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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cool Wet Spring Has Some Advantages

This has been a great cool season for radishes, onions, incredible salad greens, too!

Ozarks Gardening, May 21, 2011
Jim Long

Advantages to a Cool, Wet Spring

In the soybean and corn growing areas, farmers report they are unable to get their crops in the ground. Normally by this time, corn and soybeans are about 85% planted. Instead, reports are that only about 25% of those crops are in the ground.

Garden centers, nurseries, even Lowes and Home Depot are reporting their sales are down by about 23% over last year. Home gardeners have been discouraged by the wet spring and lack of sunshine. Everyone’s waiting to buy their tomato plants until they can get their garden tillled and ready.

However the producers at farmers markets are doing a brisk business. Last week I found sweet, ripe, locally-grown strawberries at both Kimberling City, MO and Green Forest, AR markets as well as bountiful lettuce and other produce. These producers have waded mud early in the year to get their plants and seed in the ground. Many say they’ve had to harvest in the rain in order to bring their produce to the markets.

The cool, wet spring has given us, in our garden, probably the best crops of radishes we’ve ever had, and for a longer period of time. (Radishes, as you probably know, turn hot and start going to seed as soon as the temperatures rise). Salad greens, too, have produced exceptionally well in the unusually cool weather. We’ve been harvesting several pounds of mixed salad greens several times a week to take to market.
Yellow sticky traps attract flea beetles and aphids. Add clove oil and they will attract cucumber beetles, too.

Insect pests have been less obvious than usual. We had fewer problems with cutworms, possibly because they all drowned. Aphids and flea beetles have arrived on tomatoes but biweekly spraying with Ultra-Fine Oil Spray and yellow sticky traps are keeping the pests at a minimum. Certainly when the weather settles and the sunshine decides to remain, plants will shoot upward like bottle rockets, and the garden pests will arrive, ready  for dinner, as well.

It’s not too late to plant many crops. Tomatoes and peppers can still be planted for a slightly later crop, when the weather settles. It is too late to plant peas, potatoes, radishes, cabbage, kale and onions, but most other crops can still go in the ground. Annual flowers, shrubs, trees and perennials, also, will do just fine planted late.

Meanwhile, supplement your weekly meals by shopping at your local farmers market. The producers are having a great year with outstanding lettuce varieties. Sweet, crunchy radishes are in good supply, as is kale, bok choy, green and bulbing onions, shallots, spinach, beets and carrots. New peas and baby potatoes will be arriving this week. Visit the weekly farmers markets in Green Forest, Berryville and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Weekly markets in Kimberling City, Ava, Mountain View, Ozark, and Springfield, MO are all lively. So is the Saturday Evening Market at Reeds Spring. You’ll find excellent produce each week while you are waiting to get your own garden planted.
Lots of fresh produce, plants and other goodies.

This and previous Ozarks Garden columns from this newspaper, with photos and links to more information can be found at: ozarksgardening.blogspot.com. If you would like to see what we’re growing in the garden this year at Long Creek Herb Farm, our annual Open House will be Saturday, June 18, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Call 417-779-5450 for directions and to let us know you’re coming (or email us at Longcreekherbs@yahoo.com. Happy gardening!

Avoiding Tomato Problems


Yellow sticky traps catch aphids and flea beetles.
Ozarks Gardening; May 3, 2011
Jim Long

Preparing Tomato Beds

The past couple of springs I’ve written about new research  on controlling tomato viruses, from Texas A & M University, and tried their recommended methods. It didn’t control all of the virus problems, thanks to an unusually wet, cool and humid spring we had last season, but I still saw considerable improvements, and will continue with their methods this year.

The methods I use for helping to control tomato virus (often called, “the wilt.”) are as follows. First, I incorporate agricultural cornmeal into the soil early in the year and again just before planting. Whether your local feed store calls it agricultural. cornmeal, or simply ground corn feed, it’s the same thing. Texas A & M has demonstrated that pulverized corn, with some cobs and husks, it’s worked into the soil and causes the growth of beneficial bacteria which attack tomato virus in the soil. I apply 2 lbs. of cornmeal and 1 lb. of dry molasses (which studies show helps the cornmeal work better) per 12 feet of tomato row, poured on top then mixed into the soil.

The second treatment I use, is to mulch the entire tomato bed immediately after the tomatoes are planted. Formerly I’d wait for several weeks to let the ground warm faster, but researchers have proven that putting mulch down immediately, eliminates the splash-up from the soil onto the leaves, and that is how the virus first gets on the lowest tomato leaves. The virus remains in the soil where tomatoes have grown before, and rain splashes the soil, and the virus, on to the lowest leaves of the tomato plants.


Third, I use homemade sticky traps, two for each tomato plant, to trap the aphids that settle in on the tomato plants. It is the aphids that spread the virus (the “wilt), from the bottom leaves upward, by their eating habits. My traps consist of yellow plastic cups, turned upside down and stuck onto 16 inch tall, broomstick-sized sticks, using a thumbtack. The sticks are pushed into the ground about a foot from the tomato plant. I coat the yellow plastic cup on the outside, with Tree Tanglefoot, a very sticky substance that doesn’t wash off. The aphids are attracted to the color yellow and the Tanglefoot catches them.

And last, I begin spraying the plants with Neem oil spray about the second week after planting. Neem prevents the aphids from getting a good start, and kills the eggs and young aphids that can’t yet get to the sticky traps.

To summarize, work the cornmeal into the soil in March, and again in late April; mulch as soon as the plants are in the ground. Then put out yellow sticky traps, 2 for every plant, and within a week of planting, begin spraying the plants with Neem and continue the spraying every 10 days well into summer. This is the best method I’ve found for stopping the wilt and virus problems on tomatoes. (The alternative, which is what old-time tomato growers used, was to plant tomatoes in “new” soil, meaning areas which haven’t had tomatoes growing in them before. That helps cut down on the amount of wilt considerably).

Tree Tanglefoot is available in most garden stores and on-line. Agricultural cornmeal, or its equivalent, pulverized corn feed, is available at most area feed stores. If they don't’ have it, ask them to order it, it’s easily available from their wholesale supplier.  Yellow plastic cups were difficult to find last year, so I used yellow, “water wings,” the flexible foam tubes kids use in swimming pools, cutting them up into 4 inch pieces and they worked as well as cups.

To see photos and links to more information, visit the Ozarks Gardening blog at ozarksgardening.blogspot.com. You can see what’s happening in my garden this week at jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com. Our annual open house for the garden is Saturday, June 18. Call for directions: 417-779-5450. Happy gardening!