In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
February, 2007
Regional Report

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These carrots are perfect for winter munching!

Vegetable Problems

Sometimes our vegetables just don't grow the way we think they should. They're stunted or discolored or just aren't vigorous growers. Here are some troubleshooting clues and organic approaches for three popular veggies.

Beets
Problem: A cracked root results from sudden growth after heavy irrigation following drought conditions.
Solution: Irrigate deeply and more frequently. Provide organic mulches to help retain moisture.

Problem: If the root is chewed, root maggots or wireworms have been enjoying your beets.
Solution: Incorporate wood ashes into the soil.

Problem: Roots are not sweet-tasting and become stringy and woody when they are too mature or have matured late in the summer, or when they haven't been watered adequately.
Solution: Water deeply and more frequently. Harvest when roots are no larger than 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Plant them so that they mature during cool weather.

Problem: Roots that are too small have been sown too closely together.
Solution: Each seed will develop into several beets, so allow enough space when sowing, and thin and eat the young beets. Young beet greens make excellent raw or cooked additions to salads.

Problem: Roots with internal black spots suffer from a boron deficiency, which is most prevalent in dry, alkaline soils that are high in calcium.
Solution: Incorporate some borax into the soil.

Carrots
Problem: Roots that are hairy, forked, or misshapen have been overwatered, overfertilized, or grown in rocky or cloddy soil.
Solution: Plant in raised beds. Incorporate compost to lighten soil and improve drainage.

Problem: Cavities in roots indicate water stress and calcium deficiency, especially on dry soils which are acidic or high in potassium.
Solution: Provide plants with sufficient water to maintain their steady growth. Calcium is not available to plants at a low pH. Dolomitic limestone is a good source of lime and magnesium. The finer the grade of the limestone, the faster it can break down in the soil, raise the pH, and enable the calcium to be utilized. Incorporate bone meal, gypsum, and plant residues. Rotate crops.

Problem: Roots that grow twisted around one another have been planted too closely together.
Solution: Sow carrots more thinly. As they grow, thin them to an inch apart.

Spinach
Problem: Blight transmitted by aphids causes plants to be stunted and leaves to yellow and curl.
Solution: Plant resistant varieties, control aphids, maintain weed-free growing areas.

Problem: Plants bolt when the days are too long and the nights are too short.
Solution: Grow as fall, overwintering, or early spring crop.


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