Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

FotoFriday Update!

For all you FotoFriday afficionadoes – hang in there!

Sue has been experiencing some technical difficulties with her cable company for the last few days and will be  unable to get FotoFriday out until sometime tomorrow.   For those of you that live in the country you will appreciate the havoc the strong winds this time of the year can wreak on overhead cable lines. Her internet connection has been –  let’s say intermittent!  Hopefully the technicians will get her up and running by tomorrow!


I don’t want any of you shutter bugs going into withdrawal,  so I have posted my favorite screen saver of a tomato horn worm devouring one of my prize tomatoes!  I wonder if we should have an old fashioned TV test pattern for occasions such as this when we are experiencing technical difficulties?

So please be patient and I am sure she will reward you with a whole slew of backlogged articles.



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It was my turn to bring refreshments for today’s meeting.  Since Georgeann was doing a presentation on herbs,

I thought I’d include my favorite:  Cilantro

This also is an incentive to use our website’s Blog to get the recipe.

It’s easy and refreshing.

Chop 6 Roma tomatoes, 1 medium red onion, 2 avocadoes and cilantro into a bowl.

Squeeze the juice of two limes over the mixture, add salt to taste.  Mix it up and serve

with Scoops, over chicken or as a salsa for a great Mexican dish.  Enjoy.

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It isn’t easy keeping a garden going in mid summer.  With no measurable rain to speak of, my  plants and lawns  really took a beating this year.  The only time I broke out the hose, was to do some deep watering on an as needed basis. But my garden was far from being on life support.   Plants do have a natural way of coping with these adverse conditions if you let them.  There is a surprising amount of moisture in the morning dew during mid to late summer, and the plants will tap this resource to stay alive.  I believe in deep mulching in order to conserve soil moisture and this has enabled me to keep a garden on a sand hill.

Drought stressed lawn on sandy ground leach bed

I have lived in some very arid areas and didn’t grow up with the tradition of a season long  green  lawn and bountiful annuals.  My landscapes in California were always drought resistant shrubs and shade trees.   The color came from borders of hardy gazanias, portulacas, vincas and other sun loving plants.  I am not suggesting xeriscape unless you want to do a variation of a southwest garden…but a little commonsense and an understanding of plant physiology will get you through these trying dry spells.

  •  TURF GRASS:   This is probably the most visible area of drought stress. You should ask yourself just how important it is to maintain that spring green, or you can become accepting of the summer stress and live with a brown lawn. The grass is not dead, but merely in a survival dormancy mode until the cooler temperatures and the regular rainfall pattern resumes.

Drought stressed lawn

Grasses need about 3/4 of an inch of water every three weeks to stay alive while dormant. You should try to avoid any heavy traffic over it while in this fragile state, or you will kill the grass.  Dr. Dean Krauskopf recommends applying the water ration in one application.  He cautions against random light sprinklings, as this will just cause the grass to break dormancy.  Unless you are prepared to water heavily from then on, the grass will be damaged if not killed.  Of course it helps to have planted the tall fescue type of grass and to have the mower set to at least 3″ high when coming into summer…and maintaining a good soil fertility.

  • VEGGIE GARDEN:  Here your method of growing will have the most effect on how you conserve moisture.  I have had a lot of success growing veggies in straw or a compost/straw mix for a variety of reasons.  I would recommend growing your veggies in some form of a heavily mulched bed, using a drip system for watering rather than overhead watering from a hose.  Not only will you avoid a lot of pathogen problems, but you will promote better root development by this method…and it will save you time and money by using less water.

Straw mulch and drip system

Tomato with mulch

Also pay attention to the particular growth stage of your plants.  For example, sweet corn that is in the ear filling (reproductive) stage will require extra water than when in the vegetative or leaf mode…if you want to harvest full juicy ears. The same applies for your root veggies, squashes and melons.

  • TOMATOES:   By far the most popular of our warm season vegetables, even these sun lovers can take a sudden turn for the worse in extremely hot weather. Tomatoes require daily watering if they are to be productive.  With a hose this should be in mid morning, taking care to avoid splashing wet soil onto the plants.

Tomato with blossom end rot

But be prepared for an interruption of fruit production when the average daytime temperatures are over 90 deg and the nighttime ones are over 70 deg. These plants will go into survival mode and do not set fruit as they attempt to control their sugar output.  Plant physiology once again is trying to weather the dry spell.

This is also true of the other solanaceous family relatives, the eggplant, pepper and potatoes…and even the distant relative, our showy petunia. Tomatoes need regular watering if they are already producing fruit to facilitate calcium uptake and avoid the common blossom end rot.  Take care not to overwater if the plants are coming out of drought stress, as you will leach out valuable nutrients including the all important calcium.  You can read more about this in some of MSUE’s vegetable tip sheets…just follow the resources links found in the blog index.

  • ANNUALS, POTS, HANGING BASKETS:   These are obviously the most vulnerable to heat stress.  Annual beds should be mulched to conserve moisture and watered frequently.  Pots and hanging baskets should be temporarily relocated to a less sunny position, preferably away from drying winds.  They should be watered at least twice daily if the containers are small.

Repotted drought damaged potted petunias

Also your choice of potting soil will play a big part in the overall well being of your container plants.  I gently try to repot or renew some of the light potting mix the nurseries use to grow the plant, with compost.  This medium  has superior water retention properties over its peat based cousins, as well as a good shot of valuable nutrients. I would not recommend using any foliar fertilizer during periods of extreme drought stress to avoid burning the foliage.  With pots I have found it better to use a quality pelletized fertilizer at planting to promote good root development, which will help the plant survive the summer heat.  Frequent applications of high nitrogen formulations will result in excessive leaf growth and impressive flowers, but at the cost of  increased watering during hot spells.

  • TREES AND SHRUBS:   Generally these will weather long dry spells as their root systems are larger and usually more developed.  This makes them able to more easily access the subsurface moisture that the more shallow rooted smaller plants cannot. The exceptions are of course, fresh transplants and young stock, which will require at least twice weekly watering or as needed during a prolonged dry spell.

Dehydrated evergreen

Drought stressed pine needles

Arborvitae with drought stress

Conifers, particularly arborvitae,  are susceptible to tip burn and browning in hot dry spells.  In this area, this is becoming quite prevalent as we are now in our second year of drought-like conditions.  Often these trees went into winter dormancy without adequate hydration and suffered some winter desiccation damage.  What you are seeing now is often the result of this cumulative drought damage.  It is very important to ensure these trees are well watered before going into winter dormancy.


As you can see much of this is just plain commonsense.  But it is often good to understand what makes your garden grow to avoid any of these problems. There is a wealth of information available online from reputable university extension sources to help you diagnose almost any problem in the garden.

Our blog has links to some from MSUE and a favorite Cornell site for veggie problems.  And of course you can always come and visit our office demo garden and see how we cope with an extremely dry spot year long, without sacrificing the variety of plantings of perennials or shrubs.

Frank Deutsch

Master Gardener 2010

Photographs courtesy of Jennie Stanger, except patio pot (mine) and blossom end rot tomato (MSUE)

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Linda shows us how color, shape, and texture all work together for a gorgeous fall foliage display. She writes,  “I enjoy the brilliant color of Canna Phasion.  I paired it with a Coleus (seen in background).  I believe it was called ‘Color Blaze’.   Cannas have such great color in it’s foliage, the flower is only a bonus.  Canna Phasion has a bright orange bloom.”


Karen submitted a set photos of spectacular-looking assorted peppers she has in her garden this year. She writes, “These were all taken in my garden during September. I have been freezing a lot of peppers!”

These are for three batches of chili. They will taste good this winter.

Photo includes varieties Valencia, Orange, Golden California Wonder, Mariachi, Inferno, Big Bomb

Photo includes varieties Valencia, Orange, Golden California Wonder, Mariachi, Inferno, Big Bomb


"Orange" is purple first.

Karen is growing a new sunflower variety this year, Italian White. They are more branched than typical sunflowers and continue to bloom after the other varieties are done.

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Here’s a great tool offered from the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System.  This is a great pictorial tool for tomato problems.  Just click on the link (or copy and past).


The website also has a guide for cucurbit problems.  I suggest you browse the site for other sources of information.


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Tomato Time

Since tomato canning time is upon us, (well, getting late now) I wanted to share a story about canning tomato catsup (not ketchup! For some reason this is important to the story!) Over 40 years ago my former mother-in-law toured a Heinz factory with her Farm Bureau group, where they were shown the process for making catsup. There, a Heinz employee gave her a recipe for making catsup at home. Doris was never sure if the recipe was just one the woman knew, a “contraband” recipe she shouldn’t have given out, or a recipe Heinz gave to staff. At any rate, it was never a “public” recipe. She was very proud of that recipe, but I would never taste it because it “didn’t look right” to me. In other words, if it wasn’t the homogenous, syrupy stuff I grew up with, I didn’t want any part of it. After several years, I finally gave it a try. OH MY GOODNESS! It was fantastic!

After I grew older and began understanding the value in learning about cooking traditions, I yearned to try that recipe. I was worried – my former mother-in-law has dementia and I was afraid I’d lost the opportunity to get the recipe, if for nothing else but to pass on to my daughters. After searching awhile, my girls’ dad found the recipe. Doris was able to give me detailed instructions – and this year for the first time I made home-made catsup! I got my tomatoes from Charter Farm Produce on Ida Center Road. Here’s the recipe in Doris Ryan’s own words:

Doris Ryan’s Ketchup Recipe
Makes 5 quarts:

Day 1:

Cook .5 “heaped over” bushel of PEELED very ripe tomatoes (Doris advises no Roma tomatoes), 4 large sweet onions (Doris uses Spanish sweet or Vidalia), 4 large green bell peppers, and 6-8 banana peppers, until soft. You will know veggies are soft enough when the tomato “rinds” start coming out. Cook so as to have a nice steady boil.

Once soft, run mixture through a food mill for juice. Doris advises that your arm will get VERY tired but “you can’t hurry”. Let stand overnight.

Day 2:

Overnight the water and pulp will separate – take time to ladle out all the water you can get from the top. The more water you get out the better and easier it will be. Then, put juice and pulp in a large kettle and cook down to consistency you want. Doris advises 4-ish hours. Keep stirring often “because it will scorch or run over”. While it’s cooking add:

4 cups white sugar
1 quart apple vinegar
6 Tablespoons Barrel salt  – * NOT Iodized

While waiting for the juice to reach consistency, put the following in a cheese cloth sack:

2 Tablespoons black pepper
2 Tablespoons dry mustard
2/3 teaspoons cloves (ground or whole)
2/3 teaspoons allspice

After about 4 hours or whenever the consistency is right, add the sack of ingredients to the juice in the kettle. Cook down until juice thickens, stirring often (Doris says at least 4 hours more). Stir the sack around often. Doris says you know its time to take the sack out “when it’s thick and it tastes good”.

Ladle into quart jars and can by cold pack method for 20 minutes.

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Topsy Turvey

After long discussion, my husband convinced me to have him add two of these in his vegetable garden.  Much to my surprise they are doing quite well.

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