Sunday, February 19, 2017

Small Fruit Size

Many people are disappointed with the size of their home grown fruit.  “Why isn’t it as big as the fruit I see in the store?” First, with most commercial operations, fruit is run through a packing house where it is cleaned and sorted by quality and size.  Then the larger-sized fruit are sent to market where they get the best price.  

Second, most commercial farms put into practice a sophisticated fertilization program, including tissue analysis, which maximizes plant nutrient usage.  Homeowners, on the other hand, do not spend that much time or money to optimize their fertilization program and they don’t necessarily have to!

There are several specific conditions, however, that will contribute to poor fruit size:   
  •   Lack of irrigation – young fruit is particularly susceptible.
  •   Lack of sufficient heat units, i.e., a cool growing season
  •   Lack of nutrients including potassium
  •  Desiccating winds    
  • Viral diseases, nematodes, root-attacking fungi, and insect infestations.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Algae on Walkways

Living in the tropics, we are often plagued with unsightly and dangerous moss and algae growing on driveways and pathways around our homes. When the rain stops, the green growth will dry up but will regenerate again with the next rain. 

There are many different products on the market to help you clean up the driveway. Look at the active ingredients on the label; most products will contain bleach, copper, or soap. Be sure to follow the directions on the label. Most are sprayed on, left for a while and then washed off with a hose – sometimes with the help of a shovel-scrapper. Often times the buildup is so great that a power washer is needed. Bleach is often recommended at one cup per gallon of water. 

When using copper and bleach, there is always the potential for these products damaging desired plants either from the direct spray or from the solution saturating the soil. Take caution when spraying near desirable plants. The damage is lessened in high rainfall areas through the leeching action of the rain.

Another option is to use one cup of vinegar per gallon of water; bleach is sometimes added to fortify the solution.  I have not had any feedback on how well the soaps and vinegar work. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Replanted Vegetables Dying

Why do vegetables continue to die no matter how many times I replant? There are soil borne plant diseases that can survive in the garden, either on plant debris or in the ground itself. Once infected, the soil can remain so year after year. Some of these diseases have a wide host range, while others attack either one particular species only or may attack members within a particular plant family. Planting the same crop year after year in the same location will allow for the pathogen to build up to high levels. 

One of the best control measures for the soil borne diseases is crop rotation. This will allow time for the plant debris to decay and the associated pathogens to die out. The time required for this to happen varies. Some diseases survive up to 10 years or more, but most recommendations suggest periods of one to four years before returning to the original crop.

Keep in mind that a fungus that attacks, for example, the roots of lettuce will usually not attack beans. If tomatoes are being grown one year, do not come back and plant tomatoes again, or potatoes, peppers and eggplant for that matter – they are all in the same family.  This is a good practice even if no diseases are detected.

Another important step in disease prevention is to take advantage of any resistant varieties that may be available. For vegetables, check with seed catalogs to see if they have varieties that are resistant to a specific disease. The same is true with fruit trees since certain varieties are more resistant to diseases.   

Note: resistant (or tolerant) does not mean immune. A resistant plant will be less affected by the disease and show fewer symptoms. A plant that is immune will not be affected by the disease. Unfortunately, some resistant varieties may lack certain desirable characteristics in the plant such as flavor or high production. If you can find resistant varieties, the battle against disease is half over.

Ask the Garden Guy, Science Based Answers to Garden Questions, is an excellent resource book for gardeners. Some popular topics include Slugs and Snails, Organic Pesticides, Why Vegetable Seeds Do Not Germinate, What’s So Hot about Manure? Mushrooms in the Lawn.  Purchase by clicking on the image of the book above.