Watch for problems in the vegetable garden

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Vegetable development was late this year following a June 1 snowstorm. However, persistent and patient gardeners are harvesting vegetables such as peas, lettuces, chard, kale, beets and onions. Tomatoes will be ripe soon too. One of the constant tasks of vegetable gardening is to keep an eye out for pests.

I've seen my first grasshoppers, which I squished. I found a few slugs, which I tossed away from the garden for the birds. I have had calls on squash bugs. Yet all veggie problems aren't insect related. Some are cultural and some are disease related.

Blossom end rot will be driving tomato growers crazy any day now. This is basically a cultural problem rather than a disease. It turns the fruit brownish black on the bottom (blossom) end. It is caused by calcium nutrition and water imbalance in a plant. It is aggravated by high salt content or low soil moisture and is more common in sandier soils. The solution is to maintain even soil moisture or plant varieties not prone to this.

Another physiological disorder is tomato leafroll where the leaves roll upwards, get leathery and the plant may look wilted particularly after wet cool spring conditions. The symptoms usually disappear after the weather warms and the soil dries out.

Late blight is a serious disease in tomatoes and potatoes caused by a fungus and favored by high humidity and temperatures around 68 degrees, although some strains tolerate higher temperatures. Sometimes it comes in on plants bought at stores or the spores can blow in. The leaves and stems get water-soaked brown areas followed by a grayish white fungus on the undersides of leaves. Then the leaves die. We want to be alert for this disease, because it could cause significant economic losses to the potato industry in Nevada.

If only a few leaves are affected, pick them off when they are dry, put them in a garbage bag, seal it and let it bake in the sun for a few days before throwing it away. If the infection is severe, destroy the plants completely so spores cannot affect neighbors' crops. Don't compost any part of a diseased plant. Fruit from infected plants can be eaten, but should not be canned.

Many things may adversely affect your vegetables, but if you keep a watchful eye on your plants, you can often catch problems early and easily resolve them.

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may bereached at or 887-2252.


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