Thursday, July 1, 2010
A few observations about gardening this year.
1. Curly Top : I've seen no evidence of the beet leafhopper and the accompanying curly top virus in my tomatoes. Nor have I seen any evidence of it in any of my vines. My neighbor had one of about 20 plants infected with curly top. I've asked a few neighbors and none have had problems with the disease...yet. I continue to spray powdered milk on my tomatoes and vines. Renowned agronomist Sylvan Wittwer told me that milk is a known defense against curly top and other tomato diseases. It isn't 100%, but it is known to be effective. So the powdered milk thing is not just urban legend, but has a scientific basis. Still, it's difficult to know whether this is just an off year for the beet leafhopper, or if the milk is having an effect. I suspect the strong southwesterly winds we experienced most days in May and June may have blown the leafhoppers far away from Toquerville.
2. Tomatoes: I planted Celebrity, Better Boy, Rowpac, and Columbian varieties this year. Rowpac and Columbian are supposedly curly top resistant. All are doing well. The Rowpac and Columbian are heavy setters and are loaded with tomatoes, though their size is smaller than I like. But the flavor of both is good, and very little cracking. The Better Boy plants have not set many tomatoes this year. Witter recommends Champion or Superfantasic over this variety, I may try these next year.
3. Corn: I planted four rows of Miracle Corn. Last year this 70 day corn was on the table at 70 days; this year, however, it will be about an 85 day corn. The cool weather slowed down its growth. Still, the corn looks great and we look to be eating some within a week's time. I've mentioned this before, but I always place a couple of drops of vegetable oil on the corn silk shortly after it emerges. This eliminates the corn borer and keeps the ears clear of bugs. It's an inexpensive solution, and avoids the use of pesticides. This year I put the oil in a small squirt bottle and just shot a little squirt of oil onto the silk. It worked perfectly.
4. Melons: I planted Ambrosia cantaloupe, Casaba, Klondike watermelon, and Green River watermelon. The Green River melon seeds were some my wife's father had saved (he's been dead for 15 years), but every seed sprouted. The Ambrosia and Casaba are doing well, with good melon sets growing nicely. This year I gradually moved my drip lines away from the base of the melons (and squash). This keeps the squash bugs at bay (I have no squash bugs yet). The ground remains dry at the base of the plants, where squash bugs like to reside.
5. Onions: I have been harvesting onions for eight weeks, and have now taken the water off and am drying out the onion bulbs. This onion crop was impressive, probably the best onions I've grown. I'm trying to dry out the onions better this year so they will last longer through the winter.
6. Squash: I planted zucchini and scallop summer squash. All plants look great and are producing all too well. Again, I've seen no squash bugs yet. I also planted a "turban" squash given to me by a friend of mine. This is a large, winter squash. The plant is very large and has set several turbans.
7. Berries: I am now harvesting large, black, delicious boysenberries. This is a first for me. The plants have grown well, and are producing a nice crop. We have also been eating strawberries for over two months. My raspberries flowered thickly, but produced no fruit, very disappointing. I've had others tell me there's did the same this year, so not sure what that is about.
Overall, this has been a wonderful gardening year for me. All the cool weather crops were excellent; beets, carrots, broccoli, peas, onions. I have green beans growing, a great crop of grapes coming, and a nice crop of figs. The figs, however, are about a month behind last year. After a disappointing pecan crop last year, this year's crop looks to be very good, the trees are thick with young, small pecans. My apricots mostly froze, but are enjoying the few that survived.
Toquerville gardeners should appreciate the excellent gardening weather we have here. Two elements make the difference, in my opinion. First, although the days can get hot, Toquerville warms slowly in the summer mornings, and usually begin cooling by 1-2pm in the afternoon. So there is really only a few hours of hot temperatures. Second, the evening always cool (it was 66 degrees this morning), so plants do not get significantly stressed by the summer heat. This is not typical of St George and Washington, and areas south.