Monday, May 14, 2012

Leaf Spot on Strawberries- A month of treatment

In my previous post "Strawberries and Leaf Spot", dated April 14, 2012 I talked about how the disease Leaf Spot was over running my strawberry patch. I talked about how when I first uncovered the strawberries early in spring from their winter protection, they looked wonderful. Then a month later it was obvious that they had some sort of disease, and how through research on the Internet, I identified that disease as Leaf Spot. It started at one end of my patch, and worked it's way across my patch until the entire patch was showing severe infection. Below is what it looks like.

April 14th

Not Good
I immediately implemented a regiment of treating the entire patch with the chemical fungicide Capton. It is a wettable powder that I mixed with water and applied with my hand pump sprayer. I applied this every 5-7 days as the weather allowed. Some things to note about application;
  • Do not apply if rain is forecast within 24 hours. It works best when full or part sunshine is forecast
  • The most important thing to remember about application is that the disease comes from the ground, the garden dirt. As it rains the dirt is splashed up onto the plants and the fungus is in the dirt. Therefore it is essential to make sure you thourghly spray the underside of the  plants as well as the tops. I spend more of my time spraying the underside of the plants than I do spraying the tops. Spraying the tops is easy, getting the underside takes a lot more care and time.
 This treatment will not make the infected leaves and stems revert back to normal, but it will protect the new growth, and keep that from becoming infected. The old infected parts of the plant will eventually dry up and wilt away leaving you with plants without the disease.

So after a month of treatment, i.e. 6 applications, this is the result;

Finally the Leaf Spot is under control, note all the wonderful new green growth with no symptoms of disease. The brown almost dead plants in the lower middle of the picture is frost/freeze damage. This is what happens if the  cold sneaks under your frost blanket

All new growth, disease free

Capton works

This is the end that the Leaf Spot infected last, it moved from the opposite end down into this end. These plants are still recovering

 So lessons learned;

  • Start a fungicide regiment as soon as your strawberry plants are uncovered in the spring and continue until they go dormant in the fall
  • Do this even if there is no sign of disease. Less frequently if no sign of disease, more frequently if there is symptoms
So I am learning, that is the important part, as well as half the fun of gardening. My strawberries are now thriving again. And when you do not lose crops while learning, well that is even better.

This is a new post...
To follow up, spring of 2012 I had a major infestation of Mycosphaerella fragariae otherwise known as Strawberry "Leaf Spot". Don't know why. What I can tell you is that Capton solved it. After two applications, my plants looked 100% better. After four, leaf spot was gone. Replaced by new wonderful looking growth. Without leaf spot.

Now this year, I experienced NO leaf spot in my strawberry patch. Don't know why. What I can tell you is I did not cover my strawberries last winter. The winter before I did what they recommend, I covered my entire patch, late fall with four inches of straw for winter protection. This past winter I did not do that, I was simply too tired at the end of last year. I hoped I would not lose my entire patch because of laziness. 

I found that the plants stayed green all the way through the worst of the winter. Through the cold,   wind and under snow. Early January they began to turn brown. By early February  all the leaves were brown. I thought the worst. I thought I lost my patch. But by March, they began to produce new growth, new bright green leaves. I was elated. By the middle of April, my patch was back, lush green and strong. I looked closely, I looked with determination, and I could find no indication of leaf spot. 

So I sprayed the entire patch with Captan anyway, except for one row. A week later I sprayed it again, except that last row. Again all I can tell you is this year, I have had no indication of, nor been bothered by Mycosphaerella fragariae otherwise known as leaf spot. Including the last row.

I don't know why, but I don't think I will cover my strawberry patch this coming winter.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hardening off Seedlings Update- Hard Freeze decimates my warm weather plants

In my previous post labeled "Hardening Off Seedlings" dated April 17, 2012 I stated that I had a cold frame that I could store my seedlings for weeks if need be. Here is the picture of it;

The caption that accompanied this picture in that post was "I can keep then here for weeks if need be. I simply raise or lower the lid as needed." And that was true enough. What I didn't realize and what took a difficult learning experience to teach me was; just like with my frost blankets, frost and freeze if severe enough will damage plants if the plants are touching the underside of their protection. So in other words, for hard frost and freeze protection plants need to have an air buffer between them and the underside of whatever if protecting them from the cold, whether it's a frost blanket that needs to be held up above the plants to allow for the air buffer, or the lid of my cold frame, that needs to allow for an air space between the underside of the lid and the plants. As you can see in this picture especially if you enlarge it, the tomato and pepper plants in the middle back and right back respectively are darn near high enough to be up against the underside of the lid when the lid is closed.

A week after the picture above was taken we got a hard freeze. The tomato pepper plants were taller by then and were definitely up against the underside of the cold frame when I closed the lid that night. The outcome was not pretty;

All my hard work down the drain. Those tomato plants now all brown were 8 weeks old. The pepper plants to the right were 10 weeks old, the cucumbers in the front right were only 2 weeks old, and the melons in the front middle were about 3 weeks old

I believe that the tomatoes and peppers got hit because they were touching the underside of the lid, which is just 4 mil plastic, but who knows. The cold frame is not air tight, there a gaps between the boards, and considering that the cucumbers and melons got hit as well and they were no where near the underside of the lid indicates that the cold simply got into the cold frame in general. However it did, the result sucked.

 I lost almost all the cucumbers, most of the melons. The tomatoes all turned brown yet the thick stem of each tomato plant continued to look like it was alive, the peppers all lost the top most leaves yet still looked like they would survive.

So the lesson to be learned is this;

My pole barn is near my garden, near my cold frame. The barn has electricity, so I figured out how to run a long extension cord from the barn into the cold frame. In the cold frame I attached a series of three work lights to the extension cord, each one plugged into the other, each one equipped with a 100 watt incandescent light bulb. Now granted the threat of a hard freeze is over for the year, and the lesson I learned was costly as far as I am concerned. Allot of effort on my part to grow those now dead plants went down the drain. But I do believe that I know what to do next year to keep this from happening again. The three 100 watt lights will give off just enough heat to keep the inside of the cold frame from getting to the freezing point.

I ended up replanting the cucumbers and melons in my grow room, they are now only two weeks behind schedule, that is no big deal.

The peppers lived and were actually planted this weekend. Here is what they look like two weeks after nearly getting killed by frost;

I am lucky I did not lose my peppers. I would have been hard pressed to replace my peppers, I have ones that you can't by at the local nursery.

After the first rain we got last night

The tomato species that I had planted this year on the other hand are available at local nurseries. So as much as it goes against my grain, instead of starting over with seed, and being 8 weeks behind schedule, I opted to purchase tomato plants. I got the same kinds that I had lost, it's just that I did not grow them.

I have pictures of them, but first it is interesting to note that the tomato plants that got hit by the freeze are trying to make a come back. Look closely at the expanded versions of the pictures below and you will notice the new growth. So given time I think that these would have come back and survived, yet I was not willing to wait.

Note the new growth

This is two weeks after the freeze. So they did not die, and they might still produce viable tomato plants. I am not willing to wait to find out

Here are the purchased tomato plants, they also went in this weekend;

This is what my plants should have looked like. It just kills me to use purchased plants

And so the 2012 season progresses. So far as usual my learning has come at a high price. Yet that is the way it goes, nothing is free, nothing worth while comes easy.