Tomato blight

A fungus that caused the Irish potato famine of the late 1840s is hitting tomatoes this year. The disease, called late blight or Phytophthora (Latin for "plant destroyer") infestans, usually doesn't show until later in the growing season. But it's been causing problems in the eastern United States this summer and has shown up in several places as far west as Kentucky.

It likes cool, wet weather, said Kenny Seebold, an extension plant pathologist with the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture. The leaves of infected tomato plants wither and die quickly, he said. Most diseases start at the bottom of a plant, but late blight can attack the entire plant. Look for nickel-size olive green or brown spots on leaves and slightly fuzzy white fungal growth on the underside. Lesions appear on stems. Firm, brown spots develop on tomato fruit. Farmers and gardeners are advised to inspect tomato and potato plants for signs of trouble.

Flower guidelines

Fall has become a popular second season for planting, particularly for spring-blooming flower bulbs. Trowel-carrying gardeners return to action once the summer heat abates to set more tulips, crocus or daffodils into the ground.

But bulb planting can be done any time of year. In fall, plant tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinth, narcissus, crocus, eranthis, fritillaria, scilla, cyclamen and lilium at least a few weeks before the first killing frost, although some gardeners routinely linger longer.

"I often wait until Thanksgiving before putting them in," said Sally Ferguson, spokeswoman for the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center at Danby, Vt. In the summer, autumn-blooming bulbs like fall crocus and colchicums should be planted.

Map decor

Maps are beautiful: the typography, the pastel colors, the highways connecting cities and towns like a detailed dot-to-dot. So why relegate them to the glove compartment, when they can be used as home decor? Plus, crafting with maps is a great way to save money on vacation souvenirs, allowing you to create your own personalized mementos. Don't worry about keeping your maps in pristine condition - think shabby chic.

Magnets are a useful way to display maps on a smaller scale. Inexpensive, flat-bottomed glass marbles - often used in flower arranging - are available at craft stores, and higher quality glass discs in a variety of sizes are available for purchase online.

Diamond Glaze, also available online, can be used to glue a round snippet of map to a marble and to stick a magnet on the back. Make sure to use a strong magnet that can support the weight of the glass marble as well as anything you might be hanging up with it.

Also, a plastic photo cube doesn't have to hold just photos. Swapping out a few photos with maps instantly identifies the location where the pictures were taken. Coasters offer another surface for embellishment: Pick up a few tiles at a home store and decoupage maps to the tops, sanding away the edges for a rustic look. Cover with plenty of coats of decoupage glue or another sealant to prevent moisture damage.