2020 Spring Garden Observations

Winter Cover Crop

Waited too long to plow under the south half Elbon Rye cover crop and sod clumps were an issue for 2 months.

Per FL Handbook – A 6- to 8-week period between plowing down of green cover crops and crop establishment is recommended to allow the decay of the residues. Freshly incorporated plant material promotes high levels of damping-off organisms such as Pythium spp. and Rhizoctonia spp. Turning under plant residue well in advance of cropping reduces damping-off disease organisms. Perhaps damping-off contributed to the lack of germination in the early peas and beans but most likely it was much too early and too cool/cold.

Weather Impacts

March, April, and May were dry months with cool mornings (50s in April) and did not get into the low 80’s daily until the second week of May. There was a 7-week mini-drought from mid-March to mid-April; then a 1.4″ rain; then a dry week; then a 1.2″ rain on April 28; then dry for 20 days until May 18 when it rained 0.54″.

TS Cristobal on June 8 & 9 dropped 7″ in 3 days and blew down the 2nd Silver Queen corn that had heavy cobs ready to pick. Should have pull them before the wind.

Had some rain in June and July was a wet month. During June when there was no rain for 4+ days we flooded the rows and avoided any spraying water on the leaves. Given the disease-resistant varieties we planted and that water method we had overall far fewer disease issues than last year.

Fertilizer Application this Spring

  • Applied fertilizer under the seeds and as a side dressing. Did not broadcast it in order to not fertilize the weeds between the rows. That worked well.
  • In most cases used 15-0-15 with iron from AGFA.

Beans

  • Kentucky Wonder Bush
    • Germinated well in two rows but only in parts of the adjacent row–on the south end. The other two rows maybe had 10% germination. Same seed and same preparation. No rain but regularly watered them all the same.
    • Tilled the poor rows and replanted with the new HOSS seeder with new seed bought at Hurley.
    • Still had scattered plants in four 60′ rows but they produced all the snap beans we needed for the freezer and to eat.
    • We need to plant once the soil and nights are warm.
  • Jackson Wonder Lima Beans
    • Planted 2 60-ft long rows where corn failed. The dirt had been fertilized for corn so the beans grew wildly.
    • As of July 19, they continue to have a lot of high blooms but very few turn to pods.
      • Maybe spaced too close given the double row.
      • From here where other reasons are also cited including
        • “When the temperatures go too high (normally above 85 F./29 C.), bean flowers will fall off. The high heat makes it difficult for the bean plant to keep itself alive and it will drop its blossoms.”
        • stress also from too dry or too wet. We have had regular rain for the past 3 weeks.
    • Must plant limas earlier if we even want some.

Cantaloupes

  • The three hills of Hale’s Best 45 cantaloupes grew well without the wild vining like last year when the fertilizer had been broadcast over the entire garden.
  • The three hills provided the right number of melons through early July. They were very tasty.

Corn

  • G-90 came up well. It was planted over the area of Elbon Rye that had been plowed up well in advance. The germination and growth were great due I think to row preparation by:
    • Driving Fergie down the future row to mark them
    • Throwing 15-0-15 plus Borax in the center between the tire tracks
    • Pulled up a shallow hill over the fertilizer with Frank’s hiller; busted open a trench to sow in. Sowed the seeds in the slot that later was in the correct depth to pull dirt up on the stalks.
    • Had a lot of earworms but they were easily discarded and the cobs used. Could have started spraying before the silks first appeared and then repeated weekly. Did spray them a couple of times with Bifenthrin.
    • The five 60 ft. long rows produced all the corn we needed for use and the freezer plus what we gave away.
  • Silver Queen came up well in the first two rows then the third had a lot of small gaps; the fourth had more and larger gaps and the fifth only has about a 25% stand.
    • Everything was done the same for the five rows other than what was planted in those areas in the winter garden.
    • The rows that came up well had been growing mustard that did very well. Then there was a row of Swiss Chard that did poorly and Daikon Radish that did well. Next to that was the cabbage that did well. The corn that did not germinate well was mostly where the cabbage had been.
    • Anxious to plant and forgot to pre-fertilize before pulling the hill. Spread the fertilizer without Borax on top of the area with the seed. Seemed to work ok but nothing like the G-90.
    • The cobs are small compared to the G-90.
    • TS Cristobal on June 8 & 9 dropped 7″ in 3 days and blew down the 2nd Silver Queen corn that had heavy cobs ready to pick. Should have pulled them before the wind. Pulled a lot immediately after the wind and continued to pull those that filled out.
    • The white corn tastes good but the cobs are small and very susceptible to worms. At the end of this season, the decision would be to not replant Silver Queen.
    • For a backup planting to the G-90, should consider planting Silver King with its tighter husks and less worm damage plus larger cob.

Cucumbers

  • The Poinsett 76 again performed well as it did last year.
  • No disease or bug pressure.
  • The 24-foot row produced more than we could use so we sold some and gave a lot away. We did not put any up as pickles so if that is the plan then the 24-ft is about right.

Daikon Radish

Had a lot of seed left from last year so planted some with the girls at the end of a row. Some weeks later planted half a row as a double row about 12″ apart. Both plantings yielded tart bitter roots. Pulled up the double row that has good looking folage but not tasty roots. Read that is typical of spring daikons.

Flowers

  • Zinnias
    • The Giant Cactus Double Mix Zinnias have nice large intricate blooms and did ok in the wind. Blooms did not last well, often were damaged when ready to pick, and did not last well in the vase. Will not plant again.
    • The State Fair Mix Zinnias bloomed sparsely and the blooms were smaller than the others. Do not plant again.
    • Parks Pick Mix. Good blooms that lasted and had a lot of variety. Best of the three zinnias. Here, but bought from here.
  • Two of the three Marigolds did well and those transplanted to the yard and pond did great.
    • The French Brocade is a much taller plant than the others but not as productive as the others although it was ok with the two-color blooms. It did better later in the summer. Saved seeds.
    • Naughty Marietta and Lemon Drop had great bushes and consistent blooms. They both transplanted well. Saved seeds.
    • Cracker Jack Mix was late to bloom but finally was productive. Saved seeds.
    • Had a tall bright yellow one that was twice the height of the others and did well although was a bit gangly.
  • Zinnias
    • The Giant Cactus Double Mix Zinnias have nice large intricate blooms and did ok in the wind. Blooms did not last well, often were damaged when ready to pick, and did not last well in the vase. Will not plant again.
    • The State Fair Mix Zinnias bloomed sparsely and the blooms were smaller than the others. Do not plant again.
    • Parks Pick Mix. Good blooms that lasted and had a lot of variety. Best of the three zinnias. Here, but bought from here.
  • Two of the three Marigolds did well and those transplanted to the yard and pond did great.
    • The French Brocade is a much taller plant than the others but not as productive as the others although it was ok with the two-color blooms. It did better later in the summer. Saved seeds.
    • Naughty Marietta and Lemon Drop had great bushes and consistent blooms. They both transplanted well. Saved seeds.
    • Cracker Jack Mix was late to bloom but finally was productive. Saved seeds.
    • Had a tall bright yellow one that was twice the height of the others and did well although was a bit gangly.
  • Beach Sunflowers
    • Had good volunteers from last year’s fallen seeds, although we had gathered a lot of them. They transplanted well to the new beds in the pond yard and other places.
    • What we planted from a new SESE pack all grew well.
    • This year we did not harvest much so should have a lot of volunteers to enjoy and transplant. Saved seeds.
  • Beach Sunflowers
    • Had good volunteers from last year’s fallen seeds, although we had gathered a lot of them. They transplanted well to the new beds in the pond yard and other places.
    • What we planted from a new SESE pack all grew well.
    • This year we did not harvest much so should have a lot of volunteers to enjoy and transplant.

Lettuce

Germination has been slow and sporadic in all lettuce planted last fall in both gardens. On 1/9/2020, Buttercrunch lettuce seeds were put into well water to soak and the next morning (about 17 hours later) were planted. Five days later the wide row had many new two-leaf sprouts. Soaking the seeds made a big difference.

Lettuce planted with Piper and Olivia on 3/17 & 3/19 did not germinate. The seeds were planted correctly–wiped into the soil with little cover–and watered regularly. The weeks after sowing there were no rain and day temps in the mid to high 80s. Should have soaked them.

Tehama Lettuce in the little garden did well. Replant.

Squash

  • Dunja Zucchini germinated well. No disease pressure. Pulled up and hauled plants away June 12 when they quit producing and we have had enough. Very pleased with this variety and will plant it again.
  • Gold Star Yellow Squash germinated well. No disease pressure but they did not produce as much as one would expect. Planted more after the first was producing.
    • Second planting came up good and grew good plants but few blooms, male or female. Daytime air temps have been in the high 80s to low 90’s. Maybe that is why. Gave up and pulled them on July 19.
  • Golden Bush Scallop Summer Squash germinated well. Not a heavy producer but consistent. Planted more as they are great for roasting.
    • Second planting came up good and grew good plants but few blooms, male or female. Daytime air temps have been in the high 80s to low 90’s. Maybe that is why. Gave up and pulled them on July 19.

Okra

  • Cajun Delight, seed saved from last year, was sowed on 3/17/20 but did not germinate. Eighteen days later on 4/4, the row was tilled to plant on 4/5 with soaked seeds. The 24-hour soaked seed in warmer soil germinated much better.
  • On June 8 the plants are maybe only 12″ high but found 6″ okra pods. The 45-ft row could produce all the okra we needed but not enough to can or freeze.
  • The second week in July – After the Family 4th event, when we did not keep them picked, we found a lot of too-large okra. After that, they did not flower until 2 weeks later. Then we started having a few pods.
  • 8/3/2020 – Only about 50% of the okra is still growing and had re-started bearing. But, we were getting only 4-6 pods per day. They did not get over 3 feet tall and the white roots had many nodule-like bumps. Likely, root-knot nematodes. That would explain the poor growth and production. Need to find a variety that is nematode resistant.

Peas

  • MS Pink Eye Purple Hull Peas:
    • Seed bought in January did not germinate. The problem likely was they were planted too early when the evenings were cool even though the daytime soil temps were ok.
    • Tilled the rows and replanted with the new HOSS seeder with new seed, MS Pink Eye Purple Hull Peas, bought at Hurley. Daytime soil temps were in the low 90s and no rain so we were watering. See here for temp data.
    • Finally came up and have a lot of blooms in early June.
    • Strong producer but many pods were at ground level so were back-breaking to pick.
    • Got as much we needed for the freezer and tried to give the abundant crop away but no one wants to pick their own.
  • PEPH Top Pick grew lots of bush and had good production. Pods were high, easy to pick, and shelled well. This is the variety to primarily plant next year.
  • Zipper peas failed to germinate. Learned it has been too cool at night–high 50’s to low 60’s. Soil temps were ok.
  • MS & TX Creme Peas–planted where the Zippers failed– germinated well and had been planted once the nights were warmer. One double row of each was planted with the rows about 12″ apart.
    • MS were shorter plants and matured first; i.e early-July. They go from green somewhat filled out to white the yellow/dry in one day. Pods were higher and easier to pick but had to pick them every day. Pods were smaller and not fully filled out.
    • TX did not produce nearly as much as the MS despite the issues above. Color change to fully developed was not apparent. Went from green to dark-dry tan in a day or so.
    • The first shelling of both into separate piles left us unable to tell the difference. Ate about a tablespoon of each raw and there was no difference.
    • Next Year – Try MS, plant less dense, and learn how to make them do better.

Peppers

Some pepper seedlings survived the excessive fertilizer. They bore fruit early but quit the restarted in August after I side dressed with fish emulsion, sprayed with Epsom Salts and side dressed again with 33-0-0. The side dressing seemed to make a big difference in whether or not they produced.

  • Charleston Bell Peppers (N) had a few peppers early then quit, then re-started once side dressed.
  • Bonnie Giant Marconi had one or two then had more sporadically. They were very good and we plan to plant many more next year.
  • Ancho Pablano produced ok in late July and August. Very small fruit; maybe 4″ long max.
  • The six cayennes were slow to begin bearing but by late August they were providing some and by mid-September, they were loaded.
  • The Giant Marconi finally began producing in mid-August and we had a consistent supply of nice mild peppers.
  • Pepperoncini in Mary’s Garden finally began having harvestable fruit in mid-August. They must be the Italian variety as the peppers are larger than the peppers in salad bars that must be the greek variety. Next year also plant the Greek variety.

Spinach

Pre-soaked overnight and have ok germination as of 9/7/2020.

Tomatoes

Mary’s Celebrity seedlings did great until I planted them in a hole with too much 15-0-15 and burned the roots. Justin Gill gave us Roma, Celebrity and Better Boy seedlings he grew and I bought 6 Amelias.

6/13/2020 – Began fighting late blight and stink bugs. Should have been spraying the tomatoes with fungicide from the time they were planted.

  1. Rec’d ACES email with a link to their page about Late Blight on tomatoes. The photos of it are what is happening in our garden that was the reason for the above spray. The 2020 SE Veg Growers Handbook, recommends Chlorothalonil (Daconil) in the weeks near harvest. That is confirmation that the above spray cited in item 4 below was the right thing to do.
  2. See TomatoDirt.com page Different Kinds of Tomato Blight and How to Tell Them Apart for photos of the different diseases.
  3. As of 6/16/2020, we have many green tomatoes but the late blight is taking a toll. The Roma’s and Beef Stakes have it worse than any and the Amelias are losing a lot of leaves. The bushy, too thickly planted Celebrities, given to us by Jason Giles, only have a little.
  4. As of July 3, there are a lot of tomatoes on window sills and more ripening on the vine. Weekly spraying of Daconil and Bifenthrin has paid off. Should have started the fungicide when plants were much younger. The tomatoes have a great sweet flavor that is perhaps due to the Epsom Salt sprays.
  5. Romas produced some fruit and some of it was miss-shaped. They also had more Late Blight attacks than others and in general, we were not pleased. Doubtful we will replant.
  6. The BetterBoys had some Late Blight damage but not enough to hurt them. They set a lot of fruit and have dense foliage to prevent sun-scald. There was also the meat-to-juice ratio was also good. TomatoDirt.com says they are resistant to: V (Verticillium Wilt), F (Fusarium Wilt), N (Nematodes); some seed companies who offer Better Boy Tomato seeds say they are also resistant to A (Alternaria) and St (Stemphylium – Gray Leaf Spot). Should consider planting them again.
  7. The six store-bought Amelias had some fruit but also had late blight damage. This is the second year they did not produce well for us.
  8. The two Roma varieties had a lot of late blight damage and produced poorly. Will not plant Romas again as they produced about the same number of fruit and were smaller. They also did not have more meat/juice than the Better Boys.

Tomatillos

Her tomatillo seedlings grew well even though they were not planted deep. But, the fruit keeps blowing off or getting bugs. The plants are very leggy and many blooms that do not turn into fruit. Tied them up like tomatoes but they have such stiff limbs some broke and the string strangled the trunk in a few cases. We did not get but 2-3 dozen tomatillos. Not worth planting again.

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