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Harvesting vegetables – tips and tricks!

veggies
One of the most important things to remember when harvesting is that the job of a fruit or vegetable is to produce seeds so the more you pick the more it will encourage the plant to re-bloom and produce more crops. If too much fruit remains on a plant production will slow. So even if you can’t eat all those veggies pick them and give them away so your garden will keep producing.

Harvest fleshy vegetables early in the day before fruit has had a chance to heat up and is full of moisture. This will extend shelf life and flavor.

Toward the end of the season begin pinching off the new flowers of eggplant, peppers, melons, squash and tomatoes. These blooms will not have time to develop before the first frosts but will steal energy from the plant and make it more difficult for the existing fruit to ripen.

Asparagus – do not pull as this could damage emerging stalks below the surface, instead cut with a sharp knife. Harvest the first round early to promote more growth. Stop harvesting after the stalks become thinner and allow the plant to develop and store energy for the next season.

Basil – once the plant develops at least 5 stem divisions begin picking. Always pinch two leaves at a time removing an entire new growth section. Picking one leaf here or there will weaken the plant but pinching back to the last division point will encourage new growth. Once the plant goes to flower it will become bitter so keep pinching.

Beans and peas – pick even if you are not eating them to ensure more come on. If you are drying beans leave them on the stalk until the pods dry to a lovely brown then pick and store in a cool dark place.

Broccoli – is a cold season plant and once the heat comes on they tend to flower rapidly. Pick florets early because when the flowers open the entire plant can dry out and quickly wither. Broccoli will often produce additional side florets once the top has been harvested.

Cabbage – harvest the first heads when small but leave 3 to 4 leaves at the base as these will produce additional heads that can be grown to full size.

Corn – it can be tricky to tell when the right time is to harvest corn. A good rule of thumb is to start checking firmness about 3 weeks after the silks appear.

Eggplant – love heat which means that sometimes they can be difficult to grow in Portland. Pick them young for best results.

Garlic – stop watering when the first leaves begin to yellow and sag. Pull after most of the bottom green leaves have turned to brown. Shake off excessive dirt but do not wash , simply hang in a cool dark place and allow to dry for a few days then cure them as you do onions.

Lettuce – thin out small leaves to use as micro greens and to make room for the larger heads to develop. Pick often because once they go to flower they become bitter.

Onions – can be picked at practically any stage of development and eaten immediately as green onions, partially formd bulbs or big fatties at maturity. You will know when they are fully grown because the green tops will wither. If curing wait for a week or so, then pick them after a sunny stretch and leave them out to dry as this will kill the roots. Picking them when they are a little on the dry side also helps in storage because they will have less moisture stored in the bulb. To cure them fully for storage spread them out in dry airy spot and periodically turn them for at lease 2 weeks or until they no longer have any wet spots.

Peppers – pick young and tender and often. If you want to dry hot peppers pick before the rains come, wash and hang to dry, if they are not quite mature pull the entire plant and hang in a cool dry dark place upside down.

Summer squash and zucchini – pick them while they are small to encourage the plant to keep producing. And check plants often as they have an amazing ability to hide in plain sight until they are big enough to make a boat.

Tomatoes – You will know when your tomatoes are ripe because they will leap into your basket at the slightest tug. If the cold season is approaching and you still don’t have ripe tomatoes remove all the emerging blossoms and immature fruit, you can also withhold water to try and shock the plant into ripening the fruit. If the temperatures drop harvest the fruit with some vine attached and place in a cool dark place as opposed to a sunny window.

Winter squash – wait until the vine has withered, pick and wash with a week solution of bleach to remove bacteria that can cause rot. Let them dry in a cool place for about a week until a they can resist a fingernail in the skin, then place them into cold storage.

Melons – will not continue to ripen once they have been picked so don’t pick them to early. A thump of your thumb resulting in a hollow sound means they are ready to be eaten.

Fruits and vegetables stop setting fruit about 2 weeks before the autumnal equinox (this year Tuesday Sept 23rd) so most harvesting of summer crops should be completed about this time. But if the days stay warm and night temperatures don’t drop to low some fruit can continue to ripen on the plants – just keep an eye on the weather.

Watering tips for hot weather

watering can

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this heat Veggies and plants need to be watered almost every day but with a little planning and care you can preserve water and keep more of your precious time for playing in the sun! Here are a few tips to keep your garden lush and green even in this heat!

Soaker hoses are one the best way to deliver water to plants. They soak the soil around the base of the plant where its needed most instead or sprinkling from above where much is lost to evaporation. Hardware stores have great systems that can be installed over an afternoon or a weekend depending on how elaborate you go.

Automatic watering systems on a timer ensures that your plants get what they want when they need it and makes lots more time for you to enjoy the garden.

Water early in the morning or later in the evening. This can help conserve water as less is lost to evaporation and most plants will be feeding during those times.

Avoid misting plants in the heat of the day, overhead watering can burn plant’s leaves if applied in direct sun and moist leaves are subject to molds, fungus and disease. Plus you are more likely to end up with burned shoulders as well. Some plants such as Rhododendrons curl their leaves to conserve water – don’t be tempted to mist wilted leaves until the cool part of the day.

Potted containers in direct sun will most likely need to be watered every day. Pots cannot hold much moisture and are generally way hotter than soil under ground so they will dry out much faster. It’s almost impossible to over water a pot but so easy to forget to water at all. Having a regular schedule helps.

Even drought tolerant plants will need to be monitored their first summer until their roots are established. Even if the tag claims low water and “xerascaping” dosn’t mean you can plop it in the ground and forget about it. Once rooted out and established these plants are wonderful low maintenance options and a great way to conserve water in the garden but in their first season they will still need a little care to really thrive!

Plants that have been stressed by drying out are much more susceptible to disease and pests so keep those plants watered.

Watering the garden will be so much more fun with a stylish new watering can from thicket! Come see our new selection today!

 

 

 


Plant diseases

photo 2Plant diseases are infuriating! – It is just horrifying to see all our hard work withering on the vine. Preventative medicine as opposed to treating symptoms after they have become a problem is always the best approach so here are a few tips to keep your garden healthy and disease free:

When shopping for plants look for disease resistant varieties and choose plants that are vigorous and healthy. Shopping with a reputable grower is always a wise choice.

If you notice any sign of disease on plants immediately remove damaged parts and if necessary the entire plant. Composting will not always kill pathogens which can spread to additional plants or even overwinter in the soil so diseased plants should be sent out with the trash or burned.

Choose the right plant for the right location – If a plant is stressed because it is in the wrong spot – has too much sun or too much shade it will be more susceptible to disease. The same it true of water and fertilizer – the wrong amount of either one can cause more damage than good.

Rotation of vegetable crops will help break the cycle of disease by eliminating the build up of diseased organisms in one spot.

Over crowding of crops can create too much humidity and fungal disease. Keep air flow moving by good planning and thinning.

Keep the garden tidy by turning under finished crops before disease causing organisms can take over. And clean tools and especially pruners in between uses to keep from spreading disease from an infected host.

Preventative treatments like dormant sprays can be a safe way to protect plants – be sure to follow instructions carefully.

COMMON DISEASES
Because of our high rainfall and mild climate fungal and bacterial diseases are the most common problems in Portland. Here are a few to keep an eye out for:

AIRBORNE FUNGAL DISEASES
Botrytis blight
This fungal disease looks like a grey powdery mold. It primarily appears on vegetable, bulbs and some perennials. Strawberries and zucchini are especially susceptible. Look for wet looking spots on leaves or fruit which will turn into a powdery grey mass. The entire plant can sicken and die so deal with it as soon as you spot it.
Air circulation is the best defense as this fungus prefers warm and humid areas. More sun also helps so pruning neighboring plantings can be useful so avoid wetting the leaves of susceptible plants while watering. Finally – remove and destroy any infected plant parts and wash tools and hands after.

Powdery mildew
Another fungal disease that commonly affects PNW gardens is powdery mildew. Late Summer is the time to look for white powder splotches that envelop leaves and stems. Cucumber, beans, zucchini, squash and roses are among it’s favorite victims. Although it can cause serious damage if left unchecked it is possible to minimize spread and still reap a harvest from infected crops.
Making space for air flow and maximum sun is essential. Well watered plants are less likely to fall victim but be sure to water from below and avoid water on leaves. Remove and destroy damaged foliage. A solution of 1 T baking soda to 1 gallon water and a tad of liquid soap spayed onto the leaves will also help.

Rust
There are a gob of different fungi that produce rust but the prevention, identification and treatment is similar. Orange to yellow spots present in speckled formation on the leaves. Spring or late Summer is the usual time for it to appear as the fungi prefer mild days and cooler damp nights.
Again overhead watering should be avoided to restrict the spread of rust. More sun also helps. Remove rusted leaves and garden debris to prevent the cycle of reinfection.

Scab
Commonly attacks apples and pears in the Spring right after flowering. It looks just like it sounds with with yellow to brown to black blotches on the leaves and sometimes the trunk. Leaves can eventually drop and in extreme cases defoliation may occur. Fruit can also appear scabbed but is still edible.
Remove and destroy damages areas. Pruning for air circulation is helpful but in extreme cases a copper spray can at lease prevent against another infection the following year.

SOIL/WATERBORNE FUNGAL DISEASES

Ramorum blight and tip dieback
The symptoms vary widely according to the host plant but generally look for bark cankers especially ones that are bleeding or girdle the entire circumference of the trunk. Leaf spotting or blotches appear in areas of the leaf that can collect water such as at the tips or the midribs.
This disease only first appeared in 1995 but has quickly spread. It can affect many types of native oaks, rhododendrons, myrtle, bay laurel, madrone, cascara, redwood, douglas fir, kinnikinnick, salmonberry, and evergreen huckleberry. It also attacks viburnum, camellias and pieris among others.

Root rot
The risk of root rot comes in the winter as water drenched soil robs roots of oxygen and makes them susceptible to this soil fungus. Signs may not appear on the plant until the early summer when the plant is unable to draw water through its damaged roots. Plants may appear wilted with leaves eventually browning but adding water will not help. Prevention is the best approach start with healthy plants and create good drainage before planting. A mycelium application will improve soil conditions and root health. Mulching can also help to discourage spread by cooling the soil. If unable to recover replace plants with a resistant variety that is suitable to the location.

Verticillium wilt
Look for one single branch showing signs of stress – wilting or the leaves turn brown while the rest of the plant looks perfectly fine. Often a long canker will also appear in the affected area and a ring will be present in the cross section of a cut branch. This soil borne fungus will attack many plants but maples are especially at risk. Complete lists are available online.
A similar disease attacks tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
Established trees can sometimes be saved by removing affected branches and building the up soil health. Apply a thin compost but avoid high nitrogen, potassium is better. Clean tools immediately after use as the disease can be easily spread to other plants. If the plant needs to be removed replace with a resilient species.

BACTERIAL DISEASES
Bacterial blight
Rapidly wilting leaves and dark splotches that manifest in the rainy spring can mean a bacterial infection. Remove and destroy affected parts and plants. Wash tools between each cut to avoid spread and wash hands before moving to another area of the garden.

Fireblight
This bacterium can move quickly and so the symptoms progress rapidly. Leaves and entire branches can redden and drop within days. Affected areas should be removed and burned as soon as detected. Cuts should be made at least 12 inches below the affected area. Tools need to be cleaned between cuts. This bacterium is transmitted by pollinating insects and infected plants can act as hosts and spread rapidly to other plants.

The Pacific Northwest Plant Disease management handbook is available online and has an exhaustive list of diseases. It is organized by host so it makes identifying the disease a little easier. Be sure you have the right diagnosis before beginning a treatment and please try natural methods before resorting to harsh chemical applications.

http://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/host-disease-descriptions

Harvesting vegetables – tips and tricks!

veggies
One of the most important things to remember when harvesting is that the job of a fruit or vegetable is to produce seeds so the more you pick the more it will encourage the plant to re-bloom and produce more crops. If too much fruit remains on a plant production will slow. So even if you can’t eat all those veggies pick them and give them away so your garden will keep producing.

Harvest fleshy vegetables early in the day before fruit has had a chance to heat up and is full of moisture. This will extend shelf life and flavor.

Toward the end of the season begin pinching off the new flowers of eggplant, peppers, melons, squash and tomatoes. These blooms will not have time to develop before the first frosts but will steal energy from the plant and make it more difficult for the existing fruit to ripen.

Asparagus – do not pull as this could damage emerging stalks below the surface, instead cut with a sharp knife. Harvest the first round early to promote more growth. Stop harvesting after the stalks become thinner and allow the plant to develop and store energy for the next season.

Basil – once the plant develops at least 5 stem divisions begin picking. Always pinch two leaves at a time removing an entire new growth section. Picking one leaf here or there will weaken the plant but pinching back to the last division point will encourage new growth. Once the plant goes to flower it will become bitter so keep pinching.

Beans and peas – pick even if you are not eating them to ensure more come on. If you are drying beans leave them on the stalk until the pods dry to a lovely brown then pick and store in a cool dark place.

Broccoli – is a cold season plant and once the heat comes on they tend to flower rapidly. Pick florets early because when the flowers open the entire plant can dry out and quickly wither. Broccoli will often produce additional side florets once the top has been harvested.

Cabbage – harvest the first heads when small but leave 3 to 4 leaves at the base as these will produce additional heads that can be grown to full size.

Corn – it can be tricky to tell when the right time is to harvest corn. A good rule of thumb is to start checking firmness about 3 weeks after the silks appear.

Eggplant – love heat which means that sometimes they can be difficult to grow in Portland. Pick them young for best results.

Garlic – stop watering when the first leaves begin to yellow and sag. Pull after most of the bottom green leaves have turned to brown. Shake off excessive dirt but do not wash , simply hang in a cool dark place and allow to dry for a few days then cure them as you do onions.

Lettuce – thin out small leaves to use as micro greens and to make room for the larger heads to develop. Pick often because once they go to flower they become bitter.

Onions – can be picked at practically any stage of development and eaten immediately as green onions, partially formd bulbs or big fatties at maturity. You will know when they are fully grown because the green tops will wither. If curing wait for a week or so, then pick them after a sunny stretch and leave them out to dry as this will kill the roots. Picking them when they are a little on the dry side also helps in storage because they will have less moisture stored in the bulb. To cure them fully for storage spread them out in dry airy spot and periodically turn them for at lease 2 weeks or until they no longer have any wet spots.

Peppers – pick young and tender and often. If you want to dry hot peppers pick before the rains come, wash and hang to dry, if they are not quite mature pull the entire plant and hang in a cool dry dark place upside down.

Summer squash and zucchini – pick them while they are small to encourage the plant to keep producing. And check plants often as they have an amazing ability to hide in plain sight until they are big enough to make a boat.

Tomatoes – You will know when your tomatoes are ripe because they will leap into your basket at the slightest tug. If the cold season is approaching and you still don’t have ripe tomatoes remove all the emerging blossoms and immature fruit, you can also withhold water to try and shock the plant into ripening the fruit. If the temperatures drop harvest the fruit with some vine attached and place in a cool dark place as opposed to a sunny window.

Winter squash – wait until the vine has withered, pick and wash with a week solution of bleach to remove bacteria that can cause rot. Let them dry in a cool place for about a week until a they can resist a fingernail in the skin, then place them into cold storage.

Melons – will not continue to ripen once they have been picked so don’t pick them to early. A thump of your thumb resulting in a hollow sound means they are ready to be eaten.

Fruits and vegetables stop setting fruit about 2 weeks before the autumnal equinox (this year Tuesday Sept 23rd) so most harvesting of summer crops should be completed about this time. But if the days stay warm and night temperatures don’t drop to low some fruit can continue to ripen on the plants – just keep an eye on the weather.

 
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