Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, August 17, 2014


     I wrote a brief note about basil blight last year, secure in the knowledge that it had not spread to Virginia.
But is has. To my house.
     Basil blight is a fungal disease that will kill your basil plants and spread to other basil plants through fungal spores released into the air.  I like to sow basil seeds several times a season to keep a good supply of fresh, young leaves on hand.  I ran out of seed and recently purchased new seed from a large, commercial seed house.  The plants looked great at first, then more and more sickly: pasty yellow and brown leaves.

I wondered if it could be blight. When I turned over the leaves, this is what I saw:
     See the gray patches on the backs of the leaves?  This is the grayish fungus called basil blight.  The remedy? Bag up and throw out the plants, soil and pots.  I feel lucky I don't have this in the garden (I hope I caught it early enough before it spread).
     If your basil gets puny looking, checks carefully for a gray, sooty fungal growth on the backs of the leaves and toss it out ASAP!  I wrote to the seed house, we'll see what response I get,
Happy gardening!  May your basil stay healthy!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Woody Basil

Plant in the background is past-its-prime basil, in front are new plants.
See the difference?

Over the course of the growing season, basil reaches a "woody" stage, at the time it begins to flower.  Though the leaves are ok to use in cooking at this point, they are smaller, begin to turn yellow and brown, and their full basil flavor is diminished.  This happens even if you regularly shear the plant to stimulate new growth.  So, I buy extra seeds of basil and, every three weeks, I start a new pot or two.  This keeps me in fresh, young basil leaves all summer long!  The spent basil gets dumped in the compost heap.
Happy gardening!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Green Wave Mustard

The most reliable green in my central Virginia garden, Green Wave Mustard, is available from a variety of sources.  This old-timey green a favorite in the south, is sweeter raw when young, nutty and luscious when cooked, and is slow to bolt, a very good characteristic for our hot summers...and it can be planted in mid-summer, as long as your provide sufficient water to germinate the seed.  My favorite way to cook it? Caramelize a sliced onion in 2 T of good olive oil with a pinch of salt, add 2 or more cloves crushed garlic and cook a minute, add 4 or more cups of the mustard greens, and let them wilt well. Then add 2 T balsamic vinegar and serve! Delicious!
Happy gardening!

Friday, August 1, 2014

It's that time of the year!

It's that time of the year, when you come home from a week's 
vacation and everything has ripened at once!  Time to get out
the canning kettle!  
Photo, top left, clockwise: lavender touch eggplant, with a 
few cukes and zukes: assorted tomatoes; a cushaw squash and:
yellow bell peppers grown in containers.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cucumber Success!

One-day's harvest, July 1, 2014

I recently posted on the methods I am trying this year after two years of cucumber failure. To be fair (to moi) the failure was because I was too busy to get a decent garden in and tried to directly sow my cucumbers. Before I could deal with them, the cucumber beetles struck and the plants wilted.  This year, I started the plants in peat pots. planted them in vole-deterrent cages, covered then with floating row covers, and, when it was time to take the covers off, I sprayed them with a kaolin clay spray (the trademarked surround).  So far, SUCCESS!  The two varieties I planted were Alibi cucumber (a greenhouse type) and Muncher (a pickler) ordered from Pinetree Garden Seeds ( http://www.superseeds.com )  And both are delicious!
Happy gardening!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Truth in Labelling

Lovely hot peppers, no?  Only one problem: they are grown from seed from a packet labelled
"Jalapeño!"  I have had minimal problems with mixed up seed packs before...I expect
this pepper is way more hotter that a Jalapeño!  Guess I need to send the seed company a note!
Happy gardening!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Need a soakin'

It has been dry here in central VA. Here is the pattern: we get a prediction for a good chance of rain and...as I watch the radar online, the rain clouds skirt my town.  Time to drag out the soaker hoses!
I hope you already know that overhead watering is very inefficient, for this reason: most of the water is lost to evaporation.  Very little of it actually goes into the ground.  In addition, when you use a sprinkler in your garden, much of the water goes onto the paths.  Soaker hoses, which emit drops of water across their length, are far more precise and are better at getting the water where you want it to go.  My mistake this season was I did not lay the hoses when I was doing the initial planting:  this would have saved me a lot of grief. Laying hose while planting is easy, but laying it around large existing plants is tedious.  When you do use a soaker, leave it on for two or more hours.  You will use less water, use it more efficiently and your plants will reward you!  Soaker hoses are not expensive, last for seasons and are a good investment.