Great summer, looking forward to fall!

It was quite the summer here in the Little St. Simons Island organic garden! We had an exceptionally wet season this year. For example, in just a three-week period, we had three storms with a total of 11 inches rainfall between them, and this pattern seemed to hold true for much of the summer.

Burgundy Okra (Photo: Laura Early)

As you can imagine, this is both a blessing and a curse and we’ve been busy just keeping up with the growth of both friend and foe. Thankfully, those long summer days provide plenty of time to get the work done and stay just ahead of the curve.

As our first tomatoes ripened, the crows got the first taste, but we were able to add garden fresh tomatoes to our dinner salads. Until a few weeks ago, we were still hip-deep (literally) in flowers as well; it’s been a zoo of zinnias, celosia, and dhalia, all vying for a spot in one of our lodge-side flower arrangements. We also saw success with Burgundy Okra, Malaysian Dark Red Eggplant, and a variety of peppers and basil. Speaking of which, we’ve had incredible fortune with a variety of basil known as “Mammoth”- fast growing and hearty, with a taste like Sweet basil and large, wavy leaves.

Siberian Kale (Photo: Laura Early)

The fall season has been great to us so far as well, with the comfortable drop in temperature being just the first of our blessings. We have healthy beds of autumn and winter greens started and, so far, they’re doing fantastically. Siberian Kale, in particular, has proven to be a hardy and fast-growing choice that is currently paired with “Misato Rose” radishes in one of our raised beds. This week should see the planting out of the rest of our first round of greens, including Georgia Collards, Broccoli Raab, turnips and spinach. As for harvest, we are in full swing with loads of Meyer Lemons and Satsuma tangerines already showing good color.

Finally, we got the opportunity to finish a year-long experiment in controlling our nematode population through cover cropping. We planted two beds in sweet potatoes, with one bed having been cover-cropped in rye which, in turn, had been plowed in before the planting. That bed produced 40 lbs of delicious potatoes while the other bed, our control, produced only 10 pounds! We will be employing this method on beds from here out and hope to continue to see improvements.

Other improvements we are excited to see include an expanded and extended blackberry trellis to double current size for our four new berry canes, and a more permanent structure for the 3-bin composting systems. Next time you are on the island, we invite you to the garden to have a look (smell and taste, too) at the progress!

Blackberry trellis (Photo: Laura Early)
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Root Knot Nematodes to be banished from the island!!!

Southern Root Knot Nematodes are plant parasitic, microscopic roundworms in the soil, which feed on the root systems of plants, increasing disease potential and starving plants of water and nutrients.
As the summer temperatures rise so do the populations of Root Knot Nematodes making mid summer growing near impossible. 

 So we are taking advantage of the heat and using the sun to “solarize” the soils.

Keeping the soil covered with plastic for 6-8 weeks to trap the radiant heat is a safe and effective treatment for managing some biological and fungal soil diseases like verticillium wilt, as well as “cooking” soil pest organisms like the root knot nematodes.
Upon removal of the plastic we will inoculate the beds with our compost to replenish the population of beneficial bacteria and fungi.  Then we will plant a late season crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and beans.
How do you recognize these microscopic pests?

The galls are easily seen on the root system of a plant as rotting and swollen “bumps” (remember that legume plants have similar looking nitrogen fixing nodules that are a normal part of their root system.) 
Inspect trouble plants when you pull them up for these bumps on their roots.  If you find evidence of nematode damage do not compost that plant material and be careful not to “spread” the problem by sanitizing tools between plot/bed maintenance.
         
Plant Resistant Varieties:

There are newly available organic, non-gmo, seeds becoming available for summer crops with resistance to RKN.  This summer we planted Carolina Wonder Bell Peppers, Tropic VFN Tomatoes (both from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), and a sweet potato slip called Nemagold. 
So far all looks (and tastes) good!

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