THE BORN LESAR
It's time again for Mr. Garden Dude: You plant, I rant
Given that it's the early stages of another Wisconsin growing season, people have been persistently pleading with me to produce another installment of the award-losing 'Ask Mr. Garden Dude' series, and I'm pleased to announce that I just can't say 'no.'
Really, I can't say it. Burned my tongue on a 4-meat Tombstone slice last night. Right on the tip, and every time I press it to the roof of my mouth to make the 'nnnn' sound, it feels like I'm trying to lick a live grinding wheel. Much easier just to say 'yes.' Probably should have thought of that while I was still married. Might still have some of my stuff.
Anyway, I checked my column topic list and seeing that I have nothing substantive in mind again this week (it's approaching 90 in a row now), sure, why not, let's do an 'Ask Mr. Garden Dude.' Normally, the ol' mail bag is full of your horticultural questions (and by 'full' I mean 'empty') so for this time it looks like I'll have to fabricate both the front and back ends of these exchanges. It's OK. I talk to myself all the time. I'm the only one who can listen to me for more than 30 seconds without thinking, 'Why hasn't anybody arrested him?'
Let's begin then, and keep in mind, none of my responses should be construed as professional or helpful in any way, cuz, that'd be like, really stupid. Just sayin.' Dear Mr. Garden Dude: Hey, sorry to hear about your tongue. Next time, maybe try putting your hot pizza slice in the fridge for a bit before chomping. Here's my question: I used to have great luck growing tomatoes, but in recent years I've had all sorts of problems with leaf blight. Usually, by early July, the leaves are all speckled and yellowing. Any solutions you might have?
A: Thanks, reader, for both the query and the pizza tip. Putting the pizza in the fridge, that's a good one. Maybe I'll also try putting ice cream in the deep fryer to avoid the brain freeze.
As for your 'maters, leaf blight is a common malady that doesn't happen very often. It occurs when your soil pH is too acidic, unless it's too basic. It can strike the leaves, or someplace else, and most times you see it when the weather is hot and dry, otherwise when it's rainy and wet. There is also early blight and late blight, with the early type generally occuring before the later type.
You with me yet? I know this is complicated.
Anyway, once you are sure that blight is your problem (other issues may be that your neighbor is sneaking into your garden at night and spraying your plants with bleach because you've been having an affair with his wife for six years), there are solutions. Since the disease usually starts from the ground up, first remove the affected leaves, then mulch the soil under the plants with sawdust, newspaper or straw to prevent the fungus in the soil from splashing onto the plants. Another trick that helps is to stake your plants or use cages that keep the foliage off the ground.
Another option would be to visit your local dollar store, and select a package of green markers that most closely matches your tomato leaves. Take them back to the garden, and meticulously re-color the leaves until all the blight spots are invisible. This is not effective to save the plants whatsoever, but it will make you feel better, and when your neighbor comes over and sees that his bleach ain't working, he'll be miffed. That will make you laugh when you and his wife meet next time behind the garage. Oh, yeah, I've been watching.
Dear Mr. Garden Dude: This spring while I was seed shopping I came across a package for something I hadn't seen before -- asparagus beans. The package says they are like a cross between the two crops, with very long, slender fruit that is perfect for sauteeing. What can you tell me about them?
A: Well, reader, let me start by saying that when you cross an elephant with a mouse, you don't necessarily get a hairy rodent with a trunk and big ears, and good luck getting the mouse to hold still. Crossing certain crops with one another may sound like a good idea, but, in my opinion, you're messin' with nature, and a judge once told me I could get 6-10 years for that, even with good behavior.
Asparagus beans sound good, but what's next? Onion lettuce? Broccoli corn? Zucchini radishes? Potato beets? C'mon, man, it's gotta end somewhere.
Dear Garden Dude: I've tried to grow good sweet corn for years, but with little luck. I usually get good seed germination, the seedlings take off well and it's knee-high by the Fourth of July, then it just fizzles. The stalks are short and the ears are stubby and undeveloped. Help, please.
A: This is a simple one. What you're obviously dealing with here is a nitrogen shortage, which is probably causing a severe inferiority complex that is straining your relationship with your co-workers, your friends, and maybe even your dog. However, as I'm not a trained psychotherapist, I'll stick to the soil issues. (Psst. Call me on my cell phone. We'll talk.) Nitrogen deficiency is an easy thing to fix with most of your commercial fertilizers. What you'll want for a better sweet corn crop is something like a 3-18-18 blend that will also deliver potassium and phosphorus to your starving plants. It will, of course, take some time to see results, so be patient. Either that, or break in to your local chemical manufacturing lab, and swipe that tub of liquid nitrogen that will be marked CAUTION: EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. KEEP AWAY. POTENTIALLY FATAL. Just ignore that.
Liquid nitrogen, I probably should mention, becomes a liquid at temperatures below 320 degrees F, so it will initially destroy your corn plants, your skin, your tissue, your bones, and large portions of your face if you get splashy with it. Give it a year, though, and you'll have enough nitrogen in your dirt to grow sweet corn with kernels as big as nickels. Oh, heck, yeah, they'll be poisonous. Look, I'm not a miracle worker.
Dear Mr. Garden Dude: One of my favorite fun plants to grow are chives. I just love their perky purple flowers, the diversity their spiky stalks add to my garden look, and, of course, their sharp flavor. What is your favorite variety of chive?
A: Oh, nice try, but you're not gonna suck me in on that one.
All chives matter.