More on Soil Solarization: How to Kill Those Germs

More on Soil Solarization: How to Kill Those Germs


Instead of “reinventing the wheel”,  I am going to list the steps to follow in order to solarize your soil.  At the end of this post, you will find links to two very good resource guides from UC Davis, Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources that will provide you with in-depth information, the how-tos and the whys of soil solarization: the first guide is available through the mail for $5.00,…

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Verticillium Wilt (Try Saying that Fast Three Times): Managing VW

Verticillium Wilt (Try Saying that Fast Three Times): Managing VW

Affected Tomato

Affected Tomato

In the garden, Verticillium Wilt (VW) can affect potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, some cole crops, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, cucurbits, artichokes, avocados, peaches, nectarines, caneberries, and apricots. It can also affect landscape plants and flowers. In fact, there are over 400 plant species that are affected by the Verticillium wilt disease (VW).  Given the wide…

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Potato Bag Gardening: The When, Where and the How…

Potato Bag Gardening: The When, Where and the How. . .

My Potato Bag

My Potato Bag

Potato bags are a boon to suburban gardeners like me. My property is in an older development with a not very large backyard. Most of the backyard is taken up by a swimming pool, so my planting options are more limited. What soil I do have, I want to keep healthy and arable.

One of the dilemmas facing a backyard gardener is where to grow your crops. It’s not always possible to…

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Potato/Potahto: Growing Potatoes in the Backyard

Potato/Potahto: Growing Potatoes in the Backyard

You like potato and I like potahto,

You like tomato and I like tomahto,

Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!

Lets call the whole thing off!

(Lyrics by George/Ira Gershwin)

This was the first year I grew potatoes. I was a little apprehensive about doing so, because I was concerned about verticillium wilt and blight, which would wreck my soil for future planting of other crops. I’m glad I didn’t let…

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Bagging Tomatoes instead of Varmints

IMG_2061Recently, I posted a request to gardening bloggers asking for methods to protect tomatoes from being eaten by varmints.  Blogger Solarbeez suggested picking the tomatoes before they’re ripe (thank you Solarbeez for the great suggestion).

A few days after my post, while volunteering at the Master Gardener Help Desk, I asked two very experienced master gardeners if they had varmints eat their tomatoes, and if so, how they dealt with it. They both responded with sighs and deep groans, but not much else except to suggest maybe keeping an eye on the tomatoes and try to pick them before they’re ripe, or netting, or trapping, or fencing or caging, or poison, or…

The very next day after my volunteer stint, I received an ANR IPM Blog Post about traps and barriers to keep pests out and I thought how fortuitous it was that I would get a blog post about pests. But, while it was very helpful as far as it went, and I highly recommend using the UC IPM website for information on pest management for crops, orchards and landscapes, it didn’t really help me with my predicament.  The reality is that there isn’t any sure-fire fixall to prevent varmints from getting at your tomatoes,  cucumbers, or squash.

I still don’t know what type of varmint I have.  I have gone out at night with a flashlight to try to catch sight of the critter(s), but with no luck. The possibilities are squirrels, opossum, raccoons or perhaps roof rats. Here in California, Tree Squirrels are considered game animals and therefore, a permit must be obtained from the Department of Fish and Game before you can trap them. On the other hand, Eastern Fox squirrels can be controlled in any legal manner without a permit. Then, there are also Ground Squirrels, Chipmunks, and Western Gray Squirrels. Opossums can be easily trapped but rats are wary of new objects or novel foods so they will avoid traps at first. Ugh.

There is a lot of information on identifying and catching varmints out there in the webosphere. But, as I’ve stated in previous posts, I am basically a lazy gardener. I only want to expend energy that is commensurate with the pay-off.  I took stock of the damage to my tomatoes and there wasn’t much yet.  So, I decided I can live with a few partially eaten tomatoes.  Therefore, I opted out of trying to bag Varmint X (which is just as well because the thought made me a little squeamish), and I’m bagging my tomatoes instead.

IMG_2070 The materials used to bag tomatoes are:

  • Small mesh bird netting
  • Parchment paper sandwich bags
  • Reusable cable ties (use twine if you don’t want plastic)

Bagging tomatoes entails using brown parchment bags to cover the tomatoes that are just beginning to ripen. The bags are held on the vine by reusable cable ties. From across the patio, the tomato plants look normal, but up close, you can see brown bags hanging on the vines.

I check the plants daily and choose which tomatoes are ready for bagging and which are ready to be picked, and I pick the tomatoes before they are fully ripe,  then bring them inside (still in the bag) and let them ripen the rest of the way.  The bags can be reused several times.

In addition to the bagging, I have small mesh netting covering the tomatoes to make it more difficult for varmints to get in and out of the beds. This combination seems to be working; none of the bagged tomatoes have been chewed on, and the amount of partially eaten tomatoes has dropped significantly.


Note:  If you would like information on pest control, try the UC Davis website:

(click on link here for the IMP Blog Post:

(click on link here to access UC Davis IPM for more information on pest control:

No photoshopping: Zucchini Without Makeup

If celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow or Jessica Alba can post photos of themselves sans makeup or photoshopping, then so can my Zucchinis.

Its easy to post about the successes in the garden, but its good to show the failures too.  Why?  Because posting only successes (while fun) isn’t very realistic – much like the over-photoshopped pics of certain celebrities like – oh – maybe Kim Kardashian (yes, they do too all have cellulite).  I like my veggies real.

Here’s a photo of my Zucchinis from the same plant, which illustrates how not every single one of the blooms will grow into a full squash even with pollination.  The small puny Zucchinis were not fully pollinated, while the large Zucchinis were.  And, its all good.  Because who can really eat all of the Zucchini a plant is capable of producing?  I can’t and I can only offload so much to my friends before they stop returning my texts.

Getting’ Your Pollination On

Getting’ Your Pollination On

Birds do it.

Bees do it.

Even Syrphids do it.

They all do it. They all pollinate.

You would think that with so many pollinators around, it would be easy to grow squash and produce an abundant harvest.  And yet, it is a common complaint that while the squash grows and blooms, there is no fruit, the fruit is misshapen, the plant provides a very small yield, or the fruit just dries up and then rots…

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Sexing Squash (no mood music required)

Sexing Squash (no mood music required)

B. Male, C. Female – Illustration courtesy of ANR Repository/UCCE Riverside

A common complaint I’ve heard among gardeners is that although their squash flowered, the blooms eventually fell off without setting any fruit.

One of the reasons for this occurrence is that the blossoms were probably male. Squash plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The males produce the…

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