It is purely a pleasure to walk around the garden these days; a lot of the effort put into growing vegetables is starting to come to fruition (pun intended).

Of course, most of us have been eating something from the garden for a while now, but when the potatoes, cucumber and tomatoes get close to maturity, that is when the garden really starts giving back.

The peppers are starting to take off, although these recent cool nights are not to their liking. If anybody got an early start on potatoes, they might soon be sampling a few of those. The same might hold true if you need to thin some early carrots. Often there may be some carrots big enough to make it to the table.

By now some of the cabbages are starting to form heads. I am having a little problem with cabbage worms so I am using some organic insecticide to dust them. Those little green worms can do some damage if you let them go. The insecticidal soap I use to combat potato bug larvae will not do any damage to the cabbage worms.

While organic insecticide is still toxic and must be treated as the poison that it is, it breaks down in the environment more easily than synthetic chemicals. The type I use is derived from South American chrysanthemum roots. Natural pesticides also do not have as long a waiting period until you may safely eat the vegetables.

ripe_tomato_plantI’m starting to hear of some leaf spot diseases on tomatoes in local gardens. This is a problem every year, and by the end of the season every garden around will have some of it. Early tomato blight is the most common in this area. It will start with the lower leaves and slowly work up the plant. It can spread through the air or it can also be splashed up into higher leaves through rain or irrigation. Normally, it is still possible to grow and harvest tomatoes even on the infected plants; the fruit are fine for human consumption.

TIPS FOR PREVENTING TOMATO BLIGHT

• Water from a drip irrigation line.

• Mulch under the plant.

• Remove the lower leaves of the tomato plant as they become infected.

By keeping good air flow through your tomato patch, and not over watering them, you will help prevent the spread of many diseases. Keep in mind, there are some tomato diseases that are more harmful than others.

I’ve had people complain about not getting any cucumbers even though they have plenty of flowers. If there is a lot of vine growth, the leaves of the plant may be hiding the flowers to the point where the bees can’t find them. If the flowers aren’t pollinated by bees they cannot produce cucumbers. Removing some of the foliage will help. I’ve also heard of people planting bright flowers nearby to help attract the pollinators.

A cucumber blossom soaks up the sun in the garden. Photographer: https://goo.gl/c1gFRH (Wayne Noffsinger) License: https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x
A cucumber blossom soaks up the sun in the garden.
Photographer: https://goo.gl/c1gFRH (Wayne Noffsinger) License: https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

If anyone is thinking of planting a fall garden, we are getting closer to the planting date. Depending on what you plant, you just need to count back the 60, 70, or however many, days until the first hard frost. With cool season plants such as carrots or cabbage, they will continue to survive and grow during the early parts of winter. Of course some people keep things alive in the ground all winter by thickly covering them with straw.

Carrots are the vegetable I’ve had the most experience with in fall planting. I truly feel the carrots are sweeter when they are harvested in November, or even December. Since we use so many carrots throughout the year, I can add to our supply if the spring planting wasn’t sufficient. I have tried planting other fall vegetables, but carrots are the only one I plant on a regular basis. This is a pretty easy thing to try and can extend your garden season.

SPROUTS:

  • The lawn and garden answer line is in full swing at the Elkhart County Purdue Extension Office in Goshen. They may be reached by calling 574-533-0554 if you have any lawn and garden questions.
  • I will be speaking at 10 a.m. July 16 at the Goshen Farmer’s Market. Much of my presentation will be on heirloom tomatoes.
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