Desperately Seeking Garden Guru

The garden is now starting to provide the majority of our vegetable and salad needs which is immensely satisfying.  We’re picking beans, lettuce, tomatoes, beetroots, pak choy and some little zucchinis.  The corn looks like it’s getting close, the eggplants are starting to flower and the (very few) carrots that survived will be good in another few weeks.  However, it is also throwing up a few challenges that I’m struggling to deal with.  This is where you come in, I need advice, suggestions, or at least a telling off if I’m doing it all wrong.

Firstly, the zucchinis.  While they’re flowering like mad and I have piles of baby zukes, they tend to start to yellow a bit on the end and then not develop any further.  At this point I’ve been picking them and eating them small, they taste fine, but I would like a proper sized one if possible.  In the past I’ve pulled the flower off early and that helped, but this year that seemed to make things worse.  I also have thousands of white flies.  I’ve sprayed with pyrethrum without effect.  Then I tried a soapy water mixture and sprayed that on and again nothing.  I’ve also cut off any of the damaged leaves (caused by the white fly as well as the worst of the damage caused by the hail storm) which does seem to promote healthy new growth, but then the flies attack the new bits. What’s the trick to get rid of these little nasties?

See how one end is skinnier and starting to shrivel a little. This just gets worse if I don't pick them. (Note the spot where the hail hit the zuke)

Can you see the tiny white flies - very hard to capture as they tend to fly away as soon as the leaf moves.

Next, my tomatoes had turned into something of a forest with the plants going mental in the growth department.  The middle of the patch was pretty much inaccessible and too dense for much sunlight to get too.  Obviously I should have maintained some control of the plants earlier, but I didn’t.  Then lots of the leaves started to turn yellow and die off, as well as the plants having black spots on the leaves and stems (doesn’t sound good does it?) Over the last few evenings I’ve been out and cut back any of the dead or dying parts.  I was pretty ruthless with the secateurs and there wasn’t a lot left of the forest once I’d finished.  Now, though, I’m wondering if this was the right thing to do to them and how should I tackle the black spot?  Thankfully there’s still plenty of fruit on the plants, but having said that, there’s also a long time before the end of tomato season so I would like to keep them fruiting for a few months yet.

This is what the bad bits looked like before I cut them all off

The tommies after their hair cut, still a bit straggly, but at least these bits are green.

Finally, the potatoes.  These are still impressive looking beasts, with lots of foliage drooping over the sides and swamping the plants below them (I’ve been building up the bed inside a wire cage, though stopped at about over a meter high when I ran out of mulch and compost).  If you remember the potatoes were a gift from a friend who had some left over.  She’s been growing them in the same way (though hers were planted a couple of weeks earlier) and when she saw them the other day she was amazed at the foliage, hers didn’t have anything like the amount mine do.  Now I’m worrying that the spuds put all their energy into growing leaves and forgot about the tubers.  I guess I won’t find that out until I dig them up, which brings me to my quandary.  I’ve been reading on other people’s blogs that they are harvesting their potatoes now, should I be doing this too, or wait until mine flower and die back.  How do you know when to get digging?

The potatoes attempting to escape their cage and swamp my poor capsicum.

Ah, it’s all a learning experience isn’t it.  For me, once I’ve decided to try something new or do something in a different way I just want to get on with it.  I’m finding it a test of patience to just see this crop through before getting on with the plans in my head.  I’m going to do some potato experiments next year and I’m going to spread my tomatoes out a bit more also.  I will plant thousands of capsicums so I have more than one sad and lonely plant (no signs of fruit yet?).  Oh the list inside my head is endless.

Oh that reminds me of one very important question, when should I be planting my winter veg seeds in the seed trays in readiness for the next round of plantings?  I missed the boat a bit for the summer ones, so I want to be well on top of things for winter.  All offers of advice gratefully received!

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8 Responses to Desperately Seeking Garden Guru

  1. First, the zucchinis. I had that exact problem last year, and everyone I asked said that it was a problem with pollination. I assumed they were right, and eventually I pulled them out without getting a single normal-sized zucchini. When winter came round though my broad beans flourished in the same location, and they required pollination too.
    This year, I have several zucchinis and the ones in part sun have the same problem. Only the one is full sun is consistently putting out full sized zucchini.

    With the tomatoes, in my experience the only way you can prevent this fungal blight is either with tomato dust or another organic fungicide. You can trim the lower foliage to stop water splashing up and infecting the plant, but you will probably need some form of fungicide too (whether conventional or organic).

    Not sure about the potatoes – I haven’t grown enough of them to be sure.

    Hope that helps, and I’m happy to stand corrected by those wiser than I on any of the above opinions.

    • Barbara Good says:

      Now you may be onto something on the sun thing L, the bed I have them growing in, is in the shade for most of the afternoon. Perhaps I should try them in a different position next year.

      I also think I might have some tomato dust somewhere which I might try for this year. I have trimmed most of the lower leaves, but perhaps I need to double check that too.

      Thanks for the ideas.

  2. The zucchini problem could also be blossom end rot. You’ll find heaps of images to compare if you google it. If you have plenty of male flowers and enough insects, that’s the likely cause. Not enough calcium uptake is the reason, which could be not enough calcium in the soil, or could be that it’s too dry. For whiteflies, they’re sap suckers. Plants defend themselves against them by having skin thick enough to foil them, and the best way to get plants creating nice thick cell walls is by using seaweed brew. I have a barrel on the go all the time (good excuse for regular trips to the beach!), and start feeding seedlings with it in very early spring. You can also try yellow sticky traps – the old fashioned fly traps made of yellow sticky paper work – but you’ll never get all of them and if there’s food for them, they’ll just breed again. Lacewings and ladybeetles love whiteflies, so in the longer term, the answer is breeding up predators – some umbelliferae like Queen Anne’s Lace or dill or carrot or parsley or celery flowering will help. Hard to tell what your tomato problem is from the picture, but whatever it is, the answer is likely to be resting the soil from tomatoes (and everything in its family) for a season. Sadly. I had to do it last year. That family are prone to soil bourne fungus and bacterial diseases. And the spuds, leave them until they flower and die back. Specially with tomato diseases around. Hope that helps!

    • Barbara Good says:

      Wow, looks like I’ve found another blog I need to pay close attention to Linda, you really sound like you know your stuff. I had thought blossom end rot, but it doesn’t quite look right from what I’ve seen. I will make sure though that they get plenty of water from here on out. Should I do something about adding calcium to the soil either now or once the zukes come out? That seaweed brew looks quite ‘interesting’, not sure I’ll be able to get that productive, but will make sure they get a dose of the shop bought stuff. I’ll do better at getting it onto them as seedlings next year too. I have HEAPS of flowering parsley right next to the zukes though, perhaps that will help in time.

      The tomatoes are a puzzle, they are in a new bed with new soil, compost and manure. It’s the first time I’ve planted vegies at all in that spot. I’ll be sure to plant them on the other side next year. I’ll be interested to see if it spreads to the eggplants or capsicum I have nearby.

      Thanks so much for all your wise words and I’ll be sure to have a good poke around your blog.

  3. I defer to the afore-mentioned people wiser than I, LOL!

  4. bruisemouse says:

    With regard to planting what when, I use
    http://www.gardenate.com/
    as a guide. You can also enter your details and they email a reminder at the beginning of the month.

  5. Liz says:

    Last question first – anything brassica related can be sown from now on (eg Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc but bear in mind you will have to be very vigilant as there are heaps of white butterflies around at the moment.). I have sown cabbage & cauli but not broccoli as I find broc quicker and the seedlings would probably just get eaten. Spinach, garlic, broad beans, onions etc you need to wait for it to get cooler. Does that cover most things? Potatoes – wait til they die down to harvest the whole lot but if your hand fits in that side wire I would be having a feel around and perhaps harvesting soem new potatoes if you can feel them. Some varieties are quicker than others and I still have lots of green growth on the ones in have in the garden (as opposed to pots). Tomatoes – mine do that every year, if I rest the soil, or if its new or not. I find they put on lots of fruit (I hope)and then die back like yours are but they do usually keep growing and keep setting fruit. Some varieties are worse than others. I do have one plant that has yellowed heaps in the last few days I think due to the heat and others that have no fruit but look really vigorous. I think getting tomatoes not to die back like that in a sheltered suburban garden is really difficult as they don’t get much air circulation and the diseases spread (my theory anyway….). On Vasili’s Garden I saw people pruning the leaves back to the level the plant was setting fruit – leaving only healthy leaves. I’d be interested to know if your pruning helps.

  6. Andrea says:

    Sorry to hear of the Xmas day damage to your garden, you should be really proud of the garden you have created, i don’t think your doing anything wrong(growing fresh veggies/fruit for your family is fantastic) it seems each each year something gets into the patch(earwigs,cherry/pear slug, hail,mice,wilt etc) and trys a gardener’s patience.
    Lots of great advice above so i won’t add to it, although great tip from Bruise Mouse !
    Happy gardening.

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