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Archive for the ‘Plant Diseases & Problems’ Category

We tried. We really did. Being vigilant about searching for and destroying eggs, watching for any signs of damage — we did it all. But it still didn’t work. The damn squash vine borer got our zucchini and yellow squash.

This shows squash vine borer damage on our zucchini plant. The frass is a sign of an infestation.

This shows squash vine borer damage on our zucchini plant. The frass is a sign of an infestation.

I noticed the tell-tale signs of frass a couple weeks ago. It looks a lot like sawdust and it meant our summer squash plants would die soon. That’s when I sprung into action and tried the Bt to stop the grubby invaders.

I’ve mentioned this before but for those who don’t know, Bt is a natural bacteria that messes with the borer’s digestion when they eat it. So as soon as we noticed the frass, I was armed with my garden syringe and a jug of Bt (it has to be mixed with water), stabbing away at the stems and injecting the solution.

This was the first time I tried using the Bt solution, and you know what? It worked like a charm. The zucchini plant has rebounded (for the most part), and there are even a couple growing again!

Even if we don’t get any more, I’ll at least count this as a success.

Related: How to control SVB

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We’ve officially lost all but two of our summer squash plants. The zucchini plants are still doing OK, but we’re probably going to lose one of them. The leaves are turning yellow, some are wilting and it seems like there is some powdery mildew on others.

The zucchini has powdery mildew but is recovering after we sprayed it with milk solution.

The zucchini has powdery mildew but is recovering after we sprayed it with milk solution.

Powdery mildew is pretty common and widespread, and it is usually humidity and cool nights that create ideal conditions for it to grow.

To help control it, we’ve been using a mix of baking soda and water. It’s about a teaspoon of baking soda to a quart of water.

I also read that milk and water (1 part milk to nine parts water) can help.

We have tried dousing the leaves with both solutions and it seems to be working.

The milk solution appears to be the better of the two, and we mixed about three parts, so our spray was about three ounces of milk to 32 ounces of water.

There are still some baby zucchini and flowers on the plants, so we might get a few more later.

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Our tomato plants are amazing this year. We’re thrilled, of course, but recently noticed an issue on one of our cherry tomato plants.

Yellow and brown spots on our cherry tomato plant leaves.

Yellow and brown spots on our cherry tomato plant leaves.

Some of the leaves are yellowing and then turning brown. It’s not on every leaf, but there are quite a few with these spots. I’ve been doing some research and am still not sure what’s wrong.

It could be blight, septoria leaf spot or bugs. Most of the signs point to septoria because the plants are otherwise healthy. There isn’t much we can do, but we’ve removed the affected leaves and will keep monitoring the plant.

It’s still producing lots of tomatoes so that’s a plus.

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Our tomatoes are finally starting to turn red. We’ve harvested a handful of zucchini and cucumbers, plus an eggplant and a few Anaheim peppers. Not to mention all the fresh herbs we need.

Delicious homegrown cucumbers.

Delicious homegrown cucumbers.

So far, it’s been a decent season and could end up being one of our better gardening years. But of course not everything is perfect. Despite our efforts to crush the cucumber beetle and wipe away any trace of the squash vine borer, we’ve lost a few battles.

I suspect what made the leaves on two of our cucumber plants shrivel and die was bacterial wilt transmitted by the cucumber beetle. Either that or serious damage from a mega-infestation of squash bugs, which I promptly doused in insecticidal soap.

We did lose one of our yellow squash volunteers to the squash vine borer, as well as half of another yellow squash plant that somehow divided itself in two after it was in the garden.

While all this is upsetting, I’m trying to look on the bright side of things. Where we had to tear out the cucumber plants is a great place to plant a fall crop of peas, and the dead squash plant frees up a pot for some more fall lettuce.

 

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We were expecting big, beautiful heads of broccoli. But like most things in our garden, what we expected and what actually happened don’t match. Our broccoli was doing very well then one day the stalks were all leggy and the heads started to separate. After desperate Google searches to find out what was going on with the broccoli, I learned that they were bolting.

This came as a bit of a surprise because we planted them in late March/early April and the tag with the transplants said it would take 80 days to maturity. These were done in a little more than a month and the heads still seemed small. But then again, this is our first time and I had no idea what broccoli was supposed to look like when it’s ready for harvest.

Temperature fluctuations are largely to blame because in any given week, it could swing from 60 degrees to 80 degrees and back again. In addition to the weather, the slugs and cabbage white butterfly worm were starting to take their toll. Not all was lost, though. I cut all the main heads (way less than we expected) and were able to use it in stir-fry.

We’re not giving up yet and will try again in the fall. I put together a gallery of our broccoli trial so others can know what to look for and signs of distress or healthy growth. I had a heck of a time finding any post or website that described our exact problem, so I hope this helps!

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What's needed for soil testing.

What’s needed for soil testing.

As I mentioned in a previous post getting our soil nutrients right is one of the major goals of our garden this year. We bought a test kit from the county, and a few weeks ago we dug up samples from each bed and the ground to send to the lab.

There are two reasons we are testing our soil this year. The first is to get a good analysis of what nutrients are present. The tests will let us know how much magnesium, calcium, potassium and other important elements are in the ground.

Once we know that, we’ll have a better idea of how to amend the soil to give each vegetable its optimum level of each nutrient.

There was a big color difference between our ground and garden soils.

There was a big color difference between our ground and garden soils.

The second reason is to test for potentially toxic elements like lead or arsenic because our garden is around our garage. It’s been there for almost 60 years so who knows what might have spilled and/or leached into the ground around it.

It was kind of interesting to see the difference in the colors between the garden soil and the ground soil. It’s not a difficult process, and I’d recommended it to other gardeners.

Here’s what we did:

Step 1: Order the test kits. Our county doesn’t do it’s own testing, but they still sent us kits. They were $12 each and will be sent to the Michigan State soil lab.

Crush the dirt to a powder.

Crush the dirt to a powder.

Step 2: Dig a 6-8 inch hole from several different areas in the test area then mix everything together in a bucket. I used an old hanging basket pot.

Step 3: Spread the soil in an even later so it can dry out. We just put it on some old newspaper in our garage for a couple weeks.

Step 4: Once it’s dry, break it up as fine as possible. We just stepped on it and crushed the clumps with our shoes.

A fine mesh strainer separates particles from powder.

A fine mesh strainer separates particles from powder.

Step 5: Sift the dirt with a screen. We have one my grandpa used to use. This gets out leaves, twigs and any other objects. We found a rusty nail and a small piece of broken glass in ours.

Step 6: Use a fine mesh sifter to get even more particles out. It’s important that the dirt be almost a powder. We used a small strainer from our kitchen for this part.

Step 7: Once it’s sifted, measure out the correct amount the lab needs and send it in!

I’m excited to see the results and hope that they don’t find anything bad.

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One of our goals this year is to be more diligent about checking our plants for pests or diseases. So last night we took a stroll to check on the vegetables in the ground. I was particularly concerned about the broccoli plants because they’re in the same family as Brussels sprouts, and the cabbage white butterfly decimated those last year.

These two small slugs did quite a bit of damage to the broccoli leaf in just one day.

These two small slugs did quite a bit of damage to the broccoli leaf in just one day.

I was checking the undersides of the leaves for their eggs when I noticed some chew holes. We ripped off the affected leaf but didn’t find any evidence of the butterfly. What we did find was two small slugs.

Last summer we set beer traps around our yard to lure the slugs into an alcoholic death trap, and it was a resounding (but disgusting) success. Looks like we’ll need to buy some more tiny pie pans and a case of cheap beer and get ahead of the problem before it gets worse.

In the meantime, I spread some coffee grounds around each plant because I read that it helps. We keep those separate because it makes the kitchen collector for our compost too soggy.

Here’s a website that has some pretty interesting and natural ways to deter/kill slugs. This one also has some cool tips.

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