A Garden Blog by Kevin Milaeger

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My Tomatoes are Blushing

July 9
, 2014     (See below for archives)

The local meteorologists have concluded that June was a cooler than average month. Although July started rather cool, it now looks like summer is here to stay. Things look pretty good in the garden, but some crops are behind their normal schedule. (I’m not implying that we’ve ever had a “normal” year!) For the most part, my tomato plants look very healthy and some of the early varieties that produce golf ball sized fruit or smaller have a good fruit set, and are now starting to ripen. So far three varieties are showing color---‘Sweet Baby Girl,’ ‘Sun Gold,’ and ‘Slava Plum.’ Every time I have to buy a package of tomatoes at the grocery store I am hoping it will be my last of the season, and now I’m pretty sure I am at that point.

I’m growing about 50 assorted pepper plants this year. Most are in the trial garden at Milaeger’s, and about ten are at my home garden. Like the tomatoes, they are faring well. I always pick off the early peppers well before they turn their final ripe color (usually red.) This is to encourage the plant to produce more flowers, and therefore more fruit. A plant produces flowers (and therefore fruit) in an effort to produce seed, to perpetuate itself. If you allow the early fruit (seed) to reach maturity, the plant thinks its goal has been accomplished, and so produces few fruit from that point on. If that early fruit is picked before the seed is mature, the plant is stimulated to produce more flowers in an effort to regenerate the species before summer is over. Those early, unripe fruits are less nutritious than fully ripe fruit, but I still enjoy their flavor.

I planted about eight cucumbers this year; six are parthenocarpic (producing only female flowers) and two are a standard variety called ‘Fanfare.’ So far I have picked at least ten cukes off the parthenocarpic plants. These are smaller, thin skinned cukes, so peeling is not necessary. They are also seedless, or nearly so. The ‘Fanfare’ plants had an early start---you may remember my blog about using “season extenders”; if not, click here. In the early season, most of the flowers on cucurbits (cucumbers and related plants) are male, but a few are female. Fertilization was successful and I now have some cukes that are nearly ready---they grow fast in warm weather.

Tomato plants are subject to various diseases, some much worse than others. Septoria Leaf spot is one that often shows up early in the season. It is a fungal disease, so the spores are in nature and is therefore always a potential problem. No tomato varieties are resistant to it. Fortunately, it is not as serious as some other diseases and is treatable.

Septoria is sometimes confused with early blight, and to make it more complicated, a plant could have both diseases at the same time. The diseases are usually fairly easy to distinguish. Early blight has small tan blotches, irregularly shaped, sometimes roundish. Each spot has distinct concentric rings, oftentimes referred to as a “target.” Septoria has small tan spots, but they are either solid tan or there is sometimes a black speck in the center. Another telling feature is that with early blight, the spot can also have a yellow “halo” surrounding it---such is the case on one of my (now destroyed) plants. Foolishly, I had assumed it was Septoria, not having inspected it close enough. Septoria almost always starts on the lowest leaves, and works its way up, the leaves eventually turning yellow then brown, and eventually falling off. The fruit is not directly affected. This disease flourishes in a wet, moist and humid environment. Removing the lower leaves of the plant (I recommended this in an earlier blog) will increase air circulation and diminish moisture. Also, when you water the plants try to water only the soil, not the leaves.    

Septoria is just starting on at least one of my plants. If you want to treat it, here is what to do. Carefully snip off and destroy all affected leaves. (Do not compost them---the spores are not carried over the winter in soil, but in decomposing leaves and stems.) When you are finished, wash off your clippers and your hands. Get some copper spray that is suitable for organic gardening (see photo) and apply it to the leaves that are near the affected leaves. This is best applied as a preventative, but it will help arrest the progress of the disease if it has already started. You will need to reapply after rain.

Tomatoes aren’t the only plants to get this disease. Other plants in your garden may also have it. Keep an eye on pepper and eggplant, both of which are related to tomatoes. Septoria is often not a fatal disease. However, it can significantly weaken a plant, and a weakened plant does not produce much fruit.

Please email me (kevin@milaegers.com) if you have any questions or comments.



Archives  (Click on the green text for link)

June 2014 - Some Tomato Concerns

May 2014 - Garden Update --- the Cold Weather Experiment

May 2014 - Is it Time to Plant Tomatoes?

May 2014 - Vintage Veggies #4 and Vintage Veggies List 2014

April 2014 - A Chilly Spring... What Can I Plant Now?

March 2014 - Start Growing Your Own Food Right Now

February 2014 - Greens to Grow   Click here for Spreadsheet


October 2013 - Keep Calm and Garden On!

October 2013 - Autumn Vegetables

September 2013 - Tomato Popularity Poll Results Blog

September 2013 - Tomatomania Category and Cumulative Results

September 2013 - Tomatomania 2013 Blog, Video and T-Shirt

August 2013 - Greens to Grow and Spreadsheet

July 2013 - Spaghetti Squash

July 2013 - New Tomato and Zucchini Recipe Blog
July 2013 - Tomato and Zucchini Recipe

June 2013 - Cold Spring - What it Means for Vegetables
May 2013 - Tomatoes in Containers
May 2013 - Vintage Veggies 2013
April 2013 - My Tomato Garden Preview 2013
April 2013 - Don't Forget Rosemary!
April 2013 - It's Planting Time
March 2013 - Onions
March 2013 - Vintage Veggies
March 2013 - Greens to Grow Update
February 2013 - Hot Peppers
February 2013 - Grafted Tomatoes
February 2013 - Greens to Grow

September 2012 - Tomatomania Results
July 2012 - Compass Plant
July 2012 - Heat Wave
June 2012 - Okra
June 2012 - Potato Onion
May 2012 - Gas Plant

May 2012- My Tomato Garden
May 2012 - Vintage Veggie Fest
March 2012 - Growing Raspberries in SE Wisconsin
March 2012 - Winter Tomato Project
February 2012 - Success with Sweet Peppers
February 2012 - Vegetable Cukes Miniature
January 2012 - Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2011 -Tomatomania Review 
August 2011 - Tomatomania Preview
August 2011 - Racine Vegetable Garden Tour
Summer 2011 - Vegetables in my Garden
July 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
June 2011 - Vegetables - Diseases made Simple
June 2011 - Vegetables - Container Growing
May 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
April 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Event Preview
March 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Announcement

September 2010 - Tomatomania Review 
August 2010 - Flowers Late Summer Color
July 2010 Vegetables Cukes and Tomatoes
June 2010 Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2009 - Tomatoes End of Season Review 
September 2009 - Tomatomania Review
July 2009 - Tomatoes General and Fruit Set Problems
June 2009  - Tomatoes Fertilization
June 2009  - Tomatoes Personal Experience
May 2009 - Tomatoes General
May 2009 - Tomatoes Diseases
May 2009 - Tomatoes Selecting and Growing
April 2009 - Tomatoes General

Any questions or comments, please contact us at: gardenquestions@milaegers.com