I affectionately refer to the large non venomous snakes around our place. But out here good goes with bad and the copperhead in the header photo, thick of body and (to me) ugly and close to the house, was an unwelcome sight.
In north Georgia it is hot and dry. Blackberry and blueberry season is over and now it’s time for fruit and crops such as squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. And this year my apples and squash are great yet many of my tomatoes have blossom rot. Usually my tomatoes excel and the squash and apples underperform. I wonder why?
The Pristine apple is the first to ripen, it is yellow skinned and tastes great. Purchased in March 2007. I grow organically and this year there was minimal pest invasion. Although I could attribute this to running my chickens in the orchard where they dug up and ate hibernators around the tree trunk areas; or the increased presence of the brown Thrasher, our state bird, which loves insects; I believe the main reason is my first time use of kaolin clay as a spray applied when the fruit had first formed. Our dehydrator is running non stop (almost), our neighbors are happy, and it’s a pleasure to eat tasty apples without concern for what may have been sprayed.
Equally intriguing is the success of the the pattypan squash. I have never been successful with squash – the plants would grow vigorously and then as the first squash appeared the leaves would wilt and examination revealed vine borer tunnels through the stalk where it emerged from the soil. Not this year (yet). What is different? This is my first year with pattypan squash and maybe it is less attractive to vine borers. Other possibilities are patrols by the brown Thrasher, a new planting area with more disciplined weeding and watering, or my compost tea which looks vile and may be offensive to pests. The main ingredient is comfrey leaves which decompose and produce an unattractive bloom in the 35 gals brew tank to which is added coffee grounds and a supplement of liquid human fertilizer. Or it may be an off year for the borers?
The disappointment is the tomatoes. I previously rarely had blossom rot, this year it is a problem.
Why? Prior years I used newspapers and woodchips as mulch, this year black plastic. A theory is the black plastic channels the water to the area at the base of the plant and the rest of the soil dries out, so the roots congregate around the central area and cannot access other nutrients (calcium) which they need. But then I noticed a planting which had no plastic and also had blossom rot and a tomato plant given by a neighbor which is producing large healthy tomatoes yet was planted through black plastic. Were my seedlings prior to planting under nourished or defective?
With growing and life in general it is often difficult to determine cause & effect unlike say electronics where components conform rigidly to their specs and the reason for aberrations can be easily identified.
My conclusion is that I didn’t water adequately and this was exacerbated by the channeling effect of the black plastic. I have now removed the plastic altogether from some plants and rolled it back for others and am irrigating a larger base area.
And why did I not water adequately? We have a drought in north Georgia and all my irrigation is from harvested rainwater. My storage capacity is around 6,000 gals and when levels run low I become frugal. With hindsight it would have been better to plant half the plants with double the irrigation.