Saturday, July 13, 2013

Too Much of a Good Thing

Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.

We are way above normal on rainfall in the Tennessee Valley. The wet and cloudy weather has begun to take its toll on vegetable gardens. While most veggies need an inch of water each week to thrive, we have been averaging about four times that amount. The extra moisture, coupled with long periods with no sunshine, has created ideal conditions for fungi to attack our crops.

Cucumbers sometimes develop a black, fuzzy mold under these conditions. Pick of and destroy deformed or damaged fruits as soon as you find them. This will help curb spore production by the fungus. Keeping the fruits picked also keeps the plants blooming. Hopefully, as the weather improves the cukes will still be producing.

Summer squash may be showing signs of powdery mildew  on the leaves, and immature fruits may also develop mold growth.

Some varieties of tomatoes are showing signs of early blight. Brown spots form on the leaves before the leaves turn yellow and fall off the plant.

In all of these cases, there are some steps you can take to preserve at least some of your crop. Increase air circulation around plants by thinning leaves or even entire plants. Remove and destroy plant parts showing signs of fungal attack. Do not compost this material. Burn it or place it in the trash. Avoid watering (duh!) and fertilization when plants are stressed by too much moisture. Spray infected foliage with neem oil. This has proven effective for me with both powdery mildew and blight attacks. As a rule, plants growing in raised beds will fare better than in-ground plantings.

The abundant water will also encourage a bumper crop when the plants get enough sun. Green beans, cucumbers and squash are all producing heavily in many gardens. Tomatoes are coming along, with early ones appearing in all the local markets, even though the real tomato season is the month of August.

Fall Vegetable Talk July 14
Please join me Sunday, July 14, at 2:00 PM at UT Gardens on Neyland Drive for a presentation and discussion on fall vegetable gardening in the Tennessee Valley. I will be offering advice on what to plant and when, to take advantage of our fall--and winter!--growing seasons.

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