Posts tagged eggplant

Stop the killing! Take care of those seedlings

You’ve planted your seeds indoors, waited for them to sprout and one day find a container of tiny, droopy plants.

    What went wrong?

    Damping-off could be responsible for the collapse and death of your seedlings.

    The gardening experts at Iowa State University Extension note that damping-off is caused by several different fungi. Environmental conditions usually associated with damping-off are poorly drained potting soil and overwatering.

    Damping-off can be prevented by using clean containers, a sterile, well-drained potting mix and by following good cultural practices.  Previously used containers should be washed in soapy water, then disinfected by dipping in a solution containing one part chlorine bleach and nine parts water. Flower and vegetable seeds need an evenly moist potting mix for good germination.  After germination, allow the potting soil to dry somewhat between waterings. 

 

   I’m getting a later than usual start on my seedlings, having just planted my first round today. The earliest I’ve planted seeds indoors was in late January – I had flowers blooming by the end of March. Some plants, of course, need more time to grow than others. The ISU gardening experts also offer this reminder on the starting times for seeds: The crop time (number of weeks from sowing to planting outdoors) for several popular flowers and vegetables are as follows: 10 to 12 weeks – geranium; eight to 10 weeks – petunia and impatiens; six to eight weeks – marigold, pepper, and eggplant; five to seven weeks – tomato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower; three to four weeks – cucumber, watermelon, muskmelon and squash.  Always check the seed packet if unsure of the correct sowing date. 

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Starting seedlings

The following is by Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

It’s February.   It’s nearly spring.  Never mind that the ground hog saw his shadow, now is the time for all gardeners to commence gardening preparations. 

Following is one of the most popular questions that Master Gardener volunteers are asked on the Hortline:  when should I start seeds indoors for transplanting to the garden?  The often used phrase “it depends” applies to this question.  It does depend on what plants you intend to grow.  The number of weeks from first sowing the seeds to planting outdoors may vary from flowers to vegetables.  Seed start time for some popular ones are as follows:  Geraniums—10 to 12 weeks; Petunia and Impatiens—8 to 10 weeks; Marigold, pepper and eggplant—6 to 8 weeks; Tomato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower—5 to 7 weeks; Cucumbers, watermelon, muskmelon and squash—3 to 4 weeks.

If sowing seeds in flats or trays, fill the container to within one inch of the top with your planting medium.  Firm it down, water thoroughly, let it drain.  Fine seeds are sown on the surface and lightly pressed into the medium.  All other seeds are to be covered with planting medium to a thickness of one to two times of the seeds diameter.  Then water from the bottom (submerge) until the topsoil is wet then allow to drain.  Or you can water from the top with a bulb syringe.  Keep the soil uniformly moist, cover the container with a clear plastic food wrap. 

Always purchase good quality seeds.  Use clean containers.  Provide ample space for the seedlings to grow.  Air circulation should be good.  Follow planting directions on the packages and fertilize accordingly.  Adjustment to the out of doors should be a gradual process:  spending some time on the deck or porch before transplanting to beds would be wise.

My daughter and two grandkids are excited to plant their second garden.  Maybe we’ll try planting seeds and see if they get as excited as I do when sprouts commence popping through the soil.

 

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Beetle battle

Colorado potatoe beetle

   Gardeners and farmers market vendors I’ve spoken to this spring show consensus that everything is at least two weeks behind our typical Iowa growing season.

   For the most part, I agree. While it’s nice to enjoy the scent of lilacs at the end of May, I’m still waiting to pull my first radish.

   But one thing, I discovered, seems even earlier than usual.

   This weekend I was encouraged to see that all my potatoes had finally emerged at the garden I lease from the city.

   While things are slow, most plants are looking great.

   Upon closer inspection, I saw something striped and moving and NNNOOOOO!!!

   Already, it’s time for Iowa’s pest season to begin.

   The dreaded Colorado potato beetle — Leptinotarsa decemlineata — the bane of my tiny potato crop, was already at work decimating the foliage just as the plants emerged from the ground.

    I looked to the helpful New York Times “1,000 Gardening Questions & Answers” book, a gift from my friend Dru (thanks DruJ) to research what I might do this year to battle these beetles.

   What I found was somewhat discouraging.

   The organic methods I prefer aren’t very effective when a single female can produce 10,000 offspring by the end of summer.

   I’ve used the powder Garden Guard on the potatoes, but it only stays on as long as it’s not windy or rainy. That’s what — about two hours on any given day this spring?

   Knowing the damage they wreak, I’m much less squeamish about squishing the little buggers than I would have been in the past.

    The Times’ book recommends organic gardeners apply a dose of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to kill the small larvae.

    Larger larvae and adults can be killed with rotenone, a strong but short-lived botanical poison favored by organic gardeners when they must take extreme measures.

   To add insult to infestation, the book notes, Colorado potato beetles can live a full two years. But they won’t stay if there’s nothing to eat, so the final – or first – line of defense is late planting. If they don’t find any potato, eggplant or nicotiana leaves when they emerge from the ground in spring, they’ll leave.

   So, I’m too late (or I was too early) to try that last idea.

   I do try to rotate where I plant the potatoes, but it doesn’t seem to matter where they go. The beetles will find them. Maybe next year, I’ll go for the late start. Any other suggestions?

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