We look forward to seeing you at your local county fair! Individuals of all ages are encouraged to exhibit a prized item, creation, and/or skill in Open Class. The fair is a great place to see local talent on display and to enjoy entertainment with your friends and family. Contact your local Post Rock District Office for the complete fair schedules and exhibiting guidelines. You can also visit https://www.postrock.k-state.edu/4-h/county-fairs/
This year has been very wet and humid. In some ways this can benefit our plants. However, it can also encourage disease. Two common leaf-spot diseases appear on tomato plants, septoria leaf spot and early blight, both appear as brown spots on tomato leaves.
Septoria leaf spot usually appears earlier in the season than early blight and produces small dark spots. Spots made by early blight are much larger and often have a distorted “target” pattern of concentric circles. Heavily infected leaves eventually turn yellow and drop. Older leaves are more susceptible than younger ones, so these diseases often start at the bottom of the plant and work up.
Mulching, caging, or staking keeps plants off the ground, making them less vulnerable. Better air circulation allows foliage to dry quicker than in plants allowed to sprawl. Mulching also helps prevent water from splashing and carrying disease spores to the plant.
If you know you have had one of these diseases in the past, rotation is a good strategy. It is too late for that now, but keep it in mind for next year. Actually, rotation is a good idea even if you have not had problems in the past. If you have room, rotate the location of the tomatoes each year to an area that has not had tomatoes or related crops (peppers, potatoes, eggplant) for several years.
If rotation is not feasible, fungicides are often helpful. Be sure to cover both upper and lower leaf surfaces, and reapply fungicide if rainfall removes it. Plants usually become susceptible when the tomato fruit is about the size of a walnut. Chlorothalonil is a good choice for fruiting plants because it has a 0-day waiting period, meaning that fruit can be harvested once the spray is dry. Chlorothalonil can be found in numerous products including Fertilome Broad-Spectrum Landscape and Garden Fungicide, Ortho Garden Disease Control, GardenTech Daconil and others. Be sure to start protecting plants when the disease is first seen. It is virtually impossible to control this disease on heavily infected plants.
If chlorothalonil doesn’t seem to be effective, try mancozeb (Bonide Mancozeb Flowable). Note that there is a five-day waiting period between application and when the fruit can be harvested. You may wish to pick some tomatoes green just before you spray if you use Mancozeb as the tomato fruit will ripen inside.
To help save time and stress at county fairs, prepare food entries early and freeze them. Most baked goods freeze well and can still be blue ribbon quality. This includes cookies, yeast and quick breads, and cakes. Here are some tips:
Bake the product as usual. Cool completely! This helps prevent condensation inside the wrapping and development of ice crystals.
Use moisture-vapor resistant packaging. This includes freezer-safe plastic containers or bags, heavy-duty aluminum foil, and rigid containers.
Separate layers of cookies with wax paper or parchment paper.
If a cake or bread is to be frosted, freeze the product only and frost after it is thawed.
Make pie crusts ahead of time and freeze. Freezing whole prepared pies can cause the filling to soak into the crust.
Thaw all baked goods in the freezer packaging. They can be thawed at room temperature. Remove from the freezer the night before the fair. Once thawed, repackage into the proper packaging according to your fair rules.
Do you have some trees in your landscape that could use a little pruning? Properly pruning trees is very important to insure the health of the tree and safety of your landscape. Watch this video to learn how to prune young trees in your yard.
The message continues. Do not use electric pressure cookers for canning. Research conducted at Utah State University shows that electric pressure cookers do not always reach or sustain safe temperature levels for safe canning. This is even more critical at higher altitudes.
Electric pressure cookers also have faster heat up and cool down time periods. This can affect heat transfer and pathogen destruction.
If spring got away from you and you didn’t get all your seeds planted, don’t fret! There is still plenty of time to plant squash. Now is a great time to plant pumpkins and winter squash so they don’t try to mature fruit during the heat of summer but rather in early October. Fruit that matures during hot weather may shrivel and lose quality. Also, planting at this time will allow these plants to avoid the first generation of squash bugs that can kill plants planted earlier.
These plants take up a lot of room so place a seed or two ever 2 feet apart in the row with about 8 to 10 feet between rows. Seeds should be planted 3/4 to 1 inch deep. Keep watered until the plants emerge which usually takes about a week. Gradually back off watering as the plants become established. Winter squash and pumpkins love the heat and do well during the summer.