Little or No Flower Heads On my Broccoli! Huh?

I’ve grown broccoli for the last two years and all I get are huge plants with either little or no flower heads. What seems to be the problem?Broccoli

Timing is key!! Broccoli likes to stay cool.

Causes of no or poor flower heading:

  • Alternating periods of abnormal high temperatures followed by abnormal low temperatures stresses the plant  and causes heading to come to a complete halt.
  • Stress brought on by drought or inadequate moisture.
  • Excessive nitrogen can cause huge healthy plants with little or no head production.
  • Transplanting too late with root bound plants will keep the broccoli from heading.
  • Transplants when exposed to temperature of 40 degrees and below for 1 – 2 weeks triggers heads to form too early or not at all.
  • Transplants not properly hardened off will be stressed and perform poorly. https://papasgardens.com/2015/04/24/what-does-it-mean-to-harden-off-seedlings/
  • Overcrowding results in either little or no head formation due to competition for adequate water and nutrient.

Prevention:

  • Proper timing of transplanting for your specific area. Your County Cooperative Extension Service will supply the dates for planting.
  • Proper planting of transplants 2 feet apart.
  • Even supply of moisture. Drip irrigation is best.
  • Balanced nutrition/fertilization. Avoid excessive applications of nitrogen.
  • Proper hardening off of transplants.
  • Cover planting when temperatures drop below 50 degrees. Low tunnels with floating row cover or cloches will provide protection. Drawing low tunnels
  • plastic-bottle-clochesPlant in Fall.
    • Decreased pest pressure.
    • Plants are usually stronger. The flower heads are bigger.
    • Plants grow better into cooler weather.
    • Sow seeds for transplants 10 – 12 weeks before first frost.
    • Set transplants 2 feet apart for extended season planting.

Broccoli are sensitive to their environment. When treated with care, they will reward you!

Papa

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There are White Spots on my Peas! Uh Oh, it’s Powdery Mildew!

The daytime temperatures are getting warm and it’s cool at night. It seems like the perfect scenario for great growing weather. Your peas are up and growing like a storm. What’s that on the leaves and pods? There are white fuzzy spots growing on my peas. Powdery Mildew strikes again!!

peapm

Powdery mildew is the most common occurring plant fungal disease. Its appearance, when first noticed, is characterized by spots or patches of white to grayish powdery growth on the upper surface of leaves and their stems.

  • It impairs photosynthesis
  • Stunts growth
  • Increases the rate of plant decline

Advanced stage of powdery mildew:

  • Foliage turns to yellow, leaves curl or turn brown.
    • D-TO-LTAU-FO.001h        D-SP-EPOL-FR.001h

How does this happen? There are three requirements for disease to flourish. A host, the pathogen/disease and the right environmental conditions.

  • Powdery mildew (thin layers of fungal tissue on the surface of the leaf which produce spores) requires new and young living plant tissue to grow.
    • The disease grows as mycelium (fungal tissue) on the surface of the affected plant as white patches where the spores are produced.
      • Spores make up the white/gray powdery growth visible on the leaf surface.
      • Spores  of powdery mildew are carried by the wind, splashing rain drops and/or insects to new plant tissue.
      • The spores can produce in 48 hours.
  • Warm, humid days and cool nights are the perfect conditions for the fungus to grow.
    • Moderate temperatures of 60° to 80° (F) are favorable temperatures for powdery mildew growth.
    • Temperatures of 90° (F) and above inhibits the growth of the disease.
  • High humidity for spore germination common in crowded plantings, where air circulation is poor and damp shaded areas invite this plant fungal disease.
  • Crop debris and host weeds are important to the survival of powdery mildew.
  • The spores of powdery mildew over winter attached to plant parts and plant debris.

These are the common preemptive strategies to avoid/combat powdery mildew.

  • Plant powdery mildew resistant varieties if available.
  • Plant in full sun.
  • Properly space plantings to allow good air circulation.
    • If plants are overcrowded, prune to allow increased air circulation, reduce humidity and cross infection.
  • Arrange your rows or beds east to west to eliminate shade possibility.
  • Tallest plantings should be to the north.
  • Avoid overhead watering. Best time to water is mid morning allowing the plants to completely dry.
  • Stay out of the garden when wet!!! Otherwise, you become a carrier of the disease.
  • Avoid the late summer application of nitrogen fertilizer (fish emulsion, composted poultry litter, ammonia nitrate, urea) which limits new growth the disease attacks.
  • Remove ALL diseased plant parts and burn or bag and remove from property.
    • If possible, remove diseased plant parts on a sunny, hot, wind free day.
      • Spores are killed by heat and direct sunlight.
      • In the absence of wind there is less of a chance for spore dispersal.
  • Remove ALL plant material and plant debris (mulch included) in the fall.
    • Survival rate of any overwintering fungal spores is decreased.
  • DO NOT COMPOST ANY PLANT MATERIAL OR DEBRIS where this disease was active.

When fungus pressure/threshold is too great you can pull all diseased plants or are there fungicides to use? The answer is YES!!

  • Horticultural oils – Saf-T-Side Spray Oil®, Sunspray Ultra Fine Spray Oil® – follow label directions
  • Neem Oil (plant based), Jojoba Oil (plant based) – follow label directions
    • Never apply when temperatures are 90° (F) or above or with drought stressed plants.
    • Never apply an oil spray within two (2) weeks of a sulfur application as plants may be damaged.
  • Wettable Sulfur is most effective when applied before disease symptoms appear. – Safer Garden Fungicide® – follow label directions
    • Never apply when temperatures are 90° (F) or above or with drought stressed plants.
    • Never apply within two (2) weeks of an oil spray.
    • Be careful when spraying squash and melons as there may be damage.
  • Baking soda ( Sodium Bicarbonate)
    • Combine with horticultural/dormant oil with liquid/insecticidal soap
      • 1 TBS Baking Soda, 1 tsp horticultural/dormant oil, 1 tsp insecticidal/liquid soap to 1 gallon of water.
      • Spray every one to two weeks.
      • Use sparingly to avoid sweetening (alkaline) the soil.
  • Potassium Bicarbonate – Kaligreen® – contact fungicide killing spores of powdery mildew quickly.
    • Approved for organic use. Follow label directions.
  • Mouthwash – generic ethanol based – spray 1 part mouthwash to 3 parts water.
    • Caution use on new foliage as it may be damaged.
  • Vinegar – spray 2 -3 TBS apple cider vinegar (5% acetic acid) mixed with 1 gallon water.
    • Caution use on new foliage as it may be damaged.
  • Milk – natural occurring compounds in milk attack the disease while improving the plants immune system.
    • Spray 1 part milk to 2 parts water weekly.

Biological Fungicides – beneficial microorganisms when sprayed on plant tissue destroy fungal disease. Serenade®, Actinovate AG®, Cease®

  • Active ingredient  – Bacillus subtillis – prevents powdery mildew from infecting the plant. Follow label directions.
    • Non toxic to people, pets and beneficial insects
      • Not proven to be as effective as oils or sulfur

Here are a few examples of powdery mildew.

powdery_mildew_tomatoes      carrot-powdery-mildew-1L

9-4PM-on-grape-leaves-1ANNEMIEK (1)       PMSquashBHedlundHerndonVA2006-1y47tkc

PM watermelon

Remember, fall clean-up is essential!! Be on your guard!

Papa

Planting Potatoes Made Easy!!

Planting potatoes using the long sprout method (allowing the seed potatoes to develop long sprouts prior to planting) is another way to get bigger yields of potatoes. Irish potatoes are actually modified stems. The longer the stems, the more surface area for potatoes to form. This method produced a tremendous yield of red skinned potatoes.

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I used compost mixed with rotted wheat straw as my growing medium. More rotted wheat straw was added to fill the tire ring.

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Now the sprouts are popping out above the straw.

WP_20150513_19_40_53_Pro     WP_20150513_19_41_01_Pro

Soon I will be adding another tire ring as the sprouts grow longer.

Here is another method of planting potatoes. It is called the trench and hill method. Till your soil and open a trench or furrow. Plant the seed potatoes about a foot apart and hill up the soil, compost and rotted wheat straw over the trench and watch them grow!

WP_20150425_11_30_51_Pro   WP_20150513_19_41_13_ProWP_20150513_19_41_36_Pro

I can hardly wait to experience these blue potatoes!

Papa

What Does it Mean to “Harden Off” Seedlings?

I often get this question this time of year. You can hardly wait to get your tomatoes in the ground! You’ve grown the plants out with great care. You’ve babied them.

You desperately want to plant them in the ground.  You take your hand or trowel and plant them in the cold ground. You water the seedlings and hope they will quickly grow. Uh oh, something is wrong! For some reason the plants don’t look so good after a couple of days in the soil. They look like they are burnt or dying. What did I do wrong?

Here are the steps you must take for  successful transplant.

  1. A seedling must be 45 – 60 days old prior to transplanting into your garden or container.
  2. Seven (7) to 10 days prior to transplant, start to wean the plants to use less water. Only water enough to prevent wilting.
  3. Treat your seedlings with seaweed emulsion, either by spraying or watering with a one (1) tablespoon per gallon of water solution.
  4. Take the seedlings outside for 2 hours the first day. Make sure you do this on a warm day with little wind. A cold wind could damage the seedlings. If you are using a cold frame*, completely opening the lid. Use the same guidelines as above.
  5. Each day increase the time outside by one (1) to two (2) hours.
  6. By the tenth day the seedlings will be tough enough to take the rigors of full sunlight and wind.
  7. Now you may safely plant your seedlings outside.

*Cold frame – a box with no bottom that has a hinged or removable clear or translucent top. The top may be opened or closed when the temperature outside is too cold or too warm. The box may be constructed out of  hay/straw bales, glass, poly carbonate, wood, etc.

cold-frame

Leaf Miner, huh? What’s a Leaf Miner?

Jan  My organic garden plague is leaf miners! Suggestions?

I get this picture in my mind of a small creature with a miner’s hat and a pick. In reality, they are the larvae of a fly that burrow through leaves. Usually the damage is not aesthetically pleasing. However, if left unchecked, leaf miners can cause major damage.

Here are some solutions:

  1. Monitoring – kill leaf miner larvae in the leaf if possible.
  2. Nutrition –  a healthy plant has thicker, healthier leaves. Plus, biochemically, the plant is not as appealing to the leaf miner.
  3. Floating Row Covers – creates a mechanical barrier that keeps the leaf miner fly away from the crop.
  4. Parasitic Wasp – Diglyphus isaea is a parasitic wasp that prey on the larvae of the leaf miner fly.
  5. Neem Oil – Neem Oil may break the life cycle of the leaf miner larvae to keep them from growing to maturity.

Getting rid of this pest takes diligence!

Question: Help! What do I do for peach tree borers?

Hi, my name is Kristina . I have a question concerning my peach tree. Last summer it got infected with borers (I was told these are a type of moth??). Anyway, the tree company I was with at the time couldn’t do anything about the borers since it wasn’t until late July early August that we saw the sap coming out of my tree. So I poured nematodes on the soil around my tree and in to the holes that were sapping. I did this 3 different times 3 weeks apart while I hung moth balls in a sock on the tree too. I am being told now by a new tree company that they don’t do pesticides for borers until June, since the borers aren’t active until then. My question is, what would you do for this peach tree? Should I just wait until June or can I be doing something more to help my tree that I don’t want to lose. Thanks
Here’s what you do! Spray the trunk of the peach tree with a strong solution of Neem Oil and water (3 tablespoons to the gallon of water and a little dish soap) Spray to the point of puddling around the trunk. The Neem Oil will either out right kill the worm or interrupt the worms life cycle, which will also kill the worm. You need to spray at 14 day intervals (twice) to be effective.
You will build up the immunity of the peach tree by spraying  and drenching the tree with seaweed emulsion (i.e. Maxicrop®), at one (1) tablespoon per gallon.
-Art