf spot

Photo: Iowa State University, Dept. of Plant Pathology

First, the tomatoes.  They’re dealing with Septoria leaf spot (pictured right, courtesey of the Iowa State University’s Department of Plant Pathology).  Essentially, the fungus grows in the conditions we now have – moist air and heavy rains.  The fungus develops on the lower leaves first (the older leaves) and as the wind blows, the fungus moves up the plant.  Eventually, it could defoliate the entire plant – leaving the tomatoes to burn under the intensity of the direct sunlight.  Or “sunscald” as they say.

Second, the cucumbers.  She’s dealing with Powdery Mildew.  This fungus also likes the wet conditions.  The mildew essentially does the same thing that Septoria does – it eats through the leaves and eventually defoliates the plant.  This, again, leaves the fruit vulnerable to sunscalding.

As many of you know, I’ve set out to make this urban patch an ORGANIC garden.  Thus, I refuse to just spray chemicals on the problem, although this has been the urgent suggestion of nearly every gardener I’ve spoken to thus far.  Instead, I’ve decided to turn to the equivalent of alternative medicines.

For the tomatoes, I’ve chosen not to spray them down with Chlorothalonil or Liquid Copper – the generally-recommended course of action.  As for the cucumbers, the recommended non-organic course of action would be a regular dousing of the plants in Quinoxyfen or myclobutanil.  Instead, I’m going with a somewhat unproven (OK totally unproven) organic fungicide – ground cinnamon.

CinnamonI’ve sprinkled ground cinnamon on the leaves and in the dirt directly beneath the tomato plants, and on the affected leaves of the cucumber plant.  I remain optimistic that this will work, though I’m thoroughly committed to keeping the plants alive – even if this means trying out several other organic remedies further down the line if the cinnamon doesn’t get the job done.

That being said, the garden DOES look beautiful right now!  And the fungus has a ways to go before the plants are destroyed IF the cinnamon doesn’t prove to be effective.

And now – Calling All Readers!  If you have any fungicidal innovations, proven or unproven – please send them in.  We’ll try out your ideas in the order they are submitted, assuming they are all based equally on the “Hm, maybe this will work” principles that the cinnamon effort has been born of.  If you have real science to back your organic solution, assume it will be bumped up to the top of the list!

The flowering garden as it looks now:

Vegetable Garden

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