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Staking Fall-Bearing Blackberries


“I purchased some fall bearing blackberries.  How do we stake these up?  There are about three blackberries on the plant, but I feel we are going to have frost before they ripen. But, my question is how do we stake or tie these up?

Mary Weiner”

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Hi Mary,

Thank you for the email regarding your blackberries.  I’m glad to hear that they are doing well.

Fall Blackberries

Various trellis or support systems can be used with blackberries, but staking is simpler. Also known as the hill system, staking blackberries requires first planting bare root berries about four feet apart in a row.

1.  Drive in a metal T-post about 6 inches from each plant so that posts also stand 4 feet apart in the row.

2.  Run one strand of wire tightly between all posts in the row–attaching to each post–at a height of about 4 1/2 feet above the ground.

3.  Spread fruiting branches out along the wire. Twine these branches around the wire and attach them loosely with plastic plant ties.

4.  Tie later new canes, as they emerge, to the post, establishing the center of the berry hill. Continue to prune and train canes to the wire support and post as plants get established.

5.  Cut back and remove all floricanes–fruit-producing or second-year canes–after harvest, when they die back.

6.  Thin the remaining canes early in the following spring, leaving just 5 to 7 of the sturdiest canes per hill. Cut side branches of the canes back to 12 buds and then tie canes to the post or wire.

7.  Pinch off the growing tips of new canes when they reach the wire, to encourage side branches, or laterals, that will bear fruit the following year.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

 

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Time to Plant Your Garlic!


“Dear Mertie Mae,

What do I need to know about growing garlic?   Just the basics.

Thank you,

George”

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Hi George,

Thank you for your question regarding growing garlic.  Here are a few basic points to keep in mind:

1.  Where to buy
The first thing you need to figure out is if you want to buy organic or conventional grown and heirloom or non-heirloom types.  Some places sell great garlic and others not so much.  I personally recommend Seed Saver Exchange (get your order in when you buy your garden seeds!!! They sell out insanely fast!), and Territorial. Additionally, Botanical Interests (they have garlic assortments that give you a bulb of a few different varieties), Burpees, Dominion Seed House, Harris Seed, Jung Seed (order early or you will have a slightly mushy bulb based on my experiences), and Cook’s Gardens all receive high ratings on websites like the National Garden Bureau and such, but I’ve found that their quality and selection aren’t as good as SSE and Territorial.  There are many other places that offer garlic too, but as I haven’t tried them, I can’t say for sure if they are worth spending your time with.  If you are in the north, plant hard neck varieties (require winter chilling). If you are in the south, grow soft neck varieties.

2.  When to plant
Most experts say that in areas that get a hard frost before winter, it is recommended that you plant your garlic 6-8 weeks before that frost. While this may work in places other than Wisconsin, I have found that planting my garlic that early makes it not so hardy come winter.  I usually plant mine here in West Central Wisconsin (and in Central or Southern WI when I lived there back when) between October 1-14.  This allows the cloves to get established, but not spend a ton of energy growing.  They need that energy to get through winter!  And it works — even the old timers around use the rule of thumb to plant on Columbus Day (October 12).  If you are in a southern area with no winter, February or March is a better time to plant.

Garlic prefers well-drained soil in a sunny spot with lots of organic matter. It’s a rather narrow plant, so I like to plant it in double rows that are about 6-8 inches apart and then alternate (zig-zag) the plants down the rows to give them a little more space.  Plant the cloves 6-8 inches apart (12 inches if growing Elephant Garlic).  Garlic should be planted 3 inches deep.  Fertilize as you would onions.

3.  To scape or not?

Garlic Scapes
Trimming the tops of hardneck garlic (garlic scapes) is often recommended… but I don’t do it.  I’ve found that it never fails that if you trim them, there will be a rainstorm or heavy dew and the tops will get weird or you will get disease.  Also, letting them mature gives you small bulb-like cloves that you can put into the ground at harvest time and grow for next year’s crop (which I suspect is why the seed companies say cut them off — less profit for them if you let them grow!)

As long as you are properly tending your garlic with water and fertilizer, the bulbs will grow just as big.  If you decide to cut them off, they are edible.

4.  When to harvest
Harvest time depends on when you plant, but the key is to look for the garlic leaves to turn brown. Unlike onions or shallots, they don’t just fall over.  In Northern climates, harvesting will probably be in July or August, depending on the variety. In Southern climates, it will depend on your planting date. Either way, stop watering so the outside skin can dry out a bit and harvest within one week of matuity.  Waiting too long will allow the outer skins to disintegrate.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!

 

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Growing Jalapenos Indoors


“I’m wanting to grow my own jalapenos. I was curious about indoor growing in a large pot. Would jalapeno plants thrive as an indoor plant, assuming a good, sunny window?

Michael”

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Hi Michael,

Thank you for your email regarding growing jalapenos indoors.  To be honest, given the conditions that you are planning to grow them under (in a sunny window), I would not recommend it.

First of all, I don’t want to say that it won’t work.  It’s just that you will have some problems in terms of light and you will probably not have a great crop of peppers.  The reason why I am hesitant to recommend this method is because of the composition of window glass that is found in most homes.  Glass that is found in greenhouses is very basic and allows for all solar rays other than UV to go through.  However, windows used for homes have glass that is a little bit more high tech and blocks more than just UV rays.  Because these other types of rays are blocked, the plants in your
home sitting by the window do not get a full spectrum of light.  For some, like a pathos or a philodendron, that is fine because they are used to filtered light in their native outdoor environments.  But for peppers, that’s not good because they are accustomed to having full, direct sunshine.

Jalapeno
What you would see happen is that your stems would become elongated between the nodes where the leaves and branches come out.  Also, the color would be lighter than normal.  Not having the optimal conditions would eventually reduce the amount of buds set and/or the amount of fruits set.

I admit, I have brought bell and habanero type peppers into my home that were grown outside before frost and were brought in to finish things up. They did okay, but only because it was for a couple of weeks.

I don’t want to discourage you from growing peppers inside, but I want to make sure that you are aware of what they need so that you are not disappointed.  What I would recommend doing is growing them under a grow lamp.  Unlike the rays allowed through the window into your home, a grow lamp will provide the full spectrum of light that will be needed for the plants to have normal growth rates.  It can be the same type that you use to start seedlings in spring, but just make sure that there is enough room under it to allow the jalapeno plants to grow to their full height.  Keep
the grow lights about 1-3 inches above the tops of the plants as they grow so the light is not too diffuse.  You can leave the lights on for 18 hours a day.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

 

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thwarting Tomato Blossom End Rot


“For years I have bought Viva Italia seed to raise. The last two summers have been hit with blossom rot in all plants late in season.  What information do you offer that can prevent this plants or otherwise??

Thank you,

Clarus

Zone 5

In The Russet Potato Capital Of Idaho”

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Hi Clarus,

Thank you for your question regarding Blossom End Rot on Tomatoes.

Blossom End Rot on Paste Tomato

Blossom End Rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil in relation to uneven moisture levels or excessive fertilizing.  Calcium is required in relatively large concentrations for normal cell growth and development.  It is moved from the soil through the roots to the meristem (tips of the plant where active growth occurs) via differentiation in water potential and pressure in the xylem of the plant.  When there is not a steady flow of water to the plant, the areas of the plant that growing will have a deficiency.  If the active growth point is a fruit, it will show up at the tip (end) of it.  What is actually happening to the tomato is that the cell walls are weakened by not having enough calcium.  The cell ruptures and discolors as it dries out.

Overfertilizing with nitrogen can also cause problems.  Extra nitrogen increases the speed at which the fruit grows and its size.  Calcium uptake by the plant remains steady in relationship to what would be the normal rate of growth.  Essentially, this means that the calcium uptake is almost ‘lagging’ because everything else is accelerated.  As a result, the fruit lacks calcium. Once the problem develops, quick fixes are difficult. Stabilize the moisture level as much as possible.  Remove the fruits that have been damaged. Feeding with manure or compost tea is recommended by many if this occurs in a garden plot.  You can also do foliar applications of calcium, but I’ve read that the results are not always the best because Calcium is a rather bulky element (larger than Nitrogen and others that are normally used in foliar feeding) and not easily absorbed through the leaf tissue.

In my own garden, I have found the best success with using an application of Epsom salts.  These can be found at your local pharmacy — usually in either the laxative/digestive health area or with things like bath salts/bubble bath. You want to get the plain, unscented type and make sure that it is not mixed with other additives like sea salt.  I use an old scoop from Lipton’s Ice Tea  (about a 1/4 cup measure) and give each plant a heaped scoop – sprinkling it in a circle around the base of the plant and with about an inch or two between the stem and the ring..  Repeat again in about two weeks for sandy soils, four for clay soils.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Open Pollinated Disease Resistant Tomatoes


“Hello,
I am a backyard gardener in eastern nj. I am looking for the most disease
resistant tomato that is open pollinated. Any type but cherry. Thanks for
your help,

Ray Carter”

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Hi Ray,

Thank you for your email regarding open pollinated tomatoes varieties with
disease resistance.  Unfortunately, there are not a ton of varieties because
there is not the hybridization involved to introduce resistance.  What
resistance there is comes from the selections made for domestication by
those that started saving seeds many years ago.

However, there are a few that do stand out:
–Manalucie FSt:  This one is more for down south or hot summers, but I’ve
had good success with it here in Wisconsin (with the exception of 2009, when
we had a very cool summer!).  The fruits get big (about 12-16 ounces), but
are nice and smooth.  It has decent resistance to Blossom End Rot, Gray Leaf
Mold, Early Blight and Fusarium Wilt.  It is an indeterminate variety.

Manalucie
–Campbell’s 33VFA:  This is a tomato that is about half the size of the
Manalucie, but makes up for it with the amount of fruit set.  It has okay
resistance to Verticilium, Fusarium Wilt, and Alternaria.  It is a
determinate variety.

Campbell's 33
–Heinz 1370 FASt: This one makes a nice sauce or soup and is about in the
4-7 ounce range.  It has decent resistance to cracking, Fusarium Wilt,
Alternaria, and Gray Leaf Mold.  It is a determinate variety.

Heinz 1370
–Marglobe Select VFA:  This one is a popular seller for us.  It has
resistance to Verticilium and Fusarium Wit and Alternaria.  It is a
determinate variety.

Marglobe Select
–Rutgers Select VFASt and Rutgers PS VFASt:  These two varieties are very
similar but have great resistance to Verticilium and Fusarium Wilt, Grey
Leaf Mold, and ALternaria.  They have really good flavor and are meaty.
Rutgers Select is an indeterminate and Rutgers PS is determinate.

Rutgers PS Rutgers Select

There are other varieties like Marion FASt, Marmande VFA, New
Yorker VA, Sunray VFF, Hard Rock VFN, and Roma VFA that do have some
moderate disease resistance.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions,
please feel free to ask.

Mulching Blackberries


“Do blackberry brambles need to be mulched for the winter? Mine
are varieties that are “hardy” but I wonder if mulching the the plants canes
and all would be helpful.

Steve in Jenera, OH”

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Hi Steve,

Thank you for the email regarding your blackberries.  It is okay to mulch blackberries, but it is not necessary.  To be honest, in my garden at home, I do not mulch the canes.  If some leaves blow in and get caught in them, I usually leave them there, but I don’t add anything beyond it.  I have a good crop of berries each year.

Blackberry Canes
One thing to keep in mind if you do add mulch is that the mulch may provide a nice overwintering hideout for mice, voles, and other vermin that may see your canes as dinner.  When blackberries (or for that matter, any woody plant) is mulched, there is a higher risk that animals may chew on the canes and/or girdle the canes.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

Longevity of Ripe Red Peppers


“Hi Mertie,

I was wondering if you could help me out with a pepper question that we had happen last fall. I like to let my peppers stay on the vine until they are red, but find that they rot in no time at all ones they are picked. For example, if on Saturday I picked 4 peppers that had just finished turning red, they were mush by Monday night. The green peppers I picked on Friday are still nice. What gives? We have had some wet weather, but the plants did not have any diseases and the fruit was not laying on the ground.

Thank you,
Barb in Powersville, MO”

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Hi Barb,

Thanks for your question regarding peppers.

Red Peppers

Your experience with your peppers last fall is a great example of the damage that can be done to a fruit by the presence of ethylene gas.

As a fruit ripens, the process is aided along by the naturally-occuring plant hormone ethylene.  This hormone is released by the plant to soften the fruit tissue, convert various compounds in the fruit from acids to sugars, and degrades the chlorophyll that makes the fruit green so that the other pigments that were always in the fruit (but had chlorophyll blocking them out) are able to be seen.  Once the process has completed, you are left with fruit tissue that is somewhat softer and much sweeter.  This is a FEAST for bacteria and mold, and, as you experienced, your pepper fruit does not last too long after that.

While this process occurs in all fruits, some are able to deal with it better.  For example, apples have a tough skin on them and acids that remain in the flesh of the fruit once it has ripened.  Squashes and pumpkins have a hard rind.  Citrus have a thick skin studded with oil pores that contain essential oils full of d-limonene, which is substantial anitmicrobial properties.

Unfortunately, fruits like peppers don’t have much to protect them.The high sugar and water content of the fruit sets it up for disaster.  Also, green peppers contain 1-2% more oxygen in their air cavity than red peppers.  Although that doesn’t seem like much, it is just enough to prevent the anaerobic respiration that is preferred by bacteria.

So, unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that red peppers usually go soft in the fridge after about 2 days, while green peppers go soft in a week or two in the fridge.  I find that if you want to have red peppers to use in the kitchen, it is best to freeze them or eat them raw in a very short amount of time.

Sorry I don’t have a better answer.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.