Monday, September 1, 2014

How to Be a Vegetable Container Gardener

You don't have to live in the country in order to reap the benefits from growing vegetables. Growing your own vegetables not only brings out the farmer in you, but it helps keep your household healthy. Harvesting your own produce can be accomplished through use of growing in oversized plant pots and containers. You can do this in an area, indoors or outside, that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. This is beneficial for those living in apartments who feel they're missing out on growing opportunities.

Containers and What to Put in Them
Because potting soil is warmer than the ground, container gardeners find that produce such as tomatoes and peppers grow faster. Choose pots that are deep and tall to prevent the plants from becoming root bound and to prevent yourself from having to bend over too much during the harvest. If you are planting in these containers outside, you will notice immediate "curb appeal" as the fruits and vegetables plants begin growing, flowering, and producing throughout the season.

How to prepare the container for growing:

· Choose a high quality potting mix containing perlite and peat moss. Choose an organic fertilizer to provide the plants with natural nutrients. There are also slow release fertilizers offering three and six month fertilizing periods once mixed into the potting soil.

· For those intending to water using a hose or watering can by hand, add a soil polymer to allow for wet-dry water balance in the potting mix.

· Feeding container gardens is essential and should occur once per week. However, if you are using a slow-release fertilizer, only feed your containers once every two or three weeks.

· Containers should receive no less than a half-gallon of water per day. If the containers are oversized, water with a gallon for each container. The soil should completely dry out between watering, so this is the best way to gauge if you are using too much water the previous day.

Pest control is easier for containers that are grown inside because these critters tend to stay on the ground. However, if you are growing your vegetable container gardens out on decks, porches, or balconies, you'll still notice issues with mites and pests like that. Use a horticultural oil or other types of natural pesticides offered through garden centers to spray down all the plants in each container. If you notice hornworms on your tomato plants, you will need to pick them off by hand.

Source: 25 years of experience

Friday, August 29, 2014

How to Identify and Prevent Mosaic Viruses

Mosaic viruses are a type of plant virus that can infect more than 150 different types of plants. It is a virus that mostly affects vegetables, typically tomatoes, potatoes, and squashes but can also affect flowers and fruits. I like to go around every couple of weeks to look at my plants to see if they have been infected. There is nothing you can do but remove the plant once it is infected, so proper identification and prevention are key to having a healthy garden.

Mosaic Virus Identification

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, there are three common ways to tell if the plant has the mosaic virus. First, the plants grow poorly and can be very stunted in its growth. You can see that something "just isn't right" with it. Secondly, leaves on the plants may be wavy and have deformities. Curling and weird shaped leaves can be a sign that the plant has something wrong with it. Lastly, there can be things like look like blisters on the leaves, appearing mottled with spots of green, white, and yellow. These blisters and varying colors that should not be on the leaf are a tell-tale sign. These are the easiest ways to tell if your plant has a virus.

Prevention of Mosaic Virus

While there is nothing that can be done to treat the virus once it has overcome the plant, there are a few things that you can do to help keep the virus away from your plants. It doesn't take the sting of seeing a plant die away, but it will help keep it from happening again and again. Weeding is a very good way to prevent the virus, as many weeds can be a host for the disease. Insects are prolific spreaders of the virus, so keeping your plants free from the bugs is another good preventive method. Lastly, you can plant specific cultivars that may be resistant to the virus.

There is nothing worse that seeing all the fruits of your gardening labor destroyed plant by plant from a virus or other disease. Knowing the proper way to identify plant disease and having the knowledge on how to prevent it can be the key in having a healthy and viable garden, year after year. Your county extension can give you several good ideas on how to proceed with your garden and keep disease and pests at bay.


Old Farmers Almanac

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How to Diagnose Plant Disease

How to Identify and Prevent Common Vegetable Plant Diseases

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