garden

Tips for Donating Extra Garden Produce

FANs gardenMany of you are growing your own food this summer at home or in a community garden. Do you have an abundance of vegetables – more than you and your family can consume? Here are some tips from Maine Extension on donating your extra produce:

Home Gardeners

Growing extra food in your own garden, or in a community garden, can be a very fun and convenient way to contribute to your community. Here are some tips for success:

  1. Connect with your local recipient organization to make sure they can accept fresh vegetables and determine the best days/times to drop off donations. If you don’t know where to donate, your local UConn Extension office can help you find a place to donate.
  2. Harvest ripe, undamaged produce*, clean it, and estimate the weight.
  3. Donate to a local agency OR a friend in need.
  4. Contact a local UConn Extension office to find a community garden to help.

*We suggest growing any of the following crops:

  • Long-term keepers: beets, cabbage, carrots, winter squash (no Hubbard, please)
  • Short-term keepers: tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, lettuce, broccoli, beans

10 Tips for the February Gardener

house plant

 

  1. Visit our booth at the 2016 CT Flower & Garden Show in Hartford, February 18th to 21st. Bring ½ cup of soil for a free pH test and your garden questions for free advice.
  1. Turn the compost pile during any stretches of mild weather.

 

  1. Surprise your favorite relative or friend with a floral bouquet on Valentine’s Day from UConn Blooms on the Storrs campus.
  1. Check houseplants for signs of spider mites and control by spraying with insecticidal soap or water 2-3 times a week after giving them a thorough rinse in the sink.
  1. If you are overwintering plants into your garage or cellar, check the soil to see if it needs water. If the soil is frozen the location may be too cold.
  1. Purchase seed flats, containers, and peat pellets. Check your cold frame for needed repairs. It’s also a good time to finish up your seed order, if you haven’t done so already.
  1. Begin pruning apples and pears as the weather allows.
  1. Start leek and onion seeds now. They need 10 to 12 weeks of growth before going in the garden.
  1. Prune grape vines at the end of the month. If you grow currants, remove all stems that are over 3 years old on a mild day.
  1. Inspect hemlocks for woolly adelgid. Plan to apply a dormant horticultural oil treatment in April if the cottony egg masses are found at the base of needles.

For more information contact the UConn Home & Garden Education Center at 877-486-6271 or ladybug@uconn.edu

10 Tips for the November Gardener

1-24MulchLeaves1REBECCA
Photo: Michigan State University
  1. Drain hoses and sprayers before cold weather sets in to prevent them from freezing and bursting.
  2. Wait to spread winter mulch until after the ground has frozen. Mulching beforehand can delay dormancy and makes a good home for voles.
  3. Do not store apples or pears with vegetables. The fruits give off ethylene gas which speeds up the breakdown of vegetables and will cause them to develop a strange taste.
  4. Clean the bird feeders and stock them with birdseed and suet.
  5. Use small stakes or markers where you’ve planted bulbs or late starting spring plants in the perennial garden, to avoid disturbing them when you begin spring soil preparation.
  6. Keep mowing your lawn as long as the grass is growing. Meadow voles and field mice may damage turf and nearby trees and shrubs if they have long grass for food and cover.
  7. Inspect your fruit trees. Remove any mummified remaining fruits, and rake up and dispose of old leaves.
  8. Protect roses from freezing temperatures by placing bark mulch around the base of rose bushes so that the first part of the stem (nearest the ground) is completely covered or mound with soil and protect with a purchased rose cone. Do this after the ground freezes.
  9. Clean and fill bird baths regularly and consider a heating unit to provide fresh water throughout the winter.
  10. Pull stakes and plant supports. Clean them with a 10% bleach solution before storing for the winter.

For more information please visit the UConn Home and Garden Education Center or call 877-486-6271.

Squash Problems Gone Wild

Squash Problems Gone Wild, Or yes, Scouting in the Garden Matters

By Joan Allen

squashbugs2-jallen-768x1024This week’s blog photo is from my vegetable garden. I give lectures on the fundamentals of integrated pest management (IPM) and one of the first practices on the list is to scout or monitor your garden or field frequently to catch problems early, when you have a much better chance of keeping damage to a minimum.

Well, I am well aware of this recommendation, but failed to do it in my own backyard. So what happened? My zucchini has succumbed to hordes of squash bugs and both that and the cucumbers have been hit hard by powdery mildew.

Let’s start with how to check for these two major cucurbit problems, even though it’s too late this year in many gardens. In the case of squash bugs, look for the reddish groups of eggs on the undersides of the leaves. If found, squash them. You’d think this would be easy, although a bit disgusting, but they’re pretty tough. Squeeze hard. This can be done with nymphs and adults (shown in photo) too, or they can be drowned in soapy water. In the photo, there’s an adult in the upper left area of the group with a nymph on its back. Adults will have mature wings.

There are also some insecticidal products that are labeled for squash bug but they vary in effectiveness. Get the nymphs with insecticidal soaps. Avoid using any insecticidal products when bees/pollinators are active. The little yellow flecks on the leaves in the photo are caused by squash bug feeding. They pierce the plant cells and suck out the contents through straw-like mouth parts. You can see how all of these steps would be easier if you took the time to check early on, before the problem became all too obvious. Favored host plants are squash and pumpkins but other cucurbits may also be attacked. There is one generation per year and the adults overwinter in sheltered places.

Powdery mildew is a very common and damaging disease of cucurbit crops. As powdery mildew progresses, covering both upper and lower leaf surfaces with a white powdery growth, photosynthesis is reduced, impairing growth and reducing yield. Plants typically become infected around the time fruit begins to form and mostly on the older leaves.  The powdery mildew that affects cucurbits is not the same fungus that causes powdery mildew on other, unrelated, plants. Disease is favored by warm temperatures and high humidity. Promote good airflow around plants to reduce humidity using ample plant spacing or vertical supports for vines. Spores are wind-borne and can travel long distances so crop rotation is not effective in this case.

Good scouting for those first small white spots will alert you that it’s time to apply preventive fungicides. There are a variety of active ingredient options here including organic options such as biological fungicides (Bacillus subtilus QST 713), potassium bicarbonate, copper, or wettable sulfur. Conventional fungicides include chlorothalonil and others. These are preventive and must be used to protect plants, not as a curative solution. An alternative and effective solution is to look for powdery mildew resistant varieties for your garden.

10 Tips for the September Gardener

evergreen NDSU Extension
Photo: NDSU Extension

1. Remove bagworm egg masses from evergreen shrubs to eliminate the spring hatch from over-wintered eggs.

2. If rain is lacking, continue to thoroughly water trees, shrubs, planting beds, and lawn areas. It is especially important to keep newly planted evergreens watered.

3. Plant shallots and garlic outdoors.

4. Use a mulching blade to finely chop fallen leaves and let them decompose on the lawn. Core-aerate to reduce thatch on lawns.

5. Limit herbaceous plant material located a few feet away from the house to eliminate hiding places for insects and mice that could wind up indoors as temperatures plummet.

6. Beets, parsnips, and carrots can be covered with a thick layer of straw or leaves and left in the ground for harvest, as needed, during the winter. This may not be an option in areas with heavy vole populations.

7. Avoid the spring rush and have your soil tested now by the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory (www.soiltest.uconn.edu). Incorporate recommended amounts of limestone and fertilizers into the vegetable and flower gardens for next year’s growing season.

8. As tomatoes end their production, cut down plants, pick up any debris and put dead/diseased plant parts in the trash or take to a landfill. Many diseases will over-winter on old infected leaves and stems so these are best removed from the property.

9. Weed and mulch perennial beds using a loose organic material such as bark chips or leaves to keep down weeds, preserve moisture, and give roots a longer time to grow before the soil freezes.

10. Outwit hungry squirrels and chipmunks by planting bulbs in established groundcovers. Lift and store tender bulbs, i.e., cannas, dahlias and gladiolus after first frost.

For more information contact the UConn Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 877-486-6271.

Blossom End Rot of Tomatoes

By Carol Quish for UConn Extension

 

blossom end rot on tomato
Photo: Ohio Extension

August is supposed to be the month of non-stop tomatoes. Occasionally things go awry to interrupt those carefully laid spring visions of bountiful harvests, sauce making, and endless tomato sandwiches. Blossom end rot can appear to put an end to the crop production by damaging the ripening and developing fruits. We are seeing and receiving calls in a higher number than more recent years from backyard gardeners complaining about black rotten spots on the bottom of their tomatoes. The spots start as a thickened, leathery spot that sinks in, always on the bottom of the fruit.

Blossom end rot can also occur on peppers.

Blossom end rot is a physiological condition due to lack of calcium. Calcium is needed by plants for proper growth in all functions of cell making, but is most important for cell walls. Without enough calcium either in the soil, or if delivery of uptake of dissolved calcium in soil water is interrupted, cell division stops in the fruit. Tomatoes are especially sensitive to a lack of calcium.

Interruptions in uptake of calcium can happen by repeated cycles of soil drying out, receiving water, and then drying out again. Times of drought and hot, humid weather make the problem worse. Plants lose water through their leaves through a process called transpiration, similar to the way we sweat. They then pull up water through their roots. If there is not enough soil moisture, plants wilt. This break is water delivery also limits calcium delivery. Tomato, and to a lesser degree pepper fruits, respond by developing rot on the bottom, the end where the blossom was before the fruit started growing.

High humidity and multiple cloudy days reduce transpiration, thereby reducing water uptake. This leaves plants not able to bring up new calcium rich water to the site making new cells of the fruit. Another interruption of delivery of calcium resulting in blossom end rot. This means that even if you have enough calcium in the soil and you water the soil regularly, the plants still may not be able to move enough calcium to where it is needed to produce a fruit.

Have a soil test done to make sure soil has enough calcium and that pH levels are around 6.5 so nutrients are most readily available. Water regularly so plants receive 1 to 2 inches of water per week for optimum growth. Feel the soil around the root zone to make sure water is soaking in and reaching the roots. Humidity and cloud cover are not obstacles we can help the plant with, so monitor the fruit for rot spots and remove. There are calcium foliar sprays that claim to deliver calcium to be absorbed by the leaves for use by the plant. This won’t help after the rot has already developed, but may help deter future spots on still developing tomatoes.

10 Tips for the August Gardener

green tomato
Photo: Diane Hirsch for UConn Extension
  1. Remove non-productive plants from the vegetable garden and sow cool weather crops for fall harvesting.
  2. Renovate strawberry beds by mowing to a height of 1 ½ inches, thinning plants and side-dressing with a balanced fertilizer.
  3. Stop pruning evergreen trees and shrubs to avoid promoting new growth that will not harden off by the first frost.
  4. Pick summer squash and zucchini often to keep the plants productive.
  5. Fertilize container plantings and hanging baskets.
  6. Reseed the lawn in late August. Be sure to keep the seed moist until germination.
  7. Allow tomatoes to ripen on the vine for the best flavor although some cherry tomatoes are prone to splitting if left too long.
  8. Continue to scout for insects in the vegetable and flower garden, hand-picking them when possible.
  9. Practice good sanitation by removing any fallen fruit or plant debris from the garden, do not compost it.
  10. Don’t forget that trees and shrubs require water during extended dry periods.

For more information please visit the UConn Home and Garden Education Center or call 877-486-6271.

Late Blight Now in CT

Article and update by Joan Allen for UConn Extension.

Late_Blight by JATomato and potato growers and gardeners: Protect your crops NOW from late blight infection. The disease has been reported in Litchfield County, Connecticut on July 18, 2015. With moist weather conditions the pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, will sporulate prolifically and spread rapidly on wind currents. Fungicide products can be applied preventively to protect plants. Active ingredients to look for include chlorothalonil, maneb, mancozeb, and copper formulations. Organic growers can use copper formulations. Symptoms of late blight include large brown leaf lesions, dark brown stem lesions, and brown, bumpy and firm lesions on fruits. During humid or wet weather, white sporulation will be visible within the lesions. Infected plant parts or plants should be removed and disposed of. Bag and place in the trash or bury about a foot deep. More information and photos are available in the fact sheet at this website.

10 Tips for the July Gardener

  1. Do not prune rhododendrons and azaleas after the second week of July as they will begin setting their buds for next year’s blooms.

    Azalea-extensio.org
    Photo: extension.org
  2. Put netting on fruit trees and bushes a few weeks before the fruit begins to ripen to protect it from birds and squirrels.
  3. Fertilize roses for the last time in mid-July.
  4. Pinch back herbs to stop flowering and encourage branching. Pick herbs early in the day when they are well-hydrated. Air dry, microwave or freeze.
  5. Raise the mower height to 3 inches in hot weather.
  6. Water plants and lawn early in the day to reduce the loss of water due to evaporation. Check containers again at day’s end as they can dry out during a hot day.
  7. Control mosquitos by eliminating sources of standing water.
  8. Inspect garden plants regularly for the presence of insects and disease.
  9. Grub controls should be applied to the lawn no later than July 15th.
  10. Check out the UConn Dairy Bar’s summer ice cream flavors – peach and blueberry cheesecake!

For more information please visit the UConn Home and Garden Education Center.