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.

Source:

Old Farmers Almanac

Related Content:

How to Diagnose Plant Disease

How to Identify and Prevent Common Vegetable Plant Diseases

Fight Plant Disease, Fungus, Black Spot with Homemade Products

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Five Free Horticulture and Gardening Online Classes

These free classes are great ways to expand your knowledge of horticulture, botany, and other gardening-related topics. These classes are offered free and are done completely online, there is no residency required. There is also no credit given for these classes; they are strictly for knowledge only.

Plants and Landscapes

Utah State University offers Plants and Landscapes classes. This class offers eight sections. They include an introduction, overview, summary, plant life cycles class, nomenclature, plant physiology, annuals and perennials, and landscape use. The videos in the courses can be streamed or downloaded.

Annuals and Perennials

The Annuals and Perennials course at Utah State University offers seven classes for the gardener or landscaper. They include an introduction, overview, summary, annuals, perennials, sustainability, and woody plants. Combined with the course above, it is a great overview of plant knowledge.

Planning and Preparing Your Garden

Offered by Brigham Young University, Planning and Preparing Your Garden has sections on soil preparation, planting for a defined space, and different gardening strategies. There is some minimum software requirements for the course and you'll need to make sure your machine is capable. There is a left side link to a software setup to make sure your machine can run the program.

Growing Vegetables, Fruits and Nuts

The Growing Vegetables, Fruits, and Nuts program at Brigham Young University is available online and is very different than most distance-learning courses. It offers a grading system, so those in the class can monitor their progress. This course offers three lessons and students are encouraged to work on their own gardens while keeping a journal for supplemental learning. The class features how to plant nut trees, appropriate gardening tools, problems in growing fruits, and vegetable growing.

Agriculture Science and Policy 1 & 2

Tufts University has two Agriculture Science and Policy courses that work on more commercial applications than backyard gardening. However, proper horticulture techniques go a long way in giving a great education. According to the website, "This course highlights the relevance of natural resource conservation for ensuring healthy agricultural, food and environmental systems, as well as the various approaches for implementing it. This course, the first of two semesters, focuses on soils, water, air and energy. The second semester delves into plant nutrients, plant- pest interaction, crop breeding, and livestock production."

These classes are a great way to expand your horizons in gardening or refresh your memory on some of the horticulture you may have forgotten. They are all able to do be done at your leisure.

Sources:

Brigham Young University, Tufts University, and Utah State University. Links are given in subheadings.

Related Content:

Growing a Biblical Plant Garden

Wildflowers in the Tallgrass Prairie Ecosystem

Houseplants That Clean Air

Monday, August 25, 2014

Growing the Best Tomatoes from Seed

Usually, when we plant tomatoes we buy plants. There are many different varieties available from heirloom to exotic colors. It can be hard to find some types in plant form. This is where using seeds can help the avid tomato gardener.

Seeds can be purchased from local vendors, farmers, or online. The most variety will be found online. You can also join seed swap forums to find seeds at very low to no cost. When your seeds arrive, you may either plant them in seed starting pots or place them in the freezer until you are ready to start the seeds.

Tomatoes love hot weather. They are able to tolerate temperatures down to 40F without dying, but constant exposure to cold will result in weak or dead seedlings. Be aware of your planting zone. You can find your gardening zone by consulting the USDA's Plant Hardiness Guide.

When you have found your zone, you can determine when to start your seedlings. Gardeners in colder climates will need to start their seedlings indoors, about six to eight weeks before the last frost. Those in warm areas can sow their seeds directly into their garden or use the indoor starting method.

Tomato seeds can be started in small peat pots. Once the tomatoes are growing well and have two 'true' leaves, they can be transferred to larger containers. Moving seedlings to larger containers will help prevent them from becoming root bound.

As soon as the weather is warm enough in your zone, you can prepare your garden for the seedlings. Work compost into the rows or plots where you plan to place your plants. Allow the compost to sit in the ground for a few days before planting, as compost can still produce heat if it has not properly decomposed. A few extra days will help prevent the roots of your plants from being burned.

At least three days before planting it is a good idea to place your plants outdoors to 'harden off'. You may notice that once outside the plants begin to have a deeper green. This is a good sign! Your plants are becoming tolerant to the outdoor temperatures and if in a sunny place, they're soaking up the sun they need to grow happily.

Now you can place your plants into the garden. A good rule of thumb is to remember that each tomato plant should be placed around 18 inches from the next plant. If you do not have a ruler, use your arm as a guide. While this method isn't perfect, it will help your plants remain far enough apart to grow successfully. Your arm, from the elbow to the tip of your fingers, is enough space between plants.

The hole you place your plants in should be deep, six to eight inches, and wide enough for the roots to spread. Place the plant in the hole, then mound the dirt up around the plant - all the way up to the first two leaves. Placing the soil around the tomato in this manner helps give the plant stability.

Keep your tomatoes watered - plants in a garden need more water than in containers. Add fertilizer in the form of compost tea once a month and you will be surprised at how well your tomatoes grow!


Source: 20 years of personal gardening experience

Saturday, August 23, 2014

10 Petite Trees for Your Landscape: Under 25 Feet

Want trees to decorate your landscape that will stay below 25 feet tall? Below are good selections to help you choose the best one for your application from those that don't reach past 25 feet tall. Planting instructions and thorough descriptions of each tall growing tree are given.

Acer barbatum Michx. (Southern Sugar Maple, Florida Maple, Sugartree)

Kingdom Plantae - Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae -

Order Sapindales -

Family Aceraceae - Maple family

Genus Acer L. - maple

Species Acer barbatum Michx. - southern sugar maple

This deciduous moderate growth tree loves sunny spots. It gets up to 20-25 feet tall and has a spread of 20-40 feet. It is more heat tolerant than acer saccharum but isn't as colorful in the fall. It will have yellow foliage with red or orange tips in the fall. Flowers are on long hairy stalks. Birds flock to it for its seeds. It makes an excellent shade tree and is a source for maple sugar. Trivia: 40 gallons of sap goes into making one gallon of syrup.

Aesculus pavia L. (Red Buckeye)

Kingdom Plantae - Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae -

Order Sapindales -

Family Hippocastanaceae - Horse-chestnut family

Genus Aesculus L. - buckeye

Species Aesculus pavia L. - red buckeye

This deciduous tree can also be a bushy shrub in some locations. It is a fast growing to its mature height of 15-25 feet. It will flower in dark red tubular flowers form April to May, and is a prime pick for those who want a splash of color. Hummingbird friendly, this tree will also attract bees. It prefers shady locations and will bloom early for first color in your garden. Keep in mind; this is a short lived tree.

Aesculus sylvatica Bartr. (Painted Buckeye, Georgia Buckeye)

Kingdom Plantae - Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae -

Order Sapindales -

Family Hippocastanaceae - Horse-chestnut family

Genus Aesculus L. - buckeye

Species Aesculus sylvatica Bartr. - painted buckeye

This pretty tree grows 6-12 feet tall and needs to be spaced at least 6-12 feet apart. It prefers a full sun environment and has average water needs. Grow this in mildly acidic soil for optimum growth potential. It has pink/pale green/yellow green flowers. BEWARE: Painted Buckeye has poisonous seeds.

Amelanchier canadensis (L.) Medik. (Canadian Serviceberry, Shadblow Serviceberry)

Kingdom Plantae - Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae -

Order Rosales -

Family Rosaceae - Rose family

Genus Amelanchier Medik. - serviceberry

Species Amelanchier canadensis (L.) Medik. - Canadian serviceberry

This grows moderately fast and prefers sun to partial shade. It will get only 6-15 feet high with a spread of 15-20 feet. It has 5 petals and white to light pink flowers on three inch racemes in the spring. It will also have dark purple sweet berries as fruit. It is a multi trunk tree with a narrow crown.

Cercis canadensis L. (Eastern redbud)

Kingdom Plantae - Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae -

Order Fabales -

Family Fabaceae - Pea family

Genus Cercis L. - redbud

Species Cercis canadensis L. - eastern redbud

This short lived tree does well in full sun or partial shade. Also known as the "Judas tree" it is rumored to be the tree in which Judas Iscariot hung himself from. Redbud grows only 10-20 years and will reach a height of around 15 feet tall. It will flower pink or purple (rarely white) flowers from March to May. Bark from Eastern redbud has been used as an astringent and its flowers can be used in salads. A very versatile and pretty tree, albeit having short-lived beauty.

Cliftonia monophylla (Buckwheat tree)

Kingdom Plantae - Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons

Subclass Dilleniidae -

Order Ericales -

Family Cyrillaceae - Cyrilla family

Genus Cliftonia Banks ex Gaertn. f. - cliftonia

Species Cliftonia monophylla (Lam.) Britt. ex Sarg. - buckwheat tree

This tree gets up to 10-15 feet tall and needs a spacing of 4-8 feet across. This tree loves full sun and acidic soil. It is an evergreen, with pale pink or white fragrant flowers coming in spring time. A nice little tree to add flair in your landscape.

Cornus alternifolia L. f. (Alternateleaf Dogwood, Pagoda Dogwood)

Kingdom Plantae - Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae -

Order Cornales -

Family Cornaceae - Dogwood family

Genus Cornus L. - dogwood

Species Cornus alternifolia L. f. - alternateleaf dogwood

This slow to moderate growth tree prefers sun or partial shade. It will reach a height of 15-25 feet tall and 15-30 feet in spread. It has maroon to purple fall color and its flowers are small white blooms. It is fragrant, short lived and is disease resistant. You can propagate this via seed or cuttings.

Cornus amomum P. Mill. (Silky dogwood)

Kingdom Plantae - Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae -

Order Cornales -

Family Cornaceae - Dogwood family

Genus Cornus L. - dogwood

Species Cornus amomum P. Mill. - silky dogwood

Another great selection for bird lovers, the silky dogwood will grow from 6-15 feet. It has abundant small white flowers from May to June, and will produce blue berry-like fruit from August to September. It's this fruit that makes it a favorite for birds. It favors partial shade. Although it does flower, it is decidedly non-fragrant.

Frangula caroliniana (Walt.) Gray (Carolina Buckthorn)

Kingdom Plantae - Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae -

Order Rhamnales -

Family Rhamnaceae - Buckthorn family

Genus Frangula P. Mill. - buckthorn

Species Frangula caroliniana (Walt.) Gray - Carolina buckthorn

This tree gets up to 15-30 feet tall and needs a spacing zone of 15-20 feet. It prefers full sun to partial shade. There are pale yellow bell-shaped flowers in late spring to early summer. Carolina Buckthorn also has nice shiny deciduous foliage and good fall color. It is a have for butterflies and birds, due to the fragrant nature of the blooms. It is a moderately growing tree, and has multi-trunks. Watch for showy red berries that turn black by mid fall. BEWARE: All parts are poisonous if ingested.

Prunus americana Marsh. (American Plum)

Kingdom Plantae - Plants

Subkingdom Tracheobionta - Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta - Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants

Class Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons

Subclass Rosidae -

Order Rosales -

Family Rosaceae - Rose family

Genus Prunus L. - plum

Species Prunus americana Marsh. - American plum

This tree can get up to 12-20 feet tall and needs a spacing of 12-15 feet wide. It likes sun to partial shade and alkaline soil with average water needs. There are white flowers in mid spring and the plum fruits are edible. Some find the flavor a bit odd, but you can make jam out of the plums. It is a good food tree for birds and squirrels. American Plum can be invasive and hard to remove, so make sure you keep an eye on it and put it where you want it. BEWARE: There are some sharp edges on this plum tree.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How to Control Slugs in the Garden Naturally

Snails and slugs are pests that almost every gardener has encountered. There are many tips and tricks on how to keep these slimy critters at bay. Not all of them are eco-friendly. Some people will advise others to use poison dust or other means. If you are trying to keep your garden free from slugs and as organic as possible, never use any poison!


Beer can Help

Slug traps have been used by many people with success. One popular trap is to fill a small bowl about half full with beer. Slugs and snails will climb in and then drown in the liquid.

Salt isn't just for Seasoning

Some people use salt to burn the pests. This is an iffy trick, as too much salt can and will kill plants. If you choose to use salt, do so very sparingly. Sprinkle it directly on any slugs you see, but try to avoid getting it on your plants.

Companion Plant

Try companion planting. Certain plants repel slugs and snails. Rosemary, marigolds, mints, and wormwood help keep the little pests away.

Keep it Ducky

If you keep chickens or ducks, let them visit in your garden each morning. You will need to keep an eye on the fowl - some chickens will feast on the harvest rather than slugs - but most of your garden will be picked free of slimy critters in a short period of time.

Oat it Up

Cast oat bran out over your garden. Snails love it and eating it will kill them as it swells inside of their bodies.

Use Mulch

Try mulching around the outside of your garden with pine needles. Create a barrier that will keep the slugs and snails from entering in the first place.

Eco-friendly Solution

Diatomaceous earth is a popular eco-friendly bug and slug repellent. Sprinkle it liberally over your plants and around them. This 'earth' is actually the fossilized remains of tiny animals and is very sharp. Sharp enough to cut and kill slugs.

Walk on Eggshells
A very effective method of repelling slugs and snails is to crush eggshells and sprinkle around plants. As you use eggs, save the shells, wash them, and allow to dry. Crush with a rolling pin or any other heavy kitchen tool, then place in a zip top bag. When you are ready to use the shells, just sprinkle heavily around the base of your plants.


source: 20 years of personal gardening experience

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Ins and Outs of Worm Composting

<p>
  Worm composting is the process of using worms to recycle scraps of food and other organic material to create worm compost, also known as vermicompost. Food scraps are converted to compost as they are digested by the worm. The compost then leaves the worm through its tail end. The fruit and vegetable scraps which are eaten by these worms is very rich in nutrients, making it very good for the growth of plant life.
</p>
<p>
  <b>What Materials to Use</b>
</p>
<p>
  Although worms can eat any organic material, certain foods are better for compost than others. It's best if you use only raw fruit and vegetable scraps. These foods are best for plant growth.
</p>
<p>
  <b>What Materials Not to Use</b>
</p>
<p>
  Meats, daily products, and various oils are more complex than fruits and vegetables, therefore they take longer to break down. They can also attract insects. The oils or buttery substances in cooked foods can also attract insects and should also be avoided.
</p>
<p>
  Citrus fruits, such as limes or oranges, are too acidic for worm bins, and can also attract fruit flies. The more vegetable matter you can include in your worm bin, the better. Onions and broccoli often have a strong odor and should not be included in your bin.
</p>
<p>
  <b>What is a Worm Bin?</b>
</p>
<p>
  It's easy to create a worm bin of your own. As long as you have what worms need to live included in your bin, you will have a successful result. Worms require warm temperatures, moisture, air, food, and darkness. Bedding made out of leaves or strips of newspaper will create a moist environment and give the worms essential air space.
</p>
<p>
  Red worms or red wigglers work best for worm bins. These can be ordered from worm farms and mailed to the area you would like to use them.
</p>
<p>
  <b>How to Use Your Compost</b>
</p>
<p>
  Your compost can be used immediately, or it can be stored for future use. You can mix your compost with potting soil or garden soil to give plants greater access to nutrients.
</p>
<p>
  You can also use your compost to make "compost tea". Add one or two inches of compost to a watering can or a rain barrel. Allow the compost to "steep" in the water for a day, mixing it on occasion. Then use this "tea" to water your plants. The end result is a product that makes the nutrients in the soil more readily available to plants.
</p>
<p>
  Worm composting is very good for the environment and making a worm bin is simple and effective. With a few spare materials and a little bit of know-how, you will be able to create a compost rich in nutrients for future gardening endeavors.
</p>
<p>
  Source:
</p>
<p>
  Cornell
</p>
<p>
  <a href="http://compost.css.cornell.edu/worms/basics.html" target="_blank">http://compost.css.cornell.edu/worms/basics.html</a>
</p>
<br>