Saturday, June 13, 2015

1.5 Ounces of Prevention

I like to think that part of my competence as a gardener has to do with learning from mistakes.  The way most of us start out is with some Dirt and Transplants.  After years of trial and error we advance to Soil and Seeds.  We plot and plan.  We kill and strategize.  We have our rituals all designed around avoidance.  Avoidance of pests.  Avoidance of failure.

You might ask me "do you have trouble with slugs?"  My answer would be "yes and no".  Not since the year of the cucumber failure.  I used to have trouble, now I avoid trouble.  We learn what is coming next.  We research and exercise solutions. Do I have any trouble with slugs?  No.  But that's not because I live in a slug free world.  It's because I kill every one I see.  Every time I plant cucumbers or lettuce I sprinkle Sluggo all over that very day.  I sprinkle Sluggo in the strawberries.  I pack it into the cracks and crevices that look like a slug hotel.  I don't have trouble with slugs because I am always at war with them.  ...even if they don't appear to be here.  I fight them before they arrive.  The same with squash bugs, deer, asparagus beetles, raccoons and flea beetles.  I am always at war.  Seems silly when there is no sign of the enemy?  Well, no.  That's just proof that the war is going well.  I'm winning!

Last year's battle was against fusarium wilt.  This is caused by bacteria in the soil.  It rots the roots and stems where they touch the soil, and the plant "damps off".  Perfectly good seedlings keel over.  Sometimes they rot before they even poke through the ground.  It's disheartening.  I struggled to keep ahead of it.

Large gaps are evident in my bush bean row where seedlings
damped off before they could become established.
I had the problem in two beds, one with black beans and one with bush green beans.  I've had this trouble in particularly wet years where I actually had algae growing on the soil surface in full sun, but waiting a few weeks and replanting solved the problem.  Not last year.  There seemed to be no stopping it.

Discoloration of the stems is the first sign of the problem
But one thing I noticed was that the black beans planted in the bed I'd amended for the cucumbers, were outpacing the wilt with their vigorous growth.    I could stand at the bed and see where I had added the blood meal (a source of Nitrogen).  The beans along the cuke row were thriving, but the beans on the other side were struggling to survive.  So... this could be prevented.

I added blood meal to the right side of the bed, but none to the left side.
This year I took several steps to ensure my beans survived.  First, I rotated them to a different bed which hopefully won't have a wilt problem.  Secondly, I solarized the bed in the spring, cooking the bad bacteria and warming the soil.  Thirdly I added blood meal to all my beds.  And fouthly, I inoculated them.   That isn't exactly what it sounds like.  Inoculation sounds as if I am giving them an immunity to disease, which I'm not.  I used a product that encourages "the formation of high-nitrogen nodules on plant roots for richer soil, bigger plants, and better yields".  .  I'm doing my best to help the plants outpace the enemy.

The inoculent came in a 1.5 ounce packet.  A black, powdery mystery substance.  You damped your seeds, roll them in the black, powdery mystery substance, and plant.  So far so good.  I planted two rows of purple and yellow beans from seeds packed for 2014, and on a whim used up the green ones packed for 2011.  The old seeds turned to mush and only a couple sprouted, so instead I've added a row of lettuce thinned from another bed.  The two goods rows are doing just fine.

In fact, I went a little over board.  These should really be thinned.

1 comment:

  1. We always added inoculant to our soybeans and navy beans. The soys really didn't need it......they nodualized just fine by themselves but the navy beans REALLY responded to the help. I have no idea what the inoculant is made of but if you ever want to try something really neat put inoculant on some plants and not on others, then pull a couple up and look at the difference in the roots.