Tag Archives: Gardening

Seed starter soil bocks

This is way to good not to share.

One of the things you see a lot in the garden center of the hardware store are little “seed starting kits” that come with disks of expanding peat moss and little customized plastic trays. These are charming, and hold lots of promise for the imaginative beginning gardener, but there’s a reason why gardening books don’t […]

via DIY Compressed Soil Block Maker — From the Ground Up

Rosemary, Summer Savory, And Sage – Some Like It Hot And Dry

Many culinary herbs originally came from southern Europe in and around the Mediterranean sea. There have been a lot more herb plantings {rosemary, thyme, lavender, summer savory, and sage} killed with love{over watering} than have been killed by neglect.

A majority of herbs like a well drained soil with a pH range of 6.0-7.5. Outdoors, avoid planting in heavy clay soils as well as wet areas. Also, avoid soils that have a high nutrient content. These rich soils may actually prove detrimental to the herb’s quality by promoting rapid, lush growth that will contain only small amounts of the volatile oils that give herbs their characteristic aromas and flavors. Containers used for growing herbs, whether indoors or outside, should always have holes in the bottom to insure proper drainage.

Most herbs require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight in order to grow well. All day sun is even better. The more intense the light, the more oils will develop within the glands of foliage and stems, creating stronger fragrances and seasonings. A southern or western exposure will meet the needs of most herbs, although some may do well in a bright east facing location.

Indoors, it is crucial to give herbs the best light available. During winter, when days are shorter and typically darker, fluorescent grow lights will probably be necessary to maintain healthy plants. Twelve hours of artificial light daily is adequate for most indoor grown herbs.

Water thoroughly only as needed by soaking the soil to a depth of 8 inches, to ensure that the root zone is receiving adequate moisture. Outdoors, container grown herbs must be watered more frequently, even daily, if days are very hot and sunny. Indoors, water thoroughly when the soil feels dry a half inch or so below the surface.
Tip: Never allow the plants to wilt between watering, but avoid constant soggy soil conditions. Constantly wet soil encourages root rots which are the most common problem of herbs grown indoors, especially during winter.

Fertilize sparingly. Too vigorous growth will produce foliage low in essential oils and therefore bland. Use a liquid fertilizer at half the label recommended strength once every 6-8 weeks or so for indoor plants and every 4-6 weeks for herbs in containers outdoors.

Mulching materials such as straw, marsh hay, compost, and leaves provide good winter protection for hardy perennial herbs. Depending on the size of the plant, a mulch 2-5 inches thick will keep the temperatures around the plant more constant during late fall and early spring, keeping winter damage to a minimum. Mulching can also be beneficial during hot, dry periods of the summer by helping to regulate soil temperature and moisture.

Rosemary plant care is easy. When growing rosemary plants, provide them with well drained, sandy soil and at least six to eight hours of sunlight. These plants thrive in warm, humid environments and cannot withstand winters below 30 F. (-1C.), it’s often better when growing rosemary plants to put them in containers, which can be placed in ground and easily moved indoors during winter.
Rosemary prefers to remain somewhat on the dry side; therefore, terra cotta pots are a good choice when selecting suitable containers. These pots allow the plant to dry out faster. Thoroughly water rosemary plants when the soil is dry to the touch but allow the plants to dry out between watering intervals. Even indoors, rosemary plants will require lots of light, at least six hours, so place the plant in a suitable location free of drafts.

Sage is sturdy, hardy, prolific, and drought-tolerant. It grows well within a wide range of temperatures and planting zones. Sage also boasts a long growing season. Since this resinous herb is evergreen in most zones, you can harvest sage well into late fall.

Savory two types of savory: summer savory and winter savory. Summer savory is an annual. Winter savory is a perennial. Both can be planted in spring about the time of the average last frost date or started indoors as early as 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Both will be ready for harvest about 70 days after planting.

Summer savory is a fast growing annual. It grows upright to about 18 inches tall as a loose bushy plant. Summer savory has needle-shaped leaves to about 1 inch long on four sided, gray green stems. Summer savory flowers are light purple to pink.

Winter savory is a semi-evergreen bushy perennial that grows to about 15 inches tall. It also has needle shaped, dark green leaves to about 1 inch long on four-squared stems that become woody with age. Winter savory has small white or purple flowers.

Winter savory has a piney, sharp flavor.
Summer savory is sweet flavored.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Rosemary Plants: Rosemary Plant Care https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/rosemary/growing-rosemary-plants-rosemary-plant-care.htm
Source document: University of Minnesota Growing Herbs

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The Thyme Is Now

Thyme is a highly aromatic herb which grows especially well in sunny somewhat dry conditions. A Mediterranean herb, thyme holds its flavor in cooking and blends well with other flavors like garlic, olive oil and tomatoes.

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 – 9+
Exposure: Full Sun
Mature Size: Varies with variety.
Thyme is generally low growing, spreading, 6 – 10″ in height. Some varieties form an almost flat carpet.

Description: Thyme is a low growing, woody perennial. It is extremely fragrant and flavorful and grows well in tough, dry conditions. The pink, lavender or white tubular flowers are very popular with bees. Tiny gray-green leaves remain evergreen. There are about 350 different species.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Thymus x citriodorus ‘Aureus’ – Lemon-scented thyme with a true lemon scent, the minty quality of thyme and golden variegated leaves.
  • T. pseudolanuginosus ‘Woolly Thyme’ – Very soft, flat spreading carpet. No scent. (Zones 6 – 5)
  • T. herba-barona ‘Caraway Thyme’ – Low growing, with pale pink flowers and the scent of caraway. Also look for thymes with the scents of orange, rose and lavender.
  • Growing Requirements & Maintenance: Thyme pretty much grows itself. In fact, the more you fuss with it, the less hardy it will be. Thyme is most fragrant and flavorful when grown in dry, lean soil. Too much moisture will rot the plants.

    Thyme will grow well indoors, if given a bright, sunny window. However, since it survives quite well outdoors all winter, you might want to consider giving it a sheltered location outside, where you can continue to harvest.

    Maintenance: When grown in warmer climates where it can get shrubby, prune hard, in early spring, to prevent the plant from getting too woody. Additional shaping can be done after flowering. Otherwise all that is needed is to prune by harvesting and to remove and replace any areas that die out.

    Uses: Thyme is flavorful fresh and dried. It makes a nice complement to tomato sauces, cheeses, eggs and vegetables. It can also be used to flavor jellies, breads, vinegars, marinades, sauces and in bouquet garnish.

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    Bee on the lookout for these pollinators

    The European honeybee (Apis mellifera), introduced into North America in the early 1600s, is often what people visualize when they think about bees. About 4,000 species of bees that occur in North America, many gardeners are unaware of the diversity of native bees that are busy going about their work of collecting pollen or sipping nectar from flowers.

    The 10 genera of native bees are common in gardens and wherever an abundance of flowering plants occur. Each has its own seasonality, nesting lifestyle and forage preferences that differ greatly from those of the honeybee.

    1. Calliopsis Bees
    Where you’ll see them: The Western Hemisphere from southern Canada southward to Argentina and Chile.
    When to look: Summer is the optimum time to observe Calliopsis.
    These fast-moving small to medium-size bees are easy to miss, but you may spot them on vervain (Verbena spp.) in summer.

    2. Small Sweat Bees
    Where you’ll see them: Throughout the world on every continent except Antarctica.
    When to look: In the northern United States, early April is often when some of the first sightings of female Lasioglossum occur; they happen earlier in the spring farther south.
    Small sweat bees are a large, diverse genus of bees. The dominant subfamily Dialictus is composed of small black or gray bees with a slightly metallic sheen.

    3. Long-Horned Bees
    Where you’ll see them: Throughout North America and in parts of Central and South America.
    When to look: Midsummer through fall is the optimum time to observe long-horned bees.
    These robustly shaped bees can be consistently found foraging on plants in the Asteraceae family in summer. These beautiful medium-size bees are effective pollinators of many open-flower forms, including sunflowers.
    Males have extremely long antennae, and females have chap-like, long pollen-collecting hairs on the lower parts of their hind legs.

    4. Sweat Bees
    Where you’ll see them: Throughout most of the world except Australia, New Zealand and southern Asia, including Indonesia.
    When to look: Sweat bees are active as adults from spring through fall.
    Sweat bees are medium-sized, black or dark gray with pale or white hair bands on their abdomen.
    Sweat bees effectively pollinate native plants, cultivated plants and, in some cases, food crops, including blueberries and strawberries.

    5. Bumblebees
    Where you’ll see them: In North and South America, Asia, Europe and northern Africa; they have been introduced into other countries, including New Zealand and Australia.
    When to look: Bumblebees are active throughout the growing season, from spring through fall, with the time of year often determining what types of bumblebees you will likely observe.
    There are over 40 species of bumblebees in North America, and they are one of a minority of native bees that nest socially, forming small, annual colonies. Excellent pollinators, they visit a wide variety of plants.

    6. Mining Bees
    Where you’ll see them: Throughout the Northern Hemisphere, including Europe, North America, southern Africa and limited areas in Asia; they are very common throughout the U.S. and southern Canada.
    When to look: Spring is the optimum time to observe mining bees.
    The majority of mining bee species are active in the spring and are responsible for pollinating many woodland wildflowers as well as early-flowering native shrubs, such as viburnums (Viburnum spp.) and dogwoods (Cornus spp.).

    7. Leafcutter Bees
    Where you’ll see them: Throughout most of the world, including Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, South America and North America.
    When to look: Leafcutter bees are active as adults from the beginning of June to the end of September in the upper Midwest; they tend to emerge in May farther south.
    Female leafcutter bees have large teeth that they use to cut pieces of leaves (or flower petals) to use as a nest lining, one step in their nest-building activities. Another feature of bees in the leafcutter bee family is that the females collect pollen on the bottom of their abdomen, rather than on their hind leg like the majority of bees.
    Leafcutter bees effectively pollinate native plants, cultivated plants and, in some cases, food crops. A few species have been introduced into North America as commercial pollinators of food crops, including Megachile rotundata for the pollination of alfalfa.

    8. Small Carpenter Bees
    Where you’ll see them: Throughout most of the world, including Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and North America; they are rare in Australia.
    When to look: You will see small carpenter bees visiting flowers throughout the growing season, from early spring through fall.
    These tiny, shiny blue bees nest in pith-filled flower stalks, and it’s easy to provide them with nesting sites in your garden. Although small in size, small carpenter bees have a relatively long tongue and can access floral resources on both open, simple flower forms and complex flowers where nectar is more difficult to reach.

    9. Cellophane Bees
    Where you’ll see them: Throughout most of the world, but absent from Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand.
    When to look: Spring is the optimum time to observe cellophane bee nests and emergence activity.
    Cellophane bees are medium-sized, and most species have a heart-shaped (tapered) face, giving them a “cute” appearance. Cellophane bees are effective pollinators of many types of plants; they have a short tongue compared with other bee species of a similar size.

    10. Metallic Green Sweat Bees
    Where you’ll see them: In the Western Hemisphere from central North America south to Central America and parts of South America.
    When to look: In the northern United States, mid to late May is often when some of the first sightings of female Agapostemon occur, earlier in the spring farther south.
    Metallic green sweat bees are one of four genera of bees in the eastern U.S. that are brilliant emerald green. They are effective pollinators, visiting a wide variety of open or accessible flowers from early summer through fall.

    Don’t Water Your Garden And Orchard Weeds

    Starting anew this spring.
    I am attempting to make watering a few trees and grape vines easier on me yet insuring desirable plants get the maximum amount of water and undesirable weeds get a minimum amount of water.

    Visiting my local farm store I found all the nifty parts to construct a ‘portable’ drip watering system.

    Last summer I bought 2 new 50 foot water hoses. I got 2 – 50 foot hoses so I can disconnect at 50 feet to water chickens and a near by Maple tree without the need to drag 100 feet of hose behind me.

    This spring I went to my local farm store and bought:
    2 – brass quick disconnects – $4.99 (for 2 quick disconnects))
    1 – brass ball shut off valve – $3.49
    1 – mechanical water shut off timer – $9.99
    * why is it everything cost $?.99 or ?.49 cents???

    The layout:
    Water shutoff timer is connected to freeze proof faucet. Attach water hose, use lots of duct tape to secure water host near the ground to the freeze proof faucet riser pipe. This should keep me or others from damaging the water timer by pulling on the hose and damaging the plastic parts of the timer.

    Hose #1 attach to timer and attach quick disconnect ‘securely’ to other end of hose.
    Hose #2 attach quick disconnects to female end and your ball valve shut off valve to the male end of your hose.

    With this setup you can control your water supply and apply no more that about 5 gallons an hour directly at the base of your tree or grape vine. I plan on watering trees and vines once a week starting about the 1st of May through the end of September, maybe less if the mulch holds as much moisture as I am hoping it will. More control can be had by setting your timer to 15, 30 or 60 minutes before it automatically shuts of the water supply.

    The pro’s 1. your don’t forget to check and shut off your faucet.
    2. your hose is not setting in the hot summer sun under full water supply pressure, a real hose saver.
    3. You are only watering your desirable plants and not your unwanted weeds.

    The con’s, you will likely loose 1/4 to 1/3 faucet volume passing through the timer, quick disconnects and hose end ball valve. If you water by sprinkler this very well maybe a serious water flow reduction problem.

    I have taken this one step further. My good neighbor delivered free of charge about 4 yards of wood chips. I am in the process of putting down a 4 foot circle of wood chips 6-8 inches deep around each tree and grape vine. Wood chips will help keep the soil cooled in out hot dry summer weather. It conserves soil moisture and is helpful in controlling unwanted weeds near the base of trees and vines.

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    Town & Country – Farm & Ranch Stores

    I reside in USDA zone 7. My last average last frost date is about the 10th of April.
    Armed with that trivial information and my nifty little computer generated calender, I have determined that it’s only 61 days until it’s relative safe to plant frost sensitive vegetables.

    Fruit trees are breaking bud and will be in full bloom in a week or so. Ornamental shrubs, trees and spring flowering plants will soon burst into full bloom.

    Guess what gang. Stores that sell things like vegetable seed and seedlings, things like tomato’s, peppers, onion sets, potato sets are putting out displays of nice looking seedlings for gardeners that don’t have a clue about last frost dates and those that truly believe that because we have had a week of frost free weather, winter has come to an end.

    Gardeners thinking with their eyes and an over whelming desire to plant this years vegetable garden will invest a lot of money in seed and seedlings. In a week or so weather will return to it’s normal temperatures, seed will fail to germinate because the soil is to cool for most seed to germinate and seedlings will be killed when temperatures fall below 32%(0% C) for several hours or even several days.

    Don’t fall for mother natures winter tricks.

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    Tomato’s Seed to Table – Short Course

    Don’t Crowd Seedlings.
    Don’t Let Seedlings Grow Into Each Other. If you are starting tomatoes from seed, be sure to give the seedlings room to branch out. Close conditions inhibit their growth, so transplant them as soon as they get their first true leaves and move them into 4″ pots about 2 weeks after that.

    Provide lots of light.
    Tomato seedlings will need either strong, direct sunlight or 14-18 hours under grow lights. Place the young plants only a couple of inches from florescent grow lights. Plant your tomatoes outside in the sunniest part of your vegetable plot.

    Put a fan on your seedlings.
    Tomato plants need to move and sway in the breeze, to develop strong stems. Provide a breeze by turning a fan on them for 5-10 minutes twice a day.

    Preheat the soil in your garden.
    Using Black Plastic to Warm the Soil. Tomatoes love heat. Cover the planting area with black or red plastic a couple of weeks before you intend to plant. Those extra degrees of warmth will translate into earlier tomatoes. Tomato’s will germinate below 70 degrees, however best results are obtained when soil temperature is above 70 degrees and below 95 degrees.

    Bury them deep.
    Bury tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, all the way up to a few top leaves. Tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems. You can either dig a deeper hole or simply dig a shallow tunnel and lay the plant sideways. It will straighten up and grow toward the sun. Be careful not to drive your pole or cage into the stem.

    Mulch Later.
    Straw Makes a Great Vegetable Garden Mulch. Mulch after the ground has had a chance to warm up. Mulching does conserve water and prevents the soil and soil born diseases from splashing up on the plants, but if you put it down too early it will also shade and therefore cool the soil. Try using plastic mulch for heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers. (See Tip #4)

    Remove the Bottom Leaves.
    Tomato Leaf Spot Diseases. Once the tomato plants are about 3′ tall, remove the leaves from the bottom 1′ of stem. These are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. They get the least amount of sun and soil born pathogens can be unintentionally splashed up onto them. Spraying weekly with compost tea also seems to be effective at warding off fungus diseases.

    Pinch & Prune for More Tomatoes
    Tomato Suckers in the Joint of Branches. Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. But go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes.

    Water the Tomato Plants Regularly.
    Blossom End Rot. Water deeply and regularly while the plants are developing. Irregular watering, (missing a week and trying to make up for it), leads to blossom end rot and cracking. Once the fruit begins to ripen, lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars. Don’t withhold water so much that the plants wilt and become stressed or they will drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit.

    Getting Them to Set Tomatoes.
    Determinate type tomatoes tend to set and ripen their fruit all at about the same time, making a large quantity available when you’re ready to make sauce.
    You can get indeterminate type tomatoes to set fruit earlier by pinching off the tips of the main stems in early summer.

    Iowa State University is for those of you that garden in the northern 1/2 of the U.S. University of Texas provides information that most often effect southern state tomato gardens.

    No matter where you live both sites have a huge amount of useful information on Identifying and treating tomato diseases. Don’t be discouraged or intimidated by the sheer numbers of tomato diseases. I’m pretty sure you will not suffer from all of them this year. in fact, insect control very well maybe your biggest problem in a home garden.

    Iowa State University Contains Pictures, description, Control and Treatment of tomato disease, bacterial and virus infections.

    Texas A and M University Contains Pictures, description, Control and Treatment of tomato disease, bacterial and virus infections.

    Insect control just like disease control starts with properly identifying the insect(s) that are causing your problems.
    Colorado State University will help you identify and control some of the most common tomato insect pest.

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    Salads and Pickles

    bamboo cucumber trellis

    Cucumber Bamboo Trellis

    Cucumber is a tender, warm season vegetable that produces well when given proper care and protection. The vines of standard varieties grow rapidly and require substantial space. Vertical training methods and new dwarf varieties now allow cucumbers to be grown for slicing, salads and pickling, even in small garden plots.

    Recommended Varieties

    2017-02-03-18_40_03-ez-gardening-e-507_cucumbers-pdf
    Long Green Slicing

    Burpless (hybrid – 62 days to harvest; the original sweet, long, Chinese type hybrid; does well on a trellis).

    Marketmore 76 (68 days; very uniform, dark green, straight fruit; multiple disease resistance).

    Straight 8 (58 days; AAS winner a long time favorite; excellent flavor evenly dark green fruit).

    cucumber wire trellis

    Cucumber wire trellis

    Long Green Slicing (compact plant)

    Bush Crop (55 days to harvest; delicious; 6-8 inch fruit on dwarf, bushy plants)

    Fanfare (hybrid – 63 days AAS winner; great taste; high yield; extended harvest; disease resistant).

    Salad Bush (hybrid – 57 days; AAS winner; uniform 8 inch fruit on compact plants; tolerant to a wide variety of diseases

    Pickling

    Bush Pickle (48 days to harvest; compact plant; good for container growing)

    Carolina (Hybrid – 49 days; straight, blocky fruits with white spines; medium-sized plant with good vigor; disease resistant)

    When to Plant

    Cucumbers are usually started by planting seeds directly in the garden. Plant after the danger of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed in the spring. Warm soil is necessary for germination of seeds and proper growth of plants. With ample soil moisture, cucumbers thrive in warm summer weather. A second planting for fall harvest may be made in mid- to late summer.

    Cucumbers may be transplanted for extra early yields. Sow two or three seeds in peat pots, peat pellets or other containers 3 to 4 weeks before the frost free date. Thin to one plant per container. Plant transplants 1 to 2 feet apart in rows 5 to 6 feet apart when they have two to four true leaves. Do not allow transplants to get too large in containers or they will not transplant well. Like other vine crops, cucumbers do not transplant successfully when pulled as bare-root plants.

    Spacing & Depth

    row-planted-cucumbers Plant seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep and thin the seedlings to one plant every 12 inches in the row or to three plants every 36 inches in the hill system. If you use transplants, plant them carefully in warm soil 12 inches apart in the row.

    Care

    Cucumber plants have shallow roots and require ample soil moisture at all stages of growth. When fruit begins setting and maturing, adequate moisture becomes especially critical. For best yields, incorporate compost or well-rotted manure before planting. Cucumbers respond to mulching with soil-warming plastic in early spring or organic materials in summer. Use of black plastic mulch warms the soil in the early season and can give significantly earlier yields, especially if combined with floating row covers.

    Side-dress with NPK 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 balanced fertilizer when the plants begin to vine. Cucumber beetles should be controlled from the time that the young seedlings emerge from the soil.

    In small gardens, the vines may be trained on a trellis or fence. When the long, burpless varieties are supported, the cucumbers hang free and develop straight fruits. Winds whipping the plants can make vertical training impractical. Wire cages also can be used for supporting the plants. Do not handle, harvest or work with the plants when they are wet.

    wood container cucumber trellis

    Cucumber container grown on wood trellis

    Harvesting

    Pick cucumbers at any stage of development before the seeds become hard. Cucumbers usually are eaten when immature. The best size depends upon the use and variety. They may be picked when they are no more than 2 inches long for pickles, 4 to 6 inches long for dills and 6 to 8 inches long for slicing varieties. A cucumber is of highest quality when it is uniformly green, firm and crisp. The large, burpless cucumbers should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and up to 10 inches long. Some varieties can grow considerably larger. Do not allow cucumbers to turn yellow. Remove from the vine any missed fruits nearing ripeness so that the young fruits continue to develop. The cucumber fruit grows rapidly to harvest size and should be picked at least every other day.

    Questions & Answers

    Q. Some of my small cucumbers are badly misshapen. Will they develop into normal cucumbers?

    A. No. They should be removed from the vines. Misshapen cucumbers may result from poor pollination or low fertility. Side-dressing with a complete fertilizer may help later cucumbers to develop normally.

    Q. Why do some of my plants suddenly wilt and die? Dead or dying plants are scattered all over my cucumber patch. One plant in a hill may be healthy, while another dies.

    A. These are typical symptoms of the bacterial wilt disease. This disease is spread by cucumber beetles early in the season. The beetles must be controlled immediately when the plants are small.

    Q. Is there really a “burpless” cucumber?

    A. Yes. Burpless cucumbers are no longer considered novelties and are offered in most garden catalogs. They are mild, sweet and crisp when fresh. The skin is tender and free of bitterness, although many people peel it off. Most varieties are long (10 to 12 inches) and curved, unless grown on a trellis. These varieties are better eaten fresh, using conventional varieties for most picklng uses.

    Q. What cucumber variety should I buy for gherkins?

    A. Buy the West Indian gherkin. It is a close relative of the garden cucumber used for pickling. The fruits are generally oval, 1 to 3 inches long and more spiny than cucumbers. They are also called “burr cucumbers” but are usually listed in catalogs as West Indian gherkin. They are grown in the same way as cucumbers. Small-fruited, prickly varieties of cucumber are sometimes sold as “gherkins.” If small, tender cucumbers are what you want to pickle and call “gherkins,” then these misnamed cucumber varieties serve the purpose well.

    Q. Why do my cucumbers fail to set fruit and yield properly?

    A. The first yellow flowers appearing on the plants are male flowers that provide pollen. These flowers normally drop off after blooming. The small cucumber is evident at the base of the female flower (even before it opens) and should develop into an edible fruit if properly pollinated. Anything that interferes with pollination of the female flowers reduces fruit set and yield, including cold temperatures and rainy weather that hamper bee activity or improper use of insecticides that kill bees.

    Q. What are gynoecious hybrids?

    A. Gynoecious (“female-flowering”) hybrids are special hybrids of slicing and pickling cucumbers that are advertised in many garden catalogs. Because they have all female flowers, they may be earlier and higher yielding than other varieties. Usually, the seed company mixes in a small proportion of seed of a standard cucumber as a pollinator.

    Q. How far away from melons should I plant my cucumbers? I am concerned about cross pollination.

    A. Contrary to popular opinion, cucumbers do not cross-pollinate with muskmelons or watermelons and cause them to become bitter, tasteless or off-flavor. Because cucumbers and melons require considerable space in the garden, however, plant the rows far enough apart for proper vine growth without overlapping.

    Q. What causes my cucumber plants to be stunted? The leaves are a mottled yellow, and the fruits are blotchy and taste bitter.

    A. This condition is caused by the cucumber mosaic virus. Grow mosaic-resistant varieties.

    Q. What causes the white mold growth on the upper surfaces of my cucumber leaves?

    A. This condition is caused by powdery mildew, a fungal disease that is most severe during late summer and fall plantings. Grow resistant varieties.

    Harvest cucumbers early in the morning (before have been heated by the afternoon sun) and refrigerate immediately. Store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator in loose or perforated plastic bags. Supermarket cucumbers are covered with an edible wax to protect them from moisture loss. The wax gives them an unnatural sheen. Fresh cucumbers are dull green in color.

    Pickling cucumbers — Pickling cucumbers should be picked every day, since they can quickly grow too large for use. Do not leave over-mature, yellow cucumbers on the vine. If a single cucumber is left on the vine, the vine will stop producing altogether.

    Slicing cucumbers — Slicing cucumbers should be harvested as needed. But there is no practical use for baseball bat size cucumbers. They are tough and the seeds are woody. Harvest when they are 8 inches long or smaller. As with pickling cucumbers, remove the over mature ones as soon as you see them or they will halt the growth of new cucumbers.

    Nutritional Value & Health Benefits

    Cucumbers add a crisp snap to salads and sandwiches, however they are not a very good source of nutrients. The most abundant nutrient in cucumbers is water. A small amount of beta carotene is found in the green peel, but once peeled the level drops to nearly zero.

    Nutrition Facts (6 large or 8 small raw cucumber slices with peel)

    Calories 5
    Protein trace
    Dietary fiber 1 gram
    Carbohydrates 1 gram
    Calcium 7 mg
    Vitamin A 70 IU
    Vitamin C 3 mg
    Iron trace

    Preparation & Serving

    Cucumbers are often soaked in salt water to remove some of the naturally high water content. Cucumbers will otherwise give up water and dilute the salad dressing. Unpeeled cucumbers are higher in nutritional value as fiber and vitamin A are lost by peeling.

    Home Preservation

    Aside from pickling, there is no practical way to preserve cucumbers. There are many ways to make a pickle. They can be fermented or quick packed in a vinegar solution and processed in a boiling water bath and kept on the shelf for up to a year. There is no great challenge to making pickles. Pickles can be made by the quart or by the five-gallon crock. For those who do not know how to can, pickles can be made in the refrigerator or in the freezer. Pickling cucumbers are best to use because the skin is less bitter than slicing cucumbers and they have smaller and fewer seeds. However, you can successful substitute slicing cucumbers.

    Make pickles without canning.

    Refrigerator Dill Chips

    Pickled cucumbers add spice and texture to sandwiches and meals. For highest quality pickles, use cucumbers that are no more the 24 hours from the vine. Use “pure” or pickling salt in this recipe. Table salt contains additives that make a cloudy brine and off color pickles.

    • 2 to 2-1/2 cups sliced cucumbers, about 1/4 inch thick
    • 2-1/2 teaspoons pickling salt
    • 2 springs fresh dill, about 6 inches long or 1 tablespoon dry dill seed or 1 head of fresh dill
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
    • 1/2 cup water

    Prepare the jar, lid and screwband. Wash them in hot soapy water, rinse well and drain. Combine the sliced cucumbers and 1-1/2 teaspoons of the pickling salt. Toss well. Cover with cold water and let stand for 2 to 3 hours. Drain.

    In a clean, hot, 1 pint jar, put the dill, garlic, and remaining 1 teaspoon pickling salt. Add the cucumbers slices leaving 1/2 inch head space. Push slices down and firmly pack. Combine water and vinegar and bring to a boil. Pour hot vinegar solution over cucumbers.

    Use a plastic knife or spatula to release air bubbles. Insert knife down the side of the jar and gently push cucumber slices toward the center so that the vinegar solution gets between the slices. Pour on more hot vinegar solution if necessary. Leave 1/2 inch headspace (the space between the rim of the jar and its contents). Wipe the rim. Put the lid and screwband in place. Refrigerate one to six weeks before eating. (Best flavor after 4 weeks).

    Recipes

    Cucumber Yogurt Salad Dressing

    This is a delicious, heart healthy, low calorie salad dressing which can be used as a dip for steamed or raw vegetables or as a topping for baked potatoes or steamed carrots. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

    • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
    • 2/3 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
    • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
    • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil or vegetable oil
    • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar or white vinegar
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
    • 2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill

    Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until creamy and smooth. Chill for about 2 hours before serving. Makes 1-1/2 cups.

    Thai Cucumber Salad

    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
    • 4 pickling or slicing cucumbers, sliced lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
    • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
    • 10 whole cilanto leaves
    • 1/4 cup red pepper, julienne (about 1 inch long)

    Combine the sugar, vinegar and salt and heat in a small sauce pan until sugar has dissolved (about 5 minutes) do not boil. Set saucepan in cold water to cool the vinegar mixture. When cool, pour over cucumbers and garnish with red peppers. Serves four.

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    Tomatoes Q&A

    Tomato (40 Questions)

    1. Q. When should I start my seed indoors to produce tomato transplants for my garden?

    A. Depending upon temperature and how the plants are grown, it takes from
    6 to 8 weeks to produce a healthy, 6-inch tall transplant for setting out in
    your garden. The plants should be grown in a warm area and receive 6 to 8
    hours of sunlight daily or tall, poor quality, leggy plants will result.

    2. Q. How do you select good transplants at nurseries or garden centers?

    A. First, select the Extension recommended varieties of transplant
    whether it be tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or broccoli. Also, look for plants
    that appear healthy, dark green in color, and do not have any spots or holes in
    the leaves. The ideal tomato, pepper or eggplant transplant should be just
    about as wide as it is tall. Avoid tall, spindly plants.

    3. Q. How often should my tomatoes be fertilized?

    A. It is necessary to fertilize the garden before planting tomatoes.
    Apply the fertilizer again when fruit first sets. From that point on, an
    additional fertilization (sidedress) every week to 10 days is recommended.
    Plants grown on sandy soils should be fertilized more frequently than those
    grown on heavy, clay soils. A general sidedress fertilizer recommendation is
    one to two tablespoons of a complete fertilizer scattered around the plant and
    worked into the soil. If using a fertilizer high in nitrogen such as ammonium
    nitrate or sulfate, reduce the rate to one tablespoon per plant.

    4. Q. Should tomato plants be staked, caged or left unsupported?

    A. Tomatoes should be supported. Whether you cage or stake them is
    personal preference. Regardless of the method, plants with foliage and fruit
    supported off the ground will produce more than unsupported plants. Caging has several advantages. It involves less work than staking. Once the cage is placed over the plant there is no further manipulation of the plant – – no pruning, no tying. The fruit are simply harvested as they ripen. In many areas, staking and pruning of the plant to a single or multiple stem results in sunburn when the developing fruit is exposed to excessive sunlight. Other advantages of caging over staking include protection of fruit from bird damage
    by more vigorous foliage cover and less fruit rot. Caged tomato vines produce more fruit of a smaller size, but staked and tied plants produce less fruit which mature earlier yet are larger.

    5. Q. My tomato plants look great. They are dark green, vigorous and healthy. However, flowers are not forming any fruit. What is the problem?

    A. Several conditions can cause tomatoes to not set fruit. Too much
    nitrogen fertilizer, nighttime temperatures over 70 degrees F., low
    temperatures below 50 degrees F., irregular watering, insects such as thrips
    or planting the wrong variety may result in poor fruit set. Any of these
    conditions can cause poor fruit set, but combinations can cause failures. If
    Extension recommended varieties are used , the main reason tomato plants do not
    set fruit is because they are not planted where they can receive 8-10 hours of
    direct sunlight daily. Any less direct sunlight will result in a spindly
    growing, nonproductive plant with healthy foliage.

    6. Q. Are there really low-acid tomato varieties?

    A. There are some varieties that are slightly less acidic than others,
    but this difference is so slight that there is no real difference in taste or
    in how the tomatoes should be processed. Some yellow-fruited types are
    slightly less acidic than the normal red varieties, but not enough to make any
    difference. Research conducted by the USDA indicates that all varieties
    available to the home gardener are safe for water bath processing as long as
    good quality fruit are used. Flavor differences which exist between varieties
    are not because of differences in acid content, but balances of the sugar to
    acid ratio.

    7. Q. Some tomato varieties are recommended because they are determinate and fast maturing. What does determinate mean and can you tell if a tomato is determinate by looking at it?

    A. Determinate means the plant is small. Determinate tomato varieties
    seldom are more than 5 to 6 feet tall. A determinate vine is distinguished by
    a repeating pattern of two leaves followed by a flower or fruiting cluster. An
    indeterminate vine has a repeating pattern of three or four leaves, then a
    cluster.

    8. Q. Can I save seeds from my tomatoes from next season’s plantings, and if so how?

    A. You can save seed from tomatoes if the variety is not a hybrid.
    Hybrid tomatoes do not come true from seed. The plants and fruit from seed
    saved form your home garden may or may not resemble the parent. Chances are the
    fruit will be poorer quality and the vine characteristics will not be the same
    as the parent plant. However, for true breeding varieties, such as Homestead,
    it is easy to save seed. To save seed from tomatoes or any other home
    vegetable fruit crop, leave the fruit on the plant until it is mature, pull
    it, squeeze juice with seed into a glass, let this ferment for two days
    adding water if needed. Rinse the seeds two or three times to remove debris.
    Seeds will settle to the bottom. After rinsing the seeds, blot them and place
    them in the sun to dry. Store the seeds under cool, dry conditions.

    9. Q. When caging tomatoes, how large should the cage be?

    A. The diameter of the cage should be at least 18 to 20 inches. Smaller
    cages often restrict plant growth and reduce yields. Height of the cage will
    vary but generally 2 feet is sufficient for the recommended varieties.
    However, if vining types such as Better Boy, Homestead or Terrific, are used a
    cage 5 feet in height is preferred. Regardless of variety, the 2 foot tall
    cage is sufficient for most fall garden tomatoes.

    10. Q. How do you stake tomatoes?

    A. Staking involves pruning or suckering the plant to either one or two
    main stalks. Tomatoes grown without support develop a bush shape. However, if
    the plant is to be trellised or staked, it must be pruned to a single or double
    stalk. The small suckers which develop between the axil of the leaf and the
    stem are removed to develop a vine structure rather than a bush. A wooden
    stake an inch in diameter and 6 feet long is driven into the ground beside the
    plant. Do not damage the root system when inserting the stake in the ground.
    The stalk of the plant is loosely attached to the stake as it grows. The plant
    can be attached to the stake with twist-ties, soft string, strips of cloth or
    panty hose. The plant is sufficiently supported if it is attached to the
    stake at 12 to 14 inch intervals. Continued suckering to prevent the plant
    from developing more than one or two central stems. If a double-stalk plant
    is desired leave the sucker produced above the first flower cluster since it
    will be the most vigorous.

    11. Q. What causes a tomato to crack? Is there anything I can do to prevent it?

    A. Cracking is a physiological disorder caused by soil moisture
    fluctuations. When the tomato reaches the mature green stage and the water
    supply to the plant is reduced or cut off, the tomato will begin to ripen. At
    this time a cellophane-like wrapper around the outer surface of the tomato
    becomes thicker and more rigid to protect the tomato during and after harvest.
    If the water supply is restored after ripening begins, the plant will resume
    translocation of nutrients and moisture into the fruit. This will cause the
    fruit to enlarge; which in turn splits the wrapper around the fruit and results
    in cracking. The single best control for cracking is a constant and regular
    water supply. Apply a layer of organic mulch to the base of the plant. This
    serves as a buffer and prevents soil moisture fluctuation. Water plants
    thoroughly every week. This is especially important when the fruits are
    maturing. Some varieties are resistant to cracking, but their skin is
    tougher.

    12. Q. What could cause the leaves of my tomatoes to turn brown along the edges?

    A. Leaf-burn or scorch generally indicates root injury, quite often
    caused by heavy amounts of fertilizer applied too near the roots. This injury
    often results in browning and die back of the ends and margins of the leaves.
    Other possible causes are root injury caused by nematodes, insects or physical
    injury by cultivation. Also overwatering or underwatering along with diseases
    might cause leaf-tip burn.

    13. Q. About the time my tomatoes ripen and turn red, I lose at least half my crop to bird damage. What can prevent this?

    A. Bird damage is common in all areas. One control method which works
    quite well is to take old nylon stockings and cut them into pieces 10 to 12
    inches long. Tie a knot in one end of the stocking and slip the open end over
    the entire cluster of tomatoes. Secure the end above the tomato cluster with a
    rubber band or twist-tie. Birds will not be able to peck through the nylon.
    Slip the stocking off the cluster and harvest the ripe fruit and replace it to
    protect later-ripening fruit. Also, birds damage fully mature fruit more
    readily than breaker or pink fruit. Harvest in breaker or green-wrap stage.
    Gardeners have tried many ways to reduce bird damage. Scarecrows, aluminum
    strips, tin foil plates and noisemakers will work until the local birds become
    accustomed to seeing or hearing them. Fabric covering materials such as
    Grow-Web and Reemay can also be used as a barrier mechanism.

    14. Q. What causes the black spots on the bottom of my tomatoes?

    A. Blossom end rot, caused by improper (fluctuating from too dry to too
    moist) moisture. Maintain uniform soil moisture as the fruit nears maturity.
    Remove affected fruit.

    15. Q. What causes tomato leaves to curl?

    A. The exact cause of tomato leaf roll is not fully known. Tomato leaf
    roll appears about the time of fruit setting. The leaflets of the older leaves
    on the lower half of the tomato plant roll upward. This gives the leaflets a
    cupped appearance with sometimes even the margins touching or overlapping. The
    overall growth of the plant does not seem to be greatly affected and yields are
    normal. This condition appears to be most common on staked and pruned plants.
    It occurs when excessive rainfall or overwatering keeps the soil too wet for
    too long. It is also related to intensive sunlight which causes carbohydrates
    to accumulate in the leaves. Some varieties of tomatoes are
    characteristically curled.

    16. Q. What causes some of my early tomato fruit from the spring garden to be oddly shaped and of poor quality?

    A. This condition is usually caused by low temperatures during bloom and
    pollination. Fruit that set when temperatures are 55 degrees F. or below
    often are odd-shaped and of poor quality. The blooms these tomatoes develop
    from often are abnormal because of temperature conditions and grow into
    abnormal, odd-shape fruit.

    17. Q. Do products which are supposed to aid in setting tomatoes really work and if they do, how should they be used?

    A. These hormonal products are designed to substitute for natural
    pollination. These products work better when tomatoes are failing to set
    because of too cool temperatures. Tomatoes which set after use of these
    products will be puffy and have less seed.

    18. Q. What is the plant advertised as a tree tomato?

    A. The tree tomato is a member of the Nightshade family. The regular
    tomato belongs to the same plant family but is a different species. The tree
    tomato has the scientific name Cyphomandra betacea. Like the true
    tomato, it is a native of Peru. It is grown in market gardens there and in
    several subtropical countries including Brazil and New Zealand. The tree
    tomato is woody, grows from 8 to 10 feet tall, bears fruit 2 years after
    seeding and may continue to bear for 5 to 6 years. They are not winter hardy
    except in southern areas and would need to be taken inside over winter. Fruits
    of the tree tomato are oval, about 2 inches long and change from greenish
    purple to reddish purple when fully ripe. The fruits are low in acid and the
    flavor is moderately agreeable. Some varieties of the tree tomato produce
    bright, red fruits. The fruits can be used in stew or preserves after the
    tough skin and hard seeds are removed.

    19. Q. Should you allow tomatoes to become fully ripe and red on the vine before harvesting?

    A. Generally, yields will be increased by harvesting the fruit at first
    blush or pink instead of leaving them on the plant to ripen fully. A tomato
    picked at first sign of color and ripened at room temperature will be just as
    tasty as one left to fully mature on the vine. Picking tomatoes before they
    turn red reduces damage from birds.

    20. Q. If tomatoes are picked green or before they are fully mature, how should they be handled to insure proper ripening and full flavor?

    A. Never refrigerate tomatoes picked immature. Place them in a single
    layer at room temperature and allowed them to develop full color. When they
    are fully ripe, place them in the refrigerator several hours before eating.
    Those handled in this manner will be of high quality and full flavor.

    21. Q. What is a husk tomato?

    A. Husk tomato is also called Ground Cherry, Poha Berry or Strawberry
    Tomato. It is grown the same way as regular tomatoes and produces a fruit the
    size of a cherry tomato. The fruits are produced inside a paper-like husk
    which, when ripe, turns brown and the fruit drops from the plant. If left in
    the husk, the fruit will keep for several weeks. Like tomatoes, they are
    sensitive to cold weather and should be set out from plants after all danger of
    frost in the spring. Space the plants 1 feet apart in rows at least 3 feet
    apart. When ripe the small fruit can be used in pies, jams or may be dried in
    sugar and used like raisins.

    22. Q. I have the best tomato crop I have ever had, but the large tomatoes are falling off the vines. Even the ones that stay on the vine are jarred off easily. What is the problem?

    A. Cool fall temperatures cause the abscission zone, the area where the
    tomato is attached to the plant to weaken, and the heavy fruit subsequently
    falls. Gather fallen tomatoes as soon as possible, wipe them clean and store
    them in a warm place to ripen. These aborted tomatoes will rot if left on
    the ground.

    23. Q. I have large translucent areas on my tomato fruit. What’s going on?

    A. This is an environmental problem. The translucent areas are sun
    scalds. Heat from direct intense sunlight destroys the color pigments of the
    tomato. This damage does not make the tomato inedible.

    24. Q. Can I propagate tomatoes for the fall garden from spring- planted vines?

    A. If quality transplants of Extension recommended varieties cannot be
    found, use suckers or layering (cover with soil until roots appear) of existing
    vine. Do this several weeks before the recommend transplanting date for fall
    tomatoes, and use early-maturing tomato varieties.

    25. Q. Can spring-planted tomatoes be cut back in late summer or early fall resulting in renewed growth and increased production until the first killing frost?

    A. This can be done in some areas, especially in the southern parts.
    However, the plants must be healthy and free of insect problems. Trying to
    carry an unhealthy plant through the summer into the fall usually means
    disaster. If the plants are to be cut back, avoid removing too much of the
    foliage since hot weather can burn the plants to death. After pruning, apply
    additional fertilizer and water to renew growth and increase tomato production
    well into the fall.

    26. Q. How do you tell when a green tomato harvested early to prevent freeze damage will ever turn red and ripen?

    A. This can simply be done with a sharp kitchen knife. Harvest a tomato
    typical of the majority of green tomatoes on your plants. Look at size but pay
    particular attention to fruit color. Slice through the center of the tomato.
    Closely examine the seed within the fruit. If the seeds are covered with a
    clear gel which cause them to move away from the knife, then that fruit will
    eventually turn red and ripen. If the seeds are cut by the knife then those
    fruit will never properly ripen. Compare the color and size of the tested
    fruit when harvesting tomatoes on your plants. Most similar fruit will
    eventually ripen and turn red.

    27. Q. Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable.

    A. The tomato is legally-declared a vegetable by the Supreme Court of the
    United States. A vegetable is a herbaceous (non-woody) plant or plant part
    which can be eaten without processing and is usually consumed with the main
    meal.

    28. Q. The foliage on my tomatoes is infected by irregularly- shaped spots which cause it to turn yellow and drop off. This occurs in all seasons and is on the top as well as the bottom leaves.

    A. Several types of leaf spots will attack tomatoes. Septoria leaf spot
    is seen quite often. It can be controlled with a combination chlorothalonil
    and benomyl (Benlate) spray program. Begin the spray program early in the life
    of the plant. Apply chlorothalonil every 7 to 10 days adding benomyl every
    second spray (14 to 20 days)if humidity is high or rain and dew cause wet
    foliage.

    29. Q. The leaves on my tomato plants are distorted. Why?

    A. This is a mosaic virus. If the virus is severe, remove the plants to
    prevent spread to other plants. Many viruses are insect transmitted and are
    difficult to control even with insecticides.

    30. Q. My tomato plants are stunted and have a pale yellow foliage. The root system has knots or swellings on the roots.

    A. These are root knot nematodes. Varieties such as Celebrity, Better
    Boy and Small Fry resist this problem. If other varieties are to be grown
    nematode populations must be reduced. Root knot is a species of nematode
    which causes galls or swellings on plant roots. It restricts the uptake of
    nutrients from the root system to the foliage, resulting in a yellow and
    stunted plant. Root knot lives in the soil and can survive on a number of weed
    and vegetable crops. It is best controlled by planting a solid stand (close
    enough for root systems to overlap) of marigolds three months before the first killing frost of fall and/or planting cereal rye (Elbon) for a winter cover
    crop. Cereal rye should be shred and tilled into the soil 30 days before
    planting a spring crop. Nematode resistance is indicated by the letter N
    after the tomato name. Example: Celebrity VFN.

    31. Q. My tomatoes were healthy during the spring and early summer, yet after a recent rain, they wilted and died very rapidly. I found a white fungal growth at the base of the plant.

    A. This is southern blight. It is a soilborne fungus and lives on organic
    material in the soil. Terrachlor used as a preplant treatment will reduce this
    problem. Also, the deep burial of undecomposed organic material in the soil
    will reduce the problem. Control foliage diseases on tomato plants because the
    fallen leaves around the base of the plant will feed the fungus, and it will
    build up in this area and cause damage later. Crop rotation will also reduce
    southern blight.

    32. Q. My tomato plants wilted rapidly. When I cut the stem open, I found a brown ring around the inside.

    A. This is Fusarium wilt. It is a soilborne fungus that attacks tomatoes
    and other crops. It is controlled only through the use of resistant varieties.
    Most commercial tomato varieties are resistant. Before you plant a variety,
    make sure it is resistant to Fusarium wilt. This resistance is denoted by the
    letter F after the name. Example: Celebrity VFN.

    33. Q. What do the letters “VFN” associated with particular tomato varieties indicate?

    A. VFN indicates the tomato variety is resistant to three types of
    diseases; Verticilum wilt, Fusarium wilt and nematodes. Many of the new hybrid
    varieties are VFN types. Disease resistant varieties preferred in areas of
    Texas where these problems are severe and cause great losses to home
    gardeners.

    34. Q. The lower foliage on my tomatoes is beginning to turn yellow and drop. The leaves have circular, dark brown to black spots.

    A. This is Alternaria leaf spot or early blight. It is a common problem
    on tomatoes and causes defoliation, usually during periods of high rainfall.
    Plant tomatoes on a raised bed to improve water drainage. They can be spaced
    enough so air can move, dry the foliage and prevent diseases. Follow a spray
    program using daconil beginning when the fruit is set and continuing at 1- to
    2-week intervals during the growing season until harvest.

    Insects

    35. Q. My tomato fruit have small yellow specks on the surface. When the fruit are peeled, those yellow specks form a tough spot that must be cut off before eating the tomatoes. What’s wrong?

    A. Your problem is not of a varietal origin. The yellow speckling is
    caused by sucking insects such as stinkbugs or leaf- footed bugs. Early
    control of sucking insects that feed on the fruit is helpful in alleviating the
    problem.

    36. Q. We planted tomatoes in our small garden. They are loaded and are the best tomatoes we have ever had; however, there are some small holes near the stem end of the tomato. When we cut the tomato open, there is a small worm inside. What is it and what can we do?

    A. You have been invaded by the tomato pinworm. They usually do not
    damage all fruit and can be controlled only by a preventive insecticide spray
    every 7 to 10 days. When the damage is evident, it is too late to do anything
    about it.

    37. Q. What causes my tomato leaves to turn yellowish and fall off?

    A. Many conditions may cause these symptoms including spider mites,
    diseases and nutrient deficiencies. Examine the underside of the leaves for
    small red to greenish mites. If mites are found, treat with Kelthane,
    malathion or sulfur dust. Make two to three applications at 5-day intervals
    for best results.

    38. Q. On some of my ripe tomatoes I have discovered
    small holes with numerous ants in them. I was unaware that ants could do this
    to tomatoes. How can I control them?

    A. Ants aren’t really your problem. They are just attracted to the
    moisture in the holes which were caused by other insects. A likely culprit is
    the tomato fruitworm, also known as the corn earworm. Bt (Bacillus
    thuringensis
    ) is a nontoxic biological control which you can apply to the
    plants.

    39. Q. My tomatoes wilted and died soon after they bloomed. Last fall I had the soil tested and followed the recommendations. I didn’t notice any insects on the tomatoes, and none of the other plants growing in that area were
    affected. The plants were in full sun, though one limb from a black walnut
    tree which is about 20 feet from the garden reaches over that corner at about
    30 feet above the ground. Could the slight shade from this branch cause such a
    severe problem?

    A. The branch is not the cause of your problem, but the tree it is
    attached to probably is. Roots of black walnut and butternut trees release a
    substance called juglone which kills roots of sensitive plants. Tomatoes
    happen to be among the most sensitive, and should not be planted within at
    least 50 feet of these trees. Juglone is emitted from living and dead roots
    and can persist in the soil for over a year, so avoid areas where juglone
    producing trees have grown for two to three years after removing the trees.

    40. Q. What is disease resistance?

    A. Disease resistance is the ability of a plant to withstand attack from disease causing organisms such as bacteria, fungi, or viruses. The extent of resistance can vary from being strongly resistant to infection to being only somewhat more tolerant of the disease than standard varieties. Resistance is not immunity. Improper culture of a resistant variety may negate that resistance.

    A. Plant breeders have a tough job to breed disease resistance into crops because there are so many diseases and often several strains of a given disease. What is often done is to select the disease that causes the most problems and work on breeding resistance to that disease. Seed catalogs and packets indicate what, if any, disease resistance a variety has in descriptive text or with initials following the variety name.

    Disease resistance in tomatoes indicated by initials include:

    V – Verticillium wilt
    F – Fusarium wilt (F1, race 1; F2, race 2)
    N – nematode
    T – tobacco mosaic virus
    A – Alternaria alternata (crown wilt disease)
    L – Septoria leafspot

    Source Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System

    Tomato Growers supply company has a website that I often use as a reference when looking for seedlings and seed at my local nursery.
    Along with a good quality picture they also give a short description of it’s mature appearance, days to maturity and a bit of other useful information on each variety offered.
    They have more than 500 varieties of tomatoes and peppers, including huge selections of both hybrid tomato seeds and heirloom tomato seeds.

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    Pepper – Q&A

    Public Service Message
    If your eyes hurt after drinking Coffee
    Take the spoon out of the cup

    1. Q. Why do my pepper plants often bloom but fail to set fruit?

    A. Peppers, like tomatoes, are sensitive to temperature. Most peppers will drop their blooms when daytime temperatures get much above 90 degrees F. in combination with night temperatures above 75 degrees F. They will also drop their blooms in the early spring if temperatures remain cool for extended periods. Hot peppers, such as jalapenos, withstand hot weather fairly well and can often produce fruit through the summer in most areas. Optimum temperatures fall between 70 degrees and 80 degrees F. for bell-type peppers and between 70 degrees and 85 degrees F. for hot varieties.

    2. Q. If I remove the first few blooms on a pepper plant, will my overall production be increased?

    A. Maybe. Occasionally, if a bell pepper plant sets the first bloom that flowers, the plant will be stunted as it matures that fruit. This is likely to happen if the plant is growing under marginal conditions which might include low fertility or perhaps low moisture. With the first bloom removed, the plant will grow larger before setting fruit which often does result in higher total yields. However, if the plant is grown under satisfactory cultural conditions removing the first bloom should not affect subsequent yield.

    3. Q. If you plant hot peppers beside sweet peppers, will the sweet pepper plant produce hot fruit?

    A. Absolutely not. Pepper flowers are self-pollinated, although occasionally cross-pollinate. However, the result of this crossing will appear only if seed is saved from this year’s crop and planted next year. It will not result in off-flavor or differences in fruit characteristics of this year’s crop.

    4. Q. Can I cut back my spring planted pepper plants in late summer or early fall for increased production later?

    A. Yes, although this is not a recommended practice. In the northern parts of the state spring-planted pepper plants can often be carried through to first killing frost without pruning. However, in southern parts, judiciously pruning the pepper plants and applying additional fertilizer as a sidedress application can prolong pepper production until the first killing frost. Pruning should not be severe in southern parts of the state as excess foliage removal can often result in burn, stunting or death of the plants.

    5. Q. Is there any difference in taste or nutritive value between green peppers and those that mature and turn red?

    A. Peppers that are allowed to mature and ripen entirely, from green to yellow to red, are higher in vitamin content, especially vitamin A. There is little difference in taste although there is a considerable difference in texture caused by the ripening process.

    6. Q. How can you tell when jalapeno peppers are mature?

    A. Jalapeno peppers are edible and flavorful at all stages of their growth. However, a connoisseur of jalapeno peppers can distinguish a definite flavor difference between a fully mature jalapeno and one harvested early. A fully mature jalapeno pepper, regardless of size, generally exhibits small cracks around the shoulders of the fruit. Often a darkened area on the fruit indicates maturity and the initial stages of a color change in the fruit.

    7. Q. Can I save seed from this year’s pepper crop for planting in my next garden?

    A. Yes. Peppers are self-pollinated seed saved from this year’s garden for planting in next year’s garden is an excellent choice. Although an occasional cross-pollination will occur, this is generally not a problem. Do not save seed from hybrid pepper plants as these will not breed true and will result in plants exhibiting characteristics different than the desired hybrid.

    8. Q. The foliage on my pepper plants developed spots or lesions and the leaves have dropped off.

    A. This could be a combination of three foliage diseases: Alternaria leaf spot, Cercospora leaf spot and bacterial leaf spot. In most cases, two or more of these occur simultaneously on the foliage. They can be controlled with foliar sprays using a combination of chlorothalanoil and Kocide or any other copper fungicide. Begin at the first sign of the disease and continue at 1- to 2- week intervals during the critical disease periods.

    9. Q. The foliage and fruit of my pepper plants are distorted and small. The leaves have a mosaic pattern.

    A. This could be one of five viruses that attack peppers in Texas. The best control is to buy healthy plants and to follow approved cultural practices and a good insecticide program. The viruses are transmitted by aphids. For this reason, it is important to control insects. Also, when a plant becomes infected with one of the viruses, remove the plant.

    10. Q. After the recent rainfall, my plants wilted and died soon. The inner stems of the plants were dark.

    A. This is Phytophthora stem rot. It is a soilborne fungus that attacks peppers. It is particularly severe in areas where water stands around the plant. Plant on a raised bed for optimal drainage.

    11. Q. After a summer rain, my pepper plants died rapidly. I found a white growth at the base of the plant. Intermingled with this growth were small, round, bead-like structures the size of a pinhead.

    A. This is southern blight, caused by a soilborne fungus. Crop rotation and deep burial of organic material will help control it. Do not allow leaves to collect around the base of the plant because the fungus will feed on them and later develop on the peppers.

    12. Q. There are small wiggly trails all over the leaves of my pepper plants. What are these?

    A. These trails are caused by leaf miners. Heavy infestations can defoliate plants and reduce yields. Control this pest by treating with diazinon or a recommended insecticide. Two or three applications at 5-7 day intervals may be necessary to achieve control. Use as directed on the label.

    13. Q. We have just moved to this area and enjoy the Mexican food. What makes Mexican food so hot? Is it the pepper they add?

    A. The cooks add pepper alright but not the black stuff you shake from a can – they add green peppers, Capsicum annum. These peppers contain a chemical named capsaicin. When you eat these “green bullets from hell” there’s a cellular response that releases neurotransmitters. These are proteins that mimic chemically the sensation of burning or pain. They go to the end plate of our sensory nerves and create the sensation of pain. The body’s response is to remove the chemical irritant by increasing heart rate to increase metabolism, by increasing salivation and increasing sweating. Your nose runs and the gastrointestinal tract goes to work in high gear to remove the irritant. You sweat to cool yourself.

    The body’s strong reaction to capsaicin is why many people claim chili has medicinal properties. A paper by a New Mexico biologist noted that the death rate from heart disease in the state was about half the national rate. She also said the rate of heart disease among Hispanics and Indians was low. Presumed reason? They all eat lots of chile pepper and that reduces blood fat levels. Hot peppers are said to protect against blood clots that could cause thromboembolism.

    So why do folks eat this hot food? When people eat hot chili the brain secretes endorphins, the opiate-like substances that block pain. Endorphins are produced when runners “hit the wall” and get their second wind. Who needs to jog and watch their diet? Just eat peppers and keep on burning!

    14. Q. Can good pickled jalapenos be made from garden grown jalapeno peppers?

    A. Yes, if you have a good recipe. Here is THE BEST:

    Using fresh TAM Mild Jalapeno peppers, blanch peppers for 3 minutes in boiling water. To prevent collapsing, puncture each pepper. Add the following ingredients to a pint jar packed with the blanched peppers before cooling occurs.

    1/4 medium-sized garlic clove
    1/4 teaspoon of onion flakes
    1 small or medium bay leaf
    1/8 teaspoon of ground oregano
    1/8 teaspoon of thyme leaf (not seed)
    1/8 teaspoon of marjoram
    1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (olive, refined sesame, corn)

    Cover with boiling brine solution prepared as follows:
    Mix together:

    3 tablespoons sugar
    9 tablespoons salt
    2 pints water
    2 pints vinegar (5 percent)

    Close the containers and process 10 minutes in boiling water, then cool.

    Note: Jalapenos must be hot when brine solution is added. The addition of carrot slices adds color to the product.

    15 Q: We have 2 bell pepper plants, in containers, that have until recently been very healthy and produced several beautiful peppers. Within the last week or two the peppers have developed small round tannish spots on the some of the fruit. The fruit were not fully developed, but we harvested then in order to save the fruit, if possible. In cleaning the fruit, the only damage is the small spot or two on the bottom of the peppers. I thought perhaps it was sunscald, but these plants have plenty of leaves. Could they be getting too much sun and would moving them to a shadier location help?

    A: Tan or translucent spots on developing pepper fruit is DEFINITELY sunscald. All the young pepper has to be exposed to is a few minutes of direct sun during the hottest part of the day and that does it. Remember the last time you burned your body parts the first sun exposure of the spring?! The same situation! If you can see the pepper on the plant SO CAN THE SUN and it is not protected. A bacterial spot would be black so you can rule that out. You did right by removing the fruit; such removal may stimulate more foliage growth and subsequently more fruit protection.

    16. Q. Do you have any information on the hot pepper used in Mexican dishes?

    A. Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear eat in the woods? OF COURSE, I have information on the pepper which made Mexican food famous! Peppers are hot, trendy items. Look at a recent crop of mail-order gift catalogs. Inside you can order pure silk chili pepper ties, sterling silver red or green chili pepper tie tacks; t-shirts, shorts, cotton caps blazing with red peppers or the red chili pepper string of Christmas lights. These gifts indicate the popularity of peppers. If you can’t grow peppers, the least you can do is wear one to show your support. The National Garden Bureau declares 1993, ‘The Year of the Pepper’ to encourage more folks to grow this New World native. With basic information, anyone in North America should be able to successfully grow pepper plants in pots or in the garden. Grow a hot or a sweet pepper for the flavor and satisfaction of saying “I grew it myself.”

    SWEET PEPPERS
    Bell–This pepper is mostly blocky in shape with three or four lobes on the bottom of the pepper. For years, gardeners could choose only one color of bell, a green that matured to red, Through modern breeding efforts e can now grow bell peppers that mature to an artist’s palette of colors including red, yellow, orange, lavender, purple and chocolate. The bell peppers have a crisp, thick flesh and are suitable for eating fresh, or stuffing and baking.

    Paprika–When dried and ground, this thin-walled pepper becomes the flavorful condiment paprika.

    Pimiento–This heart-shaped pepper measures 3 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches. Fruits have very thick flesh. Strips of this fully mature, bright red, mild tasting pepper are found in stuffed greenolives.

    Sweet Banana, Sweet Hungarian, Cubanelle–All of these are also referred to as sweet frying or pickling peppers. The shape is long, narrow tapering down to one, two or three lobes. These are thinner-walled than bells and Cubanelle has the thinnest walls of the three. They are usually picked when immature as a light yellow or green. Because they have less water content than bells, they are excellent choices for frying. ‘Sweet Banana’ is a variety that has withstood the test of time–it was a 1941 All- America Selections Winner. ‘Gypsy,’ a 1981 AAS Winner is early to mature–only 62 days and performs very well in cotainers as well as in regular gardens.

    Sweet Cherry–Here is a pepper that looks like its name in that it is globe or cherry-shaped and about 1 1/2 inches across. This pepper is harvested when mature green to deep red and is generally used in processing as pickled.

    HOT PEPPERS
    Cayenne–This pepper is slim and tapered, ranging in length from 3 1/2 to 8 inches. Cayennes are often dried. The hybrid ‘Super Cayenee’ is a 1990 All American Selections Winner. It is very productive, early to mature and hot, hot, hot.

    Red Chili–The small cone-shape peppers of this type are 1 to 3 inches long and have medium thick flesh. They are often used dried and ground in chili powder. ‘Super Chili,’ a 1988 AAS Winner is the first hybrid chili. The compact plants were bred for increased yields.

    Green Chili–These are the long (7 to 8 inch) green, two celled mildly pungent Anaheim type peppers that are so flavorful in chile rellenos. They turn red at maturity but are nearly always harvested, green, roasted and peeled. They’re the kind you’ll find in the canned goods section of supermarkets labeled “Green Chile Peppers.”

    Hungarian Yellow Wax (also called Hot Banana)–This pepper is pungent but still one of the more mild “hots.” It is 5 to 6 inches long and picked when an immature greenish yellow color but matures to orangish red. This type is good for pickling or canning.

    Jalapeno–Jalapenos are the popular peppers used in many Mexican entrees. They are 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long and have a thick-walled pungent flesh. They may be harvested when immatue green or mature red and are good for pickling or canning. There are many varieties of jalapeno peppers with varying degrees of pungency. It has been said that more than 200,000 pounds of jalapeno seed is planted in Mexico annually.

    Red Cherry–This hot pepper is only 1 1/2 inches across and ahped like a cherry. It may be used fresh or pickled, primarily pickled.

    Red Hot Peppers–There are other Capsicum annuum in the Longum Group that add distinct flavor to their native regional cuisines. These vary in plant and fruit size and shape. Smaller plants are attractive in patio containers and hanging baskets. These scorchers such as Chili Tepine, Chile Peguin, Tabasco, and Thai, mature red and zest-up foods. Many additional kinds are available. Small hot yellow peppers like Cascabella and Santa Fe Grande are used primarily for canning and pickling. There is the hot Serrano type that is popular in the Southwest. There is Habanero, said to be 50 times hotter than Jalapeno peppers.

    HARVEST
    Peppers may be harvested and enjoyed when immature or mature. There is not a “best” time to harvest, let personal taste preference be the guide. Remember that sweet peppers become sweeter as they mature and hot peppers come hotter.

    To harvest, do not pull or tear a pepper from a plant. Peppers have shallow root systems and it doesn’t take too forceful a pull to dislodge the etire plant from the ground. Fruits of many varieties will easily snap off at the tem. With some varieties you will need to use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the fruit stem from the plant. Harvesting regularly will encourage the plant to keep blossoming and setting fruit, especially early in the growing season. If the temperature just drops belwo 32 degrees F. for a short time, covering the pepper plants will protec them from damaGe. At the end of the growing season such as September in Minneapolis, if there is a threat of killing frost, pick all fruit regardless of the size. This is the last harvest for the plants.

    NUTRITION
    Peppers are the right food for people seeking a healthy, nutritious diet. Low in calories, high in Vitamins A and C, peppers are also high in a very important mineral–potassium. One cup of raw sweet green peppers contains 22 calories. For comparison a cup of cucumber is 16, cottage cheese is 223 and whole orange is about 41 calories.

    A red sweet or hot pepper contains about ten times more vitamin A and double the amount of Vitamin C than an immature green pepper. A 100 gram serving of red hot peppers eaten raw contains 369 milligrams of Vitamin C. The same serving size of sweet raw green pepper contains 128 milligrams, about one third less.

    Why is common sense so uncommon?
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