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Organic Gardening Tips
Terra Viva Organics

Gardening Update
Late Blight Disease
Children and Vegetable Gardening
Drying Herbs
Fresh Tomato Pie

Late Blight Disease

by Arzeena Hamir
If there's one thing we gardeners in the Pacific Northwest know about, it's how to grow tomatoes in the most difficult conditions. It's bad enough that our summers are normally very cool but now the coming weeks are filled with hot days and warm nights, the perfect breeding ground for late light disease.

Phytophthora infestans, the fungus that causes this disease, is the same one responsible for the Irish Potato famine. Within the last 10 years, late blight disease has made a come back in North America and Europe. Strains have developed that are resistant to fungicide applications and international trade has helped transmit infected plant material across borders.

Late blight in tomato

The disease infects both potatoes and tomatoes. Overwintering potato tubers can harbour the disease that soon spreads as soon as the tubers sprout. Spores, produced by the fungus can travel in the wind for up to 20 kilometers. This means that even if you've never had late blight in your garden before, it can be blown in from neighbours who do.

As temperatures rise above 15C, the chance of infection increases. The spores themselves require just a thin layer of moisture on the surface of the plant in order to infect it. Within 2 days of the initial infection, the host cells begin to die. The telltale signs of the disease - blackening of the stems & leaves and oily-looking splotches on the fruit - then begin to appear.

Very little can be done to prevent spores from landing on your plants; protecting plants against the rain is the best defense. Since the spores of late blight require moisture before they can infect tomato and potato plants, a clear plastic cover over the plants is a simple method of preventing this devastating disease. Alternatively, try growing tomato plants in containers up against the house so that the eaves protect them.

Some cultural practices that can help prevent infection:

  • Gardeners should be careful not to wet any of the leaves when watering, especially from late June to late August when the disease is prevalent.
  • Secondly, try to encourage as much air movement around the plants as possible by spacing tomato plants at least 2 feet away from each other. Try not to allow foliage to overlap.
  • Indeterminate tomatoes, the kind that require staking, need to be pruned of their suckers so that plants are not overly bushy and dense.
  • Copper sulphate, also known as bordeaux spray, will help keep this disease in check if the plants cannot be covered. However, this spraying regime should be started before you see signs of the disease. Make sure to read to directions carefully and do not eat the fruit for at least one day after spraying.
  • Do not plant tomatoes where potatoes were grown the previous year.
  • Make sure you to harvest all your potato tubers and dispose of any plant material left after the growing season.

Once late blight hits your tomatoes, it really is too late. Infected plants become sources of spores that can spread to other gardens and farms. They should really be removed and placed in the garbage, not the compost pile. In potatoes, as soon as signs of the disease appear, cut down the foliage and dispose of it. Wait approximately 2 weeks before you harvest your tubers - enough time to allow any of the spores on the surface of the soil to die.


Late Blight Disease on Home Garden Tomatoes

Late Blight in Potatoes

Arzeena Hamir is an agronomist and President of Terra Viva Organics. When she's not planting peas or picking zucchini, she answers questions about organic gardening at: You can also read her gardening articles on Vegetable Gardening at

Children and Vegetable Gardening

by Don Trotter
Hello fellow Earthlings, and welcome back to the garden. In this discussion children are the primary topic. We will be talking about ways to make the garden a happy family project as well as an incredible instrument for teaching your kids the amazing ways that nature works. So let's take a walk in the garden and bring the kids along.

Over the years, I have heard a thousand stories of how particular gardeners got started and why gardening is the most popular hobby in this country for both men and women. Most of these testimonials begin with mom, dad, or grandparents that were avid gardeners who shared their passion. Some grew up on farms or had family members involved in farming (like me). No matter how many of these stories I hear, I am thrilled to share these tales of inspiration. The one common thread is that when these gardeners were children, someone they looked up to or loved shared the gifts of nature with them. It makes no difference whether these people grow vegetables, flowers, exotic plants, or cactus. They all share a keen desire to learn and understand how plants grow and have a deep appreciation for their relationship with nature.

Children will happily participate in any project they can share with their parents. The key to keeping them interested is to have special garden projects that are theirs. It is always best to give them the projects in the garden that are faster and more interesting to a developing sense of self-awareness. One of my favorite vegetable garden plants to share with kids is a radish. These plants go from seed to table in less than one month. Lettuce is also a fast growing plant that will keep them interested. It is important for them to experience plant growth in a time they understand. These plants grow very fast and each time your child sees them they will be different in ways that are not too subtle. It is also a good idea to share their insights when they attempt to explain their increasing understanding of how they feel this whole plant growth thing works. Listen to them, you may learn something. To quote Mr. Art Linkletter "Kids say the darndest things". No fancy psychological ploys are necessary, your children will naturally share with you what they perceive to be true about how the garden is doing. They may be right on!

Other plants that really interest children are ones that climb or vine. Pole beans and peas are very intriguing to kids because they grow very fast, have interesting flowers, and can be trained onto a number of structures that can actually provide your kids with "forts". Tipis are a favorite structure to train these plants onto. These tipis provide the plants with excellent support while they give your kids a very cool place to hide and play. It is a good idea to put a couple of these tipis around the garden to give them places to do the make believe stuff that makes childhood so great. Make a big one if you have room in the garden so you can get inside one with them on occasion. Play a little hide and go seek with mom or dad to keep them interested in spending time in the garden. These times in the garden will be something they remember as family time and will seek out opportunities to have more of them.

My favorite way to share in the garden is something that can only be done in a naturally tended organic garden plot. I love to have a small pail of water with me while I am in the vegetable garden. When certain plants are ready to harvest, I like to rinse them right there in the garden and munch away. This is one thing that gardening really does well. It gets your kids interested in eating their veggies. Don't go overboard here; let the kids come to you for the sharing. They may even bring you some to eat. Eat them eagerly but don't try to force them to eat any. If they see you munching away paying no attention to them, their natural curiosity will want to see what is so damn tasty. Then you've got them hooked. This kind of bond cannot be shared in a garden where pesticides and chemical fertilizers are used because the produce from these gardens need to be washed, scrubbed, and have pesticide residues washed off of them with soap and water. Watch your kids, soon they will be eating snow peas right off of the plant, it's incredible.

Got questions? Email the Doc at Don Trotter's Natural Gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications. Look for Don's books Natural Gardening A-Z on sale now, and his new release The Complete Natural Gardener, both from Hay House Publishing,

Drying Herbs

by Robin Bassett
sage Fresh herbs are in season all across the country, so Grandma's kitchen is now festooned with great bunches drying for winter cooking and Grandma's famous Herb Wreaths. Basil, thyme, summer savory, rosemary, sage, parsley, oregano, dill and mint are all prime candidates for home drying - and you can save a bundle by drying your own. If you are lucky enough to live in a warmer area where bay trees are common, bay leaves dry wonderfully too!

HINT: If you buy fresh herbs for cooking but never seem to use the entire bunch, dry half the minute you get them home for later use.

Drying herbs is very easy and requires little in the way of equipment. You'll need some brown paper lunch bags to keep dust off and preserve the colors, string or rubber bands and a coat hangar. Make small bunches of washed herbs (7 or 8 stems) and place them stem end up into paper bags. basilUse string or rubber bands to secure the bag around the stem end of the bunch, then hang (from the coat hangar) in a cool, dark place with a nice breeze for several weeks until dry. At the end of three weeks or so, use the herbs to make beautiful wreaths as gifts (get an early start on Christmas!) or strip the leaves off, crumble and store in ziplock plastic bags or small jars with tight fitting lids. By the way, this same technique is marvelous for drying bunches of flowers.

Make an Herb Wreath:

You'll find these to order in specialty gift catalogs, where they command a truly hefty price - upwards of $50 or more. If you happen to grow herbs in your garden, you can turn out stunning Herb Wreaths for gift giving for nearly nothing.

You'll need: one five to seven inch styrofoam wreath form for each wreath, florist wire, U or T pins, bunches of dried herbs still on the stems (Purple Ruffles Basil is gorgeous dried!), lots of freshly dried bay leaves (buy these in bulk at your local Food Co-op or natural food store - if you buy them by the pound they will be a nice glossy green and still slightly pliable), stick cinnamon, whole chili, a few beautiful fresh heads of garlic and a bit of raffia.

Make small bunches of dried herbs and large bay leaves - 6 or 7 stems to the bunch. Place a bunch on the wreath form and wrap tightly with florist wire to hold in place. Work your way around the wreath, alternating various herbs. Be generous with the bunches and make sure that you completely cover the wreath (you do not need to do the back). Tie cinnamon sticks in small bundles with the raffia. "Garnish" your wreath with cinnamon stick bundles, whole chilis (use T or U pins at the stem end to hold in place) and heads of garlic (thread florist wire thru the bottom to make a wire loop and tie in place.) Accent your wreath with a raffia or gingham bow.

If you'ld like to save these for later giving (or to refresh the one in your kitchen after you've used most of the herbs!), place the wreath into a large ziplock bag. Insert a straw into one corner of the bag and zip mostly closed. Now suck on the straw to get as much air out as possible, then quickly zip the bag shut. Store each wreath in a sturdy box in a cool, dry place.

Robin Bassett, aka Grandma, mother of four and proud Grandma of Liv, loves to craft, cook and garden. A web developer that specializes in graphic restoration, she publishes Absolutely Victorian Greetings at and A Letter From Grandma,.


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