Wisconsin gardeners dealing with a few vegetable problems

Wisconsin gardeners dealing with a few vegetable problems

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“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” — Lewis Grizzard

We have been dealing with a few vegetable problems in Wisconsin. Late blight on tomatoes and potatoes has been found in Portage, Wood and La Crosse counties.

So far, downy mildew has not been reported on cucurbits but has been reported on basil. If your basil has been getting spots under leaves or black watery spots, you should harvest intact leaves and discard the plant. The leaves with downy mildew are very bitter and it is best not to use them.

Fruit rot (Phytophthora) is a very aggressive and widespread disease in cucurbits, especially summer squash and cucumbers. It can also attack melons, winter squash and pumpkins. This disease is common and is soil-borne. Once plants are infected, fungicide cannot reverse it. Due to the soil-borne nature, the disease thrives in wet, low-lying areas due to our heaving rainfall this year.

I have gotten a few calls this year on woodchuck damage to yards and gardens. From personal experience, I have soaked rags in ammonia and stuffed them in woodchuck holes. It works pretty well but you have to stuff them in new holes as they appear. Try to find the entrance and exit. The critter will move on.

Most of the problems we have with species are caused by inadvertently bringing them in from other countries. This included the earthworm. Gardeners love them for aerating the soil and helping the garden grow.

We never had native earthworms existing until after the last Ice Age. Forests and other habitats evolved without them. They may be good for your soil but research has found they are not good for our northern forests since they cause physical, biological and chemical changes to the soil.

I still love them in the garden.

Jumping worms have invaded Wisconsin in the last few years. They will change our soils more dynamically than earthworms. Jumping worms live in the topmost layer of the soil. They eat organic material such as leaves and turn it into soil that looks like coffee grounds. This soil inhibits the establishment of seedlings. It also disrupts the relationship between fungi and trees.

Jumping worms are spread by raking leaves into piles and then going in community compost piles to convert into mulch. Therefore, the cocoons are transported to new habitat. Potted plants can also move worms around. Fishermen leaving bait behind thinking the worms are good for the soil can rapidly spread the worms. It is best to dispose of extra bait in a plastic bag and put it in the garbage. The important thing now is to stop the spread. Everyone can help since there are no good controls. To learn more about jumping worms, visit hort.extension.wisc.edu/jumping-worms.

Tomato tasting for the “Totally Tomato” project will be from 9-11:30 a.m. Aug. 24 from at the Reedsburg Public Library, 370 Vine St. Enjoy the fruits of our labor and the special tomato dishes that the Master Gardeners create.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at phyllis.both@saukcountywi.gov or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County UW-Extension office, 608-355-3253.

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