Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pruning and Pests in your Garden

Hopefully your garden is starting to get "big" in size. It's time for you to check for pests and begin to prune the plants back.

Pests - It's during this time that baby squash bugs are hatched. How can you tell if you have baby squash bugs? Look for eggs. Eggs are usually found under leaves and at the base of stalks. If you see eggs then you have babies you'll just have to find them. Baby squash bugs only come out in the cool of the morning or the cool of the evening. They are never found in the heat of the day. When adult squash bugs are laying eggs they like to hide below the base of the plant on the ground or in the loose dirt around the roots. Usually the colony can't be seen unless you have an infestation. Great isn't it. Plants of choices are mainly zucchini and squash but they also like tomatoes. Below are pictures.

Pruning - As your plants get bigger the bottom leaves will start to hit the ground. It's not good to have leaves of your plants on the ground. Most plants do not do well when watered top down so it make sense that if the leaves are left on the wet ground it will affect the plant to. Most plants prefer water at their roots only. How to know when to prune a leaf. 1- if it's touching the ground prune it. Water can cause rot or disease. I usually cut back somewhere on the stalk if possible. 2- if the leaf is starting to change colors cut it. You should only leave healthy leaves on a plant. Anything less makes the plant susceptible to disease.

Pruning tomatoes - Tomatoes usually produce stems in a Y shape. 1 part goes up, a new growth comes out in the middle of the Y and the 2nd part of the Y is the leaf stem. So the Y turns into a W when the inner new growth comes up. I prune the leaf part of the stem or 2nd part of the Y in my example. Tomatoes need to breathe (air to flow through out the plant) and sun needs to hit the ground around the plant to fight off disease. Pruning the leaf stem does not reduce the fruit production and provides room for air and sun. If you prune off the new growth you can potentially lose tomato production.

Pruning squash and zucchini - I have a previous post regarding this that includes pictures but I'll recap here. Squash and zucchini grow out from 1 root. New growth comes from the front of the plant away from the root. Prune the old leaves at the root pushing the plant forward. Also prune leaves on ground and those that are turning colors. Pruning will make these plants produce until you are sick of them. Picture 1 - Squash bug eggs on a stem
Picture 2 - Squash bug eggs on bottom of a leaf
Picture 3 & 4 - Baby squash bug
Picture 5 - Colony of baby squash bugs. Infestation is beginning

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Spinach and Strawberrys

Since it's strawberry season AND we are growing lettuce and spinach in our garden I thought I'd post a recipe but before I do a quick word on how to harvest your lettuce/spinach.

To harvest lettuce and spinach pick the leaves from the outside. As lettuce/spinach grows the new leaves come up from the middle pushing the older bigger leaves to the outside. Make sure to wash the lettuce then let it sit in water for 5 minutes-that kills any lurking bugs that like to hang out on the lettuce. A row of lettuce picked correctly usaully lasts me about 2-3 weeks of eating. Make sure to NOT cut the lettuce/spinach back to the ground, doing that cuts the new leaves making it longer before you get more leaves. To have lettuce all summer long try planting new rows every 2-3 weeks. As the summer gets hotter you'll need to plant lettuce under another plant to keep it cooler. I just planted some new rows under my tomato plants so they will give my lettuce/spinach shade.

Spinach & Strawberry Salad
1 lb spinach, washed, trimmed, torn into bite size pieces
2¼ C fresh strawberries, stemmed & sliced
⅔ C sliced pecans
2 T unsalted butter

For the salad melt butter in a small skillet and sauté pecans until lightly browned and toasted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. In a large bowl combine spinach and strawberries.

2 T lightly toasted sesame seeds
1 T poppy seeds
½ C sugar
2 t minced red onion
¼ t paprika
¼ C cider vinegar
¼ C white vinegar
½ C vegetable oil

For the dressing, toast the sesame seeds by shaking them over medium heat in a dry skillet until lightly browned. In a “dressing” jar combine the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, onion, paprika, vinegars, and oil. Shake well.

To serve, place 1½ C of spinach-strawberry salad on each plate and sprinkle with a T of pecans. Spoon the dressing over top and serve immediately.

Yield: 10 Servings
Nutritional Information
Calories: 210 Total Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 5mg Sodium: 109mg Total Carbs: 36g Protein: 5g