Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Watering Potatoes Properly Prevents Problems.

Improper soil moisture during the development of the potato plant and tubers leads to numerous problems to include delayed emergence, bacterial seed piece decay and plant death, distorted tubers, small tubers, tubers with large lenticles, and hollow heart and growth cracks along with other problems.

The knobby tuber in this photo is just one of the results of improper water management.

During sprout development, the soil should contain 70-80% available moisture.  After emergence, the soil moisture should be maintained at 75-85%.  During tuber initiation and bulking, the growth period with the highest demand for water, the available soil water content should be maintained between 80-90%.  When the plants start to die in the fall, the moisture content can be allowed to drop to 60-65%.

So, how do you determine how much moisture is in the soil.  You could invest in tensiometers or soil moisture probes, or use the much simpler and less costly soil-ball technique. 

Tensiometers are plastic tubes with a porous end that is place in the soil down to the depth of the roots.  A gauge on top of the tube provides readings of the soil suction.  This represents the energy a plant must exert to extract water from the soil.  These devices require a great deal of experience to correlate the reading on the gauge to the moisture content of the soil.

Soil moisture probes are often inaccurate in western Colorado soils as they can be negatively influenced by soil salts and thus may not provide accurate readings.

The easiest way to determine the moisture content of the soil is by taking a handful of the soil near the root zone of the plant and squeezing it into a ball.  The publication at http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/TRA/PLANTS/soilmoist.pdf shows you how to determine the percentage of moisture simply by squeezing a ball of soil and comparing the results with the photos. Most people in western Colorado have silty clay loam so those are the photos you should look at.

For a list of places in Mesa, Delta and Montrose where you can purchase certified seed potato, check out http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/TRA/PLANTS/Sources%20of%20certified%20seed%20potato%20-%2018%20Mar%202011.pdf or give us a call at 970 244-1836 for a copy of the list.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Preparing potato seed pieces for planting.

Yukon Gold and Purple
Majesty cut for planting 
 Preparing potatoes for planting may require cutting the tubers into pieces.  If the potatoes are two inches in diameter they can planted whole.  If they are larger they need to be cut into smaller pieces.

Each piece should be 2 ounces (about 2 inches in diameter) or slightly larger.  Each piece needs to have 2, 3 or more eyes. 
Once cut, the pieces need to be placed where the temperature is 50 - 55 degrees F. and has high humidity.  Placing the pieces in a plastic bag helps retain the humidity.  You may need to open the bag or poke holes in it to prevent water from accumulating in the bag and rotting the seed pieces. Keep an eye on this process. 

If you are planting a large number of potatoes, putting them in a pile helps retain the moist warm air needed for suberization to take place. This process results in a layer of suberin forming over the cut surface. This layer helps prevent rot diseases from destroying the seed piece and developing potato plant.

It usually take 7 to 10 days before this protective layer is adequately developed so plan on cutting your potatoes into 2 ounce pieces at least a week prior to planting.

Since rot organisms remain in the soil for several years after potatoes have been growing in a section of the garden be sure to rotate your crops.  Don't plant potatoes back in the same area for at least 3 years.  Four years is a better rotation schedule.

For a list of companies in Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties that sell certified seed potatoes, check out the list at http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/TRA/PLANTS/Sources%20of%20certified%20seed%20potato%20-%2018%20Mar%202011.pdf or give us a call at 970 244-1836 and ask for a copy.

The flesh of Yukon Gold is yellow and
Purple Majesty is Purple.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Landscapes West, Two Rivers Convention Center

A note from Susan Carter, Carter Design & Gardens.  Susan has designed the central dispaly for the past 5 years.

Susan Carter at LW 2011
 "Come down & see the displays and booths. Our theme is 'Go Native. we have several displays using native plants. We have also provided colow w/bulbs and annuals which are available for purchase Sunday @ 2:15.

Come get landscape ideas. Fri 10-6; Sat 8-6; Sun 9-2"

Parsnip Root Rot

Parsnips, carrots and many other root crops are susceptible to attack by root rotting organisms.  The results as seen on this parsnip are not nice.

Parsnip Root Rot
This parsnip was harvested in the spring after being subjected to disease organisms all winter.  More than likely the soil was clay based and held an excessive amount of water, excellent conditions for root rot to occur.

To prevent this problem in the future the grower needs to ensure root crops are not planted back into this area for at least 3 years.

Areas where root crops are to be planted should be amended to improve drainage. This is best accomplished with a coarse organic matter - 1/4 inch in diameter.  Don't use sand as this will most likely result in a concrete-like soil. Large particle of organic matter can result in crooked roots.

Avoid cultivating around root crops.  Any damage to the 'skin' of the root will be a spot where these disease organisms can invade.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fruit Trees available in Mesa and Delta Counties of Colorado

Fruit trees are available from the following nurseries. The nurseries will accept your payment now but may not release them until the proper time for planting. Don’t wait. These trees will go quick.

Mt Garfield Nursery and Garden Center - opens Friday, March 11
3162 F Road Grand Junction, CO 81504 - (970) 434-2788

Fruit Trees available:
Apples: Gala, Granny Smith, Red Fuji, Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious and Jonathan.
Apricot: Wenatchee
Plum: Santa Rosa, Satsuma, Toka and Stanley
Cherry: Bing, Black Tartarian, Stella, Lapins, Rainier and Montmorency.
Peach: Giant Elberta, Hale Haven Red Haven, Reliance and Polly.
Walnuts: English (Carpathian) and Black
Meadowlark Gardens - open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 - 42259 Broadway, Grand Junction, CO 81507 - (970) 241-6003

Fruit Trees Available:
Apricot: Wenatchee Moorpark
Cherry: Bing, Rainier, Stella, and Montmorency
Peach: Giant Elberta, Red Haven, Frost


The Delta Garden Center - open 9 - 5 Monday – Saturday; 9 – 4 on Sunday
1970 South Main, Delta CO 81416 – (970) 874-9009

Has 250 fruit trees available:
Apple: Gala Royal, Honeycrisp, Honeygold, Jonathan, Jonagold, Red Delicious, Fuji Red Rose, Granny Smith
Apricot: Perfection, Chinese Mormon, Goldcot
Cherry: Bing, Stella as a pollinator, Rainier, Montmorency (tart), Lapins
Peach: Red Haven, Red Star, Reliance, Lucky 13, Allstar, Hale Haven, Early Elberta (Gleason), Elberta
Nectarine: Red Gold
Pear: Bartlett, D’Anjou, Housuii Asian Pear
Plum; Toka, Santa Rosa, Stanley, Italian

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Now is the time to test your soil!

This past Sunday the soil in my vegetable garden had dried out sufficiently to collect a sample for this year's production season. If your garden still has snow covering it, you will need to wait a while longer to collect soil for testing.       
I dug 5 holes around my garden to the depth of 12 inches and collected a slice of soil from the side of each hole.

I placed each slice of soil into a plastic bucket and mixed them together thoroughly. The composite sample I created is what I will be submitting for testing.

Whether you have 100 acres to test or a small garden plot, this is the technique you will use.  The only exception is if your garden or field has different soil types or was managed differently the previous year.  In that case you should submit a composite sample from each area. Testing your soil will provide you a base line of nutrients which you will use to design your fertilizer applications.  Testing once every 3 to 4 years is usually adeqeuate unless you have radically changed the soil management procedure. 

If you want a soil test analysis run on your soil, you can submit a sample through our office. We will need this form (http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/TRA/PLANTS/Submitting_Soil_Samples_for_analysis.pdf) along with your sample(s). I will provide you recommendations on what you need and how the nutrients should be applied based on the crop you plan on growing. Let me know if you are an organic grower and I'll provide you recommendations based on using organic fertilizer products.

Whether you are an organic gardener or use synthetic fertilizers, a soil test will get you on the proper footing and improve the health of your plants and possibly their nutritional quality. Information on organic fertilizer products can be found at http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/TRA/PLANTS/Organic_Fertilizers.pdf.