My squash plants are blooming, but no fruit has set. Why not?
For most squashes, the male and the female flowers (distinguished by the round chamber at the base of the flower) are on the same plant. These flowers are dependent on honey bees and other bees to transfer the male pollen to the female flower. Take precautions to minimize insecticide use during flower bloom and encourage bee access and visitation. Inadequately-pollinated female squash flowers may grow, but abort before full fruit development.
Female and male flowers (Rasbak, Wikimedia Commons)
For more information on how to grow squash in your home garden, see WSU Extension Factsheet FS087E “Growing Squash in Home Gardens.”
Submitted by: Sheila Gray, July 20, 2015
Avoiding Strangely Shaped Knobby Potatoes
While growing potatoes is relatively easy, maintaining an even soil moisture is crucial to producing a good crop of well-shaped potatoes. After the plants emerge, potatoes need about 2 inches of water per week, depending on the weather and the type of soil. Regular irrigation will be needed if natural precipitation is not adequate. Wide fluctuations in soil moisture will cause uneven tuber development leading to potatoes with knobby growth, pointed ends, or a dumbbell shape, depending on when the water-stress occurs.
This material is excerpted from the WSU publication Growing Potatoes in Home Gardens FS118E
Submitted by: Marianne Ophardt, July 6, 2015
Blossom-end Rot of Tomato and Pepper
Blossom-end rot is a plant disorder that appears as a water-soaked, light brown spot on the blossom end of the fruit. As the fruit matures, the spot becomes sunken, leathery, and brown to black. Opportunistic pathogens can infect this spot leading to fruit rot. Blossom-end rot is associated with a lack of sufficient calcium in developing fruit. Often the disorder is only noticeable on the earliest maturing fruit of the season. Blossom-end rot may be traced to excessive soil moisture, drought stress, or excessive fertilization. Prior to planting next year’s crop, send a soil sample in for testing. Your county extension agent can recommend soil-testing laboratories in your area. If your soil is low in calcium, use lime or dolomite lime at least 2–4 months before planting. Plant in well-drained soils and water consistently. Mulching plants may be helpful. Fertilize moderately to avoid buildup of salts in the soil and to prevent excessive growth.
Blossom end rot of tomato (left) and pepper (right)
Crops affected: Tomato, pepper, eggplant, and various cucurbits.
For more information on tomato blossom-end rot, see Growing Tomatoes in Home Gardens FS145E as well as WSU Hortsense
Submitted by: Michael Bush, June 8, 2015
Growing Green Beans in Home Gardens
Homegrown beans are fresh, nutritious and relatively easy to grow, making them a good choice for first-time gardeners. Edible-pod beans were once called “string” beans, due to the stringy fiber along the seam of the pod. Modern varieties are mostly free of tough fibers allowing the pod to snap into segments easily for cooking or preserving, thus the name “snap” bean. There are a few cultivars of snap bean with yellow or purple-colored pods. Usually, the purple color fades during cooking, revealing a green pod. Harvest green beans for their edible pod when the seeds start to form, but before they begin to bulge, keeping the seeds tender and sweet.
Green bean photo source: Jeremy Keith, UK, via Wikimedia Commons
For more information on growing green beans in your home garden, go to http://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/vegetables-growing-green-beans-in-home-gardens-home-garden-series
Submitted by: Sheila Gray, May 29, 2015
Washington or high elevations in eastern Washington because fruit needs to reach maturity quickly in cooler summer temperatures. Varieties that have longer growing seasons are better suited to the warmer summer temperatures of eastern Washington.
Tomatoes can be very temperamental, and if not cared for correctly, you can end up with few fruit or mostly green tomatoes. Water is key to a healthy plant. Expect to water about 1” per week during peak tomato growth. Using a mulch will help reduce water loss. Overwatering can cause increased leaf growth at the expense of tomato fruit. Too much water also encourages disease problems.
For more information, please see http://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/growing-tomatoes-in-home-gardens-home-garden-series
Submitted by: Gary Fredricks, May 26, 2015
Be sure to select a variety that matures within the growing season of your geographic area. Most cucumbers require 50 to 70 days from planting to first harvest.
Purchase seed from catalogs and garden centers. It is not recommended to plant cucumber seed that have been saved from the previous year, as they are unlikely to produce the same variety.
When sowing seeds outdoors, germination is best when the soil temperature is at least 55 °F. Seeds can be planted in mid- to late-May, 4 to 5 seeds per hill (mounds of soil) at a depth of 1-inch. Space the hills 4 to 5 feet apart.
When the plants develop two to three leaves, thin the plants to three well-spaced plants per hill. Cucumbers grow best when temperatures are between 70 and 95 °F. Cucumbers are frost-tender vegetables, meaning frost will kill the plants.
For more information on this topic, see http://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/growing-cucumbers-in-home-gardens-home-garden-series for a free, downloadable PDF.
Submitted by: Sheila L. Gray, May 22, 2015
Why Are My Onion Bulbs So Small?
Onions form bulbs in response to day length or the number of hours of daylight. There are two main types of onions: those grown in northern latitudes that bulb in response to long days, and those grown in southern latitudes that bulb in response to short days. The long-day onions grown in Washington will start to bulb when there are 14 hours of daylight. If they are not planted early enough in the spring, bulbing will begin before the plant grows enough to produce a large bulb. When purchasing onion seed, Washington gardeners should be sure to select only long-day onion cultivars.
Photo credit: Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons
For more information, download a free PDF of Growing Onions in Home Gardens.
Submitted by: Marianne Ophardt, August 25, 2014
When to Harvest Carrots
Carrots can be harvested for fresh eating any time they reach a desirable size. However, if carrots are to be stored, they should be harvested when they are fully mature. When thinning or harvesting carrots, pull out baby types by their tops and dig out longer types. Longer carrots frequently break if pulled, so it’s best to use a digging fork to loosen and lift the carrots out of the soil.
Photo credit: “Mrkva” by Roberta F.
More information is available on Growing Carrots in Home Gardens FS118E at http://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/growing-carrots-in-the-home-garden-home-garden-series.
Submitted by: Marianne Ophardt, August 18, 2014 =============================================================================
Growing Squash in Home Gardens
Consider this: There are few vegetables easier to grow in the home garden and more versatile in form/use/consumption than squash. The term “squash” refers to several plant species native to Central and South America. Many squash types or cultivars can be grouped as summer squash or winter squash, depending on the season the vegetable is harvested.
Summer Squashes: Zucchini & Crookneck Winter Squashes: Buttercup & Turban
Photo Credits: Michael Bush, WSU Extension
May is time to plant in most regions of WA State: Squash is a frost-tender vegetable. Seeds may not germinate in cold soil and seedlings can be killed off by spring frosts. Squash is planted in hills (mounds of soil) about 4 to 5 feet apart. Sow 4 to 5 seeds per hill at a depth of one inch in mid- to late May, depending on the date of the last killing frost. Alternatively, start plants in the home or greenhouse 10 days to 2 weeks prior to transplanting seedlings into the garden. Spacing is important when planting these seedlings; place 2 seedlings per hill spaced 4 to 5 feet apart.
For more information on growing squash in home gardens, go to
Submitted by: Michael Bush, May 1, 2014
Growing Green Peas in Home Gardens
There are two main types of peas: those with an inedible pod, such as shelling (garden) peas, and edible-pod peas, such as snow or sugar snap peas. Green pea varieties also grow on two different plant types—bush or vine.
Early plantings tend to produce larger yields than plantings later in the season. Peas thrive in cool, moist weather and produce best in cool, moderate climates; sow directly into the ground when the temperature is at least 50°F, and the soil is dry enough to till without it sticking to garden tools.
For more information on growing peas in your home garden, go to http://pubs.extension.wsu.edu/growing-green-peas-in-the-home-garden-home-garden-series
Photo source: gardening.cornell.edu
Submitted by: Sheila Gray, March 10, 2014