Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: How do I control whiteflies on my leafy green vegetables?

 

Whiteflies

Whiteflies

 A:  Whiteflies feed exclusively on leaves, nearly always occurring on the undersurface. They suck juices from the plants and also excrete large quantities of honeydew in which sooty mold grows. Leaves will be sticky if there are many whiteflies feeding on the leaves above them and may turn black with sooty mold which grows on the honeydew. The most common whitefly found on Florida vegetables is called the silverleaf whitefly (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in286) because of the effect its feeding has on squash leaves. Feeding by the immature stages or nymphs can also result in white areas in tomato fruits, streaking of pepper fruits, and blanching of broccoli stems. Whiteflies are not flies but are distant relatives of aphids and leafhoppers and, like them, feed on plant sap with piercing- sucking mouthparts. Whiteflies can spread some plant viruses, such as tomato yellow leaf curl virus and bean golden mosaic virus. The adult is a very small (less than 1/16 inch long) and has white wings dusted with a waxy substance. It holds its wings like a tent over its yellow body (Figure 26). It lays its eggs on the lower surface of leaves of many plants, including tomatoes, eggplant, melons, cucumbers, squash, okra, beans, cabbage, and broccoli. Except for a very brief time after hatching, the nymphs cannot move on the plant and look like clear or pale yellow scales. Regular applications of insecticidal soap may help keep whiteflies under control. Tiny wasps also attack the whiteflies. Flowers planted around and in the garden may help these wasps and other beneficial insects survive by providing a source of nectar. Other general purpose garden insecticides that kill on contact may also be helpful but will harm the beneficial insects. Because the insects are found on the lower leaf surface, sprays must be directed there in order to be effective.

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Q: I am growing several types of peppers but my Ghost peppers are not producing well. What could be the problem?

Ghost Pepper

Ghost Pepper

A:  The Ghost pepper, Bhut jolokia, requires temperatures above 70º degrees F to produce fruit or peppers. We are just now reaching those temperatures on a regular basis. We may not be hot enough for a long enough period of time to produce this hot pepper but be patient and give it some more time and you may see better results. If you are not successful, do not be too hard on yourself, this pepper is typically grown in a much hotter climate than Northeast Florida.  The Ghost pepper is also known as naga jolokia, bih jolokia, ghost chili pepper, red naga chili, and ghost chili, is an interspecific hybrid cultivated in the Indian state of Assam. The name “bhut jolokia” comes from the Bhutia tribe who used to bring it to the valley of Assam for trade. DNA tests showed it is an interspecies hybrid, mostly C. chinense with C. frutescens. In 2007 Guinness World Records certified the ghost pepper as the world hottest pepper, with 1,041,427 Scoville units, 401.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce (2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units). It currently is ranked in third place following ‘Carolina Reaper’ (Guinness World Records 2013) and ‘Trinidad Moruga scorpion’ (Bryan 2012), which are 2,009,000 and 2,200,000 Scoville units, respectively, but these peppers are rarely grown in the Miami-Dade County region. Ripe bhut jolokia peppers are approximately 2.4 to 3.3 inches long and 1.0 to 1.2 inches wide, with a red, yellow, orange, or chocolate color and very thin skin. The fruit can be rough, wrinkled, dented, or smooth. Bhut jolokia is widely used as an ingredient in spicy food and as a remedy for summer heat in some countries. It is used in both fresh and dried forms and has a unique flavor. In addition, the dried powder of such hot peppers can be developed into pepper spray as a self-defense product. This information comes from the University of Florida publication titled: Pepper Production in Miami-Dade County, Florida.  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/tr010


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Q: When do I plant tomatoes?

Colorful tomatoes

Colorful tomatoes

A:  We recommend planting tomatoes from February through April for summer production and July through August for fall production.  You will need to protect any young, tender plants from frost.  If you want large fruit consider planting Celebrity, Heat Wave II, Better Boy, Beefmaster, BHN444-Southern Star*, Amelia*, BHN 640*, or Tasti-Lee™. Those cultivars with an * means they are resistant to TSWV (Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus) – a very common disease in tomatoes. For small fruit consider Sweet 100, Juliet, Red Grape, Sun Gold, Sugar Snack, or Sweet Baby Girl. Cherry tomatoes are heat resistant and will often continue to produce fruit throughout the summer and early fall.   If you would like to use the seeds from year to year consider planting one of the heirloom varieties such as Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Eva Purple Ball, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, or Delicious.  Staking/supporting and mulching are beneficial. Flowers self-pollinate. Blossom drop is usually due to too high or too low temperatures and/or excessive nitrogen fertilization. We recommend using a complete fertilizer such as 6-6-6 or 8-8-8. Be sure to have your garden soil tested by the University of Florida once every 2-3 years. Serious problems include blossom-end rot, wilts, whitefly, and leafminers.


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Q: I would like to grow bok choy. Can I do it here?

 

Bok choy

Bok choy

A:  Chinese cabbage has been grown in Asia since the 5th century, but was not grown in the United States until about a century ago. It is now grown for sale primarily in California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Florida. We have a local producer here in Callahan so don’t be afraid to try some of the different varieties to determine which will work best for you.  Many home gardeners around the state include Chinese cabbage in their fall and winter gardens. B. campestris L. (Chinensis group) is sometimes called B. chinensis. The most commonly accepted designations are bok choy or pak choi. Many refer to it as Chinese mustard. Bok choy is a nonheading form of Chinese cabbage, with several thick white leafstalks (petioles) and smooth, glossy, dark green, round leaf blades forming a celery-like cluster. There are not as many bok choy varieties available as there are of the pe-tsai type. There is a closely related flowering type of bok choy called choi sum (B. chinensis var. parachinensis). “Sum” in Cantonese means flower stalk. ‘Chinese Tsai Shim’ is a dark green variety of the flowering type, and ‘Hon Tsai’ is a purple variety of the flowering type. Both varieties have small yellow flowers borne on top of erect flower stalks. Bok choy should be grown in the fall or winter in Northeast Florida, in soil similar to other cabbage varieties.  The soil should be kept moist but not wet.  The major diseases are downy mildew, black speck, virus, and bacterial soft rot. Insect pests are cabbage worms and aphids. For more complete information on bok choy, read the University of Florida publication:  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mv036


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Q: What kind of vegetables can I grow in August?

Celebrity Tomato

Celebrity Tomato

A:  There are plenty of vegetables. Consider beans (lima, pole, bush), broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, cucumbers, onions, Southern peas, peppers, summer or winter squash, tomatoes, turnips or watermelon. I think with that long list, you could find something you would like to plant. Let’s look at specific examples of cultivars to select such as tomatoes:
Large Fruit: Celebrity, Heat Wave II, Better Boy, Beefmaster, BHN444-Southern Star*, Amelia*, BHN 640*
Small Fruit: Sweet 100, Juliet, Red Grape, Sun Gold, Sugar Snack, Sweet Baby Girl
Heirloom: Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Eva Purple Ball, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Delicious
*Resistant to TSWV (Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus)
For more complete information, specifically the best cultivars for our area; look over the publication from the University of Florida:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021