Powdery Mildew Attacks Zucchinis

 The Fall of an Empire

So many great empires hath come and gone.  It is quite fitting that immediately after posting about the spread of my zucchinis, they have met their maker. At the zenith of their power, like Rome before them, a barbarian horde in the guise of a white, filthy powder has been their undoing. Powdery mildew has arrived in my garden.

The white ghost crept in during the night, and the natural defenses of my plot were not up to the task of repelling the inital attack. I’ll get a couple pictures of the devastated plants up in my next garden update. The powdery mildew hit the zucchinis first. But it has since spread over to and devastated my cucumbers as well. Apparently powdery mildew is the bane of any zucchini farmer’s efforts for a healthy crop in Southern California.

Powdery Mildew

Zucchini Powdery MildewPowdery mildew is a fungal disease that affects plants belonging to the Cucurbita pepo family; vegetables like zucchini/squashes, cucumbers, peas, melons, etc. A very good, detailed article on the topic may be found here.  This wikipedia article on powdery mildew is also good but over the top. Powdery mildew is very prevelant in Southern California gardens. It occurs most frequently in late Summer, just in time to ruin your harvest, when things are getting really hot. That’s what happened here in the past couple weeks finally. Each day has been hotter than the one before, with temperatures hovering in the 90s. This heat wave has really allowed the mildew to spread quickly.

I first spotted the signature dried out white lines a couple weeks ago. I should have immediately pulled up my zucchinis, or at least cropped the leaves, to keep the powdery mildew from spreading. Alas, perhaps I waited too long and now the leaves of both my zucchinis and both my cucumbers have wilted, yellowed, curled, browned and now fallen off. I don’t know if it has affected the taste of the cucumbers, but I also harvested my first cucumber last week, and it was very bitter, almost tasted soapy.

 Battling Powdery Mildew

All is not lost however. I have been trying to combat the powdery mildew with a home made solution. I mixed one table spoon of baking soda, a half teaspoon of dish soap, and one gallon of water. Then I put it in a conventional sprayer that I got on Amazon. A couple hand pumps, and I get the leaves with a quick coating of this mixture. It sounds pretty nasty, to be eating soap. But think about it, you wash your plates with dish soap. This is about the safest natural fungicide one is going to find. Other options include neem oil, chamomile tea, and skim milk. I have not tried these options but would love to see anyone’s thoughts in the comments.

The key is to not overspray the leaves because that will cause run off of the solution. If too much of the solution runs off the leaves and into the base of the plants and seeps into the soil, it will start killing off the beneficial bacteria in the soil, compounding problems. So take care to only lightly coat the leaves with the spray if you are faced with this same problem. Also, it is important to realize that the spray will not just wipe out the powdery mildew but also beneficial bacteria from the leaves themselves. Assuming you successfully combat the stuff, you should get some helpful bacteria and lightly dust the leaves. Paul’s worm castings or compost would be perfect for this purpose.

The Results

I am starting to see positive results already. I finally got rid of some of the deadest leaves, and have reclaimed some territory from the powdery mildew on the leaves that were not too far gone over to the white side. It is really good to see this working and to harbor hopes of getting a few more zucchinis and cucumbers this summer.

I will continue to update everyone on the great Powdery Mildew war of August 2012, and the zucchinis battle for garden supremcy. Wish me luck.

Zucchinis Gone Wild

These photos were all taken back on July 19, when I did my second real harvest. am still playing catchup with my posts, and unfortunately my garden isn’t looking as pretty today as it was a couple weeks ago when I took the below pictures.  TExpansion Plot 7-19he real story here is my zucchinis. Check out how these guys totally took over the expanded patch. They came, saw and conquered the already growing eggplants and onions.

 

 

 

I hope the onions still turn out. But the huge submarines we’ve been pulling off zucchini plant have made it worth it. I really wanted to try this squash blossom recipe too, but all the flowers started flowering before I got around to picking them.

Zucchini 1Zucchini 2

 

TomatoesThe tomatoes were still doing pretty well and producing at this point. Here’s the second haul that we got that day. We got these just in time in time to take up to Big Bear. The awesome bruchetta we made is shown in the pictures in the Big Bear post, and the recipe will be available soon too.

 

Last and most certainly least is my struggling fruit/lettuce plot back by the fence. You can see the little lettuces trying to come up in the background, bless their hearts. Keep fighting the good fight guys. Poppa needs his greens. All the berries in the front are pretty much on their last legs.

Fence plotI have to do some reading to figure out what went wrong here. I know Paul suggested that I need another blueberry plant because you have to have two to get them to cross-polinate. But I don’t know what happened to the strawberries. I am just hoping the raspberries over on the right hold on and by next year grow into an actual producing plant. Wish me luck.

Stay tuned for my next updates with an awesome bruchetta recipe and finally the building of my trellis.

 

Grant’s Garden Beginning of July

My garden is growing faster than my capacity to keep up with the posts. I’m backlogged by about a month. But I had to get a quick post up to show the progress. Here are some photos showing the growth during the last few weeks after the big expansion was completed on June 9, when tall Paul and I built the garden boxes and planted all the new plots.

Onions plotThe onions really shot up out of no where. Here’s a picture of the ones Paul planted in the Patriotic Plot. I was shocked to see the onions grow so high in only a couple weeks.

 

 

 

Main plot gardenThe main plot is still doing pretty well. The tomato plants seem to have benefited from the fertilizing Paul gave them back on June 9. And my one featured marigold in the foreground is killing it. My jalapenos, however, are dead as a door nail. Is there some limit on plant life? That jalapeno plant is the only plant left from my original planting two years ago. I’m a bit nastalgic about it, but maybe I should just put it out of its misery? Is there any possible cure for it?

Now it’s time to get up close and personal with my tomato plants.Green Zebra tomato plant

Mr. Stripey tomato plant

 

The Green Zebra tomatoes are looking good, if not green. I let these ones get too ripe I think.

 

 

 

Up next are the Mr. Stripey tomoatoes. I love these guys. They’re great on bruchetta. I just wish they grew a little bigger.

 

Cherry tomatoes tomato plant

Last but certainly not least, here’s a shot of my cherry tomatoes. These are so much sweeter and better than anything I buy in the store. And this plant is a producer.

Moving on to the more recent expansions, here are a couple pictures of the fence side plot and old bush territory plot. The fence plot isn’t doing so hot. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. Maybe too much sun, or maybe it is just that the berries are too tough to grow, or don’t do so hot. Either way, everything seems to be suffering. It is good to see a little bit of lettuce popping up at the back.

Fence plot strawberries blueberries raspberries lettucelettuce

 

Zucchinis eggplants onions

 

 

 

The old bush plot is doing pretty well. The zucchinis are well on their way to total patch domination, as if they are some meglomaniacal bond villain. The egg plants are doing well too. And you can see the onions are shooting up just like over in the patriotic plot. In my next update, you’ll be able to see the cucumbers I’ve since planted in the back of that plot. A power struggle with the zucchs is imminent!

Manly Corn on the Cob Recipe

Yes that golden goodness is ALL BUTTER

Here’s a method for preparing corn on the cob sure to please the manliest of men. You only need ten ingredients – corn, salt, pepper, and the last seven are all butter.

I was at a street fair celebration extravaganza in Hermosa Beach about a month ago. Among the vendors was a corn on the cob stand. They grilled decent cob. It was worth the four bucks they charged me. But they also lathered it with like fifty non-essential seasonings, i.e. mayo, sirracha, salt, red pepper flakes, blah blah blah. It was nothing like what my dad used to make as described below.  All those other stupid ingredients are so unnecessary when you load up on the one topping that actually matters; of course I’m talking BUTTER. 3 pounds of it to be precise.

This is how my dad grills cob, and my dad could kick your dad’s ass. When I was a kid, my family and bunch of other families we were friends with would go up north in Minnesota to Park Rapids for a week and rent cabins at this place called Isle O’ Dreams on Bad Axe Lake. http://www.isleodreams.com/

This place is heaven on earth – fishing, tubing, beach, video games and pool tables in the lodge, an open tab for ice cream, etc. Cannot recommend this joint highly enough if you are looking for somewhere to vacation and don’t have your own cabin.

Anyway, a memory came back to me when I was eating that cob at that stand in Hermosa. I remember my dad would drive into town each year and get one of those huge sacks filled with a 100 ears of corn straight off the farm. Then he’d get this huge grill fired up while the annual shuffleboard tournament was going on, and he’d start doling out the best cob anyone ever tasted. Here’s how it’s done. Without further ado, I give you the Agridude guide to roasting the perfect cob.

Step One

Buy 2x the amount of corn you think you want to eat. You and anyone else sampling your cob will consume at least two ears. The fresher the better. Advantage Midwesterners. The cobs must have the husks on.

Step Two

Soak the corn in water for a bit, maybe fifteen to thirty minutes. This will prevent the corn from burning up when you grill it, and help it steam a bit. No skinny dipping and no shucking yet.

Step Three

Fire up the Grill and drink beer, hopefully while playing shuffleboard, dummy board / cornhole, or ping-pong.

Step Four

Grill the corn with husk on, probably something like fifteen to twenty five minutes depending on how hot the grill is, turning frequently. You’ll know the cobs are done when they start to get blackened on the outside. But don’t let them get too dark.

While the corn is grilling, put 3 lbs of butter in a cast iron pot or something else that can go right on the grill. We used to use a coffee kettle thing that had a removable top. Ideally your butter melting vessel will be capable of fitting an entire ear of corn in it(foreshadowing). The butter should melt almost instantly. Make sure to stir the butter constantly because it will burn fast. Then pour it all into something like in the picture above or leave it if it is suitable for the upcoming described dunking procedure.

UPDATE – After reading this my Dad, a real OA (original agridude), was ashamed. I royally screwed up the buttering aspects of the recipe. He told me the real method is combining 1 lb of butter and water in a boiling vessle. The butter will melt as the water gets hot and then float to the top in a layer. So when you dunk, you dunk the tip down through the butter and into the water, but as you pull the corn back out, you pul it through the melted butter layered on top of the water. This leaves the corn totally buttered as before, but doesn’t waste precious butter that could otherwise be used as a topping for things like veggies, steaks, bread, etc. Also, he suggest using an empty coffee can with label removed and putting it right on the grill.

Step Five

Grab the corn off the grill. Yell in pain as your fingers are scorched. Shuck the corn. Grab corn by unpeeled husk. Then, dunk the WHOLE cob into the melted vat of golden goodness. If you don’t want to die instantly from heart trauma, hold the ear above the vat to let some of the butter drain off a bit.

Step Six

Season with enough salt to raise your blood pressure by at least ten points, then add a pinch of pepper.

Step Seven

Repeat steps five and six until you are ready to explode or you run out of corn.

Grant’s Garden – Expansion Phase 1

My garden is really shaping up nicely. Below are some pictures of Agridude Paul and me doing work (Rob & Big style) back on the weekend of June 8-10. It was pretty much a full weekend project creating new plots to expand my existing garden. Work started on Saturday morning when my girlfriend Jilly and I made a trip to Lowes and brought back half the store. My small ass car was overloaded with gardening supplies – plants, wood, dirt, mulch – for the expansion.

The Lowes was only a couple miles away, but driving with the hatch half open made for an interesting trip home. Side note 1: Lowes is awesome and way better than Home Depot or Orchard Supply Hardware. The people are extremely helpful and did a great job cutting the wood we bought down to the right sizes. Originally I was planning on cutting it all by hand. Thank God I had a sensible woman along with me to “ask directions” or this weekend project would have turned into an all summer extravaganza. I would have tried to nail the garden boxes we built together instead of using brackets. The whole project would have been a disaster. The people set me up with some brackets and screws that were much easier to use. They really know wood over at Lowes, almost as wells as the ladies of the night that walk that same stretch of Pico. They set me up with some untreated red cedar, which is naturally water resistant and won’t leach any nasty chemicals into the soil. Nobody wants to eat wood treatment infused veggies.

The first step after unloading the Lowes plunder was to get the area cleared out. This is one of the expansion plots before work began. Notice the nasty bush thing in the background. It’ll soon disappear from the rest of the pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting rid of the plant was easier than I expected. It’s roots were deep, but not deep enough to sustain the ever popular “grip it and rip it” attack my gf and I employed.

 

 

 

 

 

We found some interesting junk in the remains of the bush. It had been swallowing ping pong balls for years. Many a beer pong tournament was ruined by this ever absorbent foliage vacuum.

After discarding our “Kill,” as we took to calling it, we started building the first garden box. The boxes stand about 6 inches high, but we planned to bury them about ½ inch down below the sidewalk level. Assembling them proved easier than I expected. Although by the time I had screwed all the corners together, my girly computer hands were looking more like a true Agridude’s; blisters everywhere, and that was with gloves. That was the end of our work on Saturday. Agridude Paul and his gf had come up from San Diego, so we had to break and get ready for Kings/Devils Game 5 of the Stanley Cup and the Pacquiao v. Bradley fight. Side note 2: June 9, 2012, was possibly the worst day of sports in history. Triple Crown contender I’ll Have Another withdrew from the Belmont, with much less controversy than deserved considering his trainer is given to blood doping. The Kings and Boston both lost in crappy games, and nobody likes seeing LeBron win. And worst of all, the judges went straight klepto on Pacquiao in the worst decision in boxing history.

Day 2 –  CAUTION: I know this is a gardening blog, but right now I need any vegetarians to avert their eyes. There is some serious man beef in the pictures ahead.

After a momentously disappointing night of sports, Paul and I woke up super early (10:00 a.m.) to start working on the expansion. First things first, we started tearing up the grass so that the roots of the newly bedded plants could get all the way through to pay dirt.

 

 

 

 

 

While Paul was getting his inner miner on, I assembled the second garden box. Then we put the boxes down and filled them with dirt.

Here’s a good picture of what the second expansion plot looked like before we put the second box down – right side of the photo in the fence corner.

After the boxes and dirt were down, we cut out to go pick up some additional plants, dirt, and seeds at the local Orchard Supply Hardware. OSH is a poor impostor of Lowes, but it did the trick. I had to call it a day at that point to go to something called The Taste of the Nation. This is the greatest event in life, a charity event that has all the best restaurants in LA serving their favorite dishes from stands – all you can eat and drink. Hopefully by next year they’ll be sourcing from our gardens. While I was gone feasting, Paul planted all the plants and seeds we had picked up. Thanks buddy! I’m not sure how he managed this given that by the time we finally got to planting, Paul was already two bottles of champagne deep. Nothing says Sunday gardening like mimosas.

So finally, here’s what the post-planting finished product looks like.

The box that went down right next to the original plot has zucchinis, egg plants, and onions. The other box over by the fence is filled with rows of lettuce and spinach seeds, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Paul also put down some onions in the Patriotic Plot.

 

 

 

That was it for that weekend. Here’s some additional pictures of the tomatoes at that stage. Spoiler alert for my next post, the tomatoes are killing it. Paul put down some tomato food around the base of each plant, and they started growing buck wild over the next few weeks. Jilly and I just did our first big harvest a couple nights ago, and I’ll get those pictures up soon too.

Cheers,
Grant

TomatoMania

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA6dRzxgnG0&feature=youtu.be">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA6dRzxgnG0&feature=youtu.be</a>
Roosters are freaking awesome. I recorded this stud at a TomatoMania event in Encino back in March.

Seeing the video reminded me to share this link to TomatoMania’s website and encourage people to check out their events next spring. www.tomatomania.com.

First of all, any event that has Roosters strutting around is awesome. Aye! Look at the plumage! This guy was totally free range, just strolling through a crowd of hundreds like he was one of the buyers. More importantly though, TomatoMania is a series of events held throughout the spring in various locals in Southern California (the Washington DC area now too). If you are planning on growing tomater’s, this is a must attend event. They sell literally hundreds of varietals. Event staffers are all over the place, are super helpful, and know everything about the various plants –sun/soil requirements, planting season, size, taste, etc. These people preach on tomatoes like Silicon Valley Yuppies talk fine wines, only you don’t want to shove a cork in the tomato gurus afterwards. So go to the next event near you; get some crazy tomato strain you’d never normally try growing. If you think you are going to find Tartar From Mongolstan’s or Earl of Edgecomb’s (yes, those are actual varietals) at your local Lowes, forget about it. Plus, they got freaking randomly roaming roosters. What else do you want?!

Grant’s Garden in Progress

Here are a few pictures of my SoCal garden as of June 3, 2012. I’ve been working this tiny 5’x2’ plot in my apartment complex’s backyard for the past couple years. This year I’m going to work on expanding it. My gf’s parents own the building and have graciously agreed to pretty much takeover the back and let me expand however I want. My current plan is to rip out that bush/flower thing next to the garden, dig up all that crab grass, box it off, add a shit ton of good dirt, and expand. Then I’m going to run a tressle up the side of the wall and let some cucumbers run wild. I may also line up a bunch of lettuce boxes and flowers along the fence across the little walk way. There were previously a ton of dead plants and garbage sitting in the corner that totally destroyed all the grass in that corner. I laid out some sod pads  a couple weeks back, but they are struggling in the summer son. Depending on how much work I can get done, I might tear it all back up and box that off for future expansion too.

Growth wise, I previously had a couple tomato plants, pepper plants, kalarabis (if you don’t know what this is, go find a store that has it. It is basically like a radish and should be used squarely as a salt delivery vehicle. Don’t be afraid to just douse it), basil, and other herbs. The loan holdover is a jalapeno plant that is still producing. The tomato plants always did well, but after two years kicked the bucket and are making themselves into dino juice for some robot’s use millions of years from now (yes, I am doing my part to meet the future’s energy needs indeed). The herbs never really took off, so I’m staying away from those for now. There are four new tomato plants that are really taking off, three heirlooms and one cherry. On the advice of Agridude Paul I planted a bunch of marigolds that seem to be really helping the tomatoes. Apparently they attract bees to help with the pollination and other good bugs.

 

I’ll keep adding more pictures as the expansion proceeds. Not really sure what plants I’m going to go with in the main part of the expanded spread, so please chime in with any recommendations. The plot gets hit with almost constant sun year round (yes living in SoCal has its benefits), but the air and dirt are pretty much atrocious. There is also constant danger posed by people walking by on the way to the trash and laundry room, and on the weekend, almost constant drunken horse play. And the wildlife extends beyond your mere lady bugs and caterpillars; we see more than our share of raccoons, possoms, alley cats, and people running from the police (gotta love urban gardening). So any plant that go into my spread have got to be hardy. I’ll probably run up a shrubbery, but still….