July Gardening; Tomatoes, Garden Pests and the Heat are typical troubles for the vegetable gardener.
Your tomato plants leaves may be turning yellow toward the bottom of the plant. You have nothing to worry about the leaves of tomato plant turning yellow at the bottom of the plant means these leaves probably aren’t getting the nutrients from the soil and aren’t getting enough sunshine. This especially happens now when our plants are more mature and bearing fruit.
Some gardeners remove all of the leaves below the first flower, infected or not, in order to minimize these disease problems.
Watch for spots and yellowing on the lower leaves of your tomatoes. They are early signs of diseases such as septoria leaf spot and early blight. I have this on about half of my tomato plants right now. Most likely from the excess rain that we received.
Preventative measures include removing the infected leaves. Bag the leaves and throw them away or burn them, but do not put them on the compost pile. You should also consider spreading a thin layer of straw mulch over the soil to minimize splashing of spores onto the leaves during rain or irrigation.
Another problem you may be experiencing on your perennials and certain vegetables is Powdery Mildew, which looks like a white powder on your plant leaves. You can prevent powdery mildew from infecting plants with weekly sprayings of a baking soda solution. Make the solution with one tablespoon of baking soda per gallon of water, adding a half teaspoon of liquid dish soap as a spreader-sticker. Apply once a week in mid-summer and only on well-watered plants. Spray the plants early in the day, not in full sun. Discard any unused solution.
**Try the solution on a few leaves first to make sure your plant is not super-sensitive.**
You may be seeing Japanese Beetles showing up in your garden. Instead of spraying pesticides, carry a small pail of soapy water with you and pick or knock the beetles into it. With heavy infestations, pull the entire plant into the pail.
The pest that I have been waging a war on in my garden is a rascally rabbit. The little fluff ball has found a whole in the fencing and sneaks in to help him or herself to delicious veggie morsels. I sent in the security force, namely my Airedale Roman and he was unsuccessful. Another tactic is to spread rabbit scram or blood meal or fox urine. You can find most of these at your local garden centers. Spread the product around the area that you want to keep rabbits away. This is not full proof but does help.
The heat takes its toll on the chickens as well. They need to have plenty of shade and water. They drink more water when its hot and egg production usually falls off. You can give them treats of cold watermelon, which they love and ice cubes in their water bowl. They will hold their wings away from their body to help cool their body temperature and open their beaks to pant to help regulate their body heat. Let me tell ya’ there has been lots of chicken panting going on with the temperature in the 90’s all week.
Of course to complicate matters several hens have decided to go “broody”, which means they want to lay on eggs and try to produce babies. This is very unhealthy for the hens when its hot because the coop can get extremely hot and the hens will refuse to get up and go out to cool themselves. That leaves me removing them several times throughout the day. One of the biggest “broody” offenders is my hen Ms. Grace, she and I have had several conversations about this, but she refuses to listen. When I pop her out of the nesting box, the first thing she likes to do is run over and stand in the water dish, cooling herself with a quick foot bath. She could care less if her fellow hens are in the process of getting a drink or not. It’s all about Ms. Grace.
It’s hard to enjoy the garden in this heat, but don’t hesitate to plant more carrot, beet, radishes, and heat resistant lettuce varieties. You’ll be happy you did when things cool off and you can be back in the garden.
Hope the heat breaks soon. Stay cool until then.