Top 5 Late Bloomer Lessons!

| August 19, 2015 | 6 Replies

Halfway through Season 4 of Late Bloomer and past the mid-point of my fourth summer garden, I think it’s high time to publish my Top 5 Late Bloomer Lessons (LBL’s)!

LBL #1 –  Don’t bite off more than you can chew 

An increasingly common thing has been happening to me lately. I was just in the Apple store and the sales associate asked me if I was an educator (that’s not the common thing, read on) as I could get a $20 discount if I were. I said, “Yes!” The purpose of Late Bloomer is to inspire and educate. And Late Bloomer is nominated for Best Edutainment at the Miami Web Fest! (Please click and vote and Late Bloomer could win a cash award!) So, I told him about growing my own food and he said he’s always wanted to do that (he’s 21 and lives at home). We talked a bit about what it would take, and he asked me how much could he plant. I asked him about his work schedule and then said, “Don’t plant more than you have time to take care of.” That’s what’s common, I engage with people wherever I am about growing food.

Top 5 Late Bloomer Lessons! - peppers

Lush pepper plants I babied on upper balcony to capture sun

Over-planting is a lesson I have to keep learning myself, because my thirst to plant seeds, fueled by the exuberance of many online garden friends (many of them send me seeds!) is apparently unquenchable. I have 40 pepper plants (26 here in pots, and the rest at neighbor’s in the ground), I have 16 tomato plants here, and planted 10 elsewhere (they are not doing well at all), and a whole host of other things from sweet potatoes to squash, cucumbers, melon, citrus trees, guavas, herbs and more. I can’t take good care of it all, and TLC is what produces a fine garden.

LBL #2 – Find the sun

This is the first, and most important, question to be answered before planting anything. What are the sun needs of the plant, and where can you plant to fill that need? If you have plenty of space in the sun, you don’t have a problem. Your problem might be too much heat, in which case you need to shade your plants. If your sun and space is limited, then selecting seeds or starts that prosper in the shade or partial sun is a must. In other words, fall in love with beets, chard, potatoes and lettuce! And, since many vegetables grow well in pots, pots can be moved to find the sun as the sun gets lower in the sky. I will be moving my peppers to the “plateau” (if you watch Extreme Garden Makeover Day 2 you will see what I affectionately call my plateau) when the tomatoes come out in a few weeks.

Top 5 Late Bloomer Lessons! - sickly peppers

Sickly peppers I planted at a neighbor’s & didn’t have time to take care of

LBL #3 – Be Observant

The only way to stay ahead of problems is to be observant. Take a very close look at your plants at different times of day, which often means getting down on your hands and knees. You will catch an aphid manifestation before they completely cover your beans, or spot a tomato hornworm before it has stripped your tomatoes down to the stem. You can also see your beneficial insects in action. One adult lady beetle can eat 5,000 aphids!

Top 5 Late Bloomer Lessons! - lady beetles-aphids

Lady beetles eating oleander aphids

Powdery mildew is something I have to live with here because we don’t have frost (which would kill the spores), and once it completely coats leaves, there is no more photosynthesis happening in the plant and it will shrivel and die. Also, the spores spread, so catching them when you first see white spots is critical. Even though PM is host-specific, meaning cucurbits have theirs, tomatoes have theirs and roses have theirs, the white powder all seems to run together in the summer.

Top 5 Late Bloomer Lessons! - blight on tomato leaves

Remove Early blight & powdery mildewed leaves & spray plants, repeatedly

LBL #4 – Be Vigilant

Don’t think because you sprayed for bugs or mildew a week ago you can coast for a month, no, no, you must stay on top of it. In an organic garden, you are using non-toxic solutions for pests and disease, so you’ve got to repeat the application, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly. If you notice a folded together tomato leaf there’s probably a worm in there. Some pests are so small you can hardly even see them, but they can devastate a plant, so look for the signs: if leaves are not green, probably needs nutrients; if leaves are mottled in color or yellow, could be too much water or spider mites; if you’ve properly fed and watered and it’s not producing, may not have enough sun; if there are holes in the leaves, it’s bugs or snails. There are a ton of things to know and the only way to have a healthy garden is to be vigilant, with pruning, spraying for pests and fungus, and providing the sun and nutrition and water it needs. For example, tomatoes like deep, infrequent watering, and peppers like to dry out before waterings (but if leaves are hanging down, water!). If you’re not sure, purchase an inexpensive moisture meter.

Top 5 Late Bloomer Lessons! - whitefly

Spiralling whitefly on bean leaf

LBL #5 – Be Water-wise

It’s stunning how much of the fresh water on earth is spent on agriculture, from industrial to small family farms to urban gardens. But, you can greatly reduce your water use with a few simple tips. See them in a new episode of Late Bloomer “Conserve Water in Your Garden.” Water retention by mulching is probably the most significant. Another tip, capture your shower water in a bucket/s (one that you can easily manage when full, water weighs over 8 pounds a gallon!) while you are waiting for hot water, and use this water on your plants. If you have a chlorine filter on your shower, your skin and plants will be healthier. Many shower filters are available online and are easy to install. And capture all the rainwater you can!

Top 5 Late Bloomer Lessons! - rain capture

See the rain capture in “Ode to Rain” during our record-breaking July rain

In the Apple store, a Brazilian woman waved and said she recognized me from somewhere. Well, I do have people watching Late Bloomer from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, England, South Africa, Canada, Costa Rica, Turkey and Australia (if I left out your country, please let me know!). She’s a landscape architect, here on a job in Malibu where the clients plan for a big vegetable garden and she’ll take me up to check it out. Her son is an organic farmer and I met him, too. I hope to be bringing you images from this project soon.

If you enjoyed Top 5 Late Bloomer Lessons (LBL’s), please share with a friend and help support Late Bloomer. And if you are just getting started, like the young man today, subscribe to this website and receive a FREE ebook with these tips and much more, “10 Steps to a Great First Garden.”

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Category: Late Bloomer Lessons, Pest Management, Pests, Plant Diseases, Urban Gardening, Vegetables

Comments (6)

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  1. Shane says:

    Husband and I both voted. I shared on my facebook. Good luck and I hope you win. You deserve it. Very educational and very entertaining.

  2. lisa lynn says:

    I have a problem with #1 too! 😉

    • Oh, I bet you do, Lisa! I can’t even imagine how out of control things would be here if I added chickens, ducks and turkeys! I hope you have some help! Thanks so much for reading! I’d love to visit your Acre someday! Where is it, BTW?

  3. lisa lynn says:

    Hi Kaye,
    Out of control is a pretty good way to describe my homestead! I’m in Northern Illinois, about 2 hours from downtown Chicago (on a good day). Would love to have you visit if you get a chance. 🙂

    I voted for you on the Miami Web Challenge! Best wishes!

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