Fall is the best time to bring in your garden tools and clean them up after a busy season of work. A few extra minutes now may mean a longer life for your favorite tools. Watch this video for information on how to preserve your tools.
Summer squash such as zucchini and crookneck squash are harvested while immature. However, winter squash such as acorn, hubbard and butternut are harvested later, in the mature stage, after the rind is tough and seeds have developed. We normally think September is the time that winter squash is harvested. Harvesting too early leads to fruit that shrivels and rots.
There are two main characteristics that help tell us when winter squash are mature: color and rind toughness. Winter squash change color as they become mature. Butternut changes from light beige to deep tan. Acorn is a deep green color but has a ground spot that changes from yellow to orange when ripe. Gray or orange is the mature color for hubbard.
A hard, tough rind is another characteristic of mature winter squash. This is easily checked by trying to puncture the rind with your thumbnail or fingernail. If it easily penetrates the skin, the squash is not yet mature and will lose water through the skin — causing the fruit to dry and shrivel. Also, immature fruit will be of low quality. The stem should also be dry enough that excessive water doesn’t drip from the stem.
Winter squash should be stored cool with elevated humidity. Ideal conditions would be 55 to 60 degrees F and 50 to 70 percent relative humidity. Under such conditions, acorn squash will usually last about 5 to 8 weeks, butternuts 2 to 3 months and hubbards 5 to 6 months.
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.
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.
Healthy food choices don’t have to be boring and bland. Come learn how to cook with less salt but more flavor. We will demonstrate how to add herbs to your favorite recipes and grow them in your garden.
Join us for a fun night of cooking and gardening. Horticulture Agent, Cassie Homan will share tips on growing and caring for popular herbs such as basil, cilantro, thyme and more. Nutrition, Food Safety and Health Agent, Ashley Svaty will discuss healthy cooking strategies and will provide a fresh snack using home grown herbs.
We will host this program in two locations, the first in Beloit on May 9 at the First Christian Church. And again on May 16 in Smith Center at the American Lutheran Church at 6 p.m.
Participants will go home with recipes and an herb plant. $5 to participate, please RSVP to the Post Rock Extension Office at 785-738-3597. For more details, please go to our events page. https://www.postrock.k-state.edu/events/
If you planted lettuce this spring, it won’t be long before it’s time to harvest. Lettuce is fun to grow because it’s one of our quickest vegetables. There are a few different ways to harvest the leaves and enjoy them over the summer. Watch this video to learn how to harvest your lettuce crop.
If you are growing asparagus, then it is that time of year to be aware of the only insect pest of asparagus; the common asparagus beetle. Adult beetles are only 1/4 inch long. Adults emerge from the soil in early spring and fly to new asparagus shoots where they mate and feed. Females lay up to 30 eggs on the end of spear tips as they emerge from the soil.
Common asparagus beetles overwinter underneath plant debris, loose bark, or hollow stems of old asparagus plants. The life cycle can be completed in eight-weeks. There are two generations in Kansas. The adults and larvae feed on asparagus spears and can defoliate ferns if populations are extensive. Larvae consume leaves and tender buds near the tips, which leaves scars that eventually turn brown. Damage caused by larvae interferes with the plant’s ability to photosynthesize (manufacture food); thus, depleting food reserves for next year’s crop.
To help protect your asparagus patch from beetles: applying insecticides; handpick eggs, adults, and larvae and place into a container with soapy water; and/or remove any plant debris after the growing season to eliminate overwintering sites for adults. Insecticides should be applied as soon as common asparagus beetles are present, and again in late summer through early fall to kill adults before they overwinter. Thorough coverage of all plant parts is important in suppressing populations.