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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just In - MNLA Member alert - Tomato Blight

Tomato Transplant Alert - For details about the symptoms and treatment, please see the attached factsheet from UMass

Late Blight on Tomato and Potatoes

Garden retailers and landscapers should be aware of Late Blight caused by Phytophthora infestans – a very destructive and very infectious disease that kills tomato and potato plants in gardens and on commercial farms in the eastern U.S.

Late blight is the same disease that caused the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s. It has been in the US for over a century, but it has never occurred this early and this widespread. It not only threatens home gardens, but also the thousands of acres of commercial potatoes and tomatoes that are grown in Massachusetts and across New England. The disease has been diagnosed on tomato transplants throughout the Northeast. Infected plants were distributed throughout the region by several plant retailers this spring. This disease is not seed borne however, it is exceptionally contagious, and can spread to tomato plants on retail shelves not involved in the original and initial source of the inoculum.

Late blight, affects both potato and tomato crops. It produces spores very rapidly and these move very easily from one garden or field to others, because the spores are easily carried in wind currents to infect susceptible plants in even the most remote area in our region. All tomato and potato plants grown in home gardens and in commercial fields are susceptible to late blight!

What to Look For
The most common early symptoms on tomato transplants are brown lesions on stems, with white fungal growth developing under moist conditions.

Symptoms appear as large (at least nickel-sized) olive-green to brown spots on leaves with slightly fuzzy white fungal growth on the underside when conditions have been humid or wet. Sometimes the lesion border is yellow or has a water-soaked appearance. Leaf lesions begin as tiny, irregularly shaped brown spots. Brown to blackish lesions also develop on upper stems. Firm, brown spots develop on tomato fruit. Late blight can be confused with early blight and Septoria leaf spot, two common diseases found in home gardens. If the lesion has a yellow border and is occurring on the bottom of the plant, it is likely due to infection of either early blight or Septoria leaf spot.

Photo gallery of what to look for:

To confirm a diagnosis contact the University of Massachusetts Plant Diagnostic Laboratory, (413) 545-3208 or see There is a $50 fee for lab diagnostics.

If symptoms are already appearing on plants, remove plants, place in a plastic bag, seal and discard in the trash or completely bury plants deep enough underground so plants decompose and will not re-sprout. Do not put the plants in a compost pile as spores will still spread from this debris.
To manage late blight with fungicides, treat before symptoms appear. Use a product that contains chlorothalonil listed as the active ingredient on the label. There are ready- to- use formulations available. Fungicides are only effective if used before the disease appears and should be reapplied every 5-7 days if wet weather persists. Chlorothalonil is a protectant fungicide, with no systemic movement in the plant, so thorough coverage is necessary. For organic farmers and gardeners, the options are very limited, since only copper fungicides can be used, and copper is not very effective on late blight.

Even with fungicide applied every week, there is no guarantee of success, especially if the rainy weather continues.

For more information, see

UMass Extension Agriculture and Landscape Program
June 29, 2009

U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.
University of Massachusetts Extension offers equal opportunity in programs and employment.

Living in The Moment

I have a great recipe adapted from Mario Batali's cookbook, Molto Italiano. Because you have to use the summer squash or zucchini flowers immediately upon cutting, I call this a Living in the Moment recipe brought to you by Ben, the border collie who epitomizes Living in the Moment. Back to the recipe. This is an easy and quick summertime appetizer. I also think this is a great recipe because it is always hard to capture all your squash before they start to become baseball bats. This gets some of your fruit early, when it is, in my opinion at it's best. Instead of using the male flower (that has no squash attached to it) we like to use the female flowers that has a mini squash, about 2" long. Mario substitutes just goat cheese for ricotta. We blend goat cheese and a mild feta cheese for more zippy flavor. If you are looking for local farm fresh goat cheese, again another Sterling favorite is Crystal Brook Farm. Ann does a lot of farmers markets, too. If you can visit Crystal Brook, it is the most idyllic setting in Sterling. For my one and only feta resource, it has to be Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Market Place, Pleasant St. Worcester.
Here are the directions: This recipe is adapted for 3 flowers/person. One egg, 1/4 cup of your cheeses mixed, a scallion thinly sliced, a dash of ground nutmeg, black pepper and salt to taste, olive oil, butter and basil. Prep the blossoms by removing the flower part in the center, cut the mini squash off and put aside, wash the flowers gently (look for bugs). Mix the first six ingredients together in a bowl to make your filling. Put 2 tsp. in each blossom. Heat non-stick frying pan, med. to med. high heat. Add olive oil and sear the mini squash and give it a dash of salt. Set aside. Reduce heat and add a little more olive oil, if necessary and saute blossoms on both sides till slightly golden brown. Take a tab of butter in pan and swirl around and coat the flowers. Place on plate and serve with basil (in fine strips or chiffonade) for a sample of this cutting technique. The mini squash can be sauted prior to cooking the flowers as above. They take a bit longer to saute so do them first, then your flowers and serve together.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Weather extremes - Get out in the Vegetable Garden!!!

Many of us may be spending less time in the garden because of the extreme rain conditions; some folks may not even have their entire garden planted out. Whatever the case may be, vigilantly monitor what you do have planted. This is the first year we have experienced tomato blight this early in the season. There are various methods, organic and traditional to treat for fungus and disease. It may be too late, like it is in our case because we don't typically spray or treat. If your plant material has really suffered, get prepared for the weather to break and replant immediately to try to maximize the growing season. Last year we managed to have great tomatoes, despite the poor growing conditions early in the season. But last year's growing conditions were slightly different. Talk with your local farmers to get their feedback. Most, if not all are a wealth of knowledge and love to share it. Their wisdom comes from many years of experience and observation. There is a real art to successful farming and the key is to stay with it and get out in the garden.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Amsonia (A Plant lover's plant)

For those of you who attended Greg's lecture at Tower Hill either on the 23rd or the 27th, here is the name of the plant he mentioned - amsonia hubrichtii is the one he showed in his photos but we started off with a slip from a neighbor who gave us the Amsonia, Bluestar. (See photo) I wanted to show the flower although it is a bit different on the hubrichtii. This is a great plant for cut flowers; one of my favorite things about having a flower garden.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Strawberries and Tangrias

Now that the rain has finally subsided, atleast for 8 hours, it is a good time to descend upon the fresh strawberries that are being grown locally. The taste is superior to anything you will find in a supermarket. There are so many uses for strawberries, including a fruity sangria. I searched for recipes online, of course, looking for the easiest one that I could dabble with and alter. I had some strawberries, some wine in the fridge that someone had brought over during the last dinner party and temps that were getting sticky and humid. Perfect for experimenting with a summer drink. My altered recipe: Tang to substitute the sugar (a few tablespoons will do), freshly squeezed orange, lime and lemon, grape juice (the real stuff) a bottle of white wine, tonic water (I only used what was left in the bottle), some water and ice and a splash or a bit more of brandy with strawberries and fresh spearmint from the garden. The trick is to let it sit overnight . It actually gets better as you let it sit for a few days. Greg did the canning thing with the strawberries but he is trying to figure the sweetness barometer. If anyone has the knack for canning the strawberries, please do post. We will use the 9 or so jelly jars for going in plain yogurt for breakfast or served over ice cream. Fortunately, in Sterling we have one of the best ice cream stands in town - Rota Spring Farms - Hope you are enjoying the sunshine today and don't let the string of storms that are in the forecast stop you from enjoying the garden! Hope you'll follow and post...Annie

Friday, June 26, 2009

Creating Your Own Oasis

Greg will be doing one more class June 27th at Tower Hill Botanical Garden, Boylston, MA, Creating your own Oasis. The Tuesday night class was well-received. Will be writing about our grape road trips shortly.

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Check in for your daily share's worth of garden inspiration, landscape architecture and design tips; always original, not cookie cutter and copied. Just like our design work, we strive for unique! We invite you to contact Bilowz Associates, Inc., or to browse our portfolios. Like our Facebook follow on Twitter or subscribe to the blog to receive posts daily via email or a feed. You can follow with visuals on Pinterest and find us on LinkedIn and Houzz, too.  You can also find us back on our Google+ Business Page. (Landscape architects/Landscape Design/serving Massachusetts and New England.) Visit our landscape architectural design firm's website where creating design with balance and harmony is our story.

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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)