August 8, 2015
We had a great day this morning: Celia, Katie, Jim D., Paul, and Deb came out to work hard. (Let me know if I forgot someone!) Katie and Jim D. got us started with the strawberry ‘renovation’ (see more below) and did some great work! Everyone else helped pull old plants, clean up debris, and prune the dead parts of plants still going, among other tasks.
We pulled that one zucchini plant that was dying. it’s been a rough year for our zucchini and cucumber plants. We lost that zucchini plant to the squash bugs, and powdery mildew has definitely taken hold. As bad as the leaves look with the mildew, I’d say we avoid cutting the ugly leaves and let them shrivel up naturally. Hopefully the plants will balance themselves out between new leaves and old just enough to keep producing, but cutting leaves, especially with the cucumber beetles and squash bugs, could just make the plants even sicker. Keep watering the zucchini and cucumbers at the roots, avoiding the leaves. For next year, let’s look into more effective ways to prevent or fight the mildew, because it definitely is a big ‘pest’ for the garden. (And the milk ‘solution’ was a dud).
What still needs doing in the garden? Plenty, for sure. Let me know what you see, but here’s my list from the morning:
- The borage on the side of bed 1 is starting the fade, sadly. Below’s a picture of it from its peak a few week ago. We can start cleaning up the dead parts.
- We can also keep the tomato plants healthy by pruning the dead leaves and stems. This is somewhat delicate work, since we certainly don’t want to hurt the plants, but a little pruning of the dead leaves will also help air circulation, which prevents disease. Here’s a picture I took of what the dead leaves look like on the tomato plants.
- Anyone interested could always cut some more of the leaf miners from the swiss chard in beds 5 and 10. Check here for more on the miners.
- In beds 7 and 8, the tomato and squash areas are just a little messy; do what you can.
- Feel free to harvest chamomile in beds 10 and 6 aggressively.
- Water, water, water, especially anything with row cover (that’s the white cover we use to try to prevent pests and disease from damaging new seedlings). Also water any places that look bare, but have a stake. When we pull plants, we pull the stakes, so any seemingly bare spots with stakes are actually new little seeds and seedlings that need our water.
- Leave the radicchio in bed 7 to continue heading up like cabbage. Josh will send an email once that’s ready to be harvested.
- Harvest. Some plants, like cucumbers, actually stop producing fruit if not harvested.
- Weed. If you’re not sure, let it go, but weed as you can, especially around pepper plants and eggplants (it’s easy there to tell plants from weeds).
- Identify the problem! Our cucumber looks poorly. Here’s a picture, any thoughts?
That’s it for daily tasks. Here’s a little bit about brussels sprouts and then more on strawberries, our project continuing to next week.
We have Brussels Sprouts growing in bed 8! Here’s what I’ve gathered on how to care for and maintain them. I liked the advice best from Cedar Circle Farm and Rodale’s:
- Picking sprouts after a few frosts makes them sweeter, so let’s leave them for as long as we can
- Water generously, and go for the leaves (unlike other things we plant) because their leaves absorb water
- Remove yellowing lower leaves, but definitely preserve most leaves, especially at the top
- We could try ‘topping’ them in late August. Cedar Circle describes ‘topping off.’
- When ready, we’ll harvest from the bottom up
I’m definitely just getting a handle on how to ‘renovate’ our june-bearing L’amour strawberry plants. We’ve started the process, as I mentioned, by cutting back the leaves.
Here’s what I’ve gathered:
- We’ll want to finish off clipping the plants and clearing away the debris. Here’s a video that helps explain the clipping. We’ll just do this clipping once in the season, and then let the plants recover for the rest of our season. Hopefully, we’ll finish next Saturday.
- Along with this, we’ll want to weed the area, but carefully, since strawberries have shallow roots, and we’ll pull the plants growing into the asparagus.
- We’ll then put down some fertilizer. The fish emulsion should be fine, but one site suggested 1 lb of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet. Any thoughts?
Now, here’s the hard part. Our beds and rows are definitely overgrown, but renovating in general involves pulling the rows way back to let them grow in. One site suggests 2-foot wide rows, but our beds are 4 feet wide, so we’ll need to sort that out. We need even smaller rows, though, for renovating, because the idea is that they grow back to 2 feet.
Here’s some advice from Iowa State:
June-bearing strawberries are most productive when grown in 2-foot-wide matted rows. If the strawberry planting has become a solid bed several feet wide [note: that’s us], renovate the planting by creating 8-inch-wide plant strips with a rototiller or hoe. Space the plant strips about 3 feet apart. June-bearing strawberries grown in rows should also be renovated. Narrow the rows to 8-inch-wide strips by removing the older plants, while retaining the younger ones. After renovation, the strawberry plants will develop runners and eventually form a 2-foot-wide matted row of plants by the end of summer.
Some June-bearing strawberry varieties are extremely vigorous, producing runners beyond the 2-foot-wide matted row. These runners should be placed back within the 2-foot row or removed to prevent the planting from becoming a solid mat of plants.
The University of Minnesota extension provides similar advice: Rototill or hoe to narrow the rows to half the original width. The production of new runners should again result in rows 12 – 18 inches wide.
Finally, here’s the best thing I found online. This video is very cool. The other video is a little precious, but this guy just goes for it. Hopefully, it’ll get you in the mood for the hacking to come next weekend! We don’t have a rototill but I think we’ll just pull, pull, pull unless anyone has another thought.
After we do all this, we’ll still water about 2 times a week, but only in the mornings to avoid disease, so let me know if you’re willing to water the strawberry beds. We’ll also continue weeding, but otherwise let the plants take shape again.
Then, in the fall, we’ll cover plants with straw to protect the crown for the winter.
That’s it for now!