Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rain is Still the Story in Home Gardens

All the vegetable gardeners whose gardens are not doing as well this year as usual have probably already thought that the excessive rain is at least partly to blame, but Dr. Elizabeth Little, plant pathologist with UGA, confirms all of our suspicions in her recent Georgia FACES article, "Wet conditions create perfect setting for tomato, cucurbit diseases."

This particular article focuses on the cucurbit family - the squash, melons, and cucumbers that are such a large part of the summer garden and summer mealtimes. In addition to short but useful descriptions of three fairly common diseases - downy mildew, powdery mildew, and anthracnose - she includes information about a less common disease, cucumber yellow vine, that is affecting crops in some parts of the state.

For all, she offers recommendations for reducing problems in future years. For example:
"Anthracnose is mainly a concern on cucumbers and melons. The symptoms include leaf spots, defoliation and sometimes fruit lesions. The diseases survive in the infected debris, so rotation and the destruction of plant debris at the end of the season are important preventative measures. Wet weather is a major contributing factor. Trellising and/or the use of high tunnels, especially with cucumbers, can help reduce infections."
For more information, visit the original article, linked above.

The wet weather is also causing bumper crops of all kinds of mushrooms to pop up in yards, gardens, and fields. Another UGA plant pathologist, Jean Williams-Woodward, has written in the Georgia FACES newsletter article "Recent rains have mushrooms popping up" that it is never safe to eat a mushroom that has not been identified by an expert:
"University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialists say do not eat any mushrooms growing in lawns and certainly ones that have not been identified by a expert. Many are poisonous to some degree. At the very least, they will make you sick. At worst, you can die. Don't take the risk."
She adds, "To prevent accidental ingestion of mushrooms by pets and children, rake, mow over, or otherwise remove the mushrooms from your lawn."

Identifying mushrooms requires careful attention to the environment in which they are growing, what they are growing on, and much more, include their spore prints, which Williams-Woodward describes in her article, linked above.