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How does the garden grow?

How does the garden grow?
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  • How does the garden grow?

    Post #1 - August 12th, 2005, 4:43 pm
    Post #1 - August 12th, 2005, 4:43 pm Post #1 - August 12th, 2005, 4:43 pm
    Lots of tomatoes starting to ripen and they are delish so far. Seems later than last year though.
    Looks to be a good year for habaneros and chinese hot peppers. They like the hot weather.
    Beans are good, but only one plant out of 10 survived past germination.
    The drought has killed most of the pea plants.

    The question is, why no green peppers? The plants started off real slow this spring, are less than 2-ft tall right now, with minimal fowers. What fruit there is, is about the size of a pea. No way they'll be done by September.
  • Post #2 - August 12th, 2005, 7:03 pm
    Post #2 - August 12th, 2005, 7:03 pm Post #2 - August 12th, 2005, 7:03 pm
    Planting was stupidity this year -- too little, too expensive, and not enough time to take care of them:
    * Tomatoes: three out of five plants died, leaving me one beefsteaky (not quite ripe) and one large cherry/small roma (a few very tasty fruits so far)
    * Peppers: I forgot what I ordered from The Chile Woman, but I have one plant of very hot long finger peppers (something in the Thai Bird family), two of something Jalapeno sized but yellower and waxy (very tasty), and two bells, that I won't eat until they start changing color unless I'm desperate
    * Tomatillos: Along with what I planted this year, the volunteers are giving me another bumper crop. I've got to show up to an outing with some of my famous salsa soon
    * Other stuff: Mustard volunteered -- I don't harvest the seeds, and only eat the tender young leaves. I had my fill in the spring, now it's just another messy plant. Bean seeds didn't germinate well, I haven't seen any pods yet (it's gotten overgrown with weeds too). An old packet of Cilantro never germinated at all. I've got other herbs I snip from (beware oregano -- it spreads everywhere). Earlier I had a good crop of asparagus, but with my remodeling project coming up, I'll probably lose them all. The dry weather has been bad for raspberries.
  • Post #3 - August 12th, 2005, 7:29 pm
    Post #3 - August 12th, 2005, 7:29 pm Post #3 - August 12th, 2005, 7:29 pm
    Tomatoes, eggplant and multi varieties of hot peppers all doing well. Bell peppers are slowly coming along, but yeilding fruit. The forst of the green bell peppers should be completely red by tomorrow or Sunday.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - August 13th, 2005, 12:54 pm
    Post #4 - August 13th, 2005, 12:54 pm Post #4 - August 13th, 2005, 12:54 pm
    While it is difficult to remember now, spring was abnormally cold around Chicago. Peppers, eggplant, okra, basil and tomatoes don't like temperatures below 50 degrees and really hate temperatures below 40. Planting after the normal frost-safe date (May 10 to 20 depending on portion of the metropolitan area) but before the soil and air temperatures are warm enough will set the plants back big time, maybe enough to leave them stunted all season. Over-age plants in packs will also be stunted. Another issue with peppers that produce large fruits is that the first one to three blossoms should be pinched off if you want to go for yield. Allowing early fruit set strains the plant and sets it back, so that one or two early peppers may cost a dozen later on. Comparing planting dates of people with good crops versus those with poor growth could be interesting.

    I planted tender plants much later than usual (early June). I raise all my own vegetables from seed. I have a setup with lights and a sand bed with heating cable for doing the early growing. The lights are on chains to permit height adjustment. This setup was used a lot later than usual for days when the plants shouldn't go outside due to low temperatures. The plants were moved to larger pots as needed to prevent stunting. A fair number were in 4-inch pots before going into planter boxes or the ground.

    No bell peppers this year but the Sweet Banana Whoppers have been producing madly. They really took off once the weather warmed up. We had to cut a fair number when they were only 4 to 6 inches long to reduce the weight load on the plants.

    The problems with squirrels and tomatoes have been documented elsewhere.
  • Post #5 - August 13th, 2005, 2:31 pm
    Post #5 - August 13th, 2005, 2:31 pm Post #5 - August 13th, 2005, 2:31 pm
    I planted everything on 5/20 at 6:00 A.M. as I was making a dash for the airport. You are correct. It was a very cold spring and I wanted to plant as late as possible. If I had waited until I got back to town, it would have been well into June and I felt that would have been just too late. My garden is doing exceptionally well this year (except for the bell peppers).
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #6 - August 13th, 2005, 4:27 pm
    Post #6 - August 13th, 2005, 4:27 pm Post #6 - August 13th, 2005, 4:27 pm
    Especially since this year is the first for us that we've had a garden in Chicago, I've appreciated tremendously the opportunity to get advice from a number of you more experienced green-thumbs here. Having learned some things through (bitter) experience, others through the experiences of generous LTHers, I do feel like I'll be able next year to do a better job in some regards but, of course, the wild cards that Mother Nature pulls from up her sleeve will surely continue to make the gardening experience as challenging and sometimes frustrating as it is satisfying and rewarding.

    For us this year, we have had considerable success with almost all of our plantings. Specifically:

    tomatoes: blossom end rot affected especially the plum tomatoes and the squirrels have cut further into the crop, but I think it was good that we planted lots of individual plants of several different varieties. Though much has been lost, we still have had a steady, if limited, flow of good ripe tomatoes from garden to kitchen.

    eggplants: great success with a couple of varieties.

    zucchini: staggered planting has paid off in that the first couple of potted plants, which flourished early on and produced mightily, have since been completely killed off by bugs (also, there was some kind of crusty yellow rot on the roots; also bugs or something else?); other plants which were in the soil at widely separated spots in the garden have all come into their own in staggered fashion, in part according to the changing measures of sun available in those different spots. Production is now starting to wind down, as the wee-evils (I think) have attacked all but the smallest of the remaining plants.

    peppers: one bell pepper plant has done well and provided a limited but hardly meagre number of tasty fruits. Our Hungarian peppers, jalapeños and serranos have all thriven. Early brown rot on some of the jalapeños stopped quickly and only a handful of peppers were affected.

    celery, fennel: these have both done well within the limitations of their potting.

    various herbs: basil has grown in massive profusion; considerable success has also been had with parsley, rosemary, tarragon, lavander, thyme, sage (two varieties), marjoram, oregano, chives and garlic chives. Only two have disappointed: dill and cilantro. I suspect these -- and especially the cilantro -- should have been given much less water, for they seemed to grow too quickly and go to seed without producing many good leaves (and this in obscene contrast to the thriving but totally uncared for wild cilantro that grew in the yard of our currently empty neighbour's house).

    One thing I've found interesting is that my zucchini, when fried in the normal way, don't brown as well as store bought ones always do; but they also don't absorb much oil. On the other hand, my large eggplants (which aren't really that large but larger than the tiny ones we're also growing), fry up more quickly and with markedly less oil absorption than is the usual case with store bought fruits. Has anyone else had any such surprises?

    Since one central goal for me this year was to produce all the -- from a European perspective -- exotica that is needed to produce 'la boumiano' (link), I'm very happy. And what a joy to have all those herbs available whenever we want them.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #7 - August 13th, 2005, 4:54 pm
    Post #7 - August 13th, 2005, 4:54 pm Post #7 - August 13th, 2005, 4:54 pm
    Antonius:

    You'd better be careful of those garlic chives, they will take over your garden. After years of constant weeding and making sure that not a single plant went past bloom, we now have a few, which is plenty.

    Dill and cilantro have always been hard for me. You have to plant a lot to have as much as you need, and then they both tend to bolt. This year I planted both in the windowbox on my back deck where I have hyacinth beans growing up a trellis to screen the stairs, and they suffered both from the (too little) rain and from the drought.
  • Post #8 - August 14th, 2005, 3:46 pm
    Post #8 - August 14th, 2005, 3:46 pm Post #8 - August 14th, 2005, 3:46 pm
    Accompanying lunch today was a pico de gallo consisting of the first of the ripened heirloom marglobes, smallish but very potent jalapenos, white onion from a produce stall at the 7th Annual Mision San Juan Diego Kermes fiesta in Palatine. I used the last of the bolting cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Wonderful stuff.

    Blossom end rot is affecting about one of every four plum tomatoes, but cutting off the affected end is a worthy salvage mission. Squirrels just discovered the marglobes, but a hastily-constructed poultry fence force field is leaving me pretty confident that they'll be held at bay. Beefsteaks and better boys still green. All varieties of bells are prolific but SMALL.

    All in all, a very produstive season.
  • Post #9 - August 14th, 2005, 7:10 pm
    Post #9 - August 14th, 2005, 7:10 pm Post #9 - August 14th, 2005, 7:10 pm
    I've been growing tomatoes for only three years, and as the last two were absolutely terrible, I was going to give this fruit just one last chance. My crop is substantial, particularly in more common varieties (e.g., Early Girl). The heirlooms, however, disappoint in two ways: the plants seem to yield less and the tomatoes seem much more prone to rot. This is probably known to all real gardeners, but for a brown thumb like me, I was a little surprised (especially by the low yield).

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #10 - August 15th, 2005, 9:35 am
    Post #10 - August 15th, 2005, 9:35 am Post #10 - August 15th, 2005, 9:35 am
    I planted several varieties of heirloom tomatoes this year - my first year with heirlooms - and I got a vivd demonstration of how the heirlooms don't have the disease resistance of the modern varieties. And the #$%&@# squirrels seems to like the heirlooms better, too (but one bite tonly per tomato).
  • Post #11 - August 15th, 2005, 9:40 am
    Post #11 - August 15th, 2005, 9:40 am Post #11 - August 15th, 2005, 9:40 am
    nr706 wrote:And the #$%&@# squirrels seems to like the heirlooms better, too (but one bite tonly per tomato).


    NR,

    Squirrels do seem to nibble my best-looking tomatoes -- so, now, just as the tomatoes are reaching ripeness, I pluck them and let them fully ripen on my counter. This may not be the ideal way to ripen tomatoes, but I lose very few.

    David "To defeat the squirrel, you must think like the squirrel" Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #12 - August 15th, 2005, 9:42 am
    Post #12 - August 15th, 2005, 9:42 am Post #12 - August 15th, 2005, 9:42 am
    Tomatos - After pounds of cayenne and $30 worth of steel stakes and chicken wire (all to no avail) I finally apprehended what I hope is the primary culprit in the predation of my tomatos - a very fat and angry squirrel. I also hope that tomato predation is a learned trait and that the fat angry one was not a good teacher. It's been a very odd mix in terms of yield, though I have 10 plants in and all are thriving - some pushing 4 ft in height. What is strange is that I only bought two types of seed - 4th of July and a medium sized garden variety, but oddly enough the tomatos are just all over the place in size, though fairly consistent in flavor and texture. Some are as small as cherries and of the same style i.e. grapelike clusters, while others are the size of beefsteaks. Even on the same plant the size variation is all over the place. I'm not looking for any kind of show conformation or anything, it's just kind of odd.

    Basil/Oregano/Thyme - Here again my first year of concentrated effort and I have questions. Specifically, how do you harvest and how do you keep the basil from turning in flavor? My plants, 8 sweet genovese, really took off in June. I was giving away ziploc freezer bags of wonderful fragrant leaves every week and making pesto like it was going out of style. My approach was to clip off individual leaves as needed and then also to pinch the tops off to keep them from flowering. Unfortunately during a week away in July some flowered, and the flavor of all of the plants really turned from that rich aromatic basil flavor to what my wife so eloquently described as 'Yuck they smell like weeds'. Of course, the turn of the leaves was perfectly timed with my first ripe tomatos, so I was stuck with vine ripe tomatoes but no accompanying fresh basil. Also, I am curious to hear what kinds of basil everyone else grows and recs if any for basil that is best for pesto vs. tomatos caprese and bruscetta.
  • Post #13 - August 15th, 2005, 2:24 pm
    Post #13 - August 15th, 2005, 2:24 pm Post #13 - August 15th, 2005, 2:24 pm
    Butter Lettuce-
    done for over a month but nice before it bolted.

    Bright Lights Swiss Chard-
    Excellent yield from about 4 plants. Already cut and regrew 3(4?) times.

    Tomatoes-
    Brandywine, BoxCar Willie and Cherokee Purple heirloom varieties all produced very well so far and are on their second set of flowers/dropping fruit. First time growing heirlooms and the flavor was excellent. Geneva GreenHouse specializes and has about at least 2 dozen different varieties in spring. The four other plants that just popped up from seed last year are doing well but just beginning to ripen.

    Garlic-
    Grew about a dozen or more heads of hardneck garlic and they will be ready shortly. pulled a few and did not totally develop outer skin yet. samples already are good. a bit sharp.

    Asparagus-
    Second year. Will be ready next year. I believe it's Jersey Giant, an all male variety. Overgrown ferns are huge at this point. A small project planting them correctly but should pay off next year.

    Okra-
    First year I grew this. Not bad output for three plants. Planted four, but one got blocked out by the red cabbage. Poor spacing on my part.

    Red Cabbage-
    Not ready yet. Probably about the size of a 16" softball. Few more weks but nice looking plant.

    Corn-
    Second attempt and probably last. Previous year all ears were savaged by hateful squirrels. This year similar issues, however a few ears were gained. After cooking nice looking healthy ears, results were dry and flavorless. Bummer.

    Herbs-
    Basil: four plants very healthy. Genovese I believe.
    Tarragon: 2 year old plant. grew to tree like size however disappointingly flavorless. Chopped yeaterday.
    Cilantro: Bolted early but nice collection of coriader seeds already dried.
    Lavender: small but decent plant relegated to sunless/waterless corner.
    French Thyme: decent
    Rosemary: ditto
    Oregano: Greek variety. early in year plant in garden tastes suspiciously like diesel fuel, then changed to have a strong peppery bite. very strange. other plant of same variety in different part of yard tastes normal.

    Chilies-
    One plant of the Cyclon variety. Small plant with one pepper dropped but others developing.

    Grapes-
    First year so I got about another 4-5 to go. 2 Seeded and one seedless, doing well.

    Raspberries-
    First year again. Kinda rough looking but they'll survive. In retrospect, not planted in the best location. One red, one golden.
  • Post #14 - August 15th, 2005, 3:19 pm
    Post #14 - August 15th, 2005, 3:19 pm Post #14 - August 15th, 2005, 3:19 pm
    Tomatoes have been incredible this year! Other than a strategic error in laying out the tomato bed (12" raised bed, covered with a water and air permeable weed guard, 3/4 direct sunlight), the yield has been incredible. Stupice has been particularly hardy, but Green Zebra, Garden Peach, Black Krim, San Marzanos, Big Mama, Bull's Heart, Brandywine, and Mr. Stripey have all been quite good. I've manage to feed my friends and neighbors tons of tomatoes, and I've roasted and frozen the rest. I used to can them, but I really like the fresh flavor of the roast-frozen product.

    the raised bed with the cover served several purposes: no weeding, control of soil-borne diseases, minimal insect infestation, and warmer soil temps during the chill of late spring. I used a calcium supplement for the flower-end rot on the san marzanos, but it was only partially effective. Growth was rapid and robust - I'll definitely duplicate the technique next year.

    I've been planting various salad greens all summer long, so we have been rolling in greens. The cukes, a chinese variety I picked up on Argyle, have also been successful.

    I'll be tearing up the garden in late fall, adding compost and some bean/pea seeds for early germination in the spring.
  • Post #15 - August 15th, 2005, 3:19 pm
    Post #15 - August 15th, 2005, 3:19 pm Post #15 - August 15th, 2005, 3:19 pm
    Tomatoes have been incredible this year! Other than a strategic error in laying out the tomato bed (12" raised bed, covered with a water and air permeable weed guard, 3/4 direct sunlight), the yield has been incredible. Stupice has been particularly hardy, but Green Zebra, Garden Peach, Black Krim, San Marzanos, Big Mama, Bull's Heart, Brandywine, and Mr. Stripey have all been quite good. I've manage to feed my friends and neighbors tons of tomatoes, and I've roasted and frozen the rest. I used to can them, but I really like the fresh flavor of the roast-frozen product.

    the raised bed with the cover served several purposes: no weeding, control of soil-borne diseases, minimal insect infestation, and warmer soil temps during the chill of late spring. I used a calcium supplement for the flower-end rot on the san marzanos, but it was only partially effective. Growth was rapid and robust - I'll definitely duplicate the technique next year.

    I've been planting various salad greens all summer long, so we have been rolling in greens. The cukes, a chinese variety I picked up on Argyle, have also been successful.

    I'll be tearing up the garden in late fall, adding compost and some bean/pea seeds for early germination in the spring.
  • Post #16 - August 15th, 2005, 4:48 pm
    Post #16 - August 15th, 2005, 4:48 pm Post #16 - August 15th, 2005, 4:48 pm
    I've tried cilantro a couple of years in a row, with excellent results, but it goes to seed and dies about the time the tomatoes are ripe. Any advice on keeping it around longer? Got plenty of corriander though.

    Lemon tyme is doing great and has a wonderful flavor. It's also used as ornamental ground cover. I've got more parsley and rosemary than I know what to do with.
  • Post #17 - August 15th, 2005, 5:08 pm
    Post #17 - August 15th, 2005, 5:08 pm Post #17 - August 15th, 2005, 5:08 pm
    I've pretty much given up trying to grow my own cilantro. It's too hard to grow enough of it for my needs and it tends to bolt and go to seed quickly. I've come to the conclusion that it's easier just to buy it. Heaven knows it's cheap enough in the ethnic stores.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #18 - August 15th, 2005, 10:16 pm
    Post #18 - August 15th, 2005, 10:16 pm Post #18 - August 15th, 2005, 10:16 pm
    Re: Keeping the taste in your basil.

    You must be religious (remember it's not called holy basil for not reason:-) about pinching off any sign of flower. When you pinch back, or harvest with scissors, cut back to just above a joint. The plant will send out two side shoots to make up for the one you cut off.

    As the season gets later, lower leaves will start to drop. So pinching/harvesting as above encourages a bushier plant with lots of new, good-tasting growth.

    Heirlooms tomatoes have gotten SO popular, understandably, they taste great, but one thing for the home gardener to remember is that these plants cannot be crowded without adverse results, and also need to be well-staked and have the side-shoots pinched out in order to get good production.

    Given that tomatoes are actually a tropical perennial, and want to sprawl (except for the determinate varieties like Early Girl), this can be a BIG task if you've got even 6-8 tomato plants and a spell of hot weather.

    I love the heirlooms, but they are hard for the home gardener, and I am never really satisfied with what I find at the Farmers Market (but then, I wait and go to the Farmers Market at noon when you can fill up a bag with whatever you want for $5--it beats paying $2 for a single tomato that no matter how gentle I am seems to have gotten bumped and bruised and on its way to rot by the time I get it home.

    Is anybody else's house full of fruit flies at this time of year?
  • Post #19 - August 17th, 2005, 12:33 pm
    Post #19 - August 17th, 2005, 12:33 pm Post #19 - August 17th, 2005, 12:33 pm
    Our fruit flies come out in full force over the fall and winter after we bring our house plants in. Hopefully the cats will go after them, although they prefer larger insect prey.
  • Post #20 - August 18th, 2005, 11:12 am
    Post #20 - August 18th, 2005, 11:12 am Post #20 - August 18th, 2005, 11:12 am
    The Red Haven peaches at the farmers market are really bringing in the fruit flies this year, even more than the nectarines. The flies seem less interested in the tomatoes than in the empty cornhusks and cobs.
  • Post #21 - August 18th, 2005, 8:37 pm
    Post #21 - August 18th, 2005, 8:37 pm Post #21 - August 18th, 2005, 8:37 pm
    I get fruit flies, too. But my philosophy is that they wouldn’t be here unless they found something tasty.

    Here’s what they might have found – out of my garden – recently …

    Roman Speckled (heirloom) tomatoes – large for a Roma-type – stuffed with quinoa, basil, bacon, and I don’t remember what else, frozen
    Image

    And ground cherries (aka cape gooseberries) discussed here.
    Image
  • Post #22 - August 19th, 2005, 5:11 pm
    Post #22 - August 19th, 2005, 5:11 pm Post #22 - August 19th, 2005, 5:11 pm
    I've been enjoying reading and learning from other gardeners' posts. Thanks to all.

    I have a couple of notes and questions to add to what I wrote above:

    • We have two tomato plants that have grown large and look healthy but have produced no fruit whatsoever. Any ideas why?

    • Some beautiful looking baby eggplants I cooked up yesterday for the first time. Ah, unlike the store bought stuff, these are really bitter. Next time, I'll do the old salting method of preparation for cooking...

    My bigger eggplants have been a real delight.

    • Some kind of disease has been slowly running up some of the stalks of my basil plants. It started long ago and worried me early on but it proceeded so slowly that only in the last couple of days has it started to affect clearly the leaves. The stalk turns yellow, then brown, with little bumbs. What is it? Can it be effectively fought?

    I've seen this in years past, when I've grown basil indoors.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #23 - August 19th, 2005, 7:06 pm
    Post #23 - August 19th, 2005, 7:06 pm Post #23 - August 19th, 2005, 7:06 pm
    Antonius:

    Forgive me if this seems to basic, but tomatoes come in both determinate and indeterminate varieties. Determinate varieties (the most common have "early" in the name) are bred to stop vining and instead put their energy into early production of fruit. They are for the gardener who likes to brag about having the first tomato on the block. (I'm not knocking the taste of the fruit, which can be delicious.) But if they are planted on the late side, I have found that they often will set no fruit whatsoever. I have tried again and again to explain this to some of my fellow condo dwellers, to no avail. Indeterminate varieties continue to vine and are actually a non-hardy perennial.

    I believe I covered in an earlier post, but can't be sure if it was on this board, that basil, especially as the season progresses, needs careful attention in the form of pinching back to encourage branching and most importantly, removing ANY trace of a blossom. Even a few flower bracts left unremoved will cause the lower leaves to yellow and drop, and the stems to get woody, with bumps, and starting to fade in color as well. They also become a bit more tempermental about drying out at this point.

    Or it might be a disease/pest I'm unfamiliar with, but basil in my experience is one of the most pest free of plants.

    Once the basil flowers freely, the entire plant will turn woody and then you can't do much with it at all. I missed a couple flower buds and let my balcony plants dry out once too often, and right now I'm looking for some new plants, because there's still plenty of good basil growing weather, but my plants aren't going to keep up with my needs.
  • Post #24 - August 20th, 2005, 7:33 am
    Post #24 - August 20th, 2005, 7:33 am Post #24 - August 20th, 2005, 7:33 am
    annieb wrote:Antonius:
    Forgive me if this seems to basic...


    Ann:

    At this point with gardening, even with things I sort of 'know', I certainly can use hearing them again from people who really do know. And, of course, there's tons I don't know. As Inspector Callahan once said, a man's got to know his limitations...

    ... but tomatoes come in both determinate and indeterminate varieties. Determinate varieties (the most common have "early" in the name) are bred to stop vining and instead put their energy into early production of fruit. They are for the gardener who likes to brag about having the first tomato on the block. (I'm not knocking the taste of the fruit, which can be delicious.) But if they are planted on the late side, I have found that they often will set no fruit whatsoever. I have tried again and again to explain this to some of my fellow condo dwellers, to no avail. Indeterminate varieties continue to vine and are actually a non-hardy perennial.


    I should check and see what the varieties involved are (there are two) but all of the tomato plants got started at pretty much the same time -- i.e., not a big difference of time at all, but insofar as there was a difference, I think the fruitless plants might well have been in the second planting.

    I believe I covered in an earlier post, but can't be sure if it was on this board, that basil, especially as the season progresses, needs careful attention in the form of pinching back to encourage branching and most importantly, removing ANY trace of a blossom. Even a few flower bracts left unremoved will cause the lower leaves to yellow and drop, and the stems to get woody, with bumps, and starting to fade in color as well. They also become a bit more tempermental about drying out at this point.
    Or it might be a disease/pest I'm unfamiliar with, but basil in my experience is one of the most pest free of plants.
    Once the basil flowers freely, the entire plant will turn woody and then you can't do much with it at all. I missed a couple flower buds and let my balcony plants dry out once too often, and right now I'm looking for some new plants, because there's still plenty of good basil growing weather, but my plants aren't going to keep up with my needs.


    Well, I'm certain it is a disease now, the disease of old age. That clears things up a lot and I actually feel pretty good about the basil crop now overall. As I said, there were some signs of this early on, perhaps (I infer from what you write) brought on by the drying out in the course of the two massive heat waves/dry spells we had early in the season. But the effect was limited to the very bottoms of some of the stalks by the ground. Now I have a few stalks that the aging process has run up into (though, perhaps paradoxically, one of them still has nicely shaped but yellowing leaves).

    All in all, I have far more basil than I can use myself, so I've been giving some away. Some of the plants have a number of stalks on which the leaves have gotten narrow and pointy and more bitter tasting, but the number of stalks with the nice rounded, tender and sweeter tasting leaves is still great.

    Thanks for all the comments and advice.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #25 - August 20th, 2005, 5:45 pm
    Post #25 - August 20th, 2005, 5:45 pm Post #25 - August 20th, 2005, 5:45 pm
    Several annual herbs really need multiple plantings because they poop out. Cilantro, dill and basil top the list. Cilantro needs additonal small plantings every three weeks or so. Dill might need three plantings over the season while basil can get along with two.

    Some herbs do better with somewhat adverse conditions.

    We tend to get our best dill from volunteer plants that come up pretty early in spite of my deep spading in the fall. This year the planting that followed some turnip greens had a poor stand. The part I replanted didn't do much better. Meanwhile, my wife had scattered some dill seed on the ground in the pot holding our bay tree, which spends its summers on the patio. Result: a lush carpet of little dill plants. The stuff is popping up where the onions were because we didn't catch all the seed from the volunteers that we tolerated. Seed just fell on the surface with no care whatsoever.

    Another herb that seems to like tough conditions is nepitella (also known under a bunch of different spellings). It is perennial in Italy but not hardy in Chicago's winters. However, it drops seed profusely. This plant grows OK in good soil but really thrives in cracks in concrete.

    Herbs that do best is well-drained, almost drouthy soil, in strong sun include tarragon, lavender and thyme. Note that French tarragon does not produce viable seed and so must be propagated vegetatively. Any tarragon from seed is Russian tarragon, which has little to no flavor.

    Most herbs have few insect or disease problems. Horn worms (the larva of the horn moth) like dill just as well as tomatoes and can reduce their stems to sticks. Hand pick and crush. The smell will differ depending upon whether that have been feeding on dill or tomatoes. Some butterfly larva like parsley. Try to tolerate them. White flies can be a problem with basil although they are more likely to be a problem indoors or in a greenhouse. If basil has a white fly problem, very likely tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplant have worse problems with white flies. Yellow sticky traps will catch some adults but are more useful for monitoring the population than controlling them. Insecticidal soap messes up soft-bodied insects and so does a pretty good job on the larvae without hurting beneficial insects, which are hardly ever soft-bodied.

    I suspect that many winter problems with "fruit flies" are really compost (aka fungus) gnats. Yellow sticky traps work pretty well, but you may need a soil drench using insecticidal soap or a strain of Bacillus thuringensis (Bt/H-14) available from
    Gardens Alive. Insecticidal soaps and Bt strains are widely used by organic growers. I doubt that anybody can produce organic cabbage in this area without using Bt. Of course, these are naturally occurring strains of bacteria which have been selected as carefully and thoroughly as most wineries' or breweries' yeasts.
  • Post #26 - August 22nd, 2005, 7:37 am
    Post #26 - August 22nd, 2005, 7:37 am Post #26 - August 22nd, 2005, 7:37 am
    ekreider:

    As always, many thanks for all the detailed gardening information...

    ekreider wrote:Several annual herbs really need multiple plantings because they poop out. Cilantro, dill and basil top the list. Cilantro needs additonal small plantings every three weeks or so. Dill might need three plantings over the season while basil can get along with two.


    I mentioned above that while all my cilantro immediately 'bolted' (I think that's the term I've seen used here... i.e., grew tall, with fewer leaves and then soon went to seed), the uncared for cilantro in the neighbour's yard grew beautifully for a good part of the late spring and early summer. Is it too much water that ruined it for me?


    Another herb that seems to like tough conditions is nepitella (also known under a bunch of different spellings). It is perennial in Italy but not hardy in Chicago's winters. However, it drops seed profusely. This plant grows OK in good soil but really thrives in cracks in concrete.


    Where did you get the nepitella from? I would definitely like to grow some in the future.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #27 - August 22nd, 2005, 2:50 pm
    Post #27 - August 22nd, 2005, 2:50 pm Post #27 - August 22nd, 2005, 2:50 pm
    Cilantro varies widely in time to bolting. Our first planting (early June after spinach) of the cultivar Santo hasn't bolted yet, which is a good thing because some lush chervil has largely swamped the second planting. I will put in another planting when the soil is dry enough after our 2 plus inch rain early Saturday. Yes, I have a rain gauge in the back yard. Santo is one of the slow-bolting cilantros, but I haven't noticed that it is much better than the generic. I do know that saving seeds from herbs that bolted early is selecting for fast bolting, though.

    The amount of water may have had an effect, but I doubt it. Genetic differences are more likely.

    Our nepetella was brought from Lucca quite a few years ago by a friend's parents. One big swath in a crack in the patio is in lush bloom now. We will save some seed once it is ready. Anyone interested should send me a PM, so we can estimate how much seed should be saved. We can probably infect at least a dozen other gardens with this delightful herb.
  • Post #28 - August 22nd, 2005, 2:58 pm
    Post #28 - August 22nd, 2005, 2:58 pm Post #28 - August 22nd, 2005, 2:58 pm
    ekreider wrote:Cilantro varies widely in time to bolting. Our first planting (early June after spinach) of the cultivar Santo hasn't bolted yet, which is a good thing because some lush chervil has largely swamped the second planting. I will put in another planting when the soil is dry enough after our 2 plus inch rain early Saturday. Yes, I have a rain gauge in the back yard. Santo is one of the slow-bolting cilantros, but I haven't noticed that it is much better than the generic. I do know that saving seeds from herbs that bolted early is selecting for fast bolting, though.


    Where do you come across different types of cilantro? I didn't know there was such a thing. I've had no success in sustaining a crop of genaric cilantro and have given up trying to grow it. Too little return for the time/space investment.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #29 - August 22nd, 2005, 3:30 pm
    Post #29 - August 22nd, 2005, 3:30 pm Post #29 - August 22nd, 2005, 3:30 pm
    Johnny's Seeds carries a wide range of herb seeds. I order vegetable and herb seeds from them every year. They integrate their print catalog with the web site very well but also have some seeds only on the web site. Johnny's has a big business with market gardeners as well as home gardeners. They have quite a few organically-grown seeds, which is really important for organic market gardeners. They also are very interested in carrying cultivars that taste good and resist disease. They are in Maine, so most seeds they carry are attuned to the needs of northern gardeners. The linked page is for the herbs section.

    Some other seed catalogs also carry multiple cultivars of cilantro. Park Seed (parkseed.com but their site isn't responding now) has two cultivars.

    I don't want to get into a big rant, but the seed selection in every local garden center or home center I have been in in recent years stinks.
  • Post #30 - August 22nd, 2005, 3:34 pm
    Post #30 - August 22nd, 2005, 3:34 pm Post #30 - August 22nd, 2005, 3:34 pm
    Thanks for the seed leads. I generally prefer to buy plants that have already been germinated rather than start from seed (largely because of lazyness and the lack of time to tend to germinating seeds) but I'm begining to see the error of my ways and may select some herbs and even veggies to start from seed for next year's crop.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven

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