VEGETABLES and FRUITS

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We help gardeners by answering questions, contact us at ask@mgmanitoba.com

Question:
I started a variety of heirloom tomatoes from seeds this year and they produced very well. However I have 2 questions:
1. Some have white spots under the skin. What causes this and are they safe to eat?
2. Some plants had flat, brown, triangle shaped bugs. What are they and are they a problem? They didn’t seem to be doing any damage.

Answer:
The triangle shaped bugs are stinkbugs. They are prevalent at this time of year in gardens as they are moving from feeding in neighbouring weeds into the luscious garden produce. If you have a lot of them they will cause damage to your crop’s production but with only a few there is no need to be concerned about these bugs. One way to find and destroy these bugs would be to shake your tomato plant which will cause the bugs to drop to the soil, then destroy them.  The recommendation would be to squash them when they are found.
The ‘white spots’ under the tomato skin are caused by the stinkbug. It has pierced the skin of the tomato to suck out the juices. The tomato is still edible.

Question:
I am from Dryden ON. This year we had black spots on our yellow and green beans, is this from too much water. My raspberry patch has become a jungle and I want to dig it all up and clean out all unwanted plants,weeds and grass. Can this be done in late September or wait until spring? Any information will be appreciated.

Answer:
The black spots on your beans were probably caused by a fungal disease, Anthracnose. There are many strains of this disease that affect all types of plants. It can be in the soil or even the seeds and will appear when conditions are right. It is best to try to give the plants good air circulation and avoid picking produce or working with the plants when the leaves are wet. To hopefully not get the disease again next summer, do a thorough clean-up of all foliage and burn or garbage it. Plant your beans in a different spot from where they were this year.

Raspberries: You could start the job this fall by cutting down all the old canes and just leaving the ones that will produce berries next year. In spring you would select the strongest canes just when the leaf buds are appearing, dig down so you get a good part of the root and transplant into the new location. If you want to plant in the same spot, you may have to dig up and prepare the area where you would start your new patch. You could pot up some of the canes you want to save and just bury the pots until spring and that way you would know which ones survived the winter. You may not get many berries next summer, but you want to give the canes a chance to get established and they will reward you the following summer.

Question:
My husband & I are avid gardeners, learning and enjoying more every year. This year we discovered an asparagus plant hiding under an overgrown area of the garden in our new home. We cleared the area, and it looks beautiful and healthy now. We also planted two more asparagus roots this spring. Now we are wondering what is the best way to winterize these asparagus plants. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

Answer:
As asparagus is hardy to our climate little is needed in the way of winterizing your old plant. Late in the fall the asparagus leafy stalks on all your plants can be cut down to about 6 inches above the ground. For your new plants you could put some leaf mulch over them as a precaution.

It is suggested that new asparagus plants not be harvested for 3 years from planting. But you can certainly enjoy harvesting your “old” plant being sure to only pick approximately half the stems. This ensures that it will continue to produce for future years.

Question:
We have white seed looking infestation on our basil plants, while our strawberries have furry leaves… we have googled this and have got random results, hopefully you can let us know what this may be!

Answer:
The basil plant has aphids on it. Aphids do like to concentrate on the young new growth of plants. The simple recommendation is to spray it with water, the strongest spray the plant can withstand. Do this spraying frequently, every couple of days until you notice they are gone. Keep monitoring the plants as aphids do have a tendency to return.

Your leaves on the strawberry plant is a natural occurrence, for new leaves on strawberry plants, which is call pubescent. On looking further on the other leaves it was noticed a brown spot showing. Are there a lot of them or is this a one and only? It is a concern that it could be the beginning of serious fungal diseases and if that is the case the recommendation would be to remove all such infected leaves and put them in the trash, do not compost.

Question:
What’s eating our basil (and other herbs and beans)?So what can we do to save our crop? Should the damaged leaves be removed? Are they safe to eat?

Answer:
The holes on your Basil leaves could be caused by a couple of insects. Flea beetles are very prevalent in the garden and cause holes such as your photos show. They come and go very quickly doing their damage without one noticing them. They are tiny black beetles which do a lot of damage especially to field crops for farmers. They come readily into the city too. Also, tiny little green worms on the leaf underside could be causing the leaf holes. The worms are very difficult to see as they are the exact same green as the leaf.

Monitoring your plants for these insects and hand picking them off and gently hosing off the herb leaves, especially the undersides would bethe recommendation. With edible crops one does not want to use any chemicals. As you also saw grasshoppers in your garden, they too could be causing this problem especially this year as grasshoppers in Winnipeg are more plentiful. I would not remove the leaves as they are still providing the plant with nourishment. They would be good to eat, but check them closely for any extra protein that you might not want to eat ;))

Question:
Last year my Cherry trees and Blueberry bushes had lovely blossoms and nice fruit growing. I was so excited and felt like a child ready to open my long-awaited present. The next day, in a blink of an eye, the fruit was gone as the birds stole my gift!
I “googled” how to deter the birds and read about netting the trees; this seems inhumane as the birds would get caught in the netting and probably die because they wouldn’t be able to get out of it. It was also suggested that they stay away from shiny things, like hanging in the trees old CD/DVDs, foil, pie plates, etc. Does this work here in Winnipeg? Are the birds deterred by sound? I was thinking, would a shiny wind-chime work? I would like something that works well in keeping the birds away and looks like it belongs in the trees/bushes. More to the point, I don’t want anything tacky looking in my fruit.

Answer:
Several of our Master Gardener members discussed your situation and had a variety of suggestions:

– yes, cds/dvds would work for a time until the birds became accustomed to them.
– Lee Valley does offer for sale shiny tape that can be cut to size and hung in your tree/bushes.
– Lee Valley also offers motion sprinkler heads that would shoot water onto the birds and act as a deterrent.
– many professional growers do cover the plants with a fine mesh, hence no problem with birds becoming entangled. Although as you mentioned, it would not be beautiful to look at but would be the best deterrent and most efficient. Vineyards and orchards use this type of fine mesh.
– birds do know when the berries are ripe, hence picking them before you. Try to monitor the fruit ripeness and hopefully be able to pick the fruit first.

Question:
Hi. I was just listening to the CBC gardening program. I have a problem growing carrots. The plants are stunted and the roots are multi branching and covered in small round modules. Last fall it started showing up in beets and this spring in parsnips. We moved and this is the main garden. In a smaller area I planted at the same time and there was no problem. Please help or direct me to where I can find help.

Answer:
This is known as “aster yellows” which is transmitted by Leafhoppers. However, since the problem seems to be recurring there must be some other plants near the vegetable garden that are also infected and acting as a host for the disease since the disease does not remain in the soil. It could be weeds such as Lamb’s Quarters, Stinkweed and Quack Grass. Also, Echinacea and Cosmos are susceptible to Aster Yellows and it shows up as deformed blossoms, kind of a witch’s broom appearance. The plants need to be pulled up and destroyed. If this main garden is in an exposed area that the leafhoppers are finding the crops, then row covers could be used, but if the smaller garden is working it would be best to plant there for a few summers.
Aster yellows is not fatal to the infected plants but does distort floral parts and yellows leaves. In carrots, symptoms known as “red top,” include increased root hairs and stunted root growth. Younger foliage will appear yellow, turning to red or purple.

Question:
Over the last two weeks gradually I have noticed leaves that are looking yellow and have brown brittle edges as in the picture attached. I cannot see any insect or mildew etc. When I searched the internet, the pictures that seem to match are those related to the Pierce’s Disease of grapes. I have noticed in addition some of the new tips of vine stem are wilted and or have dropped off.
Can anyone confirm that this is a disease process instead of a weather related problem (needs iron?). Thank you.

Answer:
Thank you for sending a picture with your question. Your grape definitely needs some care and attention. I do not think it would be Pierce’s Disease as this is caused by the Glassy-winged sharpshooter insect, which has not been detected in this area. The vine is suffering from a lack of iron and needs immediate and continued attention to giving it an iron chelate solution. This product can be purchased at your local greenhouse/nursery. The recommendation would be to apply it every second week. It can be applied on the leaves but the suggestion would be mixing the solution and pouring it onto the soil hence, feeding the roots. Follow the mixing solution proportions listed on the container.

With the wet conditions this year and our heavy clay soils, plants are not able to access the needed iron. The lack of iron causes the plant to not access other important nutrients for its successful growth. With not receiving the proper nutrients, the plant can show its distress in many ways. Hence, the yellow leaves with green veins. The dried portions could also be a hint of struggling for proper nourishment.

If it is a bacterial disease, the only way to test for this is to have a sample of the plant tested by a qualified lab.

Question:
My Concord grapes have a white frosting growing on the green grapes. What is it and how could I treat it. The white coating peels off. Some of the vines and leaves have it also.

Answer:
This is an excellent example of Downy Mildew on your grapes.

This is caused by spores which manifest themselves quickly in wet and warm conditions that we have experienced this spring/summer this year. The recommendation is to spray with a fungicide such as a copper sulphate product which can be purchased at local greenhouses and nurseries. It should be mixed according to direction and I would suggest applying every couple of weeks until the end of August. This will not eliminate the downy mildew that is on the grapes already but will cause other grapes to not succumb to the same disease. A new fungicide product on the market is Serenade Max which can also be purchased at greenhouses or nurseries. Apply according to direction. It is a natural product and is touted to work very well.

For the future and as preventative measures: pick up any fallen grapes leaves; grape plants should be planted in a location with good air current and a sunny location; proper weed control; disease resistant varieties and good pruning and thinning on the vines again to allow good air circulation. The spores from this disease overwinter on fallen leaves and stay in the soil until the next year. Hence, it is important to clean up fallen leaves and place them in the trash. When it rains these spores in the soil are splashed up onto the leaves and fruit and with the perfect conditions as we have had, cause the visual effects you are experiencing.

Question:
I have an edible plum , tree type, on one branch only I noticed a odd growth. I have cut the branch but am curious what it is and why only one branch. I’m thinking to use insecticidal soap on the rest of the shrub , but would appreciate your input . There has no previous disease, the tree is about five years old, it is a seedling from a heritage plum tree from a farm into Alexander area. It flowers but has never bore fruit.

Answer:
This has been an exceptional year for the plum spindle gall mites shown in your images. These are not insects. They show up every 5 to 10 years in different areas of southern Manitoba. They are not normally a killing pest. The best way of treating them is to spray dormant oil twice next April. Once at the beginning of April and again about 3 weeks later in April. This should be done before the buds break and the temperature must be above freezing when applying the solution. The dormant oil smothers the very tiny eggs and prevents them from hatching. Spraying anything at any other time is ineffective.

Question:
Since the weather has been the pits for the last three weeks, I have a question on potatoes..How long can they stay in the garden with the weather being this cool and below normal temps??? I still have a number of rows in the ground….

Answer:
The members who replied have been growing potatoes for many years and their recommendation would be to remove them from the soil for this year. The normal rule followed is that when the stems die down the potatoes can be dug at any time until the soil freezes. One does not want to leave potatoes in frozen ground. Hence, with the unusually colder weather that is being experienced, and its unpredictability, this year they should be dug out.

It is correct that tomatoes should not be planted in the same spot as the previous year. Tomato plants are very susceptible to diseases which are soil borne. This is why the plants should be rotated in your garden.

Question from above:
So, beans etc., could be a good alternative to plant in my potatoes rows???? We have major rabbit population in our area!!! It is pointless to plant anything they like to eat!!!

Answer:
Yes, beans would be a very good alternative next summer to plant where your tomatoes were this year. Not to give you false hope but rabbits like almost all garden plants including beans. You could plant a ‘lure’ crop, such as lettuce, around where the beans are and hopefully they would eat that and not the beans. Or you can put up a chicken wire fence, which must be at least four feet high, to prevent them from entering your garden but still easily accessible for you.

Question:
We have grown raspberries on the south side of our home for the past four years. I have read conflicting info online about how to winterize them for our climate, but I am uncertain when to trim and how short to go? I understand they must be trimmed when it is cold since they are prone to an early grow season. I took them down between 5-12 inches in the fall and planned to trim them shorter at the end of February.

Answer:
Raspberries are a delicious fruit, but a lot of gardeners miss out on that fresh picked taste because they do not want to bother with the maintenance that raspberries require.
There are two types of raspberries: regular or summer cane and primal cane. The regular cane bear fruit on the previous year’s wood starting about mid July in zone 3. One of the most popular varieties is Boyne. Primal cane bear fruit on the present year’s growth and fruit doesn’t ripen until late August. Most popular variety is Red River.
Regular cane raspberries can be pruned in early fall because by then the canes which produced the fruit will be drying up and feel brittle. These canes should be removed at ground level. You can wait until spring to do this, but you will have to be more careful because even though the cane is dead the root is not and may be shooting up new growth that will grow and develop into a cane that will produce fruit the following year. The canes that will produce fruit for the present year will be the ones that were growing the previous summer. They will be flexible and will be showing leaf buds in early spring. Waiting until spring will allow you to see which canes are leafing out. If there is any winter kill on the tips of these canes, they can be pruned back to the first strong new leaf. Leaves will appear as soon as the weather warms in the spring and blossoms should appear in June. If you have bees or other pollinators in the garden, you should be enjoying ripe berries in July.
Primal cane raspberries are treated differently and can be cut right down to ground level as long as the new growth has not already started, then you need to prune a little higher. You could leave a few of the strong, healthy canes and they may produce fruit earlier, but allow the new growth to develop strong canes so that you get the crop later in the summer. You could prune down your primal cane raspberries in late fall, but it is good to leave them standing to catch the snow for winter protection.
Appling a slow release balanced fertilizer in spring helps to develop strong canes as well as encourages fruit production. You can apply an organic mulch around your canes, to help conserve moisture, but if there are any problems with diseased leaves or insect pests, you will want to clean up the fallen leaves in the fall.

Question:
Most of our 3 year old raspberry canes died over the winter. Why?

Answer:
If the canes did not have a good snow cover, they could have been damaged by the very cold temperatures that occurred on the Prairies this winter. It has been very dry this spring so if you cut the canes down to ground level and give them a thorough watering, you may get new growth. Also check to see if there was any damage from rabbits or voles that may have chewed on the canes or roots. The other possibility is that these are primal cane raspberries that bear fruit on the current years growth and they would have died off, but new growth should appear if the roots are still alive.

Question:
I have had vegetable gardens for many years, but never collected seeds from my plants. I have a large cucumber which has already gone yellow. How do I collect seeds for next year? Also, the same question about yellow or green beans? How would I store the seeds?

Answer:
What you need to know is if the bean and cucumber seeds are hybrid seeds. Hybrid seeds do not grow true to the parent plants and are not recommended to be saved. Hybrids are plants that have been developed using the best features of different species of the same plant. If their seed is saved they could grow having the characteristics of any one of those selected bred plants and not exactly as the plant you saved the seed from.

Beans: Bean seeds are very easy to save. Let the pods grow quite large until you see that there are seeds and the pods may even look dry. Remove the pods from the plants and bring them into the house. Lay them out in a single layer to let them dry out and then shell out the seeds. Be sure the seeds are completely dry before putting into a paper envelope, then into an airtight container (ie. a metal tin) and keep in a cool dry place out of direct light, for example your fridge.

Cucumbers: Saving cucumber seeds is not as easy as for beans. Cucumbers are pollinated by insects, humans and wind and this presents a problem in that the cucumber could possibly have been pollinated by another species of cucumber that could be growing some distance away. Again taking on the characteristics of either plant and not necessarily the one that is growing in your garden. Nonetheless if you still want to experiment and save the seeds you would leave the cucumber on the vine to maturity turning yellow or orange. Remove the cucumber from the vine and cut it open scraping out the seeds. The seed-saving method used for cucumbers is the same as for tomatoes–the wet method of removal. On removing the seeds put them into a container and add some warm water letting them ferment for 3 days in order to remove the gel coating which surrounds the seeds. Stir this mixture daily. The good seeds separate from the pulp and sink to the bottom while the bad seeds float. Pour off the pulp, water, mold and bad seeds after the 3 day time span. Take the good seeds and spread them onto paper towels allowing them to dry thoroughly. They can then be saved in the same way as the bean seeds.

Question:
We have 3 garden boxes in our yard to grow vegetables. This year our beets have come up with a blight and they are not thriving. This is actually the 3rd year we have had this problem, but this year is by far the worst. And the blight has seemed to travel to another of the boxes where it is affecting our swiss chard and spinach!! In the past we have been plucking out the diseased leaves and spraying with a sulpher solution. This year it is really getting ahead of us and our efforts seem to be not effective. Could you please advise what we can do to rid our garden of this problem? And we would like to reseed but fear it might be too late.

Answer:
This year seems to be a very prevalent issue with beets. It could be worse this year because of the nightime/early evening rains and cooler temperatures.

It is recommended that you continue to pluck off the leaves and throw them into the garbage and not the compost. Also, if the plants are thickly planted thin them out to allow for more air circulation. Do not work with the plants when they are wet as this will only spread the blight more. In the autumn be sure to clean up all the plant material and throw in the garbage. In the spring you could sprinkle some garden sulphur onto the soil. This product is available at the large nurseries and garden centres.

Also, it is recommended that you practice crop rotation by not planting the same vegetables in the same garden box. If you have used old beet seed purchase some new seed next spring and change varieties. Jeannette has thoughts of this blight having possibilities of being in the seed as she used old seed.

Question:
I was wondering if you could tell me which grape varieties would grow in Elgin , Mb.

Answer:
The Manitoba Master Gardener Association had a speaker at one of our meetings who was a Manitoba fruit-grower and breeder. The recommendations for successfully growing grapes in southern Manitoba would be to grow Beta and Valiant grape vines.

Valiant is a grape that is hardy to -40 f with no special winter covering required. It is cross bred with the hardy wild Vitis riparia grape which is found growing wild from the Maritimes to Manitoba and a Concord variety. Valiant is excellent for juice, jam, jelly and also acceptable for wine and fresh eating. Beta is an old grape high yielding grape from the 1800’s and is fruitier than Valiant and makes juice similar to commercial varieties. Beta often yields a good crop in its first year. A good local catalogue to browse through is Jefferies in Portage la Prairie.

Question:
This is a new problem with the grapevine tiny worm just to right of stem? Previous infestation of a skeletonizing caterpillar likely similar to tree leaf caterpillars. Removed all signs of caterpillars but now have these or something like Japanese beetle perhaps though have not found adult yet? Any ideas? Thank you

Answer:
Your problem seems to be as you mention, a skeletonizing worm. It has laid its eggs in between the layers of the grape leaves and now they have hatched as the tiny worms shown in your excellent picture. As the worms are emerging you could use BTK which is a natural product used for larvae/worms. They do not die instantly but after eating the sprayed leaves they will die. Be sure to clean up any fallen leaves and those in the autumn and throw them in the garbage not compost.

Question:
We have found tiny white worms in the fruit of our raspberries. What can we do now to ensure that this does not occur next year?

Answer:
What your raspberries are being affected with is the Spotted Winged Drosophila fly. Sadly this insect is a problem for many soft fruit growers and local gardeners. Here is a link to more information on our website: Click here     scroll down until you come to the information.

Question:
In a partially shady environment, morning sun, is there a variety of tomato that thrives and produces there?

Answer:
Tomatoes and most vegetables require full sun which is 6 to 8 hours of sun per day. The recommendation would be that in the area you suggest there would not be the required sun hours to produce any successful tomatoes. All varieties of tomatoes require this full sun. Leafy green vegetables, such as lettuces, kale and swiss chard, would do fine in this location.