Archive for the ‘Gardening Tips and Farming Advice’ Category

04 June 2010

1) If your soil tests indicate that the soil is low in Ca, Mg, and pH (acidic), but high in K, don’t add wood ash, which is a common alkaline liming agent.  Instead, add a dolomitic limestone (CaCO3 and MgCO3) to raise the pH and add Ca and Mg.  Wood ash contains K2CO3, which will cause the potassium levels to rise dramatically, creating an apparent Mg deficiency due to competition for cation exchange at root binding sites.

2) If you sow seeds in a 2-dimensional block (versus in rows), and you space the seeds at half the final spacing in all directions (with the intention of thinning to every other seed), then you will end up thinning approximately three times more seedlings than you originally intended (oops!).  Thinning to 1/2 the original seeds in the linear dimension translates into (1/2)^2 the original seeds, or 1/4, in two dimensions.  Instead, when planting in a block pattern, space rows within the block at the final spacing, but plant seeds within each row at half the final spacing in order to thin half the seedlings later (assuming all germinate, which virtually never happens — hence thinning).

3) If you hear Pica scream from over by the pig shed, and then walk over there to find a coyote, don’t automatically assume she has been eaten, even if it is in your best financial interests.  She may have escaped unscathed somehow, despite her ambulatory impairment (she did).  You however, may not survive your marriage by claiming your wife’s 2nd favorite non-human disappeared without a trace down the gullet of a wild predator.


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This has been a really tough gardening season – no news to anyone!
With cool temps and over 20” of rain, the scene was set for disease. When big box stores sold plants pre-infected with late blight, the conditions were just right. As a result, the blight popped up all over
New England and as far south as Maryland – all at once. There was a
fast spread and only pockets of gardens were spared. As many of you know, lots of folks lost their tomato and potato crops.

LATE BLIGHT information: Phytophthora infestans
affects both potato and tomato plants. The blight strain in Maine this year is the same as the blight that caused the Irish Potato Famine.
Late blight is a systemic infection. When it reaches maturity it
releases wind borne spores. The spores can travel as far as 30 miles.

This fall garden clean up is essential.
Tomato plants need to be removed from the garden and taken to the dump. The blight will not live over the winter unless there is live tissue. For this reason it is not wise to compost potentially infected plants.

In 2010 buy your tomato starts from a local garden center or from folks you know, or start your own tomato seedlings. Locally grown tomato plants cannot be pre-infected.  Seeds saved from tomato plants grown this year also cannot be infected as the blight fungus cannot survive on properly saved seeds.

Potatoes will live over the winter in your garden. “The one you missed” will come back next spring as a volunteer, and could potentially infect your garden (and your neighbors’) again.

Careful potato harvesting this fall will help prevent continuing infection. Cut off all potato foliage, both dry and green, and take it to the dump. Leave the spuds in the ground for a good two weeks. Removing the foliage means you will not dig your potatoes and drag them through potentially infected foliage. DIG AS COMPLETELY AS POSSIBLE. Put your crop out in a single layer, in a warm, dark, and dry area to cure. If any potatoes are infected they will show it at this point rather than by infecting your entire crop in storage.

In 2010 do not use saved potatoes as planting stock. Buy new, certified disease free planting stock. Folks selling seed potatoes should be able to show that their seed is certified.

References: http://www.nofasummerconference.org/lateblight.html
Amy LeBlanc, Master Gardener, Whitehill Farm, 778-2685

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