Gardening is never without something to do. Watering, checking for bugs, weeding, pruning, staking, harvesting, and so on. This morning, I woke to a blustery day. Its supposed to rain tonight as a front blows through, and then again on Wednesday when another front passes. These are nice cool fronts, the kind that give us a few days when mornings and evenings are pleasant outdoors. We relish them because the heat is already coming on. Yesterday was hot and muggy, the humidity was ridiculous. Ahh, life on the Gulf Coast.
My garden has been growing now for precisely eight weeks. Its doing well, but now is the time to care for it as the plants mature and experience the trials that come with life in a fixed place under the sun. Today the wind put excessive pressure on several of my bush-type, determinate tomato plants, mainly the two Roma varieties. I had to stake them this morning. I figured staking would be necessary at some point, but I wasn’t planning on it today. So much for plans. I used to support my tomatoes with a variation of the California Weave. This guy can show you how its done with twine. Instead of twine, I used two pieces of bamboo spanning between two steel fence posts driven into the ground. This method worked, but it was difficult to undo at the end of the season.
This year, I am only staking the main stalk until the need arises to provide additional support (see above photo). I have some ideas on that. I used twine to loosely tie the main stalk of each staked plant to the bamboo, which was driven a foot or so into the ground about 3-4 inches from the stalk. The root damage is minor. The looseness of the twine might allow the plant to rock back and forth a bit much, causing the twine to abrade the stem r cut into it, so I doubled the twine to try to minimize that. I have some gardeners tape on the way, a stretchy plastic material that does not harm the plants nor constrict growth. If necessary, I will replace my twine with the plastic.
The tomatoes have lots of blossoms now. Many are preparing to blossom, and due to what I think is extreme temperature fluctuations, some of my plants have dropped a few of their blossoms. That happens.
Peppers and Basil plants (above) are doing great, it looks like I can harvest Basil at will now. That’s a wonderful privilege to pick fresh Basil. Its a pleasure everyone should enjoy. My potted herbs that I bought on a whim are ding alright. The Rosemary is growing well and smelling divine, though my herb seeds in a little outdoor container failed to sprout. My parsley plants are sun stressed and yellowing, I think I should put them in a more protected spot.
I also have some pest issues now. I have a leaf miner problem just now showing, and what I believe are snail issues. I also discovered two different types of caterpillar in the garden today, one of them completely destroyed every single carrot sprout in my bucket-o-carrots experiment. Last night they were all there, this morning they were all gone, and I caught the culprit in the act. I hope it was delicious, it was his last meal.
Below, the culprit, sorry for the focus. The worm is the little black and yellow striped critter by the marker.
So chewing bugs and worms, these are easily treated organically with Neem oil. Pure cold-pressed Neem oil is best, there is also a hydrophobic extract of Neem oil that is sold but isn’t quite as good as the cold pressed. Mixed 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, with a thimble’s worth of good dishwashing liquid to help the oil and water mix, is all you need. Spray on the plants with a spray bottle, wet the ground and undersides of the leaves, and the chewing bugs will ingest the oil and it will kill them off in a day or two. Repeat in three days to get the creatures that hatched, and repeat as long as there are chewing bugs.
Below: Leaf miner type of damage pattern, but it could also be a number of other pests, but all are chewing pests and treated alike.
Holes in the middle and top portions of the plants are usually chewing insects and insect larvae, though they eat the stuff near the bottom too. But the holes in leaves near the bottom part of the plant are often due to molluscs – snails and slugs. If you have leaves and stems that touch the ground, that is a perfect invitation to hungry snails and slugs. It is often good to prune off those stems that tough the ground on tomato plants.
The mollusc invasion is easily treated with a light sprinkling of Iron Phosphate pellets. The snails will nibble on this and die. Repeat a few times to get them all.
Below, tiny holes on a leaf that was very near or touching the ground. This is probably snail damage.
I plan both actions, but I will wait until Monday when the rain has passed. I do not desire to do all the work and have it washed away by the rain tonight. There is plenty of leafy greens for the bugs to eat another day. But that’s it. Always get on a pest problem as soon as possible, otherwise you will end up with a plague of Biblical proportions.
I also took the time to stake my Olympia fig bush. It has two long branches and they are whipping around pretty wildly. Staking them insures I won’t find one snapped. This is a fig I am very interested in trying, and there are a number of nice looking fruits forming even now.
My fig cuttings are looking very promising. Some have true leaves and many are breaking bud, and if I peek at the lower cups, I can just see fine roots in some of them. For my first time starting cuttings, I am very pleased so far. I had a mold issue on two cuttings that was remedied by snipping the wood back to uninfected wood and leaving the cutting in open air, not under its humidity cover. That has seemed to work. I am very excited about these cuttings.
I had four tiny fig plants arrive today as I was writing this, they will have their own post later.
So there’s the update. No video this time, its so windy there would be no useful audio, so I’ll post some videos later in the week. Thanks for following Black Gumbo Southern Gardening, please consider following our Facebook Page and our YouTube Channel, and subscribe to this blog. I’m always learning, and always interested in sharing successes and failures, and would love to hear from you.