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The easy way to beat plant diseases in your veggie garden

It’s time to order your garden seeds for the upcoming season, if you have not already done so. When ordering seed, one of my major considerations is the disease resistance of particular varieties. At a recent book talk, one audience member was surprised when I admitted that I do not buy my seeds from the local nursery’s seed rack: why would I bother to mail-order them, he wondered, when the local nursery has seeds? Selection, selection, selection… I would prefer to choose from 20 varieties of cucumbers rather than one, 500 varieties of tomatoes rather than five, and so on. And it’s not just my taste buds, but disease resistance, that drives my purchasing decisions. Here’s an illustration. Powdery mildew or downy mildew can be a problem for some gardeners. It can greatly reduce the productivity, if not essentially kill, certain veggie plants. Good soil management, aeration, and water control can help alleviate mildew in your garden, but may not eliminate it. The climate in my area offers plenty of moist, summertime fog (we call it liquid sunshine). Squash get hit the worst here, followed by other members of their curcurbit family, and sometime peas and even leafy vegetables will get the powdery white patches on their leaves. You can try any and every legal means of alleviating this, but the easiest way to eliminate powdery mildew and similar plagues is to plant resistant varieties. The good news is that more and more resistant varieties are available every year. Take winter squash, for example. Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire have been leaders in developing mildew-resistant varieties, and more and more of these are appearing in seed catalogs and on seed companies’ websites. Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine has worked particularly hard to develop and promote mildew-resistant squash. Whether it’s squash, or peas, or lettuce, or something else in your garden that is succumbing, try visiting some seed companies’ websites. I recommend Johnny’s, Territorial Seed Company, and Park Seed as three which have worked hard to add some mildew-resistant varieties. Johnny’s has lots of resistant squash, Territorial has a great selection of mildew-resistant peas (many via nearby Oregon State University), and Park Seed always offers seeds for plants that can handle the warmth and humidity of southern gardens. Each of these websites has a search box (as do most other seed companies’ sites), and you can just type in “mildew” or “fusarium” or whatever ails you, and then see what comes up. These diseases can be a real plague and we are fortunate to have a way out. No, the resistant varieties are not likely to be heirlooms, but they are not GMO and often they are available as certified organic seed. Planting hybrid seed is not a crime against nature; it simply means you should not save your own seed for the next generation, because it may not grow plants with the same characteristics next year. Growing hybrids means you need to keep buying seed every year, but when you compare this few dollars with the cost of buying all the food that you should be growing, you’ll see that it makes sense. You don’t need to be an heirloom hero, though for veggies that you have no disease troubles with, saving your own seeds is wonderful and I recommend it. I hope that some of you who have suffered from plant diseases finally can grow a decent vegetable garden and get yields that you have only dreamed of before. Happy growing!


Furniture from Mycelium

The house is filled with the earthy smell of mushrooms cooking. It’s not a welcome-to-winter soup simmering or a ragout thickening; I’m baking a little mushroom footstool in the oven. That’s not all that’s baking in that house, you may be thinking… Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/article/Philip-Ross-crafts-furniture-from-mycelium-4116989.php#page-1 Read More..

Roasted Squash Soup (Recipe)

Roasted Squash Soup This recipe makes some delicious squash soup, which is a healthy way to keep yourself warm as the evenings turn cool. If you like a creamy, herby, or spicy soup, there are some flavor variations included below. I recommend using a sweet, dense-fleshed winter squash such as butternut, buttercup, or kabocha. Alternatively, […] Read More..

Grameen is installing 1000 solar home systems a day…in rural Bangladesh!

In one of the poorest countries on the planet a renewable energy service company is installing one thousand solar home systems – a day. Not in its capital or busy urban centers, but where 80 percent of the population lives – in rural Bangladesh. The company, Grameen Shakti, literally translates as rural energy. By the […] Read More..

Long Orange Firecrackers

In our home garden, we just picked carrots this week. From one raised bed, my kids unearthed an armload of long orange firecrackers. Picking carrots, potatoes, and root/tuber vegetables is such a satisfying harvest. There is something special about bringing up buried treasure: you’re never quite sure what is hidden until you pull it out […] Read More..

Some Sick Chickens and Eggs in Your Food Supply

The U.S. government is attempting to cut the jobs of 1,000 poultry inspectors to save $85 million per year. The new plan is to have the poultry industry “self inspect” themselves (after all, the same concept worked well with Wall Street, right?). One poultry industry inspector will now be responsible for “inspecting” the dizzying number […] Read More..