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Plan ahead to beat The Blight

Fri, Jun 1st, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, June 4, 2001

One of the things I enjoy most about gardening is watching the changing foliage and bloom as flowers parade through our short summer. The month of May starts with tulips and daffodils and ends with iris and peonies. In between we have bleeding heart, primroses, and more.

This week has been spent by most of us in a mad dash to 'get it all in.' We've looked and shopped and gathered up the newest, neatest plants. We've started some seedlings of our own and waited patiently for the green light to start planting.

Gardening in zone 4 is challenging; we have only 156 frost free days per year according to the USDA. This doesn't take into account the global warming (or cooling, depending on your view) that isn't happening. But the garden grows on.

Plan ahead to beat The Blight

Last year was a devastating year for tomatoes. Tomato blight wrecked havoc in most gardens, causing foliage to spot and brown from the bottom of the plant to the top. This year plan ahead by mulching your tomatoes now as you plant. Blight is a soil borne fungus that overwinters in soil. This is a good reason not to plant your tomatoes in the same spot year after year. Also a good reason to remove ALL spent foliage from the garden before winter. But a sure-fire technique even if you've ignored the above recommendations is to mulch. Anything will do: straw, hay, wood chips or bark, newspapers, old carpet, black plastic. Just keep the soil covered.

You can insure your tomatoes get adequate fertilizing by following this recipe for compost tea.

Compost tea is an excellent liquid FERTILIZER for your garden. To make the tea, put a shovelful (or two) of compost (or really old manure) in an old pillowcase or burlap bag and tie it shut. Place the sack in a 5 gallon pail (with lid) and fill the pail with water. Cover with the lid and leave to steep. Let it steep for 2 or 3 days. This tea is especially good for root feeding in times of stress and for foliar feeding. It seems to stop blight in its tracks on tomatoes. Excerpted from Organic Gardening magazine.

Reader Mailbag

A neighbor in Chatfield asks: Is there a hardy cherry for zone 4? Two good choices for our area are Meteor and Northstar. Both were developed by the U of MN and introduced between 1950 & 1952. They are both tart cherries, good for pies and jams. Northstar is a semi dwarf. They are both vigorous and are self-pollinating, so only a single tree is needed to produce fruit. Just don't ask me where to get one! You might call your favorite local nursery that deals in fruits or small trees and perhaps they could order one. Best time for planting would be this fall.

Next week: Asparagus Beetles and You

Virginia Cooper writes, gardens and mulches from her garden in Mabel, MN and welcomes your question by email or by letter via the Journal.

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