Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hedgerows, Shelterbelts, and Wind

The Wind

 There are 3 common challenges to New Harmony gardeners:  wind, weeds, and wildlife.  Perhaps you share these same challenges in your location.  This post will address wind issues.  It is not uncommon for those moving into our area to build a beautiful raised bed garden only to be discouraged by pitiful harvests.  The wind is one culprit that perhaps is not given enough consideration when planning the garden.

This is a natural windbreak of Gambrel oaks on the south side of one garden.

Wind is not all bad at low speeds.  Low wind speeds (less than three to five) actually have a positive effect on plants.  It encourages the plant to develop thicker and strong stems. Unfortunately as wind speed increased plant development is slowed, growth is restricted, and the form of the plant can be altered all of which will result in pitiful

Sustained high winds actually change the growth and development of the plant. The stress of wind results in smaller plants with shorter internodes, smaller leaf area, and thicker stems. And this of course will result in pitiful discouraging harvests.

Wind damages delicate petals on ornamental plants

Other effects of wind in the garden:

  • water evaporates from the soil more quickly drying out the surface

  • Petals of delicate flowers can be blown off

  • Wind can damage flowers pistol and stamen and make pollination difficult.

  • Butterflies and bees avoid flying in windy conditions

  • Tall profile plants can be blown over damaging stems

  • High winds can damage roots by dislodging them

  • Strong winds cause excessive water loss from plants through transpiration

  • In prolonged winds the stomata close to limit loss of water.  This decreases photosynthesis. 

  • Fruit rubs on other branches, canes, or stems and is damaged 
You can take advantage of the natural land contours and landscape.  This garden has a dike on one side, a grove of Gambrel oak on the south and native shrubs and junipers on the north side.
How a wind break works:

As the wind approaches the barrier, it is carried up and over the barrier.  Wind speeds behind the barrier are reduced and crops are protected.

The height of the wind barrier will determine the distance from the barrier where wind speed will be reduced. Maximum weed speed reduction occurs from 5 to 8 times the height of the wind break.  So a hedgerow of 8 feet will reduce wind from 40 to 64 ft from the break.  (University of Nebraska)

The degree of wind reduction will depend on he type of windbreak. Within the sheltered area you can have microclimates which result in warmer air and soil temperatures. (University of Nebraska)
Even a small open fence with shrubs on one side offers wind shelter.

Garden Walls and Fences

When choosing fencing material, choose material that allows for some airflow.  A solid wall creates turbulence in the air current while a non solid wall slows wind speed without creating extra currents.  There are numerous options.  Even burlap stretched over wire will slow wind speed.
A living wall can shelter a porch as well as a garden.  Honeysuckle can be trained on a trellis or wire fence around the garden.  It grows very thick, bumble bees love it, and it smells incredible.

A Living Wall or Windbreak

Hedgerows are generally shrubs grown close together.  A shelterbelt consists of one or more rows of trees and shrubs designed to offer protection.  

A living wall offers the added benefits of erosion control, wildlife habitat, food and shelters for pollinators, privacy, ornamental appeal, and privacy.  

Living wall can include edibles that will give variety to your harvests.

Keep in that living walls need to be irrigated, weeded, pruned, and maintained. If you do not want another area to take care of then build a fence or wall.

Things to Consider:

  • Vegetables need early spring protection so consider using evergreens
  •  Use a variety of species rather than one species.  This provides habitat for beneficial insects, pollinators, and reduces risks of a single pest or disease causing problems.
  • Food crops can be used as windbreaks.  3-4 rows of corn or sunflowers can shield fall crops.  Grains can shelter early spring crops.

Silver queen corn is 6-7 feet tall and can shelter low growing ground crops.

 Suggested plantings for wind breaks:


Blue Spruce:  Beautiful tall growing evergreen.  Branches to the ground with blue green needles.
Slow growing.

Austrian Pine:  Fast growing long needled pine. 

Eastern Red Cedar:  Very good wind break thick and bushy

Rocky Mountain Juniper

Broadleaf Trees:

Big Tooth Maple:  Native to Utah. Can be bushy or tree like with good fall color

Siouxland Popular:  This is a cottonless cottonwood very good for windbreaks.

American Plum: Medium to tall shrub great for windbreaks.  Loved by songbirds and animals for nesting and bedding. Fruit can be eaten fresh or processed into jellies. 

Beautiful flowering small tree.


 Coneaster:  Small pink flowers, black berries, and fall color
Siberian Peashrub:  Great for shelter-belts both cold and drought tolerant.  Locust like leaves with yellow flowers.
 Common Lilac:  Beautiful purple flowers.  Can grow very large a great choice in a shelter-belt.  It does sucker.

One of my favorite flowering shrubs, lilac.  Heavenly smell and beautiful blooms.

Serviceberry:  A native shrub.  Irregular shape with red fruit and white flowers.  
American Cranberry:  White flowers red berries.  Birds love the berries.
Elderberry:  Beautiful umbrella flowers.  Deep purple almost black berries.  Flowers and berries both have medicinal purposes.  Birds love these berries.  It does sucker and needs pruning.

Elderberries a beautiful tall shrub that will sucker.

The flowers are incredibly beautiful and medicinal.  The berries are deep purple and loved by birds.  They can also be made in syrup, jelly, and medicinal concoctions.  These shrubs produce enough berries for you and the wildlife.


Jostaberry is an easy care beautiful flowering shrub with edible berries.  It makes the best jelly.

Gooseberries are a small shrub very thorny and left allow by deer.  The fruit can be made into desserts and jam but it is unpleasant to pick because of the thorns.

Oakleaf Sumac
 PomegranateIf you live in zones 6-10 pomegranates is an option for edible shelterbelts  


Monday, April 18, 2016

Organic Orchard Care: Monitoring for Pests and Disease in Early Spring

 A good time to do some monitoring and deal with early pests in the orchard is right after petal fall and as leaves emerge. 

Black cherry aphids


Aphids can infect all fruit trees.  Different species affect different trees.They feed on the juices of plants.  Their saliva is toxic and causes curled leaves and deformed fruits. 

Host:   Apples, pears, peaches, nectarine, plums, and cherries

What to do:
As soon as the leaves emerge examine the undersides for aphids.  Look for the tiny pests at the base of the leaf.  They usually appear in clusters. Using a magnifying lens is helpful.   It is important to treat your trees before aphid feedings starts to curl the leaves. Once the leaves curl the aphids are protected from the sprays and much harder to get rid of.

After examining leaves from different levels of the canopy, if you see aphids you have a couple organic options:
  •  Strong spay with a hose nozle to dislodge if infestation is light.  Repeat every 2-3 days
  • Prune heavily infested sections if aphids infestation is small
  •  Insecticidal soap 
  • 1% horticultural oil
  • Neem Oil
  • Pyrethrin
Be sure to thoroughly cover the tree with the spray focusing on the undersides of leaves.  Horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps smoother the pest and must contact the aphid.

Types of Aphids

Apples are host to  rosy apple aphid and green apple aphid.  Green apple aphid is more common and populations begin to increase until the warmer summer months.  They remain in the orchard the entire season producing many generations.

The rosy apple aphid tends to be more of a problem in spring.  This aphid migrates out of the orchard to weed hosts in late June and July.

On peaches, green peach aphid is most common.  Their populations grow rapidly in the spring and cause distorted, twisted, and yellow foliage.  They eventually migrate out of the orchard in summer to weed hosts.

Plums and apricots suffer from mealy plum aphid and plum leaf curl aphid.

On cherries the black cherry aphid is the most common.  You can spot these on suckers at the base of the tree first. Black cherry aphids are easy to spot because of their color.

So I have had problems with aphids on cherries, peaches, and plums. Using a dormant spray when the sap begins to flow and buds start to swell is important in managing aphids.  This applications smothers overwintering eggs.  If you applied a dormant spray you should still check out your orchard early spring and look for aphids.

After leaves emerge I use the following mixture in one spray application:
  • Neem Oil
  • Horticulture Oil
  • Fish emulsion
  • Kelp
  • Repeat Neem or Horticulture oil if aphids are still a problem
For a heavy infestation if leaves have started to curl I use Pyrethrin.

Western Flower Thrips

Host:   peach, nectarine, apricot, and plum

If you had deformed fruit last year then you probably had thrips.  They are visible with a magnifying lens but easily overlooked with the naked eye.  Thrips feed on the developing fruit from bloom time til petal fall.

Organic option:
  • Spinosad

Spray in the evening.  When wet, Spinosad is toxic to bees but once dry it will not harm them.  One good application should work.


Apple Powdery Mildew

 Three conditions are necessary for a fungus to become active:  a proper host, specific weather conditions, and presence of the fungal spores.

The host for powdery mildew is apple and pears.  Powdery mildew is caused by a fungus that overwinters on twigs or a secondary infection when spores colonize a neighboring tree. New infections will reoccur if you had a previous infestation.  The fungal spores act as an inoculum and begin colonizing in early spring depending on weather conditions.  Powdery mildew can damage twigs, leaves, and fruit buds.

Begin monitoring for powdery mildew when buds are at tight cluster to open cluster or the pink stage. Look for mildew with a magnifying glass.  It is much easier to see.

If powdery mildew has been a problem treat 7-14 days after bloom with a sulfur spray.

Peach Tree Borers

The borer larvae overwinter in the tree canopy.  In early spring, they emerge and feed on new foliage.  Once the shoots start to expand and grow they bore into the shoots.  

It is important to treat while the larvae are feeding on foliage.  After petal fall apply Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). This bacteria must be ingested by the insect to be effective and is therefore is safe for bees. 

Monday, April 11, 2016


My love affair with gardening began with the tomato, and my obsession with tomatoes continues today.  Every year my husband kindly suggests I plant fewer tomatoes, and in in all honesty every year I start out with that intention but sadly I usually end up increasing the number of tomatoes I plant.  As I browse the catalogs, read the descriptions, fall in love with the history, and find the colors irresistible, I am truly enchanted with the tomato.  I can't resist planting old favorites and trying new potential favorites.

Why not?  There are so many tomato varieties.  They come in all sizes, shapes, colors, textures, and have a range of flavors.  There are endless sauces and ways to preserve the tomato, and there is never a shortage of people willing to take tomatoes if I become overwhelmed with the harvest  (Unlike the zucchini which only chickens and pigs seem to appreciate.)  When I participated in the farmer's market, it was the heirloom tomatoes that kept customers coming back to my booth.  If your only association with the tomato is in the grocery store aisle, then you are truly missing out on one of natures most delicious treats.

History of the Tomato

At one time the tomato was avoided and thought to be poisonous. What is now a passion for some was avoided as a poison.  My son served a mission for our church in 2013 in the Philippines and says they still believe that parts of the tomato are poisonous and cut out most of the tomato. 

Perhaps the problems stems from the fact that the tomato belongs to the Solanaceae family which also happens to include the nightshades and other poisonous plants.  Many still believe the leaves are poisonous but they are not.  Clearly the tomato's reputation suffered because of its association with the nightshade family. 

Choosing varieties

There are a couple of things to consider when choosing a tomato variety.  New varieties continue to come out each season.  To grow tomatoes successfully in your area you need to choose the right kinds.  

Green Zebra tomatoes

Heirlooms vs. Hybrids

Heirlooms offer lots of benefits.  They come in various colors, shapes, sizes, and have unique flavors.  They are open pollinated so you can save seeds.  What makes a tomato an heirloom?  Its seeds has been saved and handed down for generations.  It has a history and is usually from a distinct area.  Because seed was saved in specific areas where they grow vigorously, heirlooms are sometimes finicky about the area they grow.  Pay attention to where the tomato is from and choose heirlooms which are suitable to your situation.  

Old Ivory Egg, Pineapple, Pink Caspian

Heirlooms have some disadvantages.  They are harder to grow in some cases and some have less disease resistance than hybrids.  They are most always indeterminate and need lots of room to grow.  The beefsteak varieties have very large cores.  Also the fruit is more easily damaged in handling.  Some may call the heirloom the ugly duckling they often have fluting, cracking, green shoulders, and other usually features. Despite a less than perfect out appearance they taste divine. Heirlooms offer unique rich flavors and are absolutely worth the effort.

In my garden I have my standard heirlooms that I always plant because I have success with them and absolutely love the taste.  These include:

Paul Robeson (purple, beefsteak) 

Green Zebra (green with yellowing, slicing type)

Pineapple (yellow with red and orange, beefsteak)

Old Ivory Egg (egg shaped yellow)

German Pink or Caspian Pink


Principe Bourghese (the tomato grown for sun drying)

Green Zebra


 Then I always try a few new heirlooms.  If that variety doesn't succeed the first year then give it a try another year before you give up on it.

I do not exclude the hybrid tomato from my garden.  I have some reliable, disease resistant hybrids I really like to eat fresh and process for sauces and salsa.  They are firmer for processing and I like that.  

Celebrity (dependable with traditional tomato flavor)

Early Girl

4th of July (smaller salad tomato that is very early)

Taxi  (Yellow slicing tomato)

Sungold - (absolutely sweetest cherry tomato yet)

Taxi hybrid tomato

Taxi tomato a good hybrid, very productive and good taste.

Determinant vs. Indeterminate

Determinant tomatoes or bush tomato do not usually require staking.  They are good for smaller gardens and containers.  They have a more compact growth habit around 3-4 feet.  They stop growing when the top bud sets fruit.  Fruit ripens within weeks of each other and no more fruit is produce which is good for canning.

 Indeterminate tomatoes are large vigorous vining plants.  They continue to produce fruit until a frost kills the vine.  They produce blooms, set fruit, and ripen fruit at the same time.  They can grow from 6-10 feet and need staking.  Most heirlooms are indeterminate.

Tomato Sizes:

 Cherry:  These are bite size tomatoes packed with sweetness.  They are usually smaller than an 1inch used in salads and fresh eating..  They come in different sizes and shapes and colors.

Currant:  These are the smallest of the tomatoes about the size of a pea. More time consuming to pick.

Grape:  Oblong tomatoes the size of a grape used in salads and for fresh eating.

Pear:  As the name implies they are shaped like a pear.
Sauce/paste:  Oblong tomatoes used for sauces.  Usually more meaty and less juicy.

Slicing:  Medium sized tomatoes with many uses.  Variety of colors and shapes.

Sliced tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and herbs.

A tortilla with cheese, slices of fresh tomatoes, and fresh salsa.

Beef steak:  These are the largest of the tomatoes also in many colors

Tomato Color
The flavor of a tomato is the result of a balance of acids and sugars.  A tomato low in acid and sugar will have a bland taste-the grocery store tomato- which is breed for shipping and not flavor.  

The pigment of the fruit influences the production and balance of acids and sugars which affects the taste. While all tomatoes are acidic the combination of acids and sugars can produce a range of flavors from sweet and mild to acidic.

 Orange, yellow, and white tomatoes are sweeter and milder.

Red tomatoes tend to have the traditional balance giving the expected slightly acidic tomato taste.

Black tomatoes are a combination of green and red pigments and have a unique flavor that some love and some do not.



Most tomatoes need to be started from seed indoors 8 weeks before the last frost date.  If you don't want to start your own then look for transplants with 6-8 leaves and healthy green color.  Be picky about tomato transplants.  I believe some come from the garden center already diseased and will only bring frustration.  

Tomatoes are one plant that is not planted at the same level as it is in the pot.  If part of the stem is buried it will grow roots.  A good strong root system is necessary for healthy tomatoes vines.

Dig a hole bigger than the transplant.  Add a couple tablespoons of dry organic fertilizer and compost.  Mix into the soil.  Cut, don't tear, off the lower leaves and lay the plant on its side so that the stem you exposed by cutting off the lower leaves is in the planting hole. Bend the stem with leaves up and cover the part in the planting hole. Be gentle so you don't damage or break the stem.
Dry organic fertilizer which I mix. It includes bone meal, blood meal, greensand or azomite, and sometimes kelp meal or another meal available.

It's important to mulch around tomatoes.  There are many soil borne diseases that will splash up on the leaves if you don't.
Nutri Mulch which is a composted turkey manure.

Tomatoes needs even moisture.  Do NOT let them dry out between watering.  They  fairly deep roots so water deeply. 

As the tomato grows you can remove lower leaves that yellow or prune any leaves that look diseased.  Tomatoes need staking.  I like these square wire cages that fold up during the end of the season.

To help my tomatoes get a healthy start a put a row cove over the top of the tomato.  It helps give a little shelter from direct sun until the transplant is established.  Some studies also suggest it may give some protection from leaf hoppers that spread curly top.

For best flavor let the tomato ripen on the vine; however, tomatoes will ripen after they are picked.
If a lot of rain is coming I pick those close to ripening because a heavy rain will cause tomatoes to split. 

With endless uses and so many unique tantalizing colors and shapes there has to be a tomato or many tomatoes out there just perfect for you and your garden. So when you want real tomato taste get out of the grocery store and into the garden.