Sunday, 23 August 2009

More bug identification & spicy pesticide

Another site for bug identification: check out Bug Guide, for "identification, images, & information for insects, spiders & their kin for the United States & Canada".

And a fragrant way to deal with the evil ones: a nice little piece from the National Geographic tells us that the oils from common herbs such as thyme, rosemary and mint can work as pesticides if sprayed on plants.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

More harvest

This is what I picked the other day and I was reflecting on what a revelation it is to know the origins of what's in my basket.

It includes Kate's celery, my carrots and fennel and onion and yukon gold potatoes, Tom's tomatoes, Brian's scarlet runner beans, Carolyn Herriot's physalis, a volunteer red norland potato (from a sprouting spud I bought at Michell's a couple of years ago), Alexis's overhanging plums, and Steve's tomatillo.

The beans and celery were seeds from our urban farmer group's seed swap; tomatoes and tomatillos and physalis were seedlings I was given. The tomatoes (Costoluto Fiorentino) are actually grown from seed saved from tomatoes I grew last year from seedlings. The physalis never achieved much last year so I brought it indoors in its pot, where it survived and grew leggy and has been an enthusiastic producer - still in a pot - all summer.

Am in awe of the scarlet runners, which I think are fantastic - tender and prolific, but next year I will anticipate properly their enormous sprawl. I know how Jack felt with his beanstalk.

These two pictures show the haul from my three different bean varieties, including some Tendergreen seeds I bought in Saskatchewan last year and forgot to plant till this year; I've been delighted by the leopard-spot appearance of some of them.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Tomato season and its perils

I have been pleased and proud of the tomato crop which I grew this year from seed saved from one heirloom tomato plant I grew from one of Tom's heirloom starts last year. They seem to be doing well despite mystery leaf curl in the potted ones. Those in the ground are looking lush and healthy. But it's started raining now, and I am living in fear of blight.

The farmers at Haliburton Farm no longer grow their tomatoes outside, because their crops were devastated by blight a couple of years ago. This terrific article about blight by farmer-chef Dan Barber explains why blight is on the rise.

Home gardening, the article says, is one cause of the spread, because novice gardeners will go to their usual shopping haunts - the article names major retailers Home Depot, Kmart, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart - in search of plant starts, only these stores are importing plants from thousands of miles away, and some of these carry the infections with them. (Tomato blight is spread through airborne spores from infected plants and soil that get delivered in rainfall; it can affect all the nightshade family which includes your potatoes, eggplants and peppers; and spores can travel up to 20 km on the wind.)

Ways of reducing your plants' vulnerability include starting your plants from seed, or getting them from growers who raise them locally. Stay away from the likes of Wal-Mart which ships them in from parts unknown. Try to water the plants without wetting their leaves, particularly when the weather is damp and leaves won't have a chance to dry quickly. Under no circumstances plant tomatoes or potatoes in the same soil where you've had afflictions. And raise them in a greenhouse if you can.

Taking care is not just for your own satisfaction; buying infected plants can have repercussions to you and to people growing - some of them perhaps very seriously - around you. Barber nails the problem: "As we begin to grow more of our own food, we need to reacquaint ourselves with plant pathology and understand that what we grow, and how we grow it, affects everyone else."

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Summer harvest

Returned from a few days away and picked this lovely basket yesterday morning. I am definitely sold on scarlet runner beans - beautiful, prolific and delicious. Also featured are tendergreen beans, coco beans, beets, radishes, broccoli and yellow transparent apples.

Yet to ripen are a few acorn squash, a few improbably small cobs of corn, various tomatoes, tomatillos, wonder berries, some peppers; purple sprouting broccoli, leeks and kale lining up for winter harvest.

Also ready to pick now: lots of random onions, more beets, carrots, fingerling potatoes, physalis, fennel, kale and chard. The plants that probably won't produce this year (though I live in hope) are artichoke and eggplant. Not a huge surprise since the garden area is a bit short on sun exposure.