Powdery mildew like this causes grapes to shrivel and fail to mature. The canes and fruit become covered with a white, powdery fungus. UC Statewide IPM Project/Courtesy photo


Garden Doctor: Kale, collards, grapes and tomatoes

Question: When should I direct seed kale and collard greens for fall and spring? It seems too hot to do it now. What about transplants?

Answer: Kale is a cool-season vegetable that can be used raw as salad greens, as a garnish, as an ornamental in the flower bed, or cooked. Kale is vitamin- and mineral-rich and has very few calories. Slight frosts sweeten kale’s flavor but high temperatures and hot sun make for bitter leaves.

Recommended varieties of kale for Yolo County include dwarf blue curled, dwarf curled Scotch and red Russian. Plant seeds in late July and early August; transplants follow direct seeding a month later. Harvest leaves a few at a time, starting with the outer leaves first.

Collards are a type of kale with larger, smoother leaves resembling cabbage. They should be planted in late summer and the suggested variety is Georgia. Keep in mind that seeding and transplanting dates vary between varieties. Be sure to check the seed package or a nursery for additional information. Also, weather can modify planting and harvesting dates.

One of the most popular Master Gardener handouts is the “Vegetable Variety Suggestions & Planting Times for the Sacramento Area” and the “Vegetable Planting Guide” by Robert Norris of UC Davis. These handouts cover planting times and harvesting times throughout the year. Both are available at the Yolo County Master Gardener website, http://ceyolo.ucdavis.edu/Gardening_and_Master_Gardening, Saturdays at the Yolo County Master Gardener table at the Davis Farmers Market, or by requesting a copy at the Yolo County Master Gardeners’ hot line, (530) 666-8737.

You will also find the “Vegetable Planting Guide” in the Gardener’s Companion published by the Yolo County Master Gardeners. You can buy the guide at the Master Gardener table at the Davis Farmers Market, or at the Master Gardener office in Woodland.

Question: My question is about grapes in my back yard. Last year they were infested with what I think is powdery mildew, and almost no fruit developed. Is there an organic treatment to prevent this? Is it too late for this year?

Answer: Powdery mildew causes grapes to shrivel and fail to mature. The canes and fruit become covered with a white, powdery fungus. Prevention measures involve adequate sunlight and good drainage along with improved air circulation in the growing vines. Leaf removal from the base of the shoots and opposite the fruit clusters at flowering will improve lighting conditions and air circulation around the fruit.

If mildew persists, you can try dusting with sulfur. Begin when canes have four to six inches of shoot growth and every 10 to 14 days thereafter unless temperatures exceed 100 degrees F. Once temperatures drop, continue sulfur applications up to harvest time.

Question: My yellow pear tomato is looking bad, just wilting all over in spite of adequate water with yellowing of entire sections of leaves. Am I doing something wrong? My other tomatoes seem to be thriving.

Answer: Newer varieties of tomatoes are bred to be resistant to disease pathogens, and carry the labels V, VF and VFN. These labels indicate resistance to verticillium, fusarium and nematodes, which are commonly found in gardens. Sadly, yellow pear tomatoes and other heirloom types do not have this inbred resistance.

You are not doing anything wrong. In the future, try to choose a planting location for the yellow pear in soil that has not had growing tomatoes for at least one growing season. Good luck.

Question: What is a Master Gardener? How do I become one?

Answer: Master Gardeners in California function as unpaid representatives of the University of California Cooperative Extension Program to encourage and support home horticulture. Master Gardeners receive extensive training (both pre-service and in-service) and in exchange serve the program in a variety of different activities.

In Yolo County, these include answering questions at the Farmers Market and over the office phone line, writing newsletter articles and columns (such as this one), and offering training on specific topics to adult groups of diverse ages and interests, .

The process for becoming a Master Gardener is actually very straightforward. Watch The Davis Enterprise for an announcement of the Information night this September, which is designed to answer any questions you may have about the program. Training begins in January. A fee covers required books and other training expenses. You can apply online at http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=3967.

The training itself is a semester-long curriculum covering all major topics about gardening including soil composition, watering/irrigation, turf, plant identification, and pest control. It is taught by UC professors and Cooperative Extension Specialists. You will be assigned a mentor, another Master Gardener to help you throughout the semester and even after you “graduate.” The semester ends with an open-book test.

We look forward to having you join us!

— Send questions, addressed to the “Garden Doctor,” by email to [email protected], voice mail to (530) 666-8737 or regular mail to UCCE Master Gardeners, 70 Cottonwood St., Woodland, CA 95695. Be sure to include your contact information, because any questions not answered in the Garden Doctor column will be answered with a phone call or email to you.

You can request the Yolo Gardener newsletter delivered by email and learn more about the Master Gardener program in Yolo County at http://ceyolo.ucdavis.edu/Gardening_and_Master_Gardening.
Stop by and chat with us on Saturdays at the Davis Farmers Market in Central Park.

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