Phyllis Both color for BNR

Phyllis Both

The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” – F.D. Roosevelt

I have not mentioned late blight on potatoes or tomatoes much this year. Eleven counties have confirmed late blight. The type is US-23, which is the worst type since it is aggressive and resistant to most fungicides. Most tomatoes are affected. Fortunately, it has not been reported in Sauk County but that only means no one has sent in a positive sample to the lab. Be watchful. Only four counties have reported blight on potatoes and it was type US-8 which is not as aggressive. If you suspect blight on plants, pull them out, bag them and dispose in trash. Do not compost or burn.

Pine trees are starting to lose needles. If the needles on the inside fall, it is natural and happens every autumn. If new growth and tips start to turn brown, it may mean you have a fungus called sphaeropsis tip blight. This affects all pine trees and is quite common in the Midwest. The blight usually affects trees more than 13 years old. The most common symptom is browning of the needles at the tip end of the trees and moves up the tree. Sometimes you will see small black spots at the base of the brown needles. A copper fungicide sprayed in April and May will help control this.

If your tree is large, it is almost impossible to control. When purchasing replacement trees always look for disease resistant trees and talk to your local nursery people. They can look it up for you. They are your best bet when purchasing plants, shrubs and trees.

My fall crop of spinach is almost ready for picking. I really enjoy this crop since there are no leaf miner worries. At the end of the month, I plant another crop of spinach to grow a little before going dormant for the winter. This crop will be ready for harvest in March or April and may be the best of all because pests do not bother it. It is a welcomed first vegetable of the year. Another good fall crop right now is radishes. The seed planted in August are great radishes with no root maggots.

I know I have mentioned pH frequently but perhaps new gardeners do not understand what it means. The pH of the soil is the secret to unlocking the soil’s nutrient content and making it available to the plants. Fall is the best time to correct pH as both lime (sweeter) and sulfur (acidity) take time to act. If the pH is not close to neutral (between 6.0 and 7.0), many soils nutrients are not available to plants. Never guess at it. Rely on your county UW-Extension office. They can help you get your soil tested. Attention to pH is one of the most important things you can do for your garden.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.