Saturday, August 3, 2013

Trip to the Nursery, VFN tomatoes, Marigolds, and Compost

After the bad news of my infestation, I wanted to know more about VFN varieties.  Interestingly, the Territorial Seed Company seed catalog that I had at home did not seem to comment on VFN status.  I wonder if I missed it or if the info really isn't there.

Friday afternoon, we went to the nursery.  There we found only a few hybrid seed packets labeled with VFN information in small italic, light font.  The tags on actually plants weren't very helpful either - the most informative said "disease resistant" but didn't specify which diseases.  The customer service desk did have some helpful printouts regarding VFN status of some varieties they carried.

To test the theory that my tomatoes' big issues at home are the wilt and nematodes, I bought a 6 pack of Champion hybrid tomatoes.

Reading more on the root knot nematodes online, I saw information about using marigolds to help control them.  So, I bought 24 French Marigolds to plant at home.

I also read that using compost may help, as it may up the beneficials populations such that they can prey upon the parasitic nematodes.  I need to also read further about whether it is worthwhile to purchase predatory nematodes.

Saturday, I put our entire supply of finished compost into the North and West beds, which gave several inches of new compost to each.  I removed dead plants, cut diseased ones, planted the new tomatoes and the 20 or the 24 marigolds.  (The other 4 I'm saving for the community garden bed.)

Here are the beds as I'm cleaning them out and adding compost:

And here they are when I was done:

I also supported the tomatoes in the front bed with an approximation of a Florida weave.  Despite the fact that all of those plants are heirlooms, some of them are doing okay.  I haven't grown any vegetables in that soil before.  It isn't the best soil, but it also isn't too infested apparently.

Here is the weave in progress:
Here is the finished photo:

Lastly, here are some of my garden helpers.  They supervised some of the gardening from up in the Carrotwood tree:

Friday, August 2, 2013

Infestation Lessons from the Plant Pathologist

This morning I had an appointment at the County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures with the plant pathologist to look at my sickly heirloom tomato plants.  She was kind enough to actually let me come in with my plants and learn from her!  Thank you!  These are my notes from our appointment.

I had 2 terribly stunted samples form the North Bed, one moderately stunted and wilting sample from the West bed, and 2 larger and rapidly wilting samples from the Community Garden bed.  I made the appointment figuring that since not everything responded miraculously to my fish emulsion that the problem went deeper than nitrogen deficiency.  And oh how very deep the problem is!

From the North Bed:
Plants 1 + 2: Snow White Cherry + Orange Cherry
a) chewing damage along stems consistent with pill bugs, ear wigs, etc. (I knew this, but the problem seemed more extensive than this)
b) tomato russet mite - can decimate fields, but not that many were present
c) no evidence of fusarium wilt or parasitic nematodes but the sample tomatoes were so stunted that one really couldn't tell for sure.  Easier to diagnose in bigger plants.  These were tiny - like less than 4 inches tall despite being seedlings from the spring.

From the West Bed:
Plant 1: Mortgage Lifter
a) Root Knot Nematode (prominently!).  Easy to see the knotting, not uniformly tapering roots.  Parasitic worm in a gall, which is a reaction to her presence.  The pathologist shaved off the gall carefully with a scalpel under the microscrope and we could see the small gooey white looking balls that were the adult nematodes.
b) Fusarium Wilt - plenty.  Easy to see when we cut the plant's stem in cross section near the soil line.
c) Tomato Russet Mite - mild
d) no spider mites

From the Community Garden Bed:
Plant 1: Super Sweet White Cherry
a) Fusarium wilt - prominent
b) Root knot nematode - mild - it was harder for me to see in this specimen, but she saw it.
c) tomato russet mite - mild
d) spider mite - a few present, but not many at all
Plant 2: Yellow Pear
a) Fusarium wilt - plenty
b) tomato russet mite - some
c) aphid - present
d) no root knot nematode noted

Fusarium wilt is a soil born fungus.  "Basically there forever" due to spores.  When the stem is cut in cross section, it is easy to see the brown discolored ring in the plant's vasculature.  Further up the stem it becomes less obvious.  It is nightshade specific, thus the recommended rotation of nightshades, which can be very difficult to do in the home garden.  More practical to get VFN (Verticillium Wilt, Fusarium Wilt, Nematode) resistant tomato hybrid varieties.  If doing the rotation, rotate out at least 3 years and see if you can get one decent crop in before the fungus population rebounds significantly.

Root Knot Nematode - Parasitic nematode that lives in the soil, has a broad host range (including most vegetables and some weeds, etc), and is basically there forever according to her.  Some resistant varieties can be found (mostly tomatoes, though) and can solarize the soil as a last resort.  This involves a clear tarp on top of soil for 4-6 weeks in the heat of the summer.  Problem with this is that it kills everything, even beneficials in soil.

Also discussed powdery mildew on the squash - soap and water can help, but do not apply at hottest part of day.  Sulfer can work, too, but with the same caution.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fertilized with Fish Emulsion at home

Used the Fish Emulsion on the North, South and West Beds, plus pots, front and roses.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Seaweed and Fish Emulsion at Community Garden

Back from a trip, so seeing the community garden bed for the first time in about 1.5 weeks.  Overall the growth looks good.  The squash had a nice growth spurt, as did the kale.  The squash does have a lot of powder mildew, so I cut off more leaves.  A few tomatoes are seriously wilting and I'm wondering if the issues I've had at home especially with the tomatoes is the same as what is going on at the Comm garden.  Considering taking full plant samples into County Ag.

Fertilized again with the Neptune's Seaweed and Fish Emulsion.

Here are some updated pics.

Notice the sorry looking tomato plant next to the great looking kid.