Late carrot sowing, plenty of corn and okra, spotty tomatoes.

Newly emerged carrots with indicator beets. Photo Kathryn Simmons

Newly emerged carrots with indicator beets.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

We finally got our big planting of fall carrots sown. Much later than I’ve ever sown carrots before. Our goal is early August, so we are a month behind. We usually harvest all our carrots at some point in November and store them for the winter. If carrots take 75 days to grow and we’ve lost 30, how big will the carrots get? The rate of growth will slow as it gets colder.We can’t just harvest a  month later and expect the same size carrots as usual. It’s not a linear rate of increase. Some crops double in size in their last month of growth. if that’s true of carrots, we’ll get about half the yield we usually do, if we harvest at our usual date.

We had challenges preparing the soil (too much rain, too many grass weeds, not enough rain, not enough time. . . ). This morning we finally got it all raked and rocks picked out, and seeds put in. We mark the beds with the Johnny’s rowmarker rake five rows in a four foot wide bed. Then we sow with an EarthWay seeder. It’s very quick and easy. We sow about 12″ of beet seeds at one end – these are our “Indicator Beets”. When the beets germinate, we know the carrots will be up the next day and it’s time to flame weed the carrot beds.

Flame weeding carrots. Photo by Kati Falger

Flame weeding carrots.
Photo by Kati Falger

Once you get over the hesitation about using a fiercely hot propane burner, flame weeding is also quick and easy. And boy, it saves so much hand weeding! We bought our Red Dragon backpack flame weeder from Fedco. As you see, we decided to use wheelbarrow rather than carry the propane tank on our backs, and include a second person (and in this picture, a third!). The second person is the safety monitor and looks out for unwanted things (like hay mulch burning).

We do hope our carrots will have ideal growing weather and catch up a bit. We’ve sowed 4000 feet of them. Here’s a picture of fall carrots from a previous year:

Fall carrots. Photo by Bridget Aleshire

Fall carrots.
Photo by Bridget Aleshire

I did a bit of research on last sowing dates for carrots in our area.  Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in their useful Fall & Winter Vegetable Gardening Quick Reference suggests 8/31. We’re five days later than that. The National Gardening Association on their customizable Garden Planting Calendar for our zipcode comes up with September 4. The news is getting better! They have planting dates for spring and fall, in a very user-friendly format. The How Do Gardener Page says August 31 is the last planting date for carrots in Virginia. Fingers crossed!

Sweet corn plantings 3, 4 and 5 (left to right, 4 rows of each) earlier this summer. Photo by Bridget Aleshire

Sweet corn plantings 3, 4 and 5 (left to right, 4 rows of each) earlier this summer. Planting 5 is under the ropes to the right.
Photo by Bridget Aleshire

Meanwhile our sweet corn is doing very well. We’re eating the Bodacious sweet corn and the Kandy Korn of our fifth sowing. In a couple of days the Silver Queen of our fifth sowing will be ready. After that we have sowing number 6, the same three varieties. That’s it: six sweet corn sowings through the season.

Another crop being very successful is okra. We grow Cow Horn okra from Southern Exposure. We like it for its tall plants, high productivity and the fact that the pods are tender at 5-6″. We do find it hard to convince our cooks that we have specially chosen this “commune-friendly” variety so they don’t have to deal with fiddly little okra pods when cooking for 100. We used to harvest at 5″, we’ve had to compromise and harvest at 4″.

Cow Horn okra. Photo by Kathryn Simmons

Cow Horn okra.
Photo by Kathryn Simmons

And then the not-so-good news – spotty tomatoes. We have been getting anthracnose,

Anthracnose spot on tomato. Photo courtesy of T.A. Zitter, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Anthracnose spot on tomato.
Photo courtesy of T.A. Zitter, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

small water-soaked spots. The Vegetable MD Online site is one I often turn to. I go to the “Diseases by crop” page, then click on the vegetable I’m worrying about. Sometimes the vitally helpful photos are down the page, below the horizon. Here’s the info which I think tells us where we went wrong:

” In late spring the lower leaves and fruit may become infected by germinating sclerotia and spores in the soil debris. “

While we were determining what was wrong when our plants got hit with some hot weather herbicide drift, we didn’t touch the plants in case it was a viral disease.  We didn’t do the string weaving. The plants sprawled on the ground. Later we made a bit of an effort to catch up but failed. The plants were a sprawly mess, even though the foliage recovered and the plants were loaded with fruits. Far too much contact with the ground! (Even though we used the biodegradable plastic, each plant had a hole in the plastic, and soil ‘appeared’). I also noted that anthracnose is more prevalent on poorly drained soils, and the area we had planted in was one of the lower lying plots, and July had lots of rain.

Water-soaked circular sunken spots of anthracnose (Colletotrichum coccodes) usually appear on the shoulders of mature fruit. Photo courtesy of T.A. Zitter, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Water-soaked circular sunken spots of anthracnose (Colletotrichum coccodes) usually appear on the shoulders of mature fruit.
Photo courtesy of T.A. Zitter, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Well, lessons learned! Fortunately our other tomatoes on higher ground didn’t get anthracnose, and some of them will feature in Southern Exposure‘s Tomato Tasting at the Heritage Harvest Festival this weekend.

An amazing array of tomaotes. Photo by Epic Tomatoes author Craig LeHoullier

An amazing array of tomatoes.
Photo by Epic Tomatoes author Craig LeHoullier

 

 

Bacterial wilt? Plants drowning! Onion maggots, oh my!

Long rows of Roma paste tomatoes. Photo Kathryn Simmons

Long rows of Roma paste tomatoes.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

Like many people in our area of the mid-Atlantic, we’ve had a lot of rain. 8″ in June, including a ten day dry spell, so 8″ over 20 days. Some of our 540 Roma paste tomatoes suddenly wilted, about ten days ago. Argh! Were our tomatoes drowning or was it the dreaded Bacterial Wilt?

My first response was to stop everyone touching them. No string-weaving till we figured out if the problem was contagious or not.  Then I read up about Bacterial Wilt (Ralstonia solanacearum, formerly called Pseudomonas solanacearum). ” Plants wilt and die rapidly without the presence of yellowing or spotting of the foliage”. We had the rapid wilting, with no yellowing or spotting. “The disease is most commonly found in low, wet areas of fields and is most active at temperatures above 75 degrees F.” Check, check. But drowning is most common in low, wet areas too! The affected plants were in the lowest areas, but that didn’t tell us whether it was drowning or bacteria causing the problem.

Next I counted the wilted plants in each row. The total was 81 plants the first day, 92 the second (uh-oh!), but 65 the third day, 51 the fourth day, up to 57 the next day, then 41. By this time I was concluding these plants were not dying rapidly, so maybe it wasn’t wilt. One site said plants could die within a few hours of starting to wilt. Other sites said plants could wilt a bit in the middle of the day, then recover at night. I don’t think that’s Bacterial Wilt.

The third day I sacrificed the worst plant and cut through the stem to look at the xylem (water conducting pipes). Yes they were brown, not happy. Does that happen in drowning plants or just those infected with bacteria? I don’t know. The cut ends weren’t sticky, as suggested for bacterial wilt, didn’t pull out sticky threads when pressed together and pulled apart. So next I tried the definitive test for tomato bacterial wilt: I cut a length of stem, stabbed it through with a knife and suspended it in a jar of water to watch for milky bacterial ooze streaming from the cut. Initially a small amount of something gently fell from the cut end. Then stopped. I watched for 5 minutes (some sites said it took several minutes for the ooze to leave). Nothing more happened. I’ve decided they were drowning, so we’re back to string-weaving.

Roma Virginia Select, grown at Twin Oaks. Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Roma Virginia Select, grown at Twin Oaks.
Credit Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

We transplanted these around May 5, and tomorrow we’ll do our first harvest (about 66 days from transplanting). These are listed in Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog as 75 days from transplanting to harvest. We grow these Virginia Select Romas here in our garden and sell the seed to SESE. I’ve been selecting for earliness (as well as good yields and tolerance to Septoria leaf spot) and I’ve been wondering what impact I’m having on the “earliness” part of the equation. Seems like it’s working well.

Meanwhile, the plants are recovering from near-drowning and assaults by all manner of other disease organisms that like warm damp weather. I see some Septoria, some early blight, but abundant healthy foliage too.I think they will outgrow the current issues.


Trimming garlic. Photo Brittany Lewis

Trimming garlic.
Photo Brittany Lewis

We have been making great progress trimming and sorting our garlic. We’ve trimmed it all! In just a couple of weeks! Yay for us!

But as soon as the tomato trouble gets resolved, another problem arises. Some of our softneck garlic bulbs have onion maggots! What to do? We also had a problem with helpers bagging up garlic before it was fully cured, so we’ve spread the trimmed bulbs back out on racks to finish drying. Is there anything we can do about the maggots? If you have suggestions, please add a comment! I know what to do to reduce our chances of getting them in future: pay attention to rotations, practice good sanitation by removing all allium bits from the plot when we harvest, control weeds ahead of planting garlic (and of course while it’s growing!).

My understanding of the life-cycle of the onion maggot is that pupae overwinter in the soil, adults emerge in spring. 9 days later they lay eggs at the base of plants. Eggs hatch in a week, maggots burrow into the roots of the plants, spending 2 or 3 weeks up to no good. Then they leave the bulbs and head back into the soil to pupate. If we leave our garlic on racks for three weeks, will the larvae just drop to the ground below the racks? Can we then sort the good bulbs from the bad? Will they all be infested by then? It seems biologically determined that the larvae leave after about 3 weeks. How much damage will they do while we wait?

Or can we try sorting good bulbs from bad now? We’ll need to take a closer look at the crop and see what we can do. We also wanted to save stock for replanting, and obviously don’t want to replant infested cloves. Any there any garlic experts reading this?

Measuring garlic bulbs to select good seed stock. Photo Brittany Lewis

Measuring garlic bulbs to select good seed stock.
Photo Brittany Lewis

How tall is that tomato variety?

Tomato plants with string-weaving. Photo Wren Vile

Tomato plants with string-weaving.
Photo Wren Vile

If you grow lots of different tomato varieties, and you use a string-weaving method to train them, you might like to plant the varieties in order of increased height, so that when you string weave the row you can do partial rows of weaving to take care of the tall ones, and not waste time string-weaving between stakes with only small plants. Or perhaps, like us, your rows run from east to west and you’d like to put the shortest on the east, so that they all get he best morning light, and the short ones aren’t shaded by tall ones. But how do you find out the relative heights of the tomato varieties you have?

Seed catalogs and websites can help, with notes like “compact” or “relatively short”, but one catalog’s “fairly tall’ might be another’s  “moderate height”. We keep a “Tomato Rampancy Rating List” and each year we take notes, updating the list in light of how the varieties grew that year. We have noticed that results vary. Some years a variety ends up taller than the year before. So – no promises – here’s our list, starting with compact ones and ending with very tall ones. The names in bold are the ones we really like. The others are ones we tried and decided not to repeat.

Tomato Rampancy Rating List

Compact/Short

A                             Taxi

B                             Orange Blossom

Orange Blossom. Photo Johnnys Slected Seeds

Orange Blossom.
Photo Johnny’s Selected Seeds

C                             Barnes Mountain Orange, Indigo Rose

D                             Illini Star, Polbig, Sweet Tangerine, Washington Cherry

E                              Yellow Bell

Abraham Lincoln. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Abraham Lincoln.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

F                              Abe Lincoln

G                             BHN 968 Cherry, Cherokee Purple, Glacier, Green Zebra, Jubilee, Nepal, Ozark Pink, Tropic

H                             New Girl, Rutgers Improved, Striped German, Stupice, TC Jones, Valencia

 I                               Amy’s Sugar Gem, Aunt Ruby, Garden Peach, German Johnson, Heather, Mountain Magic, Riesentraube

J                              Honeydrop, Striped Roman

Yellow Oxheart. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Yellow Oxheart.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

 

K                             Black Cherry, Favorita cherry, Sun Gold, Wow, Yellow Oxheart

L                              Amy’s Apricot, Five Star Grape

 

 

Hoophouse tomatoes and trellised gherkins. Photo Nina Gentle

Hoophouse tomatoes and trellised gherkins.
Photo Nina Gentle

Twin Oaks Garden Task List for May

Turnips interplanted with radishes - two spring crops from one bed. Credit Kathryn Simmons

Turnips interplanted with radishes – two spring crops from one bed.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

During the Month:

Lettuce Factory: Sow heat-resistant lettuce outdoors, every 8 to 6 days, #10, 11, 12, 13, 14. Transplant 120/week (1/3 bed). #7, 8, 9, 10, 11 this month.

Deal with potato beetles with Spinosad [or Neem] once larvae are seen, if >50 adults/50 plants or >200 larvae/100 plants. Spinosad: Spray when bees not flying (early morning or late evening.) Shake well, 1-4 Tbsp/gall. Expect to need 1.5-2 hours and 9-10.5 galls. Clean and triple rinse the sprayer. Do not flush in creek or pond. Repeat if needed in 6-7 days – could spot spray where larvae are seen. Flame weed potatoes before 12” high, if needed.

Deal with asparagus beetles, if necessary. See notes under April.

Early May:

Flat of home-grown sweet potato slips. Credit Kathryn Simmons

Flat of home-grown sweet potato slips.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

Continue cutting sweet potato slips until we have enough.

Transplant when hardened off: celery, celeriac, lettuce #7, main tomatoes (2’).

Set out drip tape & bioplastic mulch , transplant Romas (2’),  peppers (18” when soil 70°F, dogwood blooms dropping), hot peppers, and melons #1, sweet potatoes

Sow peanuts (120d), asparagus beans in bed w/ celery, okra, sunflowers. limas #1, cow peas #1 (68d)

Roll out driptape and bioplastic mulch for watermelons.

Cover Crops: Sorghum-Sudan, soy, buckwheat, or pearl millet as summer cover crops, now frost is past.

Mid-month:

Plant sweet potatoes, 16″ apart, with 4-4.5′ between ridges, 5’ at edges of patch. Install drip irrigation on ridges and plant at every other emitter. Ideal if soil temp is 65°F for four consecutive days before planting.  If weather dry, dip roots in mud slurry before planting.  Plant 2-3” deep, with at least 2 nodes in ground, and at least 2 leaves above ground.  If slips are long, plant horizontally to increase production.

Transplant lettuce #8, eggplant (2’ apart, single row in center of bed, spray off flea beetles with jet of water & cover immediately), watermelon, insectaries, (okra if not direct-sown – mulch later, when soil warm).

Set out drip tape and biodegradable mulch and transplant melons and watermelons at four weeks old max. Cover for 3 weeks. Move rowcover off broccoli (12 pieces) and strawberries (~8 pieces) Watermelon needs 12 pieces.

In greenhouse sow tomatoes #3, filler watermelons & Romas. Sow cukes & squash #2 if spring is late and cold, and direct-sowing not wise.

Sow beans #2 (5/14, 28 days after #1), edamame #2, carrots #6, sunflowers.

Till between rows of corn #1 & transplant in gaps and/or thin to 8”.

A bed of various varieties of onions. Credit Kathryn Simmons

A bed of various varieties of onions.
Credit Kathryn Simmons

Weed onions 3 weeks before expected harvest date, and broccoli.

Garlic: Harvest garlic scapes, remove mulch from garlic, and weed.  Move mulch to weeded broccoli.

Check maturity of potato onions and garlic. Likely harvest order is fall potato onions 5/25-6/10, hardneck garlic 5/30-6/15, spring potato onions 6/3-6/18, bulb onions 6/11-6/30, softneck garlic 6/5-6/15.

#4 Spring Tractor Work mid-May – Disk areas for June potatoes, corn 3,4,5, & later succession plantings of beans, squash, cucumbers.

Late May:

Mow between no-till paste tomato rows before mulching with hay. Fill gaps, weed, tuck mulch.  Set up posts and string weave the tomatoes, using thick baler twine for lower 3 rows. Really try to keep up with weekly string-weaving.

String weave 1 row around peppers, using short stakes.

Clear empty coldframe and mulch with cardboard or plant something.

Till each corn twice, undersowing at 2nd tilling (30 days), when 12” high, with soy for #1-5, oats/soy for #6. Thin corn to 8”. Avoid cultivating corn after it’s knee-high—roots are shallow.

Sow corn #2, cowpeas #2; cukes #2 (picklers and slicers), summer squash & zukes #2 5/24 (or in greenhouse 5/14, transplant 6/7), watermelons #3, winter squash 5/26 (put woodash with seeds to deter squash vine borer). If squash sowing is late, don’t sow Tahitian butternut – slow.  Cover cucurbits (perhaps not winter squash) against cucumber beetles. Max. cuke beetle population is mid-May; keep susceptible plants well-covered until flowering.

Transplant lettuce #9, 10, 11; Roma paste tomato replacements for casualties, insectary flowers. Fill gaps in eggplant, peppers, melons, watermelons.

Store any seeds not needed until fall or next spring, in basement (radishes, onions, winter squash, watermelon).

Harvest fall planted Potato Onions in dry weather, after tops have fallen, (5/25-6/10, spring planted 6/3-18).  May not all be ready at once. Handle gently. Dry as clusters in barn on wooden racks for 1-2 months, using fans. Service fans or buy new as needed. Eat potato onions >2.5” without curing, unless yield is very low, in which case label & refrigerate, then plant in September. Weight after drying for 1 week is approximately twice the final weight. First sorting is late June. Use the Worksheet and Log Book

Hanging garlic in vertical netting. Credit Marilyn Rayne Squier

Hanging garlic in vertical netting.
Credit Marilyn Rayne Squier

Harvest garlic when 6th leaf down is starting to brown on 50% of the crop (ie .5 green leaves, so that 5 skins cover cloves), or cut open horizontally- when air space is visible between. stem and cloves it’s time to harvest.  [Could replant small cloves immediately for garlic scallions.] Allow 15 mins/bucket harvesting and 15 mins/bucket for hanging in netting in barn,.

Till garlic area, sow soy & buckwheat to control weeds until fall carrot planting.

Plan fall and winter crops for raised beds.

Cover crops: can sow buckwheat, soy, millet, and sorghum-sudan during May.

Perennials: Put up blueberry netting before fruit sets. Weed & water & top up mulch. Mow grape & fall raspberry aisles. New grapevines: remove side branches and fruitlets. Weekly: visit grapes and log progress 4/20-5/30. If asparagus weeds are getting out of hand, mow down one or more rows to keep control.

Our Concord grapes in late May. Credit Bridget Aleshire

Our Concord grapes in late May.
Credit Bridget Aleshire

Harvest: Asparagus, hoophouse beans, beets, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, first carrots, chard, collards, garlic scallions, garlic scapes, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, radishes, rhubarb, scallions, senposai, spinach, hoophouse squash, strawberries, turnips, hoophouse zucchini. (Clear spinach, senposai, collards, kale, probably in that order)DSC03323