July 28, 2016
Probably the only plus to all the hot weather has been the tremendous growth in our vegetable gardens. The reports I get from customers who have kept up with the fertilizing and watering of their plants is the plants have gotten huge in the last few weeks. Luckily for some, the tomatoes are beginning to ripen.
Speaking of tomato plants, as is always the case this time of the year, the insects are having a feast on the tomato plants as well as the rest of the vegetable plants. I have had a few customers who have had large tomato hornworms strip the leaves off the tomato plants in just a few days. The hornworm has, in reality, been feeding for a while. When they are small, they still eat leaves but not at the same rate they do when they get big. When the hornworm is small, the same BT that you used to control the winter moth caterpillar in the spring will also control the tomato hornworm. Once the hornworm gets big, BT is no longer effective at controlling them. If it doesn’t freak you out, you can pick the hornworms off the plant. However, if you see a hornworm that looks like it has grains of rice on its back, don’t kill the caterpillar. The grains of rice are actually an insect that is eating the caterpillar. By letting some of the large hornworms get eaten by this parasite, you are building up a population that will help to control the hornworm in the future.
We have had quite a few customers come into the store with tomatoes that have blossom end rot. Regular readers of the column will remember that about a month ago, I warned people that tomato plants that were allowed to dry out would develop the black patch on the bottom of the ripening tomato. Unfortunately, once this starts, there is no way to stop the progression on those tomatoes that were flower buds at the time of the dry soil. The good news is if you kept up with keeping the soil moist, the next batch of flowers should turn into nice ripe tomatoes.
At this time of the year, vegetable plants grown in containers will need to be fertilized on a regular schedule. If you are using a fertilizer that you mix with water, you may have to fertilize those container grown plants every 7 to 10 days. Plants that are grown in the ground will need to be fertilized every 2 weeks. If your plants show signs of slowing down on their growth or they are slow to ripen the vegetables, you will need to fertilize more often. Watch your plants and “see’ what they are “telling” you. Don’t forget that fertilizing your vegetable plants is an on going process. Every year in late August and early September, I will have people come into the store and tell me that their tomatoes are not ripening. They have lots of green tomatoes but no ripe tomatoes. One of the first questions I ask is, “ How often do you fertilize your plants? “ A sheepish look usually follows, with an explanation that they forgot. Once you plant those vegetable plants you need to fertilize them until they are done producing vegetables or the frost kills the plants in the fall.
Well, that’s all for this week. Yankee Homecoming will nudge the column next week, so I will talk to you again in two weeks.