Marvelous Mint – Planting, Harvesting, and Usage

Mint Plants

Mint or Mentha is much more than a plant grown to brew tea. The aromatic fresh green leaves can be used in the kitchen to spice up a fruit salad, sherbet, and ice cream. There are numerous other reasons to grow mint. The list includes the following:

  • The rich nectar and pollen attracts beneficial insects in the garden
  • Mint deters bad bugs like flies and ants
  • Peppermint tea calms the digestive system and eases upset stomachs
  • Stop abdominal cramping with a cup of tea
  • Apply strong, refrigerated peppermint tea with clean cotton pads to sunburns for soothing relief.
  • A few drops of mint essential oil added to unscented house cleaners give your home a fresh smell
  • Use it as cold relief medicine

Planting Mint

Planting Mint

This fragrant perennial becomes a constant, sometimes aggressive, garden companion. The plant is invasive, grows fast, and is tough to remove. It spreads through underground root runners. Find a corner in your garden that you do not want to use for anything else.

You can plant mint in containers, which can be buried in the ground. You can also use a large half-barrel or plastic tub and leave it outside year-round. Do not keep ceramic pots outdoors when temperatures drop. They usually break during freeze-thaw cycles.

Healthy mint plants grow 1 or 2 feet tall. They require lots of sun, moist soil, and compost if you keep them in pots. It is a great companion plant for tomatoes and cabbage. These herbs are quite hardy. They will be among the first greens to emerge in spring.

Determine what you want to use the mint for before acquiring shoots. There are various kinds, including spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, lemon mint, pineapple mint, and apple mint.

Harvesting Mint

You can cut fresh mint sprigs any time of the year, but wait until the plants are well established for a rich harvest. You can hack mint more than once in a season when you leave at least 6 inches of stem. The plants recover fast.

Like most herbs, the best harvest time is in the morning, as the volatile oils in the plant are then at their strongest. Wash and dry the leaves before processing. Freezing and dehydrating are excellent preserving methods. You can air dry mint, or use the oven or a dehydrator to remove moisture. The opinions on ideal air dry temperatures vary between 70F and 120F. I set my dehydrator at 115F.

For best results, store dried mint in air-tight, glass containers.

Mint

Irida Sangemino is an accomplished permaculture adviser, homesteading expert, and instructor. Follow her and her husband Joe’s adventures at the Stony Creek Permaculture Farm at http://www.stonycreekpermaculture.com. Your sustainable lifestyle starts here. Contact her at: info@stonycreekpermaculture.com

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Plant Fall Flowers To Brighten Cool November

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum

November in southern California usually ushers in cooler temperatures and possibly rain, which means gardeners can take a break from constant care and watering of plants and trees and instead focus on adding color and fall vegetables to their gardens.

Plant Hearty Chrysanthemums:

Chrysanthemums love fall. They are annuals that need very little care. Plant them in bloom and expect the flowers to look healthy for over a month. Once the flowers begin to fade, cut plants back to only a few inches above the ground. They will be dormant in winter but will grow quickly in spring and produce another round of flowers.

Move Plants to Better Locations:

Some plants do not do well despite our best efforts. The cause could be their location (not enough sun, too much sun), soil conditions or nearby plants sapping the nutrients they need. Fall is a good time for a change in scenery. Cooler weather means most plants can tolerate transplanting. Select a site that receives the right amount of sunlight. Prepare the soil with the proper amendments. Once transplanted, keep the ground consistently moist (but not over saturated) for the first month so roots can take hold.

Keep Lawns Green:

Most lawns can remain green throughout winter. For an added boost, mow lawns so blades are about 1 inch tall. Then scatter grass seed over the lawn, especially in bare spots. Sprinkle a light covering of soil amendment and water daily or as needed until new blades appears.

Time to Plant Onions:

It’s time to plant onion seeds. The seed will need well-draining soil. If you have clay soil, add amendments to break up the chunks of clay. Plant seeds where they will get full sun. Leave plenty of space between the seeds so the bulbs will not crowd each other. Since onions have shallow roots, soil should be kept moist. Onion bulbs will be ready to harvest in spring-when the tops of the plants brown and easily bend. Dig up the bulbs and let them cure in a sunny location for several days and then in a cool dry place for two weeks.

Plant Annuals:

Brighten up flowerbeds with cool season flowers including pansies, calendula, snapdragons, stock and sweet alyssum. In addition, continue planting perennials, groundcovers, herbs and roses.

Plant Wildflowers From Seed:

Planting native wildflowers is easy. Select seed packets of the popular California poppies, and not so well known globe gilia grand linanthus and meadowfoam. Scatter the seeds in a flowerbed, gently tamp down and water.

 

Bill Camarillo is CEO of Agromin, an Oxnard, California-based manufacturer of premium soil products and the composter for cities throughout Southern California. Each month, Agromin receives more than 30,000 tons of organic material and then uses a safe, natural and sustainable process to transform the material into premium soil products. The results are more vigorous and healthier plants and gardens, and on the conservation side, the opportunity to close the recycling loop, allow more room in landfills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. http://www.agromin.com.

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Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs

Purple crocus flowering in early spring

Purple crocus flowering in early spring

Spring season brings colorful flowers, chirping birds and warmth which makes the entire atmosphere vibrant and cheerful. If you want a colorful display of flowers in your garden during spring then you can plant bulbs. Autumn is the perfect time to plant flowering bulbs that produce beautiful flowers during the spring season.

There are many varieties of flowering bulbs that can be planted in the flower- beds or borders. The most natural effect comes from plants growing in clumps so you can plant several bulbs in the flower bed at the same time. This will ensure that they bloom together in spring covering the flower bed in beholding glory.

When buying bulbs ensure they are healthy and do not have any growth of mold on them. Soft or damaged bulbs should be avoided as they might not thrive and die eventually. Prepare the soil and make it rich by putting organic matter or compost. Remove the weeds from the area so that they do not compete with the planted bulbs for essential nutrients. The flowering bulbs need well- drained soil and they tend to rot in damp and excessive moist areas so it important to choose the location wisely.

Once the soil has been prepared you can plant the bulbs keeping the pointed side to face upwards. It is advisable to put plant markers where you have planted the bulbs so that you know the exact location. You can plant different varieties together and match them up to create a beautiful color contrast during bloom. Some gardeners practice the method of dropping the bulbs from waist height to save time and attain a natural effect.

Cover the flower bed with mulch so that the temperature is maintained and no severe damage is caused to the bulbs during winter season. You will have to remove the mulch as soon as the shoots start to appear otherwise the growth will be delayed. The plants will be in full bloom during spring and they will cover your flower beds with astonishing colors. After the bloom, foliage will start turning yellow and will die eventually. Allow the leaves to dry and die back naturally instead of removing them from the plants. The dried leaves on the plant might look unappealing but you can camouflage it and divert the attention by planting bulbs with ground covers and other perennials that remain in bloom during that time.

Some of the amazing flowering bulbs that you can plant in your garden this season are Daffodil, Tulip, Iris, Snowdrop, Hyacinth, Narcissus, Spring Beauty and Crocus. All of these plants bear strikingly beautiful and dainty flowers that no one can help but notice. You can grow them in your home garden and enjoy the results of your labor in spring season when all the plants will be in full bloom.

 

You can find more information on best quality plants at http://www.quick-growing-trees.com/

Quick Growing Trees is a certified nursery located in Tennessee that provides all kinds of native plants, shrubs, ferns and trees for your garden.

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Spruce Up Your Yard for Fall

spruce-up-your-yard-for-fallChunky sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes and multi-colored leaves — some things are simply quintessentially fall. Others like giving your home an outdoor face-lift may not necessarily be top of mind, but rich fall colors open up a realm of possibilities for creative yard decorations. Not just for the summer and holiday seasons, outdoor décor help create a warm and welcoming exterior.

Fall Inspiration

Drawing inspiration from the season is the best place to start. A simple harvest wreath made from leaves, berries and twigs uses the gorgeous reds, oranges and browns of autumn. Accent it with a burlap bow for arustic touch.

Farmhouse Charm

If you want to add some farmhouse charm, repurpose household items to breathe new life into them. The opportunities are endless — an old door that used to have windows on it is the perfect way to display fall blooms in hanging flower pots. A chair missing its seat can act as a rustic flower pot stand. An old set of shelves is ideal for showing off vintage watering cans. And if you don’t have these hanging around, you can always pop by a local used furniture outlet, like Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which has been raising funds to invest in local communities for 25 years.

Autumn Colors

For added pops of color, place pots of burgundy chrysanthemums, purple asters or ornamental cabbage along your walkway. Flowers always freshen things up, especially when the temperature starts to drop. Create a country aesthetic by placing decorative gourds and pumpkins in between the flowers. These will transition well into late autumn, and you can even repurpose the pumpkin for carving a jack-o-lantern on Halloween.

www.newscanada.com

Fall Gardening – Planting Daffodil Bulbs in Your Garden

Daffodil BulbsDaffodils are amongst the most popular flowering plants that are grown throughout the world. They are known for their unmatched beauty that has the potential of transforming the garden completely. Daffodil is also known as Narcissus and it has many spring flowering varieties. The varieties of this flowering plant are very diverse and they come in many colors.

Fall or autumn is the best time to plant daffodil bulbs in your garden. Planting during fall will ensure that the bulbs grow and produce beautiful flowers during spring season. These plants require less maintenance and they are ideal for home gardens. You can plant them in flower beds, containers, tubs and even on the edge of trees. If the basic requirements are met then these plants can thrive well and adorn the garden with their mesmerizing beauty.

The important things that you should consider in case if you are planning to plant daffodil bulbs in your garden are-

Choosing the Bulbs– Choosing the right kind of bulbs is crucial for the growth of the plant. Bulbs should be healthy, firm and plump as such bulbs are more likely to thrive. You can choose from the different varieties that are available in the market. Make sure that the bulbs do not have any signs of mold growth on them.

Selecting Site for Planting – Select a location that receives at least five to six hours of direct sunlight. The soil should be well- drained as the bulbs tend to rot in swampy and wet soil. You can plant them in clusters on the edge of trees as they look great when they mature and cover the area with beautiful flowers. You can also plant different varieties in the flower beds.

Planting the Bulbs– Once you have finalized the site for planting, remove all the weeds from the area so that they do not compete with your plants. There should be enough spacing between the bulbs. They should be ideally planted 6 inches apart. For planting, dig the soil about three to four times deeper than the size of bulbs. Once the soil is loose, you can place the bulbs inside firmly with the pointed side facing upwards. Scatter the bulbs in the area so that you get a natural effect.

Fertilization-Daffodils do not require a lot of fertilization if grown in rich and good quality soil. Just a handful of fertilizer mixed with soil during planting is more than enough for the plants. Do not use large quantities of fertilizers as it can potentially harm the bulbs.

Mulching– After planting the bulbs you will have to cover the flower bed with mulch so that the weeds do not grow along with the plant. Mulching will also help in maintaining the temperature of soil during winter season. You can use pine needles, sawdust or wood chips for mulching.

There are some of the key things that can help you in daffodil planting. With little efforts you can grow these lovely flowers in your home garden. The flowers are really attractive and they will encourage you to keep growing them in your garden for years to come…

 

You can find more information on best quality plants at http://www.quick-growing-trees.com

Quick Growing Trees is a certified nursery located in Tennessee that provides all kinds of native plants, shrubs, ferns and trees for your garden.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Growing Organic Raspberries

raspberry-basketRaspberry Facts
Growing organic raspberries have a dual usage; berries for eating and leaves for tea. Raspberry leaves can be dried and used for herbal and medicinal teas. Growing organic raspberries contain significant amounts of antioxidants which have been proven to improve your overall vascular health. There are two main types to be aware of when growing raspberries: the June-bearing and the Ever-bearing varieties. June-bearing raspberries are picked in the late spring typically for around 4 to 6 weeks and produce heavily during this time. Ever-bearing raspberries don’t produce as many berries, some varieties will bear fruit throughout the spring and summer, while other varieties will produce once in the spring and once in the fall.

When to Plant Raspberries
Raspberry canes grow for 2 seasons. The first year a new green cane, the primocane, grows; it develops bark, then goes dormant for the winter. The cane is called a floricane in its second year; it produces fruit, then dies. The roots, however, continue to send up new primocanes annually. Raspberry slips are usually planted in the early spring after the ground thaws in the North. In the South, you can plant raspberry slips in the fall or early spring.

Best Locations to Plant Raspberries
Raspberries like full sun. We tried planting them in partial shade a few years ago, and they simply never grew well. Areas with cold winters are preferable for June-bearing raspberries. New varieties are being developed, though, that grow well in Southern climates. Choose soil that drains well, has high organic content, and is slightly elevated if possible. To test drainage, dig a 12 inch deep by 12 inch square hole and fill it with water. If the water’s drained from the hole in under 3 hours, your soil drainage is adequate. Don’t plant too close to trees, and don’t plant your berries where raspberries have been planted recently.

Soil Prep for Raspberries
Raspberries prefer slightly acidic soil below 7.0 pH level. Optimally, it should be around 6.0, and never below 5.5. Compost and composted manure will supply most, if not all, the nutrients needed by raspberries. Once you’ve selected the area you’re going to plant your berry slips in, prepare the ground by deep-mixing several inches of compost or composted manure into the soil at least 12 inches deep into a 24 inch wide row. Space your rows 48 to 72 inches apart from edge to edge. This will make the plant 6 to 8 feet apart. Remember, you want your berries to have good nutrients for years to come, so you can hardly overdo the compost. You can also side-dress existing canes with composted manure to bolster production.

Choosing the Best Varieties for your Area
Raspberries are in the “rubus” family, and are known as brambles. There are three berry color varieties you can grow – red, black, or a combination of red and black known as purple raspberries. As always, it’s a wise action to call your county extension if you’re unfamiliar with raspberry diseases in your area. They’ll be able to advise you on varieties that are resistant to diseases in your local area.

Containerized Raspberries
If you have limited space or live in a rental house where the landlord won’t allow you to garden, you can grow raspberries in containers. You’ll want to use a good sterile potting mix to avoid soil pathogens if you’re going to grow raspberries in containers. Add plenty of composted manure to the mix, and put it into a 3 to 7 gallon container with several drain holes in the bottom. A five gallon bucket is about the right size for one plant. Plant the root slip 3/4 of an inch under the soil surface. Add composted manure annually as needed.

Red Raspberries Growing in the Garden

Red Raspberries Growing in the Garden

Planting Raspberries in Your Garden
In the early spring, after you’ve purchased a variety (or two) you like that is resistant to common diseases in your area from a reputable nursery, you’re ready to plant! Soak your plant roots in a compost tea (a cup or two of compost in a 5 gallon bucket of water should work) for around 6 hours prior to planting. In your pre-marked rows (prepped per the instructions above), insert your shovel as deep as it will go into the soil, and with a rocking-back-and-forth motion, open up the soil and insert the raspberry plant to where the dirt covers the roots. You should be able to tell where the root ends and the cane starts.

Make sure you spread the roots laterally to give the plant roots a good start. Put one plant every 24 to 36 inches apart in your rows. The distance between the rows should be around 6 to 8 feet. It is a good practice to “trellis” your raspberries to keep them from falling over as the canes can grow up to 8 feet tall. The way we do it is to use 4 x 4 inch posts with 36 inch 2 x 4’s nailed horizontally at 2 feet from the ground and 4 feet from the ground (you can also add a third horizontal bar at 6 feet off the ground if you need to). Then string wire between the horizontal 2 x 4’s to keep the canes standing vertically. During the mid to late summer, as the primocanes are growing rapidly, you’ll need to make sure, every couple of days, that the canes stay inside the wires as it becomes difficult to try to shove them back under them if they get too tall.

Getting the Most from Your Raspberries
The more bees you have in your patch, the more berries you’ll harvest. Keep the area between the rows weed free by rototilling regularly or mulching. Another option is to plant a cover crop. As mentioned previously, a trellis system or other supports is key to keeping your plants vertical – and production high. It is a good practice, in the spring before the leaves begin growing, to prune the tops of your floricanes to 5 or 6 feet in height. One trick for getting more fruit is to cut off the primocanes at about 30 to 36 inches. This will force them to put out branches, giving you more fruit production that is easy to reach as well.

After your fruit has been harvested, cut off all the dying floricanes at ground level to give the primocanes as much room as possible to grow. In the spring, thin out the new floricanes so that just the thickest and strongest canes remain. These will produce more fruit than leaving all the canes in the ground. If you need to, you can sidedress your canes with composted manure in the spring. Usually, if you’ve mixed in plenty of composted manure prior to the initial planting, you shouldn’t need to add much.

This past gardening season we tested a liquid organic leaf spray fertilizer called Organic Garden Miracle. We sprayed most of our garden plants with OGM. The sprayed veggies were more robust than the un-sprayed plants, and the flavor was superior as well – sweeter and juicier. We’re excited this year to continue the experiment as we were impressed with the size and flavor of the garden crops we sprayed.

Raspberries in the Garden

Raspberries in the Garden

Mulching & Weeding
Lawn clippings and barley straw are two of the best mulches for growing raspberries. I like to spread a few inches of mulch between the rows and around the plants to keep the soil moist and the weeds under control. It also provides organic matter for your soil over the summer as it begins to decompose. Too much straw may become a haven for mice or other rodents, so don’t get too deep with your mulch. If you choose not to mulch, rototill or hand-pull the weeds between the rows and hand-pull the weeds around the plants.

Hydrating (Watering) Raspberries
As mentioned above, mulching will reduce your need to water your growing raspberries, but you’ll still need to water between 1 and 2 inches per week all summer. It’s always a best practice to avoid overhead watering, but if you have no other option, water early in the day to avoid too much dampness in your plants which can lead to fungal diseases. If your soil is sandy, you may need to water less volume but more frequently. Don’t over-water as raspberry roots require a good amount of oxygen.

Companion Planting and Rotation Considerations
Turnips and yarrow are considered good companions to raspberries as they repel the Harlequin Beetle. Garlic accumulates sulfur which is a natural fungicide. Coupled with raspberries, garlic will prevent fungal diseases. It is also effective in keeping many insect pests at bay as well. Tansy is a poisonous flow which repels various pests including ants, Japanese beetles, cucumber beetles, and squash bugs. Don’t let it spread to your pasture, though, as it’s not good for some livestock. Wormwood, a bitter herb, repels insects and some animals. Don’t eat it; you may get a pretty good stomach-ache too! As they’re in the same family, keep raspberries out of area where blackberries, boysenberries, or loganberries are growing.

Don’t plant around potatoes either as they’ll make your raspberries more prone to blight. Never re-plant a new raspberry patch where the old one has been. However, if your soil is uninfected by fungal diseases, nematodes, or other pathogens, you should be able to leave your raspberry patch in the same location up to 15 years. Avoid verticillium wilt by avoiding planting raspberries anywhere eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, or strawberries have been planted in the past 5 years.

fresh-raspberriesHarvesting Raspberries
When raspberries are a bright red and are easily removed from the canes, they’re ready to pick. If you’ve had a recent rain, make sure to pick the ripe berries immediately or they’ll mold within half a day if it’s warm. If it is breezy, it’ll dry things out before mold sets in. Harvest your berries early in the day when it’s cool; they’ll last longer. Harvest at least every other day during the height of the season. This will prevent your fruit from getting over-ripe and molding. When you pick raspberries, don’t layer them more than a few deep or they’ll turn the bottom layers to mush. Pick with care to avoid crushing these tender berries.

Storing Raspberries
Once you’ve picked your raspberries, refrigerate them as soon as you can. They’ll keep up to a week in a cool refrigerator. Raspberries are great eaten fresh on ice cream, on flake cereals with half-and-half, or on shortcake with whipped cream, to name a few delightful ways to gain weight. Raspberries make excellent jam (with and without seeds), and are good frozen whole or pureed. If you puree raspberries and strain out the seeds, put them in ice trays and freeze them for smoothies. Mmmm! If you don’t mind seedy smoothies, just freeze the berries whole on jelly roll pans, then remove to zip lock-style bags or plastic cartons for later usage. You can also spread pureed and strained raspberries in pans, place in the oven at very low temp, and make raspberry fruit leather. We did this when I was a kid, but I haven’t done it recently.

Preventative and Natural Solutions to Common Pests
Sap Beetles love to eat over-ripe raspberries. They’re also known as “picnic” beetles. Sap beetles are about quarter inch long and black with 4 yellow-orange spots on their backs. The easiest way to prevent an infestation of this beetle is to not allow your berries to get over-ripe. You can pick these beetles to reduce their numbers, dropping them into a bucket of soapy water to drown them. Aphids are tiny little pests that come in a variety of colors from green to brown to red to black. Aphids typically congregate on the undersides of your raspberry plant leaves, sucking the sap from the leaves and leaving a sticky residue called “honeydew” behind. If you see leaves crinkling up you’ll likely find aphids on the leaves.

Aphids can be controlled by removing the infected leaves and destroying them along with the attached aphids. You can also spray them with an organic insecticidal soap spray, or even knock them off with a pressure-spray nozzle, although it’s better not to get your plants wet during harvest-time. Cane borers chew into your canes to lay eggs and feed on the inside of the canes. The larvae also feed on the inside of the canes as well. If you discover these pests, cut down any affected canes an inch below where wilting is occurring and destroy them.

If the infestation is heavy, organic rotenone powder may be used, but use this as a last ditch effort as it will also kill pollinating insects which is highly undesirable. Leaf rollers are the larvae of a small moth that are about 3/4 of an inch long, pale green or light brown, and have dark heads. Leaf rollers will eat raspberries, and when ready to form a cocoon will weave a silky web on a leaf and roll it inwards. Hence the name “leaf roller.” Parasitic wasps and flies can be imported to rid your patch of these pests. You can also use organic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) if the infestation is severe. It’s best not to use even organic pesticides, though, unless absolutely necessary, as they take out both good and bad bugs.

Spider mites are tiny pests, that, if you look at under a microscope, have eight legs. Spider mites cluster on the undersides of raspberry leaves, sucking sap and creating yellow spots on the leaves. Spider mites seem to be the worst in drought conditions when the plants are weaker. Spraying these mites with water can get rid of them if they’re not too plentiful. Insecticidal soap spray can also take care of them. Avoid using too much nitrogen on your raspberries as it seems to encourage both mites and aphids.

Raspberry Diseases and Cures
Winter injury may occur in your raspberry plants if winter temperatures drop below -20°F. Purple and black raspberries may be damage at -5°F. Mulching raspberries will prevent most damage from occurring. Anthracnose is a reddish-purple lesion that shows up on primocanes. The centers of the lesions turn gray to brown over time and the margins become raised and purplish. These lesions will girdle the canes and cause them to dry and crack, often killing them. If they survive winter, the floricanes will produce irregular fruit and branches. The best prevention, if anthracnose is common in your region, is to purchase resistant varieties. It also helps to control weeds, and water early in the day or use drip irrigation as anthracnose is spread by splashing water. Applying lime sulfur during the early spring can also reduce anthracnose.

Cane blight appears as lesions that may be gray, black, or brown and appear like pimples. Infected canes often become brittle and break near the lesion. The canes may wilt, and auxiliary branches may die. The best prevention is purchasing blight resistant stock before planting if it’s a problem in your area. Avoid overhead watering for the same reasons as in the anthracnose section above and control the weeds. Destroy any infected canes, and apply lime sulfur in the early spring if your plants had any infection the previous year. Spur blight is another blight that causes lesions on the nodes of primocanes. The infections starts on the leaves and moves to the stem.

The infected leaves turn yellow and brown and die. The cane lesions appear purplish to brown. The following spring any buds near the infection will not bloom. The best cure is prevention by planting resistant varieties. Avoid overhead irrigation and too much nitrogen. Control the weeds. Thin the canes. Plant in well-drained soil. Apply lime sulfur in the early spring if your plants had any infection the previous year. Gray mold causes raspberries to rot and blossoms to rot as well. It is spurred on by cool, wet weather. Purchasing resistant varieties is the best preventative against gray mold.

Using drip irrigation can help prevent the mold. Don’t over-fertilize. Control weeds. Remove infected canes. Don’t overwater. Harvest ripe berries promptly. Phytophthora Root Rot is caused by a soil-borne fungus. Symptoms include yellowing and wilting leaves, water-soaked lesions near the base of the canes, and reddish-brown root tissue. Over-saturated soil is often a cause of Phytophthora Root Rot and can be prevented by planting your canes in well-drained soil, not over-watering, purchasing resistant varieties, and controlling weeds. Verticillium Wilt is another soil-borne fungus that can cause the entire raspberry cane to wilt and die. The sapwood of infected canes will often be stained reddish-brown. To avoid verticillium wilt, purchase resistant varieties, plant them in well-drained soil or raised beds, don’t over-water, use drip irrigation if possible, thin the canes, and destroy infected plants if you have an outbreak.

Raspberry Leaf Spot shows up on the top surface of raspberry leaves as tan, white, or grayish spots. Sometimes the center of the spot will drop out, making it appear as though the leaf has been shot. The prevention of this disease is the same as the diseases already discusssed – purchase resistant varieties, plant them in well-drained soil or raised beds, don’t over-water, use drip irrigation if possible, thin the canes, and destroy infected plants if you have an outbreak. Powdery Mildew appears on the underside of leaves as a gray to white powdery growth. While it is common to raspberries, it’s not generally a major problem to the health of your plants. The prevention of this disease is the same as the diseases already discusssed – purchase resistant varieties, plant them in well-drained soil or raised beds, don’t over-water, use drip irrigation if possible, and thin the canes to allow good air circulation. Rust Fungi appears on both sides of raspberry leaves as yellowish-orange spots. They typically don’t affect the health of the plants or fruit of red raspberries, but can be a serious threat to black raspberries.

Again, purchase resistant varieties, plant them in well-drained soil or raised beds, don’t over-water, use drip irrigation if possible, thin the canes to allow good air circulation, and remove and destroy any infected black raspberry canes.

 

Barry Brown is a 3rd generation organic gardeners who is passionate about a sustainable and natural lifestyle. His personal standards for organic living far exceeds USDA certification, which he believes is more about money than food quality and purity.

www.organicgardenmiracle.com

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When and How to Harvest Pumpkins

PumpkinsPumpkins bring us a bounty of joy during the holidays including the Jack-O-lantern, decorative pumpkins, pies and cakes. Pumpkin is widely used during the Halloween season for fun festivities and in the Thanksgiving season to thank God for the bountiful harvest. Fall is the time when the pumpkins are ready for harvesting.

It is crucial to know when and how to pick the pumpkins so that you can utilize them properly after harvest. If you pick them at the wrong time then they might be of no use so you should decide and pick them as per your requirements.

Some of the key things to keep in mind about harvesting pumpkins are:

  • Do not harvest green pumpkins that have not ripened properly as they might not ripe if you pick them early. It is important to let them remain on the vine till the time they don’t turn orange in color. A perfect orange color indicates that the pumpkin is ready for harvest.
  • Discard the ones that have holes or large cracks on the surface as such pumpkins are most likely to have insects and pests inside them.
  • Be careful while picking pumpkins from the stem as it is prickly. It is advisable to wear gloves while harvesting.
  • To check if the pumpkin is ripe and ready for harvest you can try pressing or scratching the bottom of the fruit. Ripe pumpkins have a hard shell and you cannot scratch or make dent in them easily. This will help you to identify if the fruit has soft and weak spots.
  • If you plan to store the pumpkins for longer period of time then it is recommended to cure it in sun for at least 10 days. Curing will harden the outer shell and will improve the pumpkin’s shelf life.
  • Do not stack the pumpkins one over the other as it can cause rotting and bruising on the surface.
  • Get rid of the pumpkins that reveal signs of decay or damage. If you store decayed ones then the infection can spread to the other fruits as well.
  • Choose the best ones for carving and decoration as per your requirements. You can scoop out the fiber and seeds inside and let it dry for sometime so that it is ready for carving.
  • Smaller pumpkins are ideal for preparing pies, cakes and pumpkin puree. You can use the larger ones for decorative purposes.
  • Once you have used the pumpkin, you can save the scooped out seeds and store them for next season. Rinse the seeds well and dry them out properly before storing. It is advisable to let them dry for 4- 6 weeks before storing them. Once they are ready to store you can put them in an envelope or a zip bag and keep them in a cool and dry place.

These are some of the tips that can help you this season in pumpkin harvest. Enjoy picking huge and ripe fruits with your family and friends.

Fresh Ripe Pumpkins

Fresh Ripe Pumpkins

You can find more information on best quality plants at http://www.quick-growing-trees.com/.

Quick Growing Trees is a certified nursery located in Tennessee that provides all kinds of native plants, shrubs, ferns and trees for your garden.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

5 Essential Fall Gardening Tips

essential-fall-gardening-tipsAutumn is the perfect time to lay the groundwork for a gorgeous spring garden. Experts say this time of year is critical for how your yard will look year round.

“Fall is arguably the most important of all seasons for the garden,” affirms Mark Wolle, broker-owner at Royal LePage Wolle Realty in Kitchener, Ontario. “Work in the garden now will produce impressive results come spring.” A lush and well-maintained garden also adds enjoyment and selling features to your home.

Wolle offers these five tips for your garden this season:

  1. Early in the fall, repair dead spots in the lawn by digging straight down and as deep as necessary to remove all soil containing the roots. Fill the hole with a loamy topsoil and tamp down to level with the turf. Seed the area with a mix that matches your existing turf grass. Cover it with hay or newspaper shavings to protect against birds. Water regularly while the seeds germinate and sprout.
  2. Leaves are your biggest assets. After they fall off trees, they break down to create essential nutrients that feed your plants. Dig a big hole and pile them in. They’ll break down eventually and give you wonderful leaf mould for mulching in the spring.
  3. Combine one part blood meal, one part bone meal, and one part wood ash to scatter over bulb beds for beautiful blooms come spring.
  4. Fall is the ideal time to plant a deciduous tree — the soil is still warm and holds oxygen that will encourage root growth. Plant your new addition about six weeks before the deep frost. Be sure to prepare a hole large enough, about five times the width of the root ball. Retain the soil you remove from the hole and use it as backfill to allow your new tree to adjust to its natural soil as quickly as possible.
  5. Add a little lighting to extend the beauty of your garden through the winter months. Light pale trees such as birches with back floodlighting. Sling tiny lights over a shrub or tree to give your winter garden a whimsical aesthetic.

Find home maintenance information at www.royallepage.ca.

www.newscanada.com

Growing Organic Strawberries

strawberries-in-the-garden

Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberry Fields Forever

Growing organic strawberries is my single most favorite food to grow in our garden. We have 300 new feet of growing strawberries coming into their second year this year, which means we’ll pack a freezer out with strawberries!

Growing strawberries commercially began in the 1700’s when a French farmer crossed a North American strawberry with a French strawberry and came up with the strawberries we’re now familiar with.

Strawberries are a member of the rose [rosacea] family.

The “straw” in strawberries came, it is conjectured, from using straw to mulch the growing berries early on.

Fresh Strawberry from Farm

Fresh Strawberry from Farm

Main Types of Strawberries Available

There are many strawberry varieties available, but their are three major categories.

The most common varieties are “June-bearing” strawberries, a bit of a misnomer in our Northern climate zone as we generally get the bulk of our berries in the first week of July. However, it mainly means that the berries have about a 2 week picking window.

The second major category is the “Ever-bearing” strawberries. These plants produce smaller crops in the spring and fall. My experience with ever-bearing berries is that the flavor is not as good as the June-bearing varieties.

New to the scene are what are called the “Day-neutral” varieties. These will produce a small but steady supply of berries throughout your growing season, I am told by our plant supplier, Nourse Farms. I don’t have any feedback yet from anyone who’s grown these, but if you have an opinion, please comment at the bottom of this post, I’d love to hear your opinion.

The June-bearing berries will still give you the most berries in a season, but the season is 2 to 3 weeks, so you have to learn how to preserve strawberries so you can have them through the winter. We’ll cover that in the “Storing & Preserving Strawberries” section below.

Planting Strawberries

Planting Strawberries

When to Plant Strawberries

Strawberries are a very hardy plant. We live in the north and planted our berries in April last year, considerably before the last frost and had great results.

If you live in a Southerly climate zone, you can plant your strawberry plants in the fall.

Strawberries are an annual plant; you won’t get many berries the first season, and some commercial experts say to pluck off the flowers the first year so the plants can get stronger.

If you plan to plant strawberries this year, you should order no later than the end of March (and that might be pushing the availability of some varieties).

If you get a late frost forecast after your berries bloom, protect the blossoms with row covers if possible, or run an overhead sprinkler to ice-over your blossoms…this will protect your berry crop.

I purchased our strawberries from Nourse Farms and was pleased with their service. Just Google them and they’ll come right up at the top of that search query. I was able to order strawberry plants in January and have them shipped at the end of March.

Strawberries Like a Sunny Spot

Strawberries Like a Sunny Spot

Where to Plant Strawberries

Choose an area of your garden that receives, at the very least, 6 hours of sunlight daily.

In Northern climate zones, 8 to 10 hours of sunlight is preferable as the nights are cooler. Our berries here in NE Washington State get 10+ daily, which is ideal.

In Southern climate zones, some afternoon shade is good so the berries don’t get cooked.

Ever-bearing strawberries are more suited to Northern climate zones, although some of the newer varieties being developed may overcome this obstacle.

Check with your berry plant supplier for the best varieties available for your area. You might try half a dozen varieties to find out which one you like best if you have the space to do so.

Don’t plant strawberries near the root zones of trees – generally the area where the branches of the tree extend to.

As do many garden crops, strawberries like well-drained sandy loam soil with lots of organic materials mixed in.

While it’s not a problem in most areas, strawberry plants are susceptible to more diseases if the soil is salty.

Strawberry plants are highly sensitive to salt. Too much salt in your soil can cause “leaf scorch,” reduce fruit yields (sometimes severely), and even kill your plants.

Organic Strawberries in the Garden

Organic Strawberries in the Garden

Preparing the Ground to Plant Strawberries

Strawberries will grow decently in soils with a pH level range of 5.0 to 7.0, but they thrive best toward the middle of this range.

Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper; almost all of these can be provided by supplementing the rows with several inches of compost or composted manure, mixed to a depth of 10 to 12 inches, before planting.

Choose an area that is grub free and weed free; if strawberries have been in the area in the past 3 years, avoid the area as it may still contain soil-borne pathogens from the previous plants.

Don’t choose an area that has been planted with grass or pasture recently; they tend to harbor lots of grubs and/or weeds.

Also avoid areas where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, or eggplant have been planted as well; these plants may have infected the soil with Verticillium Wilt, which many strawberries are susceptible to.

Strawberries are heavy potassium users; supplement additional compost or composted manure to increase your soil’s potassium levels.

As mentioned before, your soil should drain well – but not too well. If your soil drains too quickly, organic matter (such as compost) can slow down the release of moisture. If it drains too slowly, compost can also help it to drain faster.

Fresh Strawberries

Fresh Strawberries

Choosing the Best Varieties for Your Area

You’ll want to make sure you grow strawberries suited to your area. A small patch of 30 square feet (3′ x 10′), if properly maintained, can produce 10 to 15 pounds per year for 3 to 5 years.

Check with your county extension to learn what diseases are prevalent in your area. Choose varieties that are resistant to those diseases.

Most reputable suppliers of strawberry plants should be able to help you choose the right variety for your climate zone.

Blooming Remontant Strawberries in the Greenhouse at Springtime

Blooming Remontant Strawberries in the Greenhouse at Springtime

Indoor/Container Strawberries

The only reason for planting strawberries indoors is to grow containerized strawberries. Otherwise, they are a cold-hardy plant and can be planted outdoors any time in the early spring once the ground is thawed.

If you want to plant strawberries in containers, it’s best to use a 10 to 12 inch deep container as strawberry roots like to go deep, and at least 6″ diameter for 1 plant.

Use a good potting soil mix in your containers, and make sure there’s plenty of drain-holes in the bottom of the container as well.

When you’re planting a strawberry plant, you want to make sure the roots are pointing straight down into the soil and that the soil level is at the collar of the plant (where the green starts).

Growth Stages of Strawberry

Growth Stages of Strawberry

Planting Strawberries from Seed

In the past few years, some gardeners have started planting strawberries from seed, especially the “Alpine” strawberry. While I’ve not personally tried this yet, it is intriguing.

When you get the seeds, freeze them for a couple weeks. Freezing emulates winter and prepares your seeds for spring.

You can plant your seeds in soil blocks or trays about a ½ an inch deep.

Keep the soil moist and in direct light – preferably sunlight. They’ll germinate in about 2 to 3 weeks.

Once they’ve developed at least 3 true leaves, you can plant them outdoors.

Strawberry Seedlings

Strawberry Seedlings

Transplanting Strawberry Seedlings Outdoors

Strawberries are hardy plants, but if temps are still dropping to 20°F or below, hold off transplanting your seedlings or planting stock that you’ve ordered.

It’s best not to have your plants shipped in, though, until your local weather is past the danger of sub-20°F weather.

Last year we marked out 9 rows – about 35 feet in length – prepped the soil, and ordered our berry plants.

When we received our 500 plants last spring (300 for us, and 200 for our dear Ukrainian neighbors, Viktor and Angelina), we had to wait 3 days to plant.

On planting day, we put our 300 plants in water with some gelatinous goo provided by Nourse Farms (to keep the roots moist longer).

When we planted our plants, we trimmed the roots to about 4 or 5 inches in length, stuck our trowel into the soil as deep as it would go (about 6 inches), and moved it back and forth to create a hole in the soil, then inserted the roots.

We then pulled out the trowel and packed the soil in around the roots up to the plant collar (where the roots and plant meet).

We spaced the plants about 12 inches apart (the recommended distance is 12 to 18 inches, but as Ilove strawberries, I wanted as many as we could squeeze into each row. We spaced our rows 42 inches apart so I could rototill between the rows without destroying the plants.

Growing Strawberries

Growing Strawberries

Successfully Growing Strawberries

With June-bearing strawberries, the first year you plant them, the best practice is to remove flowers a couple time per week to allow the plant to gain strength without having to compete with the berries.

Honestly, this was painful to do…I wanted strawberries badly. However, I did as I was advised and the plants became super-vigorous.

It is advisable if, after your plants have flowered, if a late frost is predicted, to either use overhead watering or row covers to protect your berry crop.+

We had lots and lots of runners later in the summer. Because some plants had died (very normal), we had gaps in the rows. The runners filled in these spots and more. By fall we had probably a plant every 6 inches.

This process of using runners to fill in the gaps is called “renovating” your strawberry patch. You can do it annually to replace weak plants, and some friends who’ve grown more strawberries than we have dig these runners up and plant new rows with them.

In the fall, I set my lawnmower on the highest setting and mowed the berry plants. This wasn’t easy to do either emotionally, but I am told it will pay off this year. We’ll keep you posted on how all this turns out.

Strawberry Gardening

Strawberry Gardening

Mulching & Weeding

During the spring and summer, we mulch between the rows of growing strawberries to keep the soil moist and to keep the weeds under control.

We go right up to the plants with the mulch because the straw keeps the berries from contacting the soil, preventing them from rotting and keeping them cleaner.

Because strawberries don’t do well with competing weeds, you’ll need to make sure to keep your berries as weed-free as possible. Be careful not to damage the strawberry plant roots.

We use a clean barley straw for mulch that we purchase in the late summer and early fall.

Mulching in the late fall before the weather gets below 15°F is recommended to protect the crowns of the plants. 6 inches of straw should be satisfactory.

Snow is also a good mulch if you can count on it, but if not, use straw.

Watering Strawberry Plants

Watering Strawberry Plants

Watering Strawberries

In our area, we often have a wet June, so we don’t need to water our strawberries much at all, but on a dryer year and after June we give them about an inch of water every 3 to 5 days.

If you’re using overhead watering, it’s best to water in the early morning so as to avoid having the plants stay wet too long.

Companion Planting and Rotation Considerations

Strawberries do well with onions, beans, thyme, borage, sage, and marigolds.

Borage strengthens resistance to insects and disease, and Thyme, planted as a border around a strawberry patch, is reputed to keep away bad worms.

Beans enrich garden soil by “fixing” nitrogen into it from the air, improving conditions for any crop following them.

Onions are reputed to help strawberries ward of disease.

Sage is said to do the same, plus it helps the growing strawberries to resist insects.

Marigold deter root nematodes from strawberries, plus make your strawberry patch even more beautiful.

Bad companions for strawberries are anything in the Cabbage family; brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kohlrabi included.

The worst companions for strawberries are strawberries. You should plow your strawberries under every 5 years or less and replace them with something else in order to rid the soil of pathogens that are harmful to strawberries.

Strawberry Harvest

Strawberry Harvest

Harvesting Strawberries

It’s pretty easy to know when a strawberry is ready to pick and eat as they’re bright red in color and sweet to the taste.

June-bearing berries will ripen in June or July for the most part, while Ever-bearing berries ripen in June, then usually again in September, and day-neutral varieties ripen from June until frost.

Ripe strawberries are very soft, so pick them with care. Watch for rot and pitch the berries into the aisle behind where you’re picking or to your chickens if you have them. This prevents the rot from spreading to good berries.

You can pick your berries with stems on or remove the stems as you pick. Leaving the stems on allows them to keep a bit longer, while picking them without stems is ideal if you’re going to eat them immediately, freeze them, or make jam within a day or two.

Harvest every 2 to 3 days during the height of the harvest.

Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Storage

If you want to keep your strawberries for fresh eating, refrigerate them immediately after picking. Don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them though.

Even at that, though, strawberries, depending on the variety, will keep only for 2 to 6 days in your fridge.

Our favorite long term preservation of strawberries is freezing.

We wash the berries, then let them drain until relatively dry, spread them on jelly roll pans, and freeze them.

Then we remove them from the pans and put them in zip lock-style bags for later usage in strawberry smoothies or ice cream.

Our second favorite long-term storage method for strawberries is freezer jam. You can also make cooked jam, but we much prefer freezer jam as it retains the fresh flavor of the berries. Mmmm!

We use the jam for toast, sandwiches, ice cream topping, on flake cereals, and even as a sweetener/flavor enhancer for those pithy strawberries from somewhere down South on Easter Sunday.

Preventative and Natural Solutions to Common Pests

The Strawberry Root Weevil is a small, ¼ inch long weevil whose larvae are also ¼ inch long, fat, legless, and white with brownish heads.

The weevils themselves cause mainly cosmetic damage until mid-summer when they lay their eggs in the soil around the plants.

The eggs hatch the larvae which feed on the roots and crowns of the berry plants, stunting them, decreasing subsequent crop yields, and potentially killing your plants.

To assess the seriousness of your infestation, once you see leaf damage, grab a flashlight after dark and look through your patch.

At the first sign of leaf damage, an after-dark stroll through the garden with flashlight in hand will help gauge the extent of the invasion.

The best organic solution may be Diatomaceous Earth. Food grade diatomaceous earth, which is composed of powdered fossilized algae, possesses razor sharp edges which are innocuous to most animals but fatal to insects.

When insects such as slugs, thrips, fly maggots, aphids, grubs, caterpillars, or mites ingest diatomaceous earth, it punctures their guts and they die from dehydration.

You do have to keep your powder dry with DE, though. Once it rains or you irrigate, you’ll have to re-apply it on and around your plants.

Organic permethrins are also effective against weevils and their larvae.

Rotate your berries out of the area ASAP to regain control from weevils.

The Tarnished Plant Bug (lygus lineolaris, for those of you who just need to know the Latin name), are brown to gray oval, winged bugs.

The adults are about ¼ inch long, and their nymphs are about the same size and shape, but are greenish and wingless.

These pests feed on the flower buds and cause enlarged brown seeds and strawberries that we call “monkey-faces” or “nubbins.”

To prevent an infestation of these bugs, mow your plants in the fall and rid the plants of weeds so the bugs don’t have any place to overwinter near your plants.

The only time you need to check for these bugs is during bloom. Take a white paper plate or similar, hold it under a plant, and lightly rap the plant with your hand. If you have an infestation, you’ll see one or more of them drop onto the plate.

Permethrins are the best organic way to rid your plants of this pest, but you don’t want to kill good insects either, so use this only before the bloom.

Strawberry Sap Beetles prefer to eat over-ripe strawberries. These are also known as “picnic” beetles.

Strawberry sap beetles are about ¼ inch long and black with 4 yellow-orange spots on their backs.

The easiest way to prevent an infestation of this beetle is to not allow your berries to get over-ripe.

Slugs are a significant pest in strawberry patches. They range from ¼ inch long to 2 inches long or more, depending on your region.

You’ll know you have slugs if you see small holes in your berries and slime trails on the ground, berries, and leaves of your plants.

Slugs almost always eat your berries during the nighttime or on cloudy/rainy days.

One way to control slugs is to water deeply but less frequently as slugs thrive in moist conditions.

While I haven’t tried this, I’ve been told that if you bury pans to soil level and put beer in them, the slugs are attracted to the beer and will drown in it.

Another method, mentioned above, is to powder the area with DE (diatomaceous earth). You just have to make sure to keep it dry or it doesn’t work, or replace it once it gets wet.

Spittle Bugs, or spit bugs, are young froghoppers. It’s easy to spot these disgusting little bugs because they hide in a huge wad of spit.

Spit bugs feed on the stems of strawberries and other plants by piercing them and sucking out the juice. They can temporarily stunt your plants, although the damage is usually not permanent.

The best method of ridding your plants of these pests is to crush them as the spittle protects them from most insecticides.

Healthy, Ripe Strawberries in the Garden

Healthy, Ripe Strawberries in the Garden

Strawberry Diseases

Winter injury is caused by alternating warm and cold spells during the winter months. Mulching with straw or chopped leaves will typically allay this type of damage.

Slime mold fungi may grow on strawberry plants during warm, wet weather, particularly in warmer climates in the spring and fall.

The jelly-like slime mold is usually tannish or whitish and comes out of the soil and onto your berry plants, where it forms an assortment of odd-shaped and colored crusty, spore-covered formations.

While slime mold doesn’t kill plants, it can smother individual leaves or fruits and is gross to look at. They disappear once the warm, moist weather leaves.

Powdery mildew appears on leaves as white patches on the lower leaf surfaces or on the flowers and fruit.

Leaf infection doesn’t seem to affect production, but flower and fruit infection does.

Too much moisture promotes this mildew, so don’t water late in the day.

Avoid too much nitrogen in the soil, and plant resistant varieties.

You can also make an organic fungicide spray using bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). In a gallon of water add a couple drops of organic olive oil, a couple drops of environmentally-friendly liquid soap, and 3 tablespoons of baking soda. Spray it on your strawberry plants to effectively control fungal diseases.

Leaf spots are a very common problem in strawberry plants. They include “leaf scorch” (red spot), “leaf spot,” “purple leaf spot,” and other similar diseases.

You’ll see these spots show up as blotches or lesions that may cover entire leaves.

The best cure is to plant resistant varieties in your patch. You can also “renovate” your patch with fresh runners to reduce the affect of this disease. Mowing your patch in the fall will also reduce the disease the following year.

Anthracnose is a hot, humid climate disease (we don’t have to worry much about that in our neck of the woods).

Tan or light brown circular spots at first appear on your berries, which then become darker and sunken. It occurs on both green and ripe fruit during hot, humid weather.

Planting resistant varieties and watering in the a.m. can help prevent this malady. Because it’s caused by splashing water, mulch has been noted to help reduce anthracnose by reducing splashing of infected water.

Red stele is a soil-borne fungus that attacks the roots of strawberry plants. You can see the roots turning a reddish color, and then the leaves change to red, yellow, or orange colors and the plants will become stunted.

Planting resistant varieties is the best preventative measure against this ailment. Also, planting in soil that drains well (or adding plenty of compost) will help prevent red stele as well.

Over-watering is also a cause of this disease, especially in soils that don’t drain well.

Verticillium Wilt often strikes the first year your berries are planted. It will show up in your leaves between the veins.

The older leaves will show browning and may die, while the younger leaves remain green but stunted.

It is often brought on by hot temperatures and dry spells.

Planting resistant varieties in areas where it has been a problem has been successful.

Black Root Rot is caused by water-logged, poorly draining soil, freezing, or nematodes, or a combination of any of these.

The symptoms are roots that turn dark and lose their feeder roots, causing the plant to lose its vigor.

Obviously, in the list above, avoiding poorly draining clayish soil would be a good start. Adding organic matter to the soil would also be effective.

Parasitic Nematodes are small, roundish worms that are very tiny – 1/64 inch to 1/16 inch long.

These worms burrow into plant roots and create “knots” in the roots. Symptoms include stunted plant growth, leaves that turn yellow, smaller crop yields, fewer runners, and loss of overall plant vigor.

Because they’re so small, it takes special equipment and trained specialists to diagnose this issue, so the best solution is to plant nematode free plants in nematode free soil.

The best way to do this for most gardeners is to rotate your plants to a new area of your garden.

Gray mold is a very common ailment that occurs on the surface of your berries. Very often it starts where a berry is in contact with the soil or other infected berries.

Mulching with straw is effective in preventing this mold as it keeps the berries from contacting the soil.

Removing any infected berries daily is a very effective way to keep gray mold under control in your garden. Keep your ripe berries picked also. Overripe berries rot quickly.

Leather rot causes a bland berry taste in strawberries when some berries contact dampish soil.

Some berries change colors with this rot, but some don’t. Because the flesh stays firm, it is called leather rot.

Watering early in the day helps prevent leather rot. Mulching is also effective in keeping the berries from contacting damp soil.

Barry Brown is a 3rd generation organic gardeners who is passionate about a sustainable and natural lifestyle. His personal standards for organic living far exceeds USDA certification, which he believes is more about money than food quality and purity.

 

[http://www.organicgardenmiracle.com]

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Growing Organic Rhubarb

growing-rhubarbGrowing Rhubarb is considered a vegetable in most of the world. However, in 1947, a New York judge ruled that rhubarb is a fruit, thereby lowering taxes.

Growing Rhubarb in the U.S. began in the 1820’s when it was first imported to Maine and Massachusetts. Early settlers took plants with them as Americans migrated West.

In the Middle Ages, rhubarb was grown in China and was more expensive than spices like cinnamon because it had to be (they thought) imported from China – which at that time was a good thing!

Laura Ingalls Wilder, in her book “The First Four Years,” refers to growing rhubarb as growing “pie plant.” Rhubarb pie is still a favorite of many people, including myself!

When to Plant Rhubarb

If you’re starting rhubarb from seed, plant the seeds about 6 weeks before the last frost. Do note, though, if you plant from seeds rather than root stock, you’ll wait at least 2 years (1 additional year) to harvest your rhubarb roots.

If you’re planting from root stock or crowns, plant or divide the roots/crowns in early spring while the plants are still dormant. This is the favored method for planting rhubarb, particularly in the Northern climates.

Rhubarb, once planted in Northern climates like where we live, will thrive in the cooler spring temperatures. It begins growing once soil temps reach a little over 40°F.

You can also plant roots/crowns before the ground freezes in the fall, provided you mulch over top of your plants with 8 to 12 inches of mulch.

Rhubarb generally does not do well in Southern U.S. climate zones due to not liking temperatures over 90°F. However, it can be grown during the cool season in some sub-tropical and tropical areas.

Best Planting Areas for Rhubarb

In the Northern areas, where rhubarb thrives best, rhubarb requires at least 8 hours of sunlight daily to flourish. In Southern climates, some afternoon shade is preferable, but does create more spindly stalks.

As with most plants, rhubarb doesn’t really like soggy soil. Make sure the area you plant it in has well-draining soil with lots of organic matter in it.

Preparing the Soil

The ideal pH level for growing rhubarb is about 5.5 to 6.5.

Rhubarb needs a good amount of nutrients to grow well. The best organic methods will include mixing lots of compost or composted manure into an area at least 12 inches deep and 3 feet in diameter. Mix in about 6 inches of compost/composted manure.

Choosing the right Varieties for your Area

Many rhubarb plants, if grown in good soil with adequate sunlight, have a mature diameter of 5 to 6 feet. Happily, one plant is usually enough for most families.

Some of the new varieties of rhubarb have red to crimson stalks that are sweeter than some of the older varieties. Check with your favorite seed supplier for their advice on which varieties will fit your tastes best.

Check with your county extension office to see if there are any common diseases that afflict rhubarb in your area. If there are, they will be able to recommend resistant varieties.

One reason rhubarb does better in cooler climates is that it needs the ground temperature to drop below 40°F for at least a week to break dormancy and stimulate the rhubarb leaves to grow.

Getting Started Indoors

If you’re planting rhubarb seeds, soak the seeds for a few hours in water or a compost tea before planting in a good quality, sterile potting soil; the seedlings will take 2 to 3 weeks to come up.

Don’t use ordinary garden soil as it may have fungus, weeds, bacteria, or other things that can hamper your plants.

Plant the seeds about a ¼ to ½ inch below the surface of the soil. Plant 2 to 3 seeds per section or pot. Once 4 true leaves have formed, cut off the weaker plants.

Transplanting Rhubarb Outdoors

Most rhubarb is sold as dormant roots or crowns. Purchasing them this way from your local garden center or favorite mail order seed company will take a full year off getting to your first harvest.

If you planted seeds, though, you’ll need to “harden off” your plants off for at least a week before planting out in the garden. You’ll do this when the plants are 4 to 6 weeks old and are about 3 to 4 inches tall.

This simply entails moving your plants outdoors during the day and back inside at night for increasing lengths of time throughout the week.

Ideal temperatures at this point should be about 50° to 55°F at night and 70° to 75°F during the daytime.

If you’re planting crowns or roots, place them 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil. If you’ve purchased potted plants, plant them at about the surface level of the soil.

Give the plants at least 36 to 48 inches between the plants and at least 72 inches between your rows if you are planting a lot of rhubarb.

Planting Seeds in Your Garden

Except for Southern climate zones, planting seeds directly in your garden is not recommended, but if you live in the South, you can plant rhubarb in rows 72 inches apart.

Plant the seeds every 3 to 4 inches, then once the plants have reached 3 to 4 inches in height, thin them out to at least 36 inches apart as they’ll grow quite large in the next couple years.

If you’re planting crowns or roots, plant them 36 to 48 inches apart. Cover the roots 1 to 2 inches deep, but don’t cover the crowns.

Best Practices for Getting a Good Rhubarb Crop

Here are a few tips to getting the best rhubarb crop from your garden.

During the first year, remove any flower stalks when they grow from your plant. This will give your plant more energy to put into the roots which will grow a stronger plant in subsequent years.

You’ll see flower stalks growing out from your plant as the weather warms into the summertime. Your plants may resume growth in the fall when the weather cools.

When the frost begins in the fall, the heavier frosts will usually kill the rhubarb plant that’s above ground. This is the time to fertilize for next year’s crop.

Dividing Rhubarb for Better Yields

As rhubarb gets older – around 8 to 10 years – the plants often become root-bound. There becomes such a mass of roots that the rhubarb plant yield often decreases.

This is the time to divide the rhubarb plants to help them regain their vigor. This is pretty much like replanting new root stock, so follow the procedures outlined above.

When you divide these plants, you can typically cut the old crown into 4 to 8 pieces. Just make sure each section has one strong bud.

Cut the roots into four to eight pieces. Each piece must have at least one strong bud.

Some gardeners will do this procedure after 5 years to keep their plants “fresh.”

Mulching & Weeding

It’s always a good idea to mulch growing rhubarb with straw or grass clippings or chopped leaves to keep the weeds down and the soil moist.

In the fall, after the plant has been killed by the frost, it’s also a good idea to cover the crown with 6 to 12 inches of clean straw (no weed seeds) if you live in an area that gets prolonged cold spells.

Although we’ve never lost any of our rhubarb plants from cold spells (and we get some good ones in our area), it’s still good insurance.

Black plastic mulch isn’t considered a good idea for rhubarb as it likes cooler soil temps.

Once your rhubarb plant gets past the first year, it usually doesn’t get much competition from weeds, and especially if you mulch around your plants. In the first year or two, just hand pull any competing weeds.

Rhubarb Watering Requirements

As rhubarb is susceptible to crown rot, drip irrigation is your best option, about 12 to 18 inches from the crown.

If you don’t have any drip systems available, water early in the day so the plants can dry out by afternoon.

If you’ve addedmulch around your growing rhubarb plants, watering an inch of water every 7 to 10 days should be sufficient to keep them producing juicystalks.

Overwatering rhubarb can be quite harmful. We’ll discuss fungal diseases below.

Companion Planting and Rotation Considerations

Rhubarb grows well with brassica family members which include broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower.

While I haven’t personally witnessed this, some have said that rhubarb protects legumes (beans, peas, etc.) against the black fly.

Other sources state that rhubarb helps deter spider mites from columbine flowers…again, I haven’t tried this as we don’t have any columbines on our property.

Several gardening authorities claim that making a tea from boiled fresh rhubarb leaves will kill aphids and that the oxalic acid in the leaves will also prevent blackspot on roses.

Make sure if you have rhubarb that there are no dockweed plants in the area as it attracts a bug called the Rhubarb Curculio, a yellowish beetle that bores into rhubarb.

When you divide your rhubarb, make sure to plant the new roots into new areas so as to give the previous soil a rest.

Rhubarb Stalks Harvested

Rhubarb Stalks Harvested

When to Harvest Rhubarb

Make sure you don’t harvest rhubarb stalks from your plant in the first year you plant it, and the first 2 years if you planted from seed.

In the late spring you can begin to selectively harvest rhubarb stalks. Depending on the variety, your stalks will be from 12 to 24 inches in length (up to the leaf).

If the stalks get too large, they can get stringy and tough. You’ll have to get a feel for the variety you’ve planted.

Redder varieties are usually sweeter and more flavorful than green varieties which are generally just plain sour.

Don’t harvest more than a third of the stalks or the plant won’t grow well. Wait until the leaves on a stalk smooth out; this is an indicator that a stalk is mature.

When you harvest the stalks, don’t cut them off with a knife as this may promote crown rot. Rather, use a slow, firm, twisting motion to pop the stalks away from their roots.

Once you’ve plucked a stalk, trim the leaves of immediately to prevent the stalk from wilting as quickly.

One myth we’ll dispel; rhubarb does NOT become toxic in the late summer. That’s an old wives tale.

If a seed stalk pops up from your plant, pull it out so it doesn’t affect your plant’s productivity.

Rhubarb Storage

Fresh rhubarb can be stored, wrapped in plastic, for up to 3 weeks.

You can also slice your stalks up and freeze them fresh for usage at a later date.

While we’ve never done it, I am told that rhubarb preserves are delicious. Can’t back that one up.

I can tell you, though, that rhubarb pie is a perennial favorite in the springtime with our family.

Preventative and Natural Solutions to Common Pests

The rhubarb curculio is the only real pest that afflicts rhubarb plants.

It is a yellowish to grayish-brown snouted beetle that ranges in size from ½ to ¾ inch long and bores its way into the stalks and crowns.

The best prevention is to keep dock weeds out of your garden as it is a host for these beetles. Also, keep grassy weeds under control around your rhubarb plants as well.

If you have a bad infestation, your best defense is to pull up your plants after the beetles have laid their eggs and burn or destroy the plants and start over. I’ve not seen any infestation of that magnitude.

Environmental factors

Various root fungi can invade your rhubarb if it’s planted in poorly draining soil. Most root fungi can be avoided by simply either creating well-drained soil with organic matter and sand or planting it in an area that already drains well.

Planting in raised beds can sometimes help alleviate the poor drainage issue.

There are viruses that can attack your rhubarb plants, causing them to grow poorly. The only treatment we know of is to start over with resistant varieties. Check with your local county extension before you plant to see if there are viruses that affect rhubarb in your area. They can also recommend resistant varieties.

Various Leaf Spot diseases are common to rhubarb.

One of the most common leaf spot diseases is called Ascochyta leaf spot, and starts as a light green or yellowish spot on your rhubarb plant leaves which morph into white spots with red borders. The centers will often fall out, leaving holes in the leaves.

Ramularia leaf spots are another common disease. It starts as small red spots that develop a white or tan center and a purplish border.

Overwatering is key to promoting leaf spots, as is overhead watering late in the day. Water early in the day so the leaves dry out completely by afternoon.

Overcrowding plants can also encourage leaf spots, as can grassy weeds.

Remove these leaves in the fall and burn or dispose of them after the frost kills the plants. This will help your plants the following year.

 

Barry Brown is a 3rd generation organic gardeners who is passionate about a sustainable and natural lifestyle. His personal standards for organic living far exceeds USDA certification, which he believes is more about money than food quality and purity.

[http://www.organicgardenmiracle.com]

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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