Healthy squash plants are prolific producers, as any true gardener knows. In the height of their season, it is almost impossible to give these vegetables away!! To ensure your plants stay healthy, here are a few tips on some everyday ailments that afflict these plants.
The squash vine borer (Melittia cucurbitae), is a nasty little pest that burrows into the stem of the plant. Though the plant sometimes survives, it is usually weakened, and it may be best to remove it from the garden and replace it with a healthier one.
Damage from the squash vine borer looks like this:
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease commonly seen on squash crops throughout the southeast. It looks like this:
I have had some success with a homemade mixture of baking soda, water, and dish detergent. I sprayed this on my plants once every three days until the white spores were no longer visible. This mixture can be used once a week as a preventative measure against this plant disease. The concentration I used was : 4 tsp. baking soda per 1 gal water with a squirt of dish washing liquid to help it stick to the leaves. Shake well before use and spray onto the upper and lower surfaces of the plant’s leaves.
DID YOU KNOW? Squash plants have both male and female flowers. The male flowers are held up on long thin stalks, whereas the female flowers are closer to the plant and produce a small fruit at the base of the flower. If the female flower is not fertilized, that infant fruit will die and fall off. Many people mistake that as symptomatic of a disease or nutrient deficiency, but it is really a problem with fertilization. If you don’t have many plants blooming at the same time, it is easy for pollinators to miss some of the female flowers. I have used a Q-tip to manually transfer the bright yellow pollen from male to female flowers. Gently swab the interior of the male flower and then dab the pollen onto the central part of the female flower. It works!!
To till or not to till, that is often the question. True, there are a great many advantages to no-till or minimal tillage agricultural systems, and in our garden we do our best to manage the land for good tilth and soil health. At the same time, tilling can easily and quickly accomplish objectives such as weed management or incorporating organic matter.
As part of our training as farm market interns, we all learned how to drive the tractor. Ours is a nice compact Kubota that is easy for a beginner to use. It is small and easy to maneuver through the garden, making it handy to use in different areas as we take out spring crops, avoid summer crops that are still producing, and prepare areas for fall planting.
Here we are learning to use the front-end loader and the roto-tiller.
We’re growing tons of different heirloom tomatoes at the farm: Cosmonaut Volkov, Cherokee Purple, Doll Parton, Sweeties, Amish Paste, Ananas Noire, Schimmeig Striped Hollow, Royal Hillbilly, Orange Oxheart, Pineapple, Principe Borghese… And they all seem to be coming in right now–we’re harvesting almost every day.
Did your cilantro bolt a few weeks ago? Don’t tear it out! Wait just a few more weeks and you’ll have coriander!
Let the flowers go to seed and let the seed pods and stems turn light brown, like in the image below. One website says it takes 2-3 weeks after the cilantro has bolted for the browning to occur, but ours bolted 4 weeks ago and the pods are nowhere near brown, so we’re waiting a few more weeks…
Once the pods are brown, gently cut the whole plant off at the base and place it upside down in a large brown paper bag. Fold the bag over a few times to close and hang it in a dry place for a
few weeks. Pods will split open on their own, but it may help to shake the bag or rub them between your palms.
Once the seeds have dried fully, save them to plant next season’s cilantro or start cooking!
You can also eat cilantro root, which “Veggie Harvest” says tastes like cilantro leaves but has a “nuttier” flavor. You want to harvest the roots while the plant is young, not when it’s already bolted, so this maybe an experiment for next year (Recipes)…
We’re growing four varieties of basil at the UT market garden this summer: thai, opal, lemon, and sweet genovese.
Genovese is your typical basil that you’d find at a store. Thai, opal, and lemon would be delicious in any of the dishes you’d usually make with Genovese– pesto, caprese salad, tomato-mozzarella paninis– but there may be some better ways to bring out their different flavors. The following recipes are rated four-star and highly recommended by reviewers.
You may have noticed at market that we have some craaaazy looking peppers for sale. These peppers are a kind called Islander. When fully ripe, they turn red, but we’re currently harvesting them when they are a beautiful color of purple. They’re so beautiful it is almost a shame to eat them instead of using them as a table centerpiece.
If you’d like to ripen your peppers, put them in a paper bag, leave them on the counter, and they will turn red in about a week. Want it to happen faster? Put a ripe tomato in the bag. The ethylene gas it gives off will hurry up the ripening process.
If you prefer to leave them beautifully purple, just use them the same as you’d use a green pepper. When cooked, they lose their color but are just as tasty.
Here’s a delicious recipe that you can make with our peppers and our tomatoes, that just started coming in this week!