Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

229 Vegetables, Grapes vs. Heat; Black Widow Spiders

September 16, 2022 Fred Hoffman Season 3 Episode 229
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
229 Vegetables, Grapes vs. Heat; Black Widow Spiders
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Fall is just around the corner, in just a few days, September 22. Still, in the West and elsewhere, more heat waves are in the forecast. How can you protect your backyard vegetables and grapes from more onslaughts of temperatures in the 90’s and above? Plus, new (or old) disease-resistant grape varieties. We have some tips. The black widow spider - is it a friend or foe in your garden? Debbie Flower, America’s Favorite Retired College Horticulture Professor, answers with a resounding…it depends.
We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!

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GB 229 Vegs, Grapes vs Heat; Black Widow Spiders TRANSCRIPT

Farmer Fred  0:00  

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. It's made in the USA. Visit slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.

Farmer Fred  0:31  

Fall is just around the corner, in just a few days, September 22. Still, in the West and elsewhere, more heat waves are in the forecast. How can you protect your backyard vegetables and grapes from more onslaughts of temperatures in the 90’s and above? We have some tips. The black widow spider - is it a friend or foe in your garden? Debbie Flower, America’s Favorite Retired College Horticulture Professor, answers with a resounding…it depends.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!


Farmer Fred  1:22  

Here in California, we just went through a period of record breaking heat, setting new records here in the Sacramento area. The high temperature, the all time high temperature of 116 degrees. But it was a case of eight or nine days in a row where the temperatures were well above 100 degrees. What's a gardener to do when they go through a big bout of heat like that? What happens in the garden? What can you do to help your garden out? Let's talk with Master Gardener and vegetable expert Gail Pothour about your garden and the heat. Now we're here at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, and we’re standing next to their beautiful raised beds. And I'm just looking around, and I see plants that have browning on them. But that could just be the natural effects at this time of the year. We're here in mid-September and things are starting to croak in mid September among the annuals. But I see some unusual browning as well. 

Gail Pothour  2:17  

Yeah, the plants have sort of given their all this summer. It has been a really a torturous summer for the vegetable plants. And I know that probably one plant your referring to is the one on this trellis. We have a vining baby spaghetti squash and it's just normal. It's at the end of its life. It's time to pick all of the the mature spaghetti squash on it. But we have had a lot of sun burning. We have basil that has sunburn, we have peppers, a lot of sunburn on the peppers, even though we've shaded them. We have had such a big crop this year that we weren't able to shade everything, especially a lot of the fruit that was on the outside of the plant. The tomatoes are looking a little sad. We're starting to take them out. And what else? Oh peppers. They're still doing great. But we'll be taking them out shortly. Egg plants looking good. We have flea beetle damage on the eggplant, but the plant themselves look pretty good. 

Farmer Fred  3:11  

Yeah, when it comes to heat, there isn't much a gardener can do. And unfortunately they may overwater the plant as a result. It depends on your soil, if it retains water or lets it flow through. These raised beds would allow the water to flow through. But have you changed your watering regimen with the bout of heat we had?

Gail Pothour  3:29  

Yes. And we've seen the consequences of that. We do have our raised beds and all of our containers on drip irrigation, that containers come on every day just for five minutes or so. And the raised beds, I'm not sure what the schedule is, but several times a week. But on our two work days that we have during the week, we’ve also been hand watering them. And we've seen some of the consequences of that. I think it's too much water. We've had winter squash that have split. And so that's my first indication that we've probably watered too much.

Farmer Fred  4:01  

Well, it looks like it was a good job watering the the barrels five minutes a day, because the plants I'm looking at that are in the half-barrels, there are tomatoes and zinnias and a squash. They look pretty good.

Gail Pothour  4:12  

Yeah, they do. We also have been hand watering them just in anticipation of the triple digits that we've had. We'll probably be cutting back on that now because we're supposed to be in the upper 80s this week. I'm so excited. We've all had our fill of this triple digit heat. 

Farmer Fred  4:27  

Yeah, and as if the he wasn't enough, we have wildfires in our area that are sending smoke this way and that also can have an adverse effect on the garden. What's the gardener to do if they notice ash?

Gail Pothour  4:39  

Wash it off. There will be probably a lot of ash on our foliage this year and on the fruit because we do have a fire that's not too far away. So we'll be sure to wash everything before we eat it. We will wash off the foliage  after the smoke dissipates. But that could also help with the spider mite problem that we have. It's been so dry and dusty. And that's perfect for spider mites. So washing off the foliage would help there, too.

Farmer Fred  5:06  

One of the advantages of doing that overhead watering of your plants every now and then: it brings you closer to the plant. And you can notice other things that maybe you didn't notice before, certain pest problems, for example,

Gail Pothour  5:18  

Oh, yeah, like all those nymphs we've been catching of the Southern green stinkbug. Oh, they've been going crazy this year. We also have an infestation now of leaf-footed bugs. It didn't hit until just the last few weeks, but we've had stinkbugs all summer.

Farmer Fred  5:34  

So with changes in climate, I'm not a climate change denier, there's a change going on. It's getting warmer and for longer periods of time. Are you having second thoughts about placement of crops in the garden? Are you thinking maybe things need more shade now or anything like that? 

Gail Pothour  5:50  

Not so much. We decide what goes in what bed based on what was there before. All the beds are in full sun. And what we're doing is providing more shade for them. So we have a lot of the floating row cover that we use for shade cloth, we might think about having more of a permanent structure, something that we could move,  maybe something made out of PVC or something else, where we could put actual shade cloth over it. And you can get higher densities of cloth that would shade better.

Farmer Fred  6:18  

Yeah, but you probably don't want it too close, especially shade cloth too close to the plant. That could create a heat situation, right.

Gail Pothour  6:25  

And what we would do is, if it's PVC frame or whatever we construct, we would have it high enough that there would be good air circulation because that's another thing you want: good air circulation so you don't get some diseases like powdery mildew, things like that.

Farmer Fred  6:39  

What a lot of people may not know about row covers is: it comes in different weights. And for shade protection in the summertime, I would think you'd want a very lightweight row cover as opposed to wintertime when you're protecting your citrus for example. Then, you may want a heavier row cover.

Gail Pothour  6:53  

 There's five or six or maybe even more different weights of  row cover. We use one that's a lighter weight, it doesn't last more than a couple of seasons unfortunately. If you've ever sewn, it's like interfacing, so it's that lightweight material that tears easily. And if we need to have frost protection, which we might, we haven't the last few years but you never know, there are some heavier weights that we can use for frost protection.

Farmer Fred  7:20  

It's hot, it's smoky. But somehow our garden adapts to it and we can help it adapt to it. Gail Pothour,  Master Gardener here in Sacramento County, vegetable expert extraordinaire. Gail, thank you so much.

Gail Pothour  7:33  

Thank you Fred.


Farmer Fred  7:38 

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Farmer Fred  9:32  

We like to answer your questions here on the Garden Basics podcast and we bring in Debbie Flower, our favorite retired horticultural college professor to help us out with this. And Debbie, Cindy writes in and says, "I have a question about black widow spiders. I have a couple of those big girls next to my house. They're not in the garden. They seem to be getting rid of other unwanted pests. So what are your thoughts? We don't have young children at home, but when our grandkids come over, I will kill them. But new ones will take their place."

Debbie Flower  10:01  

I hope she's not referring to the grandchildren that she's claiming to kill.

Farmer Fred  10:07  

So black widow spiders, do they have a role in the garden?

Debbie Flower  10:10  

Yeah, they do. Spiders in general have a role in the garden and they are I consider them good guys in the garden because they catch other things and eat them. They're not discriminatory that you know if they see a if a green lacewing for instance flies into a spiderweb the spider will eat it just as readily as it will eat something that like a cabbage moth that we don't want in the garden. So the cabbage moth we don't want the green lacewing we do want as beneficial in the garden so they're not discriminatory that way but they are pretty efficient. insect killers you know, things that like anything that flies will get into the trap and and they will consume that. black widows happened to be something we have with the Western Black Widow out here. And they can bite humans and they can hurt they can cause a pinprick in our skin and it can be painful. They are not known to kill people. When they're around my front door or around a pot, I will kill them and I will wear gloves when I'm handling things in situations where I think Black Widows are potentially going to bite me. I don't think they would hurt me you know down the road. They're not going to cause my fingers to fall off or anything but it would be painful. There's an antidote to Black Widow venom, but it is, as I understand, made from something from horses. And so doctors don't always want to give it to humans because maybe the humans are allergic to the horse part. So my understanding is doctors really don't do a lot for you if you have a black widow spider bite. In other parts of the country, there are other poisonous spiders that that live in similar situations amongst the plants amongst the potted plants in the wood pile, that kind of thing. Spiders in general being good in the garden. I don't want to disturb them much. But I do want to protect myself by wearing gloves and that's what I would recommend others do.

Farmer Fred  12:20  

And if you find them near the house, stomp them.

Debbie Flower  12:23  

Right. It's easy way to kill them. They're right. They're not necessarily fast. They hide in places, little crevices, when they're not out working on their web or, or taking care of their prey. So they might be in places where you don't see them right up front. But yes, stepping on them is a very efficient way to get rid of them.

Farmer Fred  12:45  

And we should point out to that if you are doing anything where you're moving things that haven't been moved in a while, like a woodpile, or old patio furniture or old plant pots that are piled up behind the garage, wear gloves and long sleeves.

Debbie Flower  12:59  

Absolutely. Yes, protect yourself.

Farmer Fred  13:01  

Garden spiders have a role. But that role isn't near your house. Debbie Flower, thanks for a few minutes of your time.

Debbie Flower  13:08  

Always a pleasure Fred.


Farmer Fred  13:19  

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Farmer Fred  14:27  

Here at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center they're trying new varieties and old varieties of grape vines, both table grapes and wine grapes to find those that are more disease resistant. We're talking with Catherine Barkett, Master Gardener here in Sacramento County. She's in charge of  the grapes here, there on beautiful trellises and there are new varieties. Now tell us about these new varieties and why they were chosen.

Catherine Barkett  14:51  

Hi Fred. We have been looking for varieties of grapes that don't require a lot of pesticide spray and are somewhat resistant to powdery mildew, which is a very common problem here in Sacramento, as well as other diseases of grapes. And we've looked all over the United States for different cultivars, some are coming out of the University of Arkansas, they have a really good program. they are growing disease resistant grapes. And so we've selected five new ones, which are all now, I would say, between two and three years old. There's Crystal, which is a green grape, it has seeds, and it's excellent for home use. It makes delicious white grape juice and also jams. It's Crystal. And that, by the way, is a very old vine. We have Hope, which is green, has no seeds, also excellent for home use. And it's thick skinned and very high yield with sort of a medium sized berry. Mars is mildew resistant, very good for jam. It has kind of conquered has that conquered flavor to it. Is it seated? That one has no seeds. And it's kind of a bluish red color. It's interesting. September, October ripening. So if you're looking for something that ripens late in the season, Mars would be a good one. Mission is a really interesting wine. It came out of Spain initially, and was brought to Mexico and is grown in Mexico. And then the Catholic priests brought it to California, and they grew it in every mission in California.

Farmer Fred  16:36  

Hence the name.

Catherine Barkett  16:39  

And it was used for their sacramental wine, for a kind of a red table wine and also a fortified wine. It does have seeds, that one does have seeds. And I read on Wikipedia, that before Prohibition, this grape vine in California produced 30 million gallons of wine.

Farmer Fred

That's a lot of hooch. 

Catherine Barkett

During Prohibition, it suffered badly because first of all, the vines were neglected because they couldn't make wine anymore. And prohibitionists, evidently, were coming around destroying farms, vineyards. And one creative farmer planted sagebrush all around his vineyard to camouflage. And last but not least, Reliance, which is a very vigorous vine, excellent for home use, and that does not have seeds. And it's kind of a pink color, which is fun.

Farmer Fred  17:37  

 is that a wine grape or a table grape?

Catherine Barkett  17:41  

Reliance is a table grape, but a lot of these new vines were used in winemaking. Crystal, Mars, Mission. I think Reliance was used also in in wine making. So these vines, because they're resistant to powdery mildew, you don't have to spray as much or as often. Some of them you can get by without spraying at all, as we did this year. we use no spray. And since powdery mildew does not like the heat, when it gets over 95 degrees, we got a little break there and the vines did very well. Even with no spraying.

Farmer Fred  18:18  

It looks like some of the leaves would disagree with you on that.

Catherine Barkett  18:20  

our vines are definitely suffering from sunburn or sunscald. And I'm sure that our home vintners are finding the same problem. You can, in some cases erect some shade for that. But one thing you don't want to do is, you don't want to cut off the burned leaves, they don't look good. But they do provide a little bit of shade for the leaves that are growing underneath.

Farmer Fred  18:43  

That, and the leaf is still photosynthesizing, despite the brown portions of the leaf. They're still green portions on the leaf. And they're still working.

Catherine Barkett  18:50  

Exactly. And that's true for any plant right now. Don't prune roses, whatever, don't prune off the dead leaves just yet.

Farmer Fred  18:58  

Well, as a matter of fact, there's a very good example of what we're talking about. Nearby, there's a Stella cherry, growing on a trellis, off to our left - if you're looking at your phone - and this side, which faces the sun, the leaves are turning brown, walk around to the other side, the north side, the leaves are all green, no heat damage. (Note: the side facing the sun had recently been pruned, exposing shaded leaves for the first time in intense heat.)

Catherine Barkett  19:20  

That's right. And speaking of heat, another thing to think about if you're putting in new vines, is looking for vines that grow well in the heat. Mars, for example, is one that can really tolerate the heat. And so you can check online or you can check with local vintners who can tell you which of their vines are heat resistant.

Farmer Fred  19:44  

Yeah, exactly. It's something we're going to have to contend with. Shade cloths are a great idea. You would suspend them fairly high over the plant because you don't want to roast the plant with a cloth that's too close. Shade cloths come in a variety of thicknesses depending on how much shade you want and I think maybe that's the way we're going. These plants that we used to think required full sun, may be a little bit of afternoon shade might help them in the future.

Catherine Barkett  20:10  

That's true. This actually might open up some spots in your garden where you could put grapes. And the netting that we use to keep out the critters when the clusters are ripening, that also provides a little bit of shade. so you might want to leave that on longer.

Farmer Fred  20:27  

I noticed on one of the plants here, it is the Merlot, there are still a couple of clusters of small grapes on there, but it looks like there are bags around them.

Catherine Barkett  20:38  

We use organza bags on individual clusters of grapes, this is a good idea if you don't have a lot of grapes, maybe you just have one or two vines and the birds keep getting them, or a flock of turkeys will come in and just strip that whole vine overnight. You take the organza bag, these are 12 by 14, you get them online, and you put them around the cluster and then tie them at the top. At home. I put two bags on because I have rather tenacious chipmunks and squirrels and things.

Farmer Fred  21:11  

These aren't plastic bags, this is more of a nylon mesh.

Catherine Barkett  21:15  

Yes, it is and it is reusable. I use them on my figs as well and they get really sticky sometimes because figs will lose the sap. And so I just throw them in the washing machine and then use them again next year. They'll last about three years unless a rat chews right through one, which sometimes they do.

Farmer Fred  21:33  

Those are pretty good sized bags too. They're about 12 inches by 12 inches, unlike a lot of fruit bags that you can buy online, which are maybe half that size. So it'd be easier to get a cluster of grapes inside a bag that's 12 by 12. And again, you said the name is organza.

Catherine Barkett  21:48  

organza. Yeah, that's the fabric. So it's an organza bag. It's sold at party stores. They're used as kind of a decorative look to a present you know,

Farmer Fred  22:00  

I will have more information about that in the show notes. grapes, new grapes, and old grapes too, that are making a comeback because of their disease resistance Catherine Barkett, Sacramento County Master Gardener and grape head, thank you so much.

Catherine Barkett  22:13  

Thank you Fred.


Farmer Fred  22:23  

If you listened to our conversation with Dr. Laura Varich from fresh physician dot com about healthy gardening, you heard the term phytonutrients. What are phytonutrients? Not only are they nutrients that protect the plant, they can protect you, too. That’s the topic for Friday’s Beyond the Garden Basics Newsletter and Podcast. Dr. Varich does a deep dive into the phytonutrients in homegrown crops.

Find a subscription link to the newsletter in today’s show notes, or visit our website, Garden Basics dot net, where you can sign up to have the free, Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter and podcast delivered to your inbox each Friday. Also at Garden Basics dot net, you can listen to any of our previous editions of the Garden Basics podcast, as well as read a transcript of the podcast episode you are listening to now. 

For current newsletter subscribers, look for All About Phytonutrients in the next Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter, coming out on the morning of Friday, September 16th, in your email. Take a deeper dive into gardening, with the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. And it’s free. Find the link in today’s show notes or at garden basics dot net.

Farmer Fred  23:36  

Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening.

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