Organic Gardening Tips and Plants – How to

Gardening Tips

Terra Viva Organics


Blight Disease

and Vegetable Gardening


Tomato Pie

Blight Disease

by Arzeena

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

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
15°C, 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

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

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

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
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,


by Robin

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

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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