Western Pennsylvania crops fall prey to mildew, fungus
It was not a good summer for tomatoes at the Penn Hills Community Garden on Jefferson Road.
The seemingly constant rain splashed blight-infected dirt onto the leaves, turning them brown and stunting the development of fruit.
“Probably two out of 104 plots had good tomatoes,” said Shawn O'Mahony, a garden manager at the community garden.
Lettuce, on the other hand, flourished at the garden.
“We had some that was two to three feet tall,” O'Mahony said. “We had too much.”
Western Pennsylvania experienced more rain this summer than last, according to the National Weather Service in Moon. Total rainfall from June to the end of August topped the same period in 2012 by more than an inch. It rained 20 days in June, 18 days in July and 13 days by the end of August.
The relative humidity routinely jumped into the upper 80s and 90s during those months.
The Penn Hills garden harvested and donated to food banks about 200 pounds less produce this year than last, O'Mahony said.
Fungus, mildew and blight wreaked havoc on some tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, said Linda Hyatt, horticulture assistant at the Westmoreland County extension service of Penn State University. Rain and humidity caused ideal conditions for fungus and mildew to grow and destroy plant leaves.
Squashes and cucumbers fell prey to downy and powdery mildew. Some tomatoes did not develop because of blight or fungus.
“Fungus needs three things to get going,” Hyatt said. “A susceptible plant, the pathogen and the right conditions. And this year we had athree.”
This was the first year for a community garden in Aspinwall, where people didn't start talking about planting at 31 Fifth St. until March, said Heth Turnquist, one of the garden's founders. Once plants went into the ground, the growing season went well.
“Given it was kind of weird weather and a late start, I think everyone was pretty happy with the outcomes,” said Turnquist.
Though tomatoes there produced well, as did green beans, broccoli did not. Turnquist chalked that up to the garden's location: not enough light hit plants.
Early in the season, it looked like the squash crop would be excellent. Then powdery mildew struck.
“They went crazy. It was beautiful vines. And then you show up one day and they're pretty powdery looking,” Turnquist said of the squash.
Powdery mildew attacks a plant's leaves. It will slow or stop photosynthesis and eventually kill the plant and the developing squash, Hyatt said.
As gardeners prepare for next year, they should keep a few tips in mind, Hyatt said.
Rotating crops, especially tomatoes, can reduce the risk of blight and other diseases. Gardeners can plant strains of plants resistant to the mildews that target squash and cucumbers. It is important to clean up the garden before winter. Ridding it of leaves or rotten fruits can prevent diseases.
Most of all, do not be discouraged, Hyatt said.
“Every year is different, and definitely try again. Don't give up.”
Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Watershed group coordinating efforts to meet Saw Mill Run deadline
- Borough takes the reins of Dormont Day
- Flag-collection effort gains steam around Pittsburgh area
- Groveton VFD receives outpouring of support after station fire
- Bellevue to repair library, add play equipment to park
- Upper St. Clair baseball field to be repaired after mine subsidence