Pennies—Good for Thoughts, but Not Tomato Blight

Tomatoes - cherry Sunsweet @home LAH-001I recently ran across an article claiming that a penny can help your tomato plants fight off blight. Apparently, the reasoning goes like this:

  • Copper is known to kill molds, algae, fungi, and microbes.
  • Pennies are made out of copper.
  • Therefore, inserting a penny into a tomato stem (or burying it at the roots) will keep your plant from succumbing to diseases caused by molds, algae, fungi, or microbes.

Since I’ve lost tomato plants to Early Blight, a common problem in Colorado, I’d love for this idea to work. I have some pennies lying around; let’s put them to good use, right?

Well, not really.

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Stocky Seedlings

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If you’re planning to grow a garden this summer, odds are you intend to start at least some of your plants from seed. Here in Colorado, with our short growing season and unpredictable weather (such as the 70 degree drop last week), it’s worthwhile to start a lot of those seeds indoors.

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Early Spring Gardening

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Springtime in the Rockies can challenge a gardener’s patience. One day, the snow is flying fast and furious, and the next the sun comes out and you can’t wait to get outside. Anyone who has lived here a year or more knows better than to plant this early; winter is slow to let go, sometimes lingering until mid-May. Yet, those gorgeous sunny days just beg for time spent in the garden. Go ahead—there are plenty of other chores that need our attention.

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All-America Selections

Tithonia_Mexican Sunflower_DBG_LAH_7143-001As the seed catalogs pile up on my nightstand, the choices become overwhelming. It’s hard enough to choose which flowers and veggies to grow this coming year. But then there are page after page of cultivars to choose from.

This isn’t a new problem. As is true today, the 1930s was a time when plant breeders were creating a lot of “improved” flower and vegetable cultivars. Were they really better than the old standards? With all the new choices, how could home gardeners know which were the best? Continue reading “All-America Selections”

Fall in the Veggie Garden

'Monte Gusto' Beans_2018-09-19 08.48.58I’m still picking lots of veggies—tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, squash, beans, chard, and herbs such as basil and parsley. Yet, fall starts in a few days and nights are already dipping into the 40s. That first frost can’t be far behind.

Here in Colorado, it’s now too late to plant most fall crops, as the short days and cold nights won’t let them mature before it snows. You can plant stiff-neck (hardy) garlic, however. Space the individual cloves about six inches apart and bury them about three-times their height. Spread a layer of mulch over the bed and relax. That’s one crop you won’t have to bother with later. Continue reading “Fall in the Veggie Garden”

May Snow

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A foot of snow. That’s what fell on my garden last week. Twelve inches of heavy, wet, icy snow covered our lawn, bent the branches on our trees, and broke the tender new shoots on my perennials. Yes, I had already planted annuals, but I put them in pots on our deck, which I hauled into the warm house when I saw the forecast. I managed to cover my lettuce and chard, which were already in the ground, but they’re reasonably hardy and did just fine, although they may still decide that they’ve endured a winter and it’s time to bloom, producing a flower stalk instead of the leaves I want. All things considered, however, we did well. Many of our friends and neighbors lost entire trees. I can’t complain.

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Garden Advice: Blossom End Rot

blossom end rot - public domainYou’ve put in the effort and grown your own juicy tomatoes. But when you finally go to pick them, you realize that the end opposite the stem is sunken and oozing. Yuck—it’s disgusting. Who wants to eat a tomato that’s rotting on the vine?

What you have is a tomato with blossom end rot (BER). It’s just what the name suggests—the blossom end of the tomato (where the flower fell off long ago) is decomposing, ruining the fruit. (Yes, we all know that tomatoes are fruit.) The question isn’t identifying the problem, it’s solving it. How can we keep our tomatoes (and peppers, watermelon, cucumbers, and squash) from succumbing?

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Going Seedless

vitis labrusca - grapes @tacomawa 14oct07 lah 004I sat munching my seedless grapes, enjoying the sweet juices. I bit one in half, and focused on the tiny, immature lumps that would have been seeds in another variety. I’ve always taken seedless grapes for granted, but now I wondered—why didn’t the seeds develop in this cultivar? It clearly goes against a plant’s nature to grow fruit without seeds.

And what about watermelon? Is the same process involved? And those name brand tangerines we just polished off didn’t have seeds either. These days, even bananas are seedless. I miss the little black dots that used to decorate my banana bread. Then there are seedless tomatoes and cucumbers, two more fruits, at least from a botanist’s perspective. I had never stopped to consider how many seedless fruit crops are now available.

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Giving Thanks for Corn

Indian Corn_DBG-CO_LAH_9050Corn pudding and hush puppies, cornbread stuffing and succotash. If anything qualifies as authentic American cooking, it surely involves corn. We eat it fresh—still on the cob, creamed, and as the critical ingredient in corn chowder. We eat it dried and ground into cornmeal—in corn pone and muffins, as fritters and johnnycake. Domesticated for millennia, corn has come a long way from its teosinte roots.

Today have six types of corn, five of which are the result of selective breeding: pod corn, flint corn, popcorn (this could be considered a subset of flint corn), flour corn, dent corn, and sweet corn. (Pod corn is a mutant that forms leaves around each kernel, and isn’t commercially useful.)

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