By Brent Gray
Viral disease symptoms are showing up on vegetables now. Cucurbits like squash and cucumber develop patchy light and dark green areas in the leaves. Certain virus symptoms will cause the leaves to be distorted in shape. Yellow squash fruit may develop dark green skin. All of these symptoms describe the visible effects.
The virus will not kill the plant and it will not harm you if you eat it. But the plants do not grow well and do not produce very much. The best thing to do is remove the plant from the garden and destroy it. The virus does not live in soil so you don’t have to worry about carryover.
Watch your plants for signs of water stress. The very wet conditions in June prevented plants from establishing a deep root system. July has been drier. The large plants with shallow roots will remove all the water from the top few inches of the soil in a few days. Always remember wilted tomato plants produce fruit with blossom end rot.
Eggplants are producing now that the sunlight is hitting the leaves and the temperatures have risen. Remove the fruit before the skin dulls for best quality. A pair of secateurs removes the fruit with the least injury to the plant. Using clippers doesn’t pull the roots free of the soil the way using a dull knife can. There are more ways to eat eggplant than fried and Parmesan. Look for recipes for ratatouille, baba ganoush, and stuffed eggplant.
The peak of summer is a maximum growth time for plants, so their water demands are high. Keep flower and vegetable gardens watered if it doesn’t rain for five or six days. Water early in the morning for best results. If you have perennials or other plants that are newly established be particularly watchful to make sure these are getting the water they need.
Dig up and divide crowded German or bearded iris now. Cut off two to four-inch pieces of rhizomes with foliage. Trim the leaves back to six or seven inches in an inverted V shape, and replant the rhizomes with their top half above the soil surface and about a foot apart. Water well after planting.
Fall Blooming Annuals
Sow seeds of zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, cleome, and cosmos for a blast of color that will last up to frost. All of these will flower within eight-10 weeks of sowing. Refer to publication 2449, “Grow Your Business With Flower Garden ‘Signs’” for more information and choices of annuals to sow.
For blooms all summer and neater plants, remove flower stalks as soon as the flower fade. A new stalk should grow below the old one. Also check the top leaves for signs of leaf roller larvae. Infested leaves will be twisted and rolled together. Contact insecticides won’t reach larvae protected by the leaves. You will need to hand pick and destroy these. There is a foliar spray that will penetrate into the plant and offer protection. Look for pesticides with the active ingredient, acephate. One brand name product to look for is Ortho Systemic Insect Killer.