What Is A Green Roof: Ideas For Creating Green Roof Gardens

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Densely populated, large cities can cause what is known as an urban heat  effect. Tall mirrored buildings reflect light and heat, while also restricting airflow. Black asphalt on roads and roofs absorb sunlight and heat. Pollution, fuel emissions and other byproducts of civilization add to the buildup of heat that can surround a city. Essentially, a large metropolis can become a much warmer climate than rural areas around it. Green roofs have become a popular solution for reducing this urban heat island effect. Read on to learn more about how to grow a green roof garden.

What is a Green Roof?

Green roofs, also called vegetative roofs or rooftop gardens, have existed for centuries as an effective way to keep a home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Sod roofs have been popular since ancient times in places like Iceland and Scandinavia.

These days, green roofs are still valued for effectively reducing heat and cooling costs, but also because they can reduce water runoff in areas with high amounts of precipitation, improve air quality in polluted urban settings, create habits for wildlife, increase usable space in the landscape, and help reduce the urban heat island effect.

Green roof garden designs are usually one of two types: intensive or extensive.

  • Intensive green roofs are rooftop gardens where trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are grown. Rooftop gardens are oftentimes public spaces, usually have specialized irrigation systems and may incorporate courtyards, paths and seating areas.
  • Extensive roof gardens are more like the ancient sod roofs. They are created with shallower soil media and usually filled with herbaceous plants. Extensive green roofs can be done on a very small scale, such as a birdhouse or dog house roof, but they can also be made large enough to cover a home or building’s roof. If you’d like to try creating green roof gardens, you may want to try it out first on a small structure.

Creating Green Roof Gardens

Before starting a DIY green roof garden project, you should hire a structural engineer to make sure the roof can support the weight of a green roof. Also, make sure to get any building permits required by your city or township. Green roofs can be created on flat roofs or a sloped roof; however, it is recommended that you hire a professional to install a green roof if the pitch is more than 30 degrees.

Green roof kits can be ordered online. These are generally a system of planting trays that can be attached as needed and ordered in custom sizes. You can also make your own planting box frames with 2 x 6s and 2 x 4s. Green roofs cost approximately $15-50 per square foot. This can seem expensive at first, but in the long run green roofs save you money on heating and cooling costs. In some cases, grants for green roof projects may be available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Taking accurate measurements is the first step in creating an extensive green roof. This will help you know what to order if you are ordering a green roof kit. If you plan to build a green roof yourself, measurements will help you know how much pond liner, wood, draining media (gravel), weed barrier and soil media you will need.

Green roofs are a system of layers:

  • The first layer consists of two layers of pond liner or rubber roofing.
  • The next layer is a drainage layer, such as gravel.
  • Weed barrier is then placed over the gravel layer and a moisture blanket is laid over the weed barrier.
  • More drainage can be added with a layer of wood chips or the final layer of soil medium can be laid. It is suggested that you use a lightweight soilless growing media to keep the overall weight down.

In extensive green roofs, xeriscaping plants are often used. Plants need to have shallow roots and be able to tolerate times of drought and high precipitation, as well as intense heat, high winds, and possible pollution. Good plants for extensive green roofs are:

  • Succulents
  • Grasses
  • Wildflowers
  • Herbs
  • Mosses
  • Epiphytes

5 Golden Rules of Garden Planning

It’s never too late to plan a garden, even if you’ve missed the early spring sowing dates. The first secret to a super-productive garden is a well-planned garden. This avoids common issues that affect the health and productivity of your plants.

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Plan For Success:

Using the Garden Planner, you can easily identify the best growing position for each plant’s needs by simply moving them around until you get the perfect layout.

Is your garden as productive as it could be? Plan for success! Using the Garden Planner, you can easily identify the best growing position for each plant’s needs by moving them around until you get the perfect layout.

In this short video we explain the 5 golden rules of garden planning to help you to avoid many of the pitfalls and grow your most productive garden yet

Rule 1: Provide the right growing environment

Full sun is essential for most veggies. For shady areas, choose crops such as leafy salads and greens.

Ensure you soil is fertile, moisture retentive yet well-drained by regularly mulching with or digging in compost.

Rule 2: Grow what you like!

Concentrate on the fruits and vegetables you love to eat. By growing your own you can choose varieties that promise exceptional taste and quality.

Rule 3: Make the most of the space you have

Choose vegetables that are hard to find in the grocery store, or expensive to buy.

Many types and varieties of fruits and vegetables are well-suited to growing in containers. Miniature varieties of vegetables, naturally compact salads and dwarf fruit trees can all be grown in pots.

You can use our Garden Planner to maximize the use of garden space. The Planner will show you exactly how many of each vegetable or fruit you can grow within the space available to you, without overcrowding them.

Rule 4: Make gardening easy

Opt for varieties that are suited to your growing conditions and the time and resources you have available. Pest and disease resistance is worth seeking out.

Place your vegetable garden or containers close to the house to make it easier to tend and harvest. Install water barrels to collect rainwater from greenhouse or shed roofs. Paths between beds should be wide enough for a wheelbarrow, while beds should be of the right proportions for easy maintenance and crop rotation.

Rule 5: Timing is of the essence

Sow quick-growing crops at one- or two-week intervals to spread harvests out and ensure that your garden is achieving its full potential. Harvest prolific croppers such as pole beans little and often to encourage more produce to follow.

Indoor plants @ 1

Aloe Vera

An Aloe Vera Plant is a drought resistant succulent plant that can be grown indoors or outdoors. Medicine Plant is the nickname given to an Aloe Vera Plant because the sap from its leaves soothes minor skin irritations and burns. This makes an Aloe Vera Plant a great plant for a sunny kitchen.  An Aloe Vera Plant has long, narrow, plump leaves with little spikes along the edges, so be very careful when handling it. An Aloe Vera Plant can be used as either a table plant or, when larger, a floor plant.

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Curled Leaves On Citrus Plant: What To Do For Curling Citrus Leaves

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Citrus plants are bright, fun additions to the patio or landscape (and even indoors), providing a gardener with a steady supply of sweet and tart fruits with little regular care. As far as fruit trees go, citrus tend to be the low-fuss member of the team; but when curling citrus leaves appear, you’ll need to intervene. Curled leaves on citrus plants may indicate a significant pest problem or can point to an environmental issue.

What Causes Citrus Leaf Curl?

Citrus leaf curl is caused by many different things, making positive identification of your problem important before you can determine how to treat leaf curling on citrus. Below are the most common causes of curling citrus, along with ways to manage them.

Pests

Sap-sucking pests like aphids, mites and psyllids feed on citrus leaves by extracting the juices directly from transport tissues. As populations grow, they can cause deformations including curling and cupping in leaves, as well as discoloration. When you notice your citrus leaves are curling, check their undersides carefully for tiny pests feeding in clusters. If you spot them, spray your citrus tree with insecticidal soap or neem oil, making sure to coat areas where pests were spotted. Repeat this treatment weekly until your citrus plant begins to recover and all signs of insects are gone.

Citrus leaf miners are another insect pest of citrus, but instead of sucking on leaf juices, the moth larvae tunnel through leaf tissues as they grow. These tunnels are highly visible on leaf surfaces, appearing as undulating white or yellow lines on the green leaf surfaces. Citrus leaf miners are difficult to treat successfully; it’s generally recommended that you allow them to run their course since most citrus trees can tolerate a significant leaf miner load.

Environmental issues

Drought stress is the most common cause of leaf curl in citrus, but also the easiest to remedy. If leaves begin to curl inward while retaining their green coloration and the soil around your tree feels dry to the touch, you’re not watering enough. Stepping up watering efforts and applying 2 to 4 inches of an organic mulch to the ground around your citrus plant will help it recover. Wait to fertilize until the tree resumes normal, healthy leaf production. Potassium deficiencies show up in citrus as leaves with a yellow cast that are bent downward at the tip. Check the soil pH and nutrient levels before fertilizing these trees to ensure there aren’t bigger problems. If everything checks out, supplement with an extra dose of fertilizer and monitor your tree for improvement. Make sure to provide the tree with enough water to move potassium throughout its system.

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Tips For Thinning Avocado Fruit: Is Avocado Fruit Thinning Necessary

If you have an avocado tree that is so rife with fruit, the limbs are in danger of breaking. This may lead you to wonder, “Should I thin my avocado fruit?” Avocado fruit thinning is similar to thinning other fruiting trees, such as apples. Removing avocado fruit may or may not be a good idea, it all depends on how and when you go about thinning the avocado fruit. So how do you thin avocado fruit? Read on to learn more.

About Avocado Fruit Thinning.

Columnar cultivars of avocado are pinched at an early age to attain a more rounded habit, but most other types of avocado require no training and little pruning. Any pruning of avocado that may be done is done so judiciously since avocado trees are susceptible to sunscald, which results in defoliation. Avocado fruit is also self-thinning, so thinning avocado fruit is generally not required.

Should I Thin My Avocadoes?

While thinning isn’t normally required, several cultivars of avocado are in the habit of bearing fruit in alternate years. That is, in a particular year, the tree produces a staggering amount of fruit, so much that the energy from the tree either cannot support the enormous quantity or the resulting yield is high but fruit is small. In the following year, the tree’s energy is so depleted that it barely fruits, if at all. In this case, it may be advisable to lightly thin the fruit. Also, thinning is advisable when multiple trees begin to grow together such that their canopies begin to lose light.

How to Thin Avocado Fruit When trees are bearing overly heavily, they often drop a lot of fruit before it reaches maturity and any fruit that is left behind is often of a small size. Removing some avocado fruit will allow the tree to expend energy on the remaining avocadoes, resulting in larger fruit. Avocado fruit is borne in clusters, sometimes just a few and sometimes many fruit are growing together. Take a good look at the grouping of immature fruit and identify any that are misshapen, diseased or pest damaged, and the smallest fruit. These are the fruit you will remove, leaving just the largest, healthiest looking avocado in the cluster. Using sharp bypass pruners, snip off the immature fruit at the stem. I know it’s hard, but continue in this way until you have evenly spaced fruit on the tree. Space fruit about 6 inches (15 cm.) apart on the tree. If you have a cluster of fruit very close to the one that has just been thinned, it is best to remove it rather than thinning to one fruit.

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Vegetable Pest and Disease Control & Prevention Part 1

The aim of any organic gardener is to create a healthy garden by making the soil fertile and by increasing biodiversity.

The most important task is to prevent an occurrence of pests and diseases in the first place rather than having to react to them.  In fact, once a pest or disease establishes itself on your crops there is often very little you can do to control it effectively.   Protecting your plants from pests and diseases begins long before the crops are sown or planted in your garden.

What keeps your plants healthy? 

Soil fertility –

A healthy soil produces healthy plants.  The care of your soil is the most important duty of every gardener.  It is the most effective method of preventing a pest or disease outbreak.  The ideal soil is a loose, moist humus rich soil full of worm and other soil life with a balanced nutrient content, including all the trace elements.  It may take a good few years to achieve this, but even the poorest soil can be made very fertile using organic methods.

Biodiversity-

A garden with good biodiversity is a lot less prone to sudden  attacks of pests and diseases as there is a balance of pests and predators. To increase the biodiversity in your garden is probably one of the most rewarding pleasures in gardening as you have the opportunity to create habitats and homes for many living creatures that have been pushed to the edge either through the  destruction of their habitats or chemical poisoning.

Beneficial habitats include: – Pond  – Log or branch pile – Dry stone wall or stone pile – Native hedgerow and include fruiting shrubs  – Native trees – Clump of nettles in the corner of your garden – Wildflower patch

Apart from creating specialist habitats you can also increase the biodiversity within your vegetable patch through:

– Crop rotations – where pests and diseases are eliminated by prolonged periods without their hosts.

– Polycultures by growing different crops next to each other (inter-cropping) or   undersowing with a green manure crop (under-cropping).

– Variety mixtures- by growing different varieties of the same vegetable in a plot.  This   technique has been very   successful with potatoes and lettuce and there is a lot of  scope for further experiments.

Hygiene

Hygiene in and around the vegetable garden is very important for pest and disease control.  This includes weed control and the removal of damaged or diseased leaves or plants from the garden.  If your vegetable garden is messy it is much easier for pests and diseases to spread much faster. Your wildlife areas should be positioned a fair distance away from your plot as the beneficial creatures usually travel further and faster than the pests.

Good seeds

You should always start with good and clean seeds.  They should always be stored in a cool, dry place and not for too many years.  I usually keep seeds for only two years and then buy new ones.  New seeds are a lot more vigorous.

Healthy transplants

The same applies to transplants.  It is very rare that all transplants in a tray are of the same quality and you should only plant the best.  There is no point of starting a plant hospital.

Right plant, right place

Plants that are not suited to your climate and soil conditions will never thrive and therefore will be the first ones to be attacked by pests and diseases.  In Ireland you can’t grow good cucumbers or tomatoes outside.  Some may survive and you may even get a few ripe tomatoes on it if you grow them on a south-facing wall in a sheltered garden somewhere in the south or east of the country.   However, the same plant may produce a hundred fruits if grown in a polytunnel.

Resistant varieties

If you find that every year your parsnips get canker and your potatoes blight you should consider using a variety that is  resistant or tolerant to the relevant pest or disease. Examples: Potato: Bionica, Sarpo Mira, Orla and Setanta are very resistant to blight Pea: Hurst Greenshaft is very  resistant to mildew Parsnip: Javelin F1 have some resistance to canker.

Timing of sowing

You can sometimes avoid outbreaks of pests and diseases by adjusting your sowing or planting dates.  The best example is to sow your carrots in late May or early June.  This avoids the first generation of carrot rootfly in May.  Another example is to sow your peas only in mid April to avoid foot rot disease.

Breaking the cycle

You could have brassicas (cabbage family) growing in your garden all year round.  This makes it very easy for all pests and diseases to survive and re-infect new crops.  I always clear my cabbage patch in mid January and only plant the first brassicas again in early May.  I’ll never get nice spring cabbage but at least I hope to get fewer problems.

Adjusting the spacing

If plants are spaced too closely they are a lot more susceptible to fungal diseases such as grey mould or mildew.  If you want to lessen any potential problem you can always space your crops a little bit further apart.  This increases the airflow through the crop and reduces the incidence of fungal diseases that thrive in more humid conditions.

Proper sowing and planting

Good care should be taken when sowing seeds and planting vegetables.  The better they start off the more likely they will do well.

Managing pests and disease

Whilst many pest and disease problems can be prevented, there are various occasions where pest or disease numbers increase to such high numbers that they can cause serious damage to your crops. It is crucial to properly identify the culprits.  It happens often that an innocent bystander who happens to be at the scene is accused of the act.  It may have been the one who has just eaten the culprit.

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Grafting Fruit Trees – A Step by Step

A couple of years ago, on our yearly trip to Israel to visit family, we met a local farmer who came to do some maintenance work on my mother-in-law’s fruit trees.

I started following the guy like a lost puppy, and what do you know? He took me in

After that day a couple of years ago, I wrote the post 4 Techniques of Grafting Fruit Trees which is one of the most successful posts on the blog.

And I get why… Grafting is a tricky business. There are so many benefits to grafting, and people had been grafting fruit trees for years, but there are so few people who know how to do it and so many things that can go wrong, it’s like making cheese, you have to practice and practice and practice until you get it right.

This is why it’s so valuable to learn it first hand from someone that has a ton of experience.

So today is your lucky day! Our last visit to Israel was right in grafting season and we got to tag along to a day of grafting and fruit trees maintenance and I am sharing it all here with you!

But let’s start at the beginning…

What is Grafting?

To graft means to join two living trees from the same family into one by uniting a shoot or a bud with a standing tree.

What are the Benefits of Grafting?

In my post 4 Techniques of Grafting Fruit Trees , I give a couple of examples of situations when you’ll want to graft another tree on your existing tree, those might help you understand the benefits below much better so make sure you check them out.

There are so many benefits for grafting… Obviously, the main benefit that comes to mind is having two (or more) different kinds of fruits on one tree, like, an orange and a lemon, or two (or more) different verities of fruit on the same tree, like, green apple and red apple.

Since you still have just one tree it means you still have to take care of just one tree. You don’t need additional space, you don’t need to water more, you don’t need to fertilize another tree or prune another tree, yet at the end of the day, you’ll get two different kinds of fruits.

Grafting also saves you waiting time. When you plant a new tree, it will take it a few years to start producing a nice amount of fruit for you. When you graft on an existing tree you’ll have fruit ready for picking in just a couple short seasons.

Grafting can also save a sick or broken tree. You will see this in the tutorial below… What we did is used the trunk and roots of a tree that was not producing anymore to support a new tree.

Another benefit for grafting is fighting insects and diseases. If your tree is suffering but you know of another verity that is doing much better in your area, you can graft the new verity on your tree to help it produce better.

Also, some trees have a female and a male tree and you have to plant both in order for them to pollinate each other and produce fruit, this is called cross-pollination. Pears, plums, and pecans are among the trees in this group. So in this case, you can graft a female on a male or a male on a female and you will have one tree that can pollinate itself. Magic, huh?

Which Tree on Which Tree?

This is where experience comes in… Basically, you have to remember that the trees you join have to be from the same family for them to successfully “communicate”.

For example, trees within the prune family such as peaches nectarines, and plums can be grafted together. Those can also be joined with an almond tree since it is from the same family.

Verities of olives can be grafted on to one another. Verities of apples or apples and crabapples can be grafted together.

You will have to make sure you check each combination before you graft.

The best way, though, is to ask someone with experience. If you have grafted before and you know of a successful combination, please list it in the comments below, hopefully, it will save someone a whole lot of work.

When to Graft?

You can’t just graft anytime of the year.

It has to be done at the end of winter just before spring. It has to be done before the tree starts to bud when the branches are still completely bare.

You want to do this on a sunny day but not a hot day. We want plenty of light but not a lot of heat.

Here in the South, it will probably be best to graft somewhere in the end of February or the beginning of March. Pay attention to when your fruit trees usually start to bud and pay close attention to the weather.

Ok, so this is the basics, now, let’s get out to the field and see how it’s done…

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

The first tree we grafted was my mother-in-law’s olive tree. A couple of years ago, it was split in the center because of a load of snow and since then it stopped producing.

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

Here is another look of the trunk. It was split almost all the way to the bottom.

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

So in this case, grafting was done in order to save the tree. Instead of pulling the tree out or just cutting it down and wasting the space, we took advantage of the already established root system and grafted a new olive verity on this existing tree.

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

The first step was clean-up. We needed to cut the tree past the point where it split and prepare it for grafting.

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

Raik worked with a small chainsaw to cut off a little bit at a time…

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

All the way down past the split…

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

We didn’t want to cut more than what we had to.

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

This tree had another big branch that came from the trunk. We could have left it and have the tree producing two kinds of olives, but since my mother-in-law didn’t like the olives this tree produced, we shortened this branch as well and prepared it for grafting.

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

Ok, that’s it. Now we are ready to start.

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

Raik has his own olive grove that he is caring for for years, so he brought with him a few young branches from one of his trees.

It is VERY important that you graft branches from a tree that you know or from someone that you absolutely trust. You want to make sure you graft a healthy tree so you don’t damage your own tree and that you graft from a tree that you know has a great production of healthy and delicious fruit.

It will be a shame to do all this work and find out in a couple of seasons that you grafted from a tree that does not produce well.

Grafting fruit trees might seem like an intimidating task that not many know how to do... This is a step by step picture tutorial for grafting fruit trees.

This is the one we will work on first…

See the tiny bud between the branch and the leaf? We want to make sure we don’t damage it because this is where the new tree is going to grow from.

 

 

To be Continue……..

A Homemade Anti-Fungal Spray

IMG 2632 1024x768 A Homemade Anti Fungal Spray

I have an amazing espalier rosebush in my backyard this year that is setting records with the sheer amount of blooms on it.  Unfortunately it’s also suddenly covered in black spot fungus, and needs some major help right now.

Black spot is caused by a fungal infestation that occurs in wet locations, or humid places.  It can be triggered by late evening watering, or misting sprinklers, and it spreads rapidly on roses if it’s not caught right away and pruned out.  For bushes with major black spot problems a store-bought anti-fungal spray, or an application of horticultural oil can work adequately, but for the DIYers like myself, a home remedy will fix the problem and save you the gas and pocket money.

Ingredients:

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Water
  • Liquid Dish soap
  • One 25-32 oz. spray bottle (reuse a windex bottle, or purchase a commercial equivalent)

Recipe:

Combine 1/2 a teaspoon of dish soap with 1/2 a teaspoon of vegetable oil in your spray bottle, and fill completely with water, leaving only enough room for the straw and cap to screw on without overflow.  Lightly shake, and then liberally spray this anti-fungal spray all over your roses, leaves, blooms and all.

For the next three weeks apply this recipe to your roses, and you should see results quickly.  For added benefit, if you wash your dishes by hand in the sink you should transfer the soapy sink water to a pail or watering can, and use that water to hydrate the base of your rose bushes.  Gentle soapy water can temporarily kill any fungus living in the mulch, or the soil at the base of the plant, and prevent the fungus from attacking your roses again in the near future.

How To Grow Onions For Cooking And Salads

Learn how to grow onions in your garden. They are delicious in salads, soups and many other dishes you can enjoy with your family.

growing onions in my garden

Onions are a very easy crop and one of the most useful vegetables to grow. Onions store well, make great use of space, and are used in most dishes in the kitchen. Let’s see how to grow onions for salads and cooking.

Do you use onions a lot? Our family uses LOTS of onions! I wish we could grow enough for all our needs, but we’d need a lot more garden space. So we only grow green onions and use them in salads and as garnish to soups.

So how many onions should you plat? If you eat a lot of sauce based dishes such as pasta dishes, stews and curries, you’d probably get through 2 or 3 onions per week, so plant about 150 onions. But if you are using up lots of them in chutney, relish, soups and ketchup you’ll need a lot more. For a good number to use in your kitchen, grow 200 overwintering (storage) onions, 300 white onions and 200 red onions.

How To Prepare the Soil for Growing  Onions

Preparing the soil for onions is quite straight forward. Onions are really easy to grow and don’t require much. Make sure the soil has good drainage and the onions spot is in full sin. Incorporate some garden compost, and a week or so before planting, dress the soil with a dusting of Fish, Blood and Bone fertilizer.

How To Grow Onions

You can grow onions from seed or from sets (immature bulbs). Each method has its different advantages. Onion seeds offer a wider selection of varieties, are cheaper, and possibly store better. Onion sets are much easier to grow, offer more resistance to diseases and have a better success rate.

If you are new to growing onions you may choose to sow by sets, but if you would like to give onions seeds a go here is a quick guideline.

How to grow onions from seeds

To grow onions from seed, start around 2 months before the last frost, usually in March. Sow onion seeds in small pots or trays: scatter seeds thinly and cover lightly with a general purpose compost. Keep indoors until the seeds have germinated. Move them to a cool greenhouse or cold frame before hardening them off. Plant outside when they are pencil size in mid May.

Try to keep the young seedlings under 15 degrees before they move outside, and space out in the same way as onion sets (see below).

How to grow onions from sets

planting onion sets

Growing onions from sets is much easier, although buying the onion sets can be a lot more expensive.

Plant sets either in March or April: poke a small hole for the onion bulb to sit in (my husband uses his finger to make the hole), place the bulb fat end down and cover lightly with soil. Space the bulbs 4 to 6 inches from each other in rows with spaces 8-12 inches apart. Bear in mind that the smaller the gap between rows, the smaller the onion will be.

We like to plant several sets at a week interval, so we can have green onions for our salads. We plant the onion sets around the edge of our raised beds in our veggie garden.

Do keep an eye on newly planted sets, as birds do find pulling out the bulbs great entertainment, and a bored bird could turn out the whole bed. If you have any cheeky birds, it may be worth netting them until they have rooted in.

sprouting onion sets

How to care for your growing onions

Bolting onions can be a problem, particularly if they are planted too close together, or even if the weather warms up quickly. The solution is quick and easy: simply cut off the flowers before they form.

Throughout the growing season, simply keep weed free and water in dry spells.

To extend the onion season you can also plant overwintering onions, also known as Japanese onions. We LOVE doing this: it gives us a nice fresh crop of onions very early in the spring. Overwintering onions will need to be planted in September or October  and will be ready a month or two before the true summer crop.

Onion Pests And Diseases

Onion fly is probably the most troublesome problem, but if you grow from sets, you should avoid these grubs. If you do get any problems, you could cover the bulbs until they develop a little more, and by hoeing regularly you’ll expose the grubs for the birds to snack on.

The following problems are more rare, but you could experience them.

Onion eelworm can distort the developing bulb, but a good crop rotation should control this. If the problem is bad grow brassicas or lettuce on the bed for a number of years.

White rot is evident by a moldy growth near the neck of stored onions, it turns them soft and eventually rotten.  Often this rotting can be caused by forcing onions leaves over in an attempt to induce maturing, so avoid doing this and let the leaves bend over naturally before harvest.

There are other bacterial and fungal diseases that can attack stored onions, simply discard rotten onions to protect other bulbs.

Neck rot is a disease that kills the plant in the ground. When affected, the onion will turn yellow before dying. There is not a lot you can do about this: just remove the affected plants and keep to a good crop rotation plan. Do not allow any allium group plant on the same part of the garden for at least two years.

When to harvest onions

onions ready to harvest

Harvesting onions can be done just weeks after planting, if you want to use the fresh, green onions (also known as scallions) in your salads. If you intend to harvest green onions, plant the bulbs closer (2 to 4 inches as opposed to 4 to 6 inches) and harvest every other onion  to use in spring salads, and leave the rest.

If you want to harvest full grown onions, do it in mid to late summer. You’ll know it’s time when the leaves will start to turn brown and bend over.

onions leaves bending, a sign of harvest readiness

How to harvest onions

Harvesting onions is really easy. Simply lift the onions from the ground, shake the dirt off, and leave them outside on a drying rack or even on the ground.

onions drying on the ground

If it rains then cover the onions as it is the air that you need to dry them out effectively. You can then either remove the leaves and store in a net bag or leave the leaves on to braid and hang.

Some gardeners will tell you to bend the leaves over to help them to mature, but this can cause damage to the neck. And don’t be tempted to dry your onions in the greenhouse, if it is warm the onions will start to cook and they will not store.

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Potato Leafhopper on Vegetables

Potato Leaf Hopper

The potato leafhopper, Empoasca fabae , is a pest that is easy to overlook until the damage – called “hopperburn” – “burns” you. Due to it’s feeding habits, it can cause damage that is out of proportion to it’s density. Most problems in vegetables show up in snap beans or potatoes, but it is capable of successful reproduction on over 200 plants species in 25 different families, including alfalfa, potatoes, beans, peanuts, and woody ornamentals. Potato leafhopper is a transient pest of apples, grapes, celery, rhubarb, and clover to name a few. Densities are typically highest in alfalfa.

The potato leafhopper overwinters to the south of us. Migrant source populations develop in the Gulf States in early spring, where they overwinter on legume host plants, but may also be found on a variety of native, evergreen plants. It has been tentatively demonstrated that the potato leafhopper feeds on loblolly pine, and the leafhopper’s overwintering area spans the entire southern pine region and may extend into coastal areas where evergreen hosts are available.

Most overwintering females are mated and in reproductive diapause (their reproduction is delayed). These migrants arrive in Pennsylvania during the spring and early summer and they move northward, recolonizing its entire range from its overwintering source. The summer range spans most of the temperate latitudes east of 100° longitude. Some authors have suggested a “pied-piper” hypothesis for the broad patterns of northward expansion of many pest species, where agricultural activities have provided temporarily suitable habitats for many highly mobile species that are geographically far from suitable overwintering locations. The possibility of some return flow to the south, along with some adult diapause, is currently an open research question.

Click on image for larger version of potato leafhopper damage on potato plants.Click on image for larger image of potato leafhopper damage to potato plant.

 

The sex ratios of our populations shift during the season. The long-distance migrants are predominantly female. A sex ratio of 25 females to 1 male was recorded entering an alfalfa field in May in Pennsylvania. All females were gravid and able to initiate a new generation. The sex ratio changed to approximately 3:1 on second harvest and 1:1 on third harvest. The sex ratio of eggs is 1:1 and adult populations maintain stable 1:1 sex ratios by midseason and thereafter.

Potato leafhopper develops 3 to 4 generations during its residence in its summer range. One important factor that regulates populations is alfalfa harvest. Harvest destroys eggs and nymphs, and sends adults flying. Recolonization of alfalfa regrowth and vegetable crops occurs by invasion of adults from those populations adjacent to alfalfa fields or neighboring alfalfa fields on adjacent farms.

Eggs are deposited within the plant. Most are in the upper more succulent tissue. On alfalfa, eggs are laid in the top 17 cm or upper one fourth of the plant. In potatoes, eggs are laid more frequently in the terminal leaflets and on leaves between apical and basal leaves. Egg-laying activity is maximum during the dark hours. Very little egg-laying occurs below 18.3° C. Females lay about 2 to 4 eggs per day, and somewhere between 30 and 200 eggs per female over a female’s lifetime. In the lab, a female lives about 100 to 120 days.

Egg-hatch occurs in 9 1/2 to 11 days at 75° F. After hatching, nymphs undergo five instars. The newly emerged nymph is nearly colorless with red spots that quickly fade. A yellow color soon appears, changing to pale green in the third instar. The time of development varies greatly with temperature, but average duration of each of the 1st through 5th instars respectively are: 2.6, 2.3, 2.3, 2.5, and 4.7 days. Mating occurs within 48 h of adult emergence with females beginning to lay eggs in three days. The average reproductive life was 30-35 days for females and 33 days for males.

Leafhopper feeding results in symptoms called “hopperburn”. The adults use the lacerate-and-flush style of probing in and around vascular tissue. Potato leafhoppers move its stylets steadly through cells, secreting full salivary sheaths only rarely. This lacerate-and-flush feeding style results in disorganization of vascular bundles, enlargement and proliferation of cells, collapse of phloem fibers, and eventual collapse of phloem sieve elements. It seems likely that both introduction of saliva from the leafhopper and mechanical wounding by stylet movememt is necessary to cause the injury, which is a saliva-enhanced wound response associated with vascular blockage. The net result blockage of phloem transport. Gross symptoms of hopperburn probably result from this phloem blockage and subsequent accumulation of photoassimilates in leaves. This interacts with other stresses, such as drought.

Hopperburn shows up as a browning and necrosis along the margins of potatoes. Damage varies with cultivar. In beans, it can cause a curling of the leaves, stunting, reduced root systems, and reduced yields and quality. Greatest damage comes from feeding on young plants. In alfalfa, it causes a distinctive V-shaped yellow wedge, typically first in the terminal leaflets. However, hopperburn symptoms result from the plant’s response to the feeding. Therefore, responding to the damage by spraying is not the best option. It does help, because new leaves will be free of injury. But the best management is to scout for leafhoppers. It is easy to do with a sweep net, or by closely examining the undersides of leaves. Both adults and nymphs will include a characteristic “sideways” walking pattern as part of their movement. Adults also have a characteristic deep lime-green color. Scouting and spraying when thresholds are exceeded is the best management. In some states, the early season influx is monitored simply by regional reporting of the scouting data from alfalfa.

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