The challenges of gardening are not easily overcome


July 17, 2000|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

GARDENING IS NOT for the faint of heart. Out back, right now, all sorts of forces are at work - Darwin over here, the devil over there.

The tomatoes seem to be getting the worst of it, the look of Death Valley all over them. Water, lime, compost, prayers, threatening execrations - nothing seems to impress them.

Tomatoes can be susceptible to fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt, but garden stock sold in these parts is supposed to be resistant to these maladies. So what's happening?

"It's walnut wilt," said neighbor Michael Matthews.

Walnut wilt?

After apologizing for having the magazine in her possession in the first place, Matthews said that Martha Stewart Living, in the "Ask Martha" column, reports that walnut tree roots produce a toxin called juglone. Juglone, in turn, can be deadly to tomatoes , potatoes, blueberries and other plants.

A black walnut looms over the back part of the other neighbor's lot. The wilting tomatoes stand - or flop - beyond the leaf canopy, presumably out of reach of the roots. But it's a big tree, doubtless one that oozes juglone by the gallon.

Barbara Davis of Good Luck Farm in Davidsonville said she has never heard of walnut wilt. But there's no shortage, she said, of weeds, critters, disappointments.

"We rotate crops like tomatoes because certain diseases can build up in the soil," she said. "We also look for varieties resistant to wilts."

Every season can bring a new challenge. "The rain we've had held up planting in the early spring," she said. "The rain helped with the water table, but the ground got too wet and seeds rotted in the soil."

One planting of tomatoes, she said, "grew and grew in the rain. Huge plants, but there are tomatoes in there that are not getting the right amount of light. There's something different every year, it seems."

In addition to too much water, lack of water, potato beetles and bindweed, Davis said she is beset by four-legged predators.

"The groundhogs are eating the squash to death," she reported. "And the deer. They just chewed off the tops of the sweet potatoes, mowed them right down."

For those cursed with deer, Davis recommends peppers, onions, potatoes, okra and eggplant. "Deer seem to ignore them," she said.

She, husband Ray and other family members are regulars at the Anne Arundel County Farmers' Market at Riva Road on Saturdays. Their peaches, plums, berries and veggies show no sign of the storms and stress that occur on their 12 acres.

There's a curious twist in all of this. The neighbor with the walnut tree has a row of tomato plants growing under the leaf canopy, well within reach of those poisonous roots. The tomatoes are flourishing, thick and green, like weeds.

Eastport street festival

Three area causes will benefit from the fourth annual Eastport-A-Rockin' Street Festival taking place from 11 a.m. to dusk Saturday. The a-rockin' street is Second, between Eastern Avenue and Back Creek. Admission is $8; children younger than age 12 are admitted free.

Beneficiaries are the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, Annapolis Environmental Commission and Eastport Historical Committee.

Local restaurants will be on hand to sell food and drink. Children younger than 12 can count on games and other activities.

Two stages and 13 bands will be featured. We hope to be there for the Dean Rosenthal and the Resophonics segment.

Last year, in the smothering heat, the event should have been called Eastport-A-Sweatin'. We're sure this year, it will be, like, cool.

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