Organic Gardening at Nugensis Farm

Organic Gardening at Nugensis Farm

Part of Ep. 1903 Plants For Clay & A Garden That Rocks

Near Delafield at NuGenesis Farm, we get an update on the latest organic gardening techniques for the home gardener. Erin Silva shows us how to prevent fungal diseases while eating healthy ourselves.

Premiere date: May 11, 2011

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
The focus today is organic and we’re looking at a few success stories here at NuGenesis Farm near Delafield and right off the interstate.  I am with Erin Silva.  She is an Organic Specialist at the Department of Agronomy at the UW-Madison and also you are the farm manager here at NuGenesis Farm. 

Erin Silva:
Yes. 

Shelley Ryan:
First of all, you know, something we should talk about a little is what is NuGenesis?  Just real briefly. 

Erin Silva:
NuGenesis is a newly started non-profit that’s a partnership with the Pearl Healthcare System here in Waukesha County.  It looks at integrating vegetables into the diet as a way to prevent disease. 

Shelley Ryan:
Something we’re all kind of I think thinking about.  Well, you said you’ve got success stories using organic behavior treatment.  Let’s look at one of them. 

Erin Silva:
We do.  Here are some zucchini that were planted in late May, which is typical time to plant zucchini.  Powdery mildew started to develop on the plants, probably around late July.  We started to see this disease very true to it’s name, a dusty coating on the leaves. 

Shelley Ryan:
Easy to identify. 

Erin Silva:
Common on a large variety of both ornamental and vegetable crops.  We started spraying with a compound called Serenade, which is based on a naturally occurring bacteria. 

Shelley Ryan:
Now is that available to most home gardeners? 

Erin Silva:
That is less available than another compound which is equally effective, horticultural oils.  Very affordable to the home gardener.  This is a concentrate that’s about $15.00 per bottle. 

Shelley Ryan:
Okay. 

Erin Silva:
Like the Serenade, you would spray this as you’re starting to see this develop on all the foliage, the healthy foliage and the foliage affected by powdery mildew.  This will prevent the powdery mildew from colonizing on the healthy leaves and allow you to maintain production through the growing season.  Unlike what you see over here, which is a lot of dead leaves, which would happen if you did not treat this disease.  You’ll be able to maintain healthy leaves and then be able to get fruit even mid-September like we are now. 

Shelley Ryan:
Well, the contrast is dramatic.  I mean, you’ve got almost a completely dead plant there, then you’ve got the powdery mildew, then you got these gorgeous new green leaves, and as you said, fruit.  So, you can organically treat and continue to have the plant produce. 

Erin Silva:
Yes. 

Shelley Ryan:
So that leads to the next question.  What is organic?  What constitutes organic? 

Erin Silva:
Under organic production methods or regulations, you are allowed to spray pesticides and those are specifically reviewed by the national organic program.  These pesticides tend to be less toxic to mammals and the environment.  They tend to break down quickly in the sunlight.  They are still toxic when we are applying them.  So you do want to read the label.  You do want to make sure that you take proper safety precautions, gloves.  Make sure you wash up and dispose of the compound properly. 

Shelley Ryan:
It doesn’t give you a free pass. 

Erin Silva:
Yes.  They are tend to be more gentle to other organisms in the plants that are beneficial so it tends to be more targeted to your pest organism and leaves your beneficial organisms alone. 

Shelley Ryan:
So not broad spectrum.  It’s not going to kill everything.  It’s just going to focus on the issue you’ve got. 

Erin Silva:
Most of them do.  So it’s good to know your pest and know what you should be spraying on it, so that you’re really targetting your pest organism. 

Shelley Ryan:
Know your enemy, read the instructions, and let’s go look at another success story.  Now this is a fun story of success.  We are supposed to be showing you an example of disease.  There’s nothing there.  What am I looking for that I don’t see, Erin? 

Erin Silva:
So what we were trying to do here was to control bacterial and fungal diseases preventatively.  So before we even saw the disease on the plant, act proactively with the tools we have available organically, so the disease wouldn’t even appear. 

Shelley Ryan:
It looks like you did it. 

Erin Silva:
We did it.  So late June, early July, when the disease started spreading into the midwest and conditions were right, we started applying a copper fungicide to the plants on a weekly basis, saturating the leaves and that would prevent any bacterial or fungal disease including late blight, which has been very common in our area recently, from colonizing and spreading on the plants. 
Shelley Ryan:
This is for peppers and the tomatoes. 

Erin Silva:
Peppers, tomatoes, any baterial or fungal diseases you might see on that family of crops. 

Shelley Ryan:
We don’t do this blindly.  A plan of action for a home gardener should be what? 

Erin Silva:
Around that same time, June or July, when disease conditions are right, late June, early July.  Call your county agent and find out if a disease is in the area and then you can buy such a copper product and go out and start treating your plants. 

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, so don’t just blindly do it.  Plan ahead, ask some questions of your local county extention agent.  Something we didn’t mention, again, read the label.  Well we did mention that, read the label, but then wash, even though we’re gardening organically, we still need to wash our produce. 

Erin Silva:
You do.  Not only for food safely reasons and the soils splashing on the plant, but also to remove the copper that leaves a residue.  Once you wash it, it’s fine to eat.  No problem with toxicity.  But you do want to make sure you wash that. 

Shelley Ryan:
Don’t forget that, okay.  Then you’ve got a couple other very simple organic gardening methods. 

Erin Silva:
Yeah, two methods to help with your insect pest problems.  One is to put a simple floating row cover on top of your plants.  This acts as a physical barrier to exclude pest insects, such as flea beetles, Japanese beetles.  It will prevent them from landing on the plants.  The other thing we have is we’ve planted a row of insectory plants, some flowering plants.  Those plants act as a food source for beneficial insect adults that will then come into your crop plants and lay eggs on some of those pest insects, and thus keep your pest insect population down. 

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, and you’ve got things, it looks like I see dill back there.  I see some basil. 

Erin Silva:
Zinnias.  The key is to try to get it to flower throughout the season so that food source is constantly available. 

Shelley Ryan:
Okay, great.  These are some great ideas to keep the flowers in the garden and keep the good bugs in the garden too. 

Erin Silva:
Yes. 

Shelley Ryan:
Thanks, Erin. 

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