It’s A Game Of Mistakes

October 20, 2018

Why didn’t soccer coaches ever have anything positive to say at halftime? Because they had just watched 45 minutes of errors. Even the pros only complete 57% of their passes in the final third of the field. I often feel this way about gardening; it’s a game of mistakes.

First was my failure to outwit the winter moth. The female does not fly. She has to crawl up the fruit tree to lay her eggs, from which, larvae emerge and eat the fruit tree blooms. I smeared Tanglefoot on the trunks to stop her in her tracks. Problem was, I put it on too late. I thought I had until mid-November but, not so. Not only did we battle with the winter moth larvae this spring but also the oblique-banded leaf roller larvae showed up – a more difficult opponent. I will double my efforts to come up with a better strategy this winter.

Just look at this little devil – the larvae of the strawberry root weevil. Sometimes there were two of them inside the root, in total cooperation. I was pressing my luck hanging on to those wonderful Glooscap (Canadian) berries, which I had planted in 2011! This year they were still sweet as ever but not productive. It’s no wonder. I should have paid heed when the pros told me to keep strawberry plants only a few years.

The elderberry produced quite a bit of fruit, bless its lil ole heart, in spite of the fact that it was a sufferin’. I pruned dead branches all summer. Finally, I sat and studied it a bit. Someone was making tunnels through the bark and into the trunk. I peeled back some flaky bark and watched as the following scampered back to darkness: black ants, red ants, tiny gray bugs with antennae, a slender shiny black insect that jumped, a little red mite. Actually, I have a feeling all of these critters were just using the network created by someone else. I won’t know until dormant season when I will have to do some vicious pruning. Observation is king in gardening!

Sun. Oct 21, 2-4, work party
Sun. Nov 18, 2-4 work party
Sun. Dec 16, 2-4 work party
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Nancy also had growing pains. It’s a snap to grow grape plants if all you want are vines. To get fruit, you have to prune properly. Nancy thought she could choose between cane pruning and spur pruning so she developed some of each. Wrong. The take-away from a WSU pruning class was that, in the maritime NW, spur pruning reduces the number of fruit-bearing buds. So, this winter she will have to rework the vines and train them for long-term cane pruning.

Then there’s summer pruning. She thought all you had to do was take out excess growth. She took another class. Wrong. Wow! It’s so much more complicated. Essentially, you need to do three things: mark the shoots that will become next year’s canes, remove some but not all of the non-fruit bearing shoots, train but don’t tip the fruit bearing shoots. Training means get them up off the ground and onto the trellis, but don’t snip off the terminal bud.

Not to mention the continuing saga of failed pickling cukes, the appetite of the rats, the disruption from the squirrels, and the off-leash dogs. All this to deal with and now … the bunnies are coming!

Ruth

 

Guarding the Grapes

September 23, 2018

neem

The predictable announcement was, “Yum!” from anyone who tasted our Interlaken table grapes. One taster cocked her head and let her eyes drift upward, savoring the sweet with a little tart sensation.

We were thankful to have a few grapes this year! Last year was a bust due to powdery mildew. In 2017, the grape clusters shriveled and dropped. We knew we needed a plan for the 2018 season.

Our first step was to sign up for another class from the grape guru Michelle Moyer (WSU – Prosser).

Michelle explained: Powdery mildew (Erysiphe necator) comes in many forms. A vine is most susceptible when temperatures are 68F to 86F and humidity is moderate (40-75%), conditions that are quite common in Western Washington during the growing season.

Sat, Oct 6, 2-5, CIDER FEST!
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In cool climates, powdery mildew typically shows up one month after bud break – approx. May 30. Weather During Critical Epidemiological Periods and Subsequent Severity of Powdery Mildew on Grape Berries. Plant Disease 100:116-124.   Moyer, M.M., D.M. Gadoury, W.F. Wilcox, and R.C. Seem. 2016.

control

Proper pruning, including fruit-zone leaf removal and shoot thinning, to facilitate air circulation and sun light penetration is critical to aid in the control of powdery mildew. UV exposure and air circulation are both effective against this fungal problem.

Sadly, our most mature set of three vines rest along the sound wall where air circulation is compromised.

Michelle referred to a study by Matthew DeBacco (2011)  wherein compost tea and milk spray were used to combat powdery mildew.

Well! These materials were easy to find and certainly organic so we began our own experiment. The left vine we treated with neem oil, the middle was the control where we did nothing and the right vine received powdered milk spray (1/4 C non-fat dry milk, 1-T baking soda and a few drops of dishwashing soap to a gallon of water.)

We were not absolutely consistent in our applications but we tried to spray about every week to 10 days.

pow. milk

Our results (see photos) were convincing; the powdery milk spray was the most effective. All clusters dropped on the control and all but one on the vine sprayed with neem oil but we did have clusters ripen completely on the milk treated vine.

Next year we plan again to spray using an improved milk recipe per the studies we’ve read. We’ll use a backpack sprayer to make the process more efficient. We’ll also prune more effectively in February and remove fruit zone leaves a bit earlier than we did this year. We may try compost tea as a test spray against the milk spray. However, making the tea every other week is quite a process so we shall see.

 

Nancy

P.S. On a recent visit to Carnation Farms, the garden supervisor mentioned that she has had luck treating basil with powdered milk spray.

More reading: Crisp P, Wicks TJ, Troup G, Scott ES (2006) Mode of action of milk and whey in the control of grapevine powdery mildew. Australasian Plant Pathology 35, 487–493. http://www.publish.csiro.au/ap/ExportCitation/AP06052

Tulle – A Cool Tool

September 3, 2018

Stretching the parameters of our climate is part of gardening. We add row covers or netting to keep out a pest or alter sunlight transmission. But it’s not that simple is it? These tools can affect soil and air temperature, humidity, wind, light penetration, pollination, and productivity. Did you know red shade cloth can increase productivity of tomatoes.

For example, installing a row cover with a mesh size to keep the white fly off your Brussels sprouts will most assuredly cause a decrease in sunlight and wind, and a mid-day increase in humidity and air and soil temperature.

The impacts that row covers and netting have on plants are significant. Seeds need a certain soil temperature to germinate successfully(1). Better ventilation helps reduce air temperature and humidity and improves the evapotranspiration process for crops (plants sweat through their leaves).

In short, well, there is no “in short” to this topic. It’s complex. Try figuring out how to relate the Frazier measurement of air permeability to the discharge coefficient. Note the gaps in my chart!

Sun, Sep 9, 10-11, Intro to Qi Gong
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Sun Oct 21, 2-4, Work Party

I had to call an engineer, who settled the air permeability issue for me. “Just take your shop vac, put the hose on the other end so it blows out and hold the fabric up near your face. You will feel which fabric has better permeability.”

By the way, if you get stubborn and want to figure this stuff out, know that there is a pretty good relationship, with very thin fabrics, between porosity and air permeability. And, there is a pretty good relationship between water permeability and air permeability. Try putting the fabric in your coffee filter holder, run water through and time each fabric.

For an overview, here’s a link to a general article about agrotextiles from Textile World, http://www.textileworld.com/textile-world/nonwovens-technical-textiles/2005/09/agrotextiles-a-growing-field/ However, there is nothing in the article about Tulle. Tulle?

Rhode Is Sch of Design

Netting is a nylon fabric in which the warp (vertical lines) and weft (horizontal lines) yarns are looped or knotted to create open spaces in the fabric. Tulle is essentially a special type of netting with a lower denier, which means the individual fibers are finer. Tulle is lighter than netting, and the spaces between threads are smaller.

You can Google Tulle and turn up tutu designs but, if you want to know about the fabric characteristics you end up reading medical studies. You can use it to repair a hernia!

I decided on Tulle for my Brussels sprouts this year. Why? Because it comes in lavender!

Important note – Row covers or netting need to be removed from some plants to allow for pollination. Most vegetables that produce flowers before they make a crop, such as squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers, require visits from insects. Root crops and leafy greens need no pollination, so they can live under covers until they are ready to pick.

Ruth

(1) Cold Crop Vegetables – Tagawa Gardens