2017 Harvest

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Losing a battle

Our weather didn't get any better this past week. Actually it got worse. Temperatures are below 30°C, humidity is almost 100%, we even had fog today and tomatoes are getting worse every day.
So far we managed to keep the blight from spreading on stems and fruits but after this week and everyday rain tomatoes are starting to lose this battle.

We tried all natural remedies, removing leaves, we spayed with copper, synthetic fungicides and nothing works. Our last hope is combined fungicide which we got but still haven't had a chance to spray. We can't get 3 hours without rain to spray. Showers are so frequent that rain chased me from the garden 2 times yesterday. And I was working only 2 hours.

Right now I have only 3 healthy varieties Marmande, Rio Grande and my balcony tomatoes.

Marmande is a bit to short this year. It should be a lot taller and new flowers have been drying but right now it's stem and leaves aren't showing signs of blight.

Rio Grande was showing signs of blight on leaves so I removed some of them and after spraying this signs stopped spreading so now it's healthy. Rio grande will also be my biggest tomato harvest this year. All fruits are healthy for now and there is big amount of them on every plant.

My balcony yellow tomato and Tiny Tim are only ones that didn't have any signs of blight. Tiny Tim is highly resistant to blight, and even though I have no information about balcony yellow I guess it's also resistant. They produce high amounts of fruits this year.

Other tomatoes are getting worse every day.
Costoluto Genovese was healthy few days ago but now it's starting on them too. Some plants are still doing ok and others have already lost most of their leaves.

The same is with almost all my tomato varieties. I cut down all the sick leaves and so far stems are doing good.

The worst affected varieties are Black Krim which was healthy for a very long time and now it got devastated in just few days. I had to remove all the leaves and now I only have fruits on stems.

I also lost one variety. Napoli tomato got too affected and there was no way to save it. Stems got rotten and fruits fell off. There was nothing left to do but to either pull the whole plant out or cut whole plant and leave healthy part. We decided for option number 2.

 Plant is still here but it's cut all the way. If weather gets any better maybe it will start producing leaves again and I'll have some tomatoes in September.

We never had so many rainy days in July. So far 15 days were rainy. If we add next 3 day when the amounts of rain expected are enormous that will be 18 days of rain in this July.

This is affecting mushroom picking season too. Usually there are no mushrooms in this part of Croatia till late August and now mushroom season has already started.
I found this beauty (Boletus edulis) yesterday while I was taking Nero to our usual walk.

After a few more minutes I found more.  At least there is some joy in this crazy rain.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Garden in July

This July is very different from the ones we are used to. This week is the first week in this year that we have temperatures over 30℃. And it won't last long. Weather will change tomorrow and we will have thunderstorms. Also this is the rainiest summer in past 20 years. Every week we have at least one heavy shower. This Thursday we got another one that in 30 minutes brought us 50 liters of rain.

All this rain is affecting our garden so things are looking different this July.

I'm slowly loosing a battle against weeds this summer. We never had so many weeds like this year.
I have divided my garden in two sides. Right side is weed friendly. Here I grow potatoes and beans and I allow weeds to grow without removing them. The reason is that I noticed I damage more plants by pulling out weeds. I always remove bean plants together with weeds and to stop it I just stopped weeding. Also my potatoes are always early variety so I just pull the weeds when I dig my potatoes out.

Left side is my weed free zone. I clean every single weed from this part of the garden. Usually I have few Creeping quackgrass (couch grass) which I remove once a month and my weed free part of the garden is clean.
But this year it's unbearable. I remove weeds every 2 weeks and it's always buckets of weeds.
It took me 3 days this time just to clean up 8 beds and paths. And the amount of weeds and grass is amazing. My compost pit is full. And I cleaned it this spring.

 My potatoes are lost somewhere in weeds. This bed never looked like this. There were weeds but I could always see my potatoes. Potatoes aren't doing well this year. Too much rain and too little heat in spring are giving us very small harvest. Every plant produces only one big potato and a few little ones.

The only clean part of my potato bed is already filled with other vegetable. After pulling out part of my potatoes I planted more beans. They are 14 days old now and growing nicely.

Next to my new beans are my cucumbers. They are waking up now and making first flowers.

 This is strange since our neighbor already harvested most of her cucumbers. This year I was one of many persons that just missed the time for cucumber planting. I was waiting for the middle of May to avoid frost and I got caught in rain trap. End of May was extremely rainy and cold and my cucumbers germinated after sleeping 3 weeks in soil.

Next to my cucumbers is my poor tomato bed.

I've been fighting with blight on this bed for a month now.
It seems that I was able to stop it from destroying my fruits but it's still spreading on leaves. Considering how aggressive late blight is I'm very pleased with this. From what I hear most of tomato plants in other outdoor gardens are already gone. Blight is also devastating greenhouses all over Croatia and my plants are still here. Alive and kicking bights ass.

Next is my pepper surprise bed.

Last year my peppers were fried from the heat so this year I planted my peppers between two tomato beds to protect them.
I have also planted Sorghum(millet) in front of my peppers to give them shade from our strong sun...yeah right this year strong sun sounds like a joke.

I call this surprise bed because this year it's full of surprises. First there are yellow bell peppers that I didn't plant

Then there are green tomato peppers which I also never planted.

The yellow peppers I did plant are not here. But there are some tomato plants growing between peppers that came here who knows how. I suspect some seeds fell in the soil. But  have no idea how since this plants are much smaller from the rest of my tomatoes.

Under my peppers there is a small part of the bed where I planted some beets. They are growing great this year.

Like I said my peppers are between two tomato beds.

 The left tomato bed is exposed to more sun during the spring/summer, so the blight came later on it. It's not as strong as it is on the right bed. Most of my tomatoes are still very much healthy.

Black seaman
3 varieties on this bed don't have blight at all. Marmande, Giant Belgium and Black Seaman are completely healthy for now.

On lower part of the garden I made a corn fence to protect my vegetables and blackberries from strong sun(ha ha!)

Watermellons are directly under this wall and it should have given them enough shade to prevent white burned spots on fruits.

I also planted one Red basket of fire hot pepper here.

I wasted to see how they would like my garden. The result is that this pepper is much smaller then the one I grow in pots. I think I will continue planting them in pots.

Next to my watermelons are my beans. This beans were planted 6 weeks ago after I pulled out my peas.

Next is carrot, parsley and onion bed surrounded with dills.

Carrots are doing great this year. My 4kg harvest will get much bigger this year.
Like always parsley is another story.

I just can't grow parsley on my soil. I'm thinking of giving up and planting full bed of carrots next year.

I have another 6 weeks old bean bed.

And next is my "everything bed"

 I grow here all my vegetables that don't take much space. I had lettuce here which has been harvested and now I left only few ones to collect seeds. Also there is kohlrabi, shallot onions for next year and cabbages.

My half eaten cabbages. Bugs just love to chew on them.

My last and biggest bed is my main bean bed. I grow here 4 varieties of beans.

I already collected 2 varieties and got 5,5 kilos of beans which is great harvest. I'm still waiting for my Trešnjevac and "I don't know it's name" kidney bean.
If they grow as good as  Berggold and Wonder of Piedmont I'll have a big bean harvest this year.

So except for my huge tomato troubles, bad potato harvests and weed problems vegetables in July were pretty much successful. Let's just hope August will bring more sun and less rain and this could be a good year.     

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tomato Blights and Septoria leaf spot

Every gardener that grows tomatoes will sooner or later come across a stage when his tomatoes will look sick, spotty, black or yellow. There are many different tomato diseases and different causes. This time of the year the most common diseases are fungal diseases so I bring you list of 3 most common and how to identify them and treat them.

                                                      1. Early blight(crna pjegavost)

Early blight is fungal disease caused by fungus called Alternaria solani. It affects tomatoes, peppers and blue aubergine. This type of fungus affects seedlings and older plants. It can be in the soil, seeds, leftover plants from past year, tomato poles and seedlings you buy in the store.
Early blight is know for it's brown to black spots that have concentric rings. It can occur on leaves, stems and fruits.
It's concentric rings are also called bull's eye and it's easily recognized.

Photo from http://ceventura.ucanr.edu/

Early blight can come at any time. It usually appears on plants that are stressed in some way. It prefers cold and rainy weather but it can start even on seedlings that are grown in greenhouses. When they affect seedlings they affect upper leaves. With older plants it's the other way around. Disease always starts on the bottom leaves and then climbs up. Another characteristic of early blight is that when affecting stems it first starts as a concentric ring around one part of the stem and then starts spreading up. Upper part of the plant will soon witter but lower part of the stem usually stays healthy.
Fruits can also be affected. They concentric black rings that are firm at the beginning and then the place of the ring rots. Fruits affected with early blight can still ripe. If they do they will have brown hard rings on them but the rest of the fruit will be ok. Fruits can still be used for cooking.Early blight is easily confused with much more serious disease called late blight.

                                                     2. Late blight (plamenjača)

Late blight is disease caused by fungus called Phytophthora infestans. It's a very aggressive disease that affects only tomatoes and potatoes. If there is large concentration of sick plants in the garden it is possible other plants like cucumbers and zucchinis will get infected too. It spreads very quickly and can devastate plants in just 2-3 days. Late blight always comes after bad weather condition. After heavy rains, floods and cold dewy mornings.
Spores are air born so the infection doesn't have to start in your garden. It can travel for miles and miles.

Late blight on potatoes
Classic late blight symptoms are olive green to brown spots on leaves or stems. After heavy rain leaves can cause border of the leaves to be yellow. As the disease spreads whole leaf will turn yellow and leaves will dry in the end.

Late blight on tomatoes
Late blight leaves yellow from dampness

Stems can also be affected. First there will be brown spots on them similar to mold that grows on house walls and then it will spread turning whole stem black. Once the stem is affected leaves and fruits will starve from lack of food and the whole plant will eventually die.
Fruits affected with late blight have large irregular greasy grey-brown spots and they literally start rotting. Once late blight attacks fruits they will turn black and if they are still red they will not ripe.

                                                3. Septoria leaf spot (Pjegavost rajčice)

Leaf spot is caused by fungus Septoria lycopersici. It affects mostly tomatoes all around the world. It can come at any time and any stage of the plant. It usually prefers the time when plants start producing fruits.
Leaf spots makes many small round spots(much smaller then blight). Center of the spot is grey and the other parts of the leaf are in shades of yellow. Once the spot matures it turns in brown pimple like mass on top of the leaf.

Photo from http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/

It affects lower leaves first and work their way up the stem. Fruits are almost never affected but since they damage stems and leaves fruits usually stay small like they were at the beginning of attack. Also since it attacks leaves plant it causes them to fall off so fruits get sunscald.


1) Rotate tomato crops:
Tomatoes should be planted on different bed every year. It would be ideal if the beds were on 4 year rotation. Tomatoes that are planted on the bed this year shouldn't go on the same bed in the next 3 years. 4th year tomatoes came on this years bed. This method requires a lot of room and planing so most gardeners can't do this.

If 4 year rotation is not possible then use 2 year rotation(tomatoes planted this year go on this years bed in 2016. If you can't rotate your crops then make sure you remove all plant debris (including roots) from this years bed.

2)Whitewash your tomato poles
Whitewash is great disinfectant. Early blight can stay on the poles so it's important that after you notice early blight this year you disinfect your poles for next year. It would be ideal to whitewash your wooden poles every year. If not possible every 2 years. If you use branches use new branches every year. If you use plastic poles wash them with some kind of disinfectant.

3) Place black plastic on the soil under your plants
Apart from being a great weed control black plastic can prevent blight and septoria from infecting leaves that are on the ground. Be careful with this method. If the soil is too damp tomato roots can rot under the plastic.

4)Fertilize your beds
Tomatoes love fertilized beds. Unlike carrots that shouldn't go on the bed that was recently fertilized, tomatoes should always be planted on fertilized bed. You can choose your type of fertilizer. I can recommend placing some manure(rabbit, cow, horse) in the hole made for seedlings. This ways they take what they need through the roots and feed whole plant.
Always use at least 2 years old manure. Manure that was collected the same year can be too strong and damage seedlings.

5)Water only the soil
When watering be careful to water the plant close to the ground. This way you can prevent wetting lower leaves.

6) Spray your plants with Bordeaux mixture 
Bordeaux mixture is a great fungus prevention. It can protect your plants from fungus. But it can only prevent them. Once the plant gets infected and starts showing signs of disease mixture doesn't work. Also be careful not to spray after the plant starts producing flowers.

Homemade Bordeaux mixture: 10 liters of water
                                               400g of quicklime(burnt lime)
                                               100g of blue vitriol
In a bucket pour 5 liters of water and place inside a tied gauze with 100g of blue vitriol. Leave it for 24 hours and then remove the gauze. In this 24h vitriol will dissolve in the water and the remaining filth will stay inside the gauze.
In other bucket pour 5 liters of water and dissolve 400g of quicklime. After dissolving quicklime mix it with vitriol water. Use it right away. If you need to store it add 1dcl of boiled milk or 1dag of sugar and mixture can be stored for 14 days.

7)Fertilize with nettle
Once your plants get big you can fertilize them with nettle. Be careful not to make too strong mixture. This mixture is used to water the roots. Not spraying on leaves.

Nettle fertilizer:
Place 1kg of fresh nettle or 150g of dried nettle in a 10 liter bucket. Add water and leave it for 24 hours. The next day boil for 30 minuted the nettle water and cool it down. For watering use 1:5 ratio. 1 liter of fertilizer on 5 liters of water.

8)Spray with milk or baking soda
Milk and baking soda leave alkaline residue that can prevent fungus from growing.

Milk spray: Use skim milk in 1:10 ratio

Baking soda spray: Add 1 tablespoon to 1 liter of warm water, stir and add few drops of liquid soap and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Spray your plants in evening to prevent sunburns on leaves.
Don't use it too often. Too much baking soda can damage the plant.


1) Keep an eye of your plants
Once the plants are already infected it only depends of the state in which you noticed the disease. If you notice it soon enough you can stop the diseases.
Fungal diseases can't be cured without fungicides.You can only stop them from spreading more. Once the leaf or stem is infected it can't be cured.

2) Cut down all the sick leaves
 If the disease is already here cut the sick leaves of the plant. They will only help fungus to spread. If the plant is infected also remove all leaves that look strange(have yellow borders, dried leaves...). Leave only healthy leaves. You can also remove sick stems if there is only one sick stem and other stems are healthy.
Stems affected with early blight can be cut few cm under the ring. The lower part will produce new healthy branches.

3)Remove all lower branches
Late blight usually starts from the bottom. If the plant is infected remove every branch under the ones that have fruits.

 That way there will be no leaves touching the ground and possibilities of new infections are smaller. You can also prune your tomatoes to remove all unnecessary branches from your plant. More about pruning read here  and here.

4)Try baking soda spray
Baking soda spray can sometimes help to stop blight and septoria from spreading. After removing all the sick leaves and branches you can spray with baking soda to prevent fungus from spreading.
If the diseases already affected stems there is very little chances baking soda will help.

5)Spray your plants
Here comes the unpopular part we all try to avoid. Once the plants are seriously affected there is not much you can do but spray them with some kind of fungicide.

Organic gardeners can use some of the copper based products and Bacillus Subtilis sprays. Watch for the waiting time and apply according to the directions on the box.

Non organic gardeners have more options for spraying. The most popular fungicides for blight and Septoria are:
1) Chorothalonil-Synthetic fungicide that has very short waiting time and it's good for spraying when plants already have fruits that ripe.

2) Copper based fungicide- There are many different types and combinations of copper based fungicides. Some of them are organic. Some of them are not. And some have very long waiting time. Choose wisely the one you need. Copper based fungicides can be used only 3 times.

3) Zinc based fungicides- The most popular is Mancozeb. This spray is only preventive. It can't help already sick plant.

4) Maneb- Synthetic fungicide that is only for already sick plants. It can't be used for prevention.

This are only active substances for fungicides. Every country has different name for products. Also be careful when buying fungicides. Every company makes different concentration of active substances so ratio that works for one product doesn't mean it will be good for other product. Too strong fungicide can burn your whole plant.
Always spray when there is no sun, always read the instructions and always watch for waiting time.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I'm harvesting

In normal years when I say I'm harvesting in July it usually means I'm digging up potatoes or collecting tomatoes...but not this year.
Weird weather still continues. We had another cold and rainy (120l) week with temperatures below 20°C. 

It doesn't seem weird but we are Mediterranean country with summer temperatures over 30°C, with rain amount in July close to 0 liters. We have vegetables that suffer from heat and need sun protection. We are not a country with everyday rain. And certainly not a country where weird mushrooms grow together with vegetables.

This rainy weather is also affecting my harvests. I still haven't decided if it is in a good or bad way.
I went searching for old photos and I found one from 12th July last year.
That day I harvested nice amount of blackberries, few carrots,a zucchini, few peppers and first tomatoes.

This year my harvest is a bit different:

 I got 2.3kg (81oz) of beans, 1.6 kg (56oz) of peppers, 2.7kg (95oz) of blackberries, 3.6kg (126oz) of potatoes, 3,3kg (116oz) of carrots and some onions.

My beans grow better than in last 10 years. I'm getting large amounts of beans.
Right now I'm harvesting Berggold and Wonder of Piedmont
Wonder of Piedmont

My Trešnjevac kidney beans still need at least one month of time to ripe.

Peppers also grow like mad, I should say that I definitely didn't get what I bought. I bought Botinečka yellow pepper that should look like this:

Photo is not mine. It's from www.sadnice.eu as an example

My peppers that grew out of AgroBonus seed bag are not yellow, or small and round. They look like this:

Yes there are lots of peppers and they are healthy but this is not what I bought. Somebody is playing with this variety for last two years, and from what I heard I'm not the only one that didn't get the right pepper variety.

My harvest also contained 3 kilos of carrots. Now that is something none of us expected. I usually sow carrots very thick and then through whole summer I harvest only few pieces a week. Just to have enough for cooking. My first real carrot harvest is in October when I get all of them out and store them for winter.
This year I had to have my first harvest now. The reason is that they are growing unbelievably quick and big.

 They like this cold and rainy weather and I had to harvest some of them to make room for other little carrots that still have to grow. If this continues I think I'll have another harvest in August and then final harvest in October. Today's harvest is only 1/10 of all my growing carrots.

So why do I complain about the weather?

Every normal person would say that this is a great harvest, and don't get me wrong it really is a great harvest.
But I can not help but notice that my vegetables that love our hot summers are suffering.

My watermelons grow, make flowers but when it's time to make little melons they just stop.

Corn has ears but it's only 50cm tall I'm afraid one stronger wind will break ears off.

Or it will roll it on the floor like this week rain did with my millet

The biggest issue with this rain is my tomatoes. Tomatoes hate low temperatures and rainy weather. They get blight.
And like I said before my already have it.

I tried stopping it by removing all the sick leaves from my plants but with the weather we are having this doesn't help much, tried baking soda to stop it and nothing. So I had no other choice I sprayed my tomatoes with fungicide(Metalaxy). And the worst thing is that it seems that blight is still spreading. I'll see when new leaves grow if they are healthy or not.
If I don't stop it somehow I can say goodbye to my 160 seedlings of tomatoes, that is at least 100 kilos of tomatoes gone.

With all this rain weeds are also growing like mad, so my garden looks like a jungle now. A jungle which I can't clean since it's raining all the time.

I can only hope August will be warmer with less rain...oh crap I said that already in June.