44 June 2, 2010

June is generally a great month for planting annuals and vegetable plants. (Let’s not even think about last June!) Some plants transplant better in the warmer soil temperatures of June. Basil, Zinnias, Cucumbers, Portulaca and Peppers are just a few of the plants that come to mind. If you think that just because Memorial Day weekend has gone by and it is too late to plant, you are mistaken.

It didn’t take long for plants to be in the ground before slugs found their new sources of food. We have had any number of leaf samples come in this week with damage caused by slugs. If you haven’t put down the slug bait yet, you should do so as soon as possible.

Many of you who grow tomatoes are concerned about a return of the late blight disease that had killed off almost all of the tomato plants last year. Much of what I have read on the subject says that the disease does not over-winter in the soil in New England. However, if you allowed infected tomatoes to sit on the soil and eventually decompose, you may have problems. The disease can over-winter on infected seeds. If you see any tomato plants randomly beginning to grow in your garden, pull those plants up immediately. Wrap the plants in plastic and dispose of them in the trash.

The fact that late blight does not over-winter in the soil does not mean that we will not get the disease again. As the name implies, it shows up late in the planting season. There are any numbers of diseases that can infect tomato plants. Part of the prevention of diseases on tomatoes is the proper planting practices. Tomato plants do become big plants. As such they do need room to grow. You should be spacing your plants 3 feet apart in rows that are 3 feet apart. If you plant the tomato plants any closer, they compete for water and nutrients. This competition makes the plants weaker and prone to diseases. Planting too close together makes it harder for the foliage of the tomatoes to dry out properly. If the foliage is wet going into the nighttime hours, it is an open invitation for tomato diseases to get started. Tomato plants, or any vegetable plant should be watered early in the morning. This is the natural time of the day for the plants to take up lots of water. Watering late in the day allows the foliage to be wet and encourages plant diseases. Whenever possible always water at the base of the plant and not over the leaves. The whole key is to keep the foliage as dry as possible.

Many of you have asked if there is a way to prevent plant diseases without resorting to chemical sprays. There is a product called Serenade that helps to prevent plant diseases. It is a spray that contains a bacterium that kills the disease before it has a chance to begin. If you apply it regularly through the season, you can prevent many of the diseases. However, once the disease has started, you will have to resort to stronger control methods.

It is important that you keep up with fertilizing all of your annual flowers and vegetable plants. All of these plants need continuous access to plant food to grow properly and to produce the flowers and/or vegetables that you want. You can use organic fertilizers or you can use chemical fertilizers. The choice is up to you. Your plants are depending on you for their food. If you don’t let them down, they will reward you with lots of flowers and your vegetable plants will give you an amazing harvest.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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