A Recipe for Healthy Soil for Your Potted Plants

A simple blend for all potted plants including transplants:

  • A bag of soilless potting mix 2 cu. ft.
    • Benefits: Reduces soil diseases,  balances moisture with good drainage, allows for proper exchange of nutrients
    • Milled Sphagnum peat moss: anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties

milledsphagnummoss

  • Perlite : drainage

perlite

  • Rotted pine bark: allows for drainage

Mulch_composted_pine

  • 1/2 cu. ft. weed-free compost: Balanced nutrients

compost

  • Horse manure, composted
  • Cow manure, composted
  • Poultry manure, composted
  • Mushroom compost
  • Mixture of dry grasses and straw composted
  • My “secret weapon” Kelp meal: cold water, dried and ground seaweed,  offering 60 known beneficial nutrients.Plants respond and withstand stress, heat, cold, insect pressure, disease and drought conditions.

kelp meal

  • Mix thoroughly and wet until the mixture makes a loose ball in your hand.
  • I use a wheel barrow and tarp to mix my soil blend.
  • Store in the bags used to make the soil mix or use a covered container of your choice.

Enjoy this mix for all your potting needs. I do.

Papa

 

Advertisements

8 Steps for Successful Tree Planting

Now that you have selected a flowering, shade or fruit tree let it give you years of pleasure by following these steps.

1- Location is essential for flowering, fruit bearing and shade trees.

  • Full sun.
  • Preferably well drained soil.
  • Irrigation source.
  • Right tree for the planting site. Where do you desire shade for cooling properties and where do you want full sun during the fall and winter months?

Tree-planting

2 – Spacing of the tree in relation to buildings and other trees and plantings.

  • Flowering trees: refer to the tag or your local county extension/Master Gardener.
  • Shade trees need a very wide spacing due to shading capacity of the tree and its shape.
  • Fruit trees are planted depending on their characteristic. Does the tree selected require a pollinator tree?  Early, mid-season and late-season fruit bearing trees may each require a season specific pollinator. Your local county extension/Master Gardener will be helpful in your selections.
    • Standard should be planted 25 feet apart.
    • Semi-dwarf should be planted 12 to 15 feet apart.
    • Dwarf should be planted 8 to 10 feet apart.

3 – Make sure the planting site is free of overhead/underground utilities, structures and easements.

4 – Now you are ready to plant.

5 – Dig a hole that is as deep as the root ball and doubled the width of the root ball. Notice the tarp? This is the best way to save the soil you have dug plus it makes for an easier clean-up.

tree1

  • This is the time to add soil amendments such as compost, peat moss, kelp meal, bone meal , sand, etc. These amendments should fill the hole 1/3 to 1/2, mixed with the existing soil. The amounts will vary depending on the size of the root ball.

tree3

  • This establishes a good root system and enhances the transplanting thus reducing stress to the tree.

6 – When placing the root ball in the ground make sure it is 1/2 inch to one [1] inch above the ground level. Planting above the ground level allows for the settling of the root ball.

 

  • Where the trunk of the tree meets the root system is called the root flare. This juncture needs to be 1/2 to one [1] inch above the ground level.

tree7

 

  • This step is crucial for a successful tree planting and continued growth and development of a healthy tree.

7 – Back fill and make a moat around the perimeter of the  hole with the dirt dug from the tree planting. This moat will act as a reservoir and capture water thus reducing run-off and enhance the growth of the tree roots. This insures the tree receives proper moisture.

 

8 – The use of mulch is up to you.

  • If mulch is used, do not place the mulch against the base of the tree.
  • The base of the tree may respond to this mulch as soil and may stimulate root growth above the tree flare.
  •  See the possible results from “volcano” mulching. Notice the rotted tree flare. Besides it looks dumb!!!!!

It is important to stick to these steps for a tree you will enjoy for years to come.

Papa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calling All Organic Gardeners and Producers!!

February 4th through the 6th is the 2016 Missouri Organic Association Annual Conference, University Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, Springfield MO. Those attending will be from Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee and Kansas.

University Plaza

2016 MOA Annual Conference

The topics will include: Grain production, Livestock production, Commercial  Vegetable production, High-tunnel small fruits and vegetable production, Sustainable living skills, Culinary and medicinal plants, and a whole lot more!

The “Top Chef competition”, featuring 6 of the premier chefs from St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia, scheduled for Friday, February the 5th, is by now a tradition of the MOA Conference.

One of the surprises prepared for this year is the “Consumer Health Education Seminary”, scheduled for Saturday, February 6th and open to the general public. The discussion will focus on organic foods and their connection to a healthy diet and balanced nutrition. The session will be presented by dietitians and medical physicians and will include definitions and discussion regarding “health food terminology”. Our guests will learn about the difference between organic, non-GMO, natural foods, free range, cage free, etc.

I will be one of the speakers on Thursday, February 4th. My topic will be “Making a Seed Saving Garden” from 11 am to 12 pm.

2016 MOA Annual Conference

This will be my third year attending this incredible conference. This is a well organized conference including friendly vendors and volunteers, relevant topics of the day, organic meals as well as a beautiful conference center and hotel with free parking.

Hope to see you there!!

Papa

Crazy Weather!! Spray Those Fruit Trees!

Amazing, 60° (F) on January 15th in the Missouri Ozarks. The flower buds are swelling due to the warm weather. It is definitely time to start spraying your fruit trees.

P1040109

Neem Oil is the perfect choice to spray fruit trees. Neem oil is both a fungicide and an insecticide. 100% Neem Oil tends to solidify in its’ container. Place the container in a bucket with hot water to liquefy the oil to use in a sprayer. Two tablespoons per gallon is the usual rate to get the job done.

P1040110

Neem oil is made from the seeds of the Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica). The oil mixed with water and dish soap is sprayed at temperatures below 80° (F). Neem oil has fungicidal and bacteriological properties to either prevent or control certain types of bacteria and fungus.

Neem oil is effective to control fire blight which is a major issue on apple and pear trees.

Neem oil offers good control against powdery mildew, black spot, downy mildew, scab, anthracnose,  rust, leaf spot, botrytis, tip blight and alternaria. These are a sample of fungal diseases which plague fruit and ornamental trees.

As an insecticide, Neem Oil is detrimental to aphids, mealybugs, scale, different types of beetles, true bugs and caterpillars by disrupting their growth patterns. Most of the above insects will not reach adulthood and therefore no offspring. The oil itself smothers some of the insects by cutting off their air supply and eliminating insect eggs.

While standing upwind, spray the fruit trees from ground level to the branch tips.

Make sure the entire tree is thoroughly covered to insure control and effectiveness.

In a week to 10 days the trees will be sprayed again, using wettable sulfur.

Continue the process in another 7 to 10 days using elemental copper.

Spraying between intervals with seaweed emulsion and compost tea will strengthen the trees by building up the trees immune systems and handling stress.

The benefit is clear by enjoying healthy fruitful trees!

Papa

 

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

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!