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Crystal Ball in the Garden

Well, as is my habit, I started taking soil temperatures in the beds in the garden yesterday and we’re in the 35-41 degrees F range. That means that we can think seriously about putting plastic or our oh-so-high-tech ‘left overs from the greenhouse’ big pieces of glass over the beds to warm things up even further. Once we get to 50 degrees in the soil, we can direct seed things like lettuces, spinach, anything from the cabbage family, chard, kale, and beets. Peas will come later and after that beans and squash, and plants for peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. But for the moment, what is growing out there are the garlic and multiplier onions I put in in the fall (both they and the daffodils are now up).

Something else I started to do a couple of years ago which has paid off really well, is that I started checking in with these guys: Long Range Weather. This site has month by month graphics for precipitation and temperatures as related to the ‘normal’ right on the map of the USA so that I can get a good feel for what the growing season in my area will be. I just checked and this is what I found:

Month…………..Precipitation……………..Temperature
April…………..+10%……………………..-1 degree off the normal
May…………….+10%……………………..-1 degree off the normal
June……………+10%……………………..normal
July……………+10%……………………..-1 degree off the normal
August………….+10%……………………..-1 degree off the normal
September……….+10%……………………..-1 degree off the normal

So, looking at this in a dispassionate way, we will have plenty of rain but it’s also going to be slightly cooler than normal all the way along, which means one thing: Blight. Wet and slightly cool temperatures are an absolute prescription for blight for tomatoes and potatoes for sure. Now there are a few things I can do to fight that:

1) Look for varieties which are blight resistant. There are actually two different blight (fungus) varieties, so having a tomato that is resistant to both (there are a couple on this list) or tomatoes from both the early and late blight resistant list will keep me covered. Recommended varieties of tomatoes are:
Resistant to Early Blight:
Juliet – 60 days
Legend – 68 days
Manalucie – 82 days
Manyel – 75 days
Matts Wild Cherry – 70 days
Mountain Fresh – 77 days
Mountain Supreme – 70 days
Old Brooks – 78 days
Tommy Toe – 70 days

Resistant to Late Blight:
Fantasio
Ferline – 95 days
Golden Sweet
Legent – 68 Days
Old Brooks – 78 days

2) Planting with lots of air space between the plants. The DH tends to go for the ‘cram as many plants into a bed as is physically possible’ school of thinking and this just spreads blight like wild fire. Transplant the tomato plants so that when they are fully grown (and they are always bigger than you think they will be), there will be air space between the leaves. you don’t want a situation where the leaves on adjacent plants are going to touch.

3) You can give up putting them in the garden completely and put the plants into individual pots or grow bags and move them so that there is plenty of air space. That way, if a plant gets infected, you’ll see it right away and can separate it from the others and at the end of the season, you can just dump the whole thing into a garbage bag and get rid of it. Never put infected tomato plants into your compost heap (you have a compost heap/bin/pile right?). That just keeps spreading the fungal spores around.

4) You can look for the shortest season varieties of anything in the pepper/tomato/eggplant family. That way, you have a shot at getting your harvest before the blight hits. There has been a huge influx of pepper and tomato varieties from Russia and Eastern Europe and we’ve found them to be really excellent growers in our Upstate NY garden. The easiest way to recognize these varieties is that they usually have the countries’ names in them, which will tip you off.

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One Comment

  1. Duchesse says:

    While I no longer have gardens to baby or just let run amok, as the mood hits, I live four blocks from what most consider the most prolific farmer’s market in the country. I can’t wait to see the winter hoardings lift and the first of the local producers return. Now, we’re keeping an eye on the cold nights and sunny days that make maple sap flow, and for the sweet good times of les cabanes à sucre , which begin this month!

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