45 June 16, 2007

The weather continues to be erratic. Cool and windy one day, hot and humid the next day. I’m sure the plants are wondering what’s going on.
It’s time for a bit of prevention. Every year, round about mid July, we get people who come into the store with problems on their tomatoes. The tomato has a black patch on the bottom of the tomato. This is called blossom end rot. It is caused by a fluctuation in calcium levels in the soil. What really causes the problem is the fluctuation in moisture levels in the soil. When the soil goes from really dry to really wet, the calcium is tied up in the soil. The best prevention for this is to keep the soil evenly moist all of the time. In the past few years, the problem has been more preventlant on tomatoes grown in containers. If the container is too small, the growing tomato plant quickly pulls all of the moisture out of the soil. One cure is to make sure that the tomato plant is grown in a large enough container. The container should be the size of a 5 gallon bucket. You should have only one plant per container. This allows the tomato plant to develop a strong root system and the large  size of the container allows the plant to have a consistent level of moisture. Of course, you have to keep up with the watering! If you want to prevent the blossom end rot, there are a few things you need to do. First off, make sure that the soil in your garden or containers does not go dry. A consistent level of moisture is best for the tomatoes. Make sure there is sufficient calcium in the soil. You can achieve this by adding lime to the soil. There is also a spray that you can apply to your tomato plants. It contains calcium in a liquid form. It is sprayed onto the leaves of the tomato plant. However, the best treatment is prevention. Keep those tomato plants watered.

As the plants grow in the garden, I’ll remind you again about keeping up with the application of fertilizer. So many of the plants we have in our gardens are hybrid plants. Hybrid plants need a steady supply of fertilizer if they are to produce the flowers and or vegetables that you expect. I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping the plants well fed. Sure you need to cut back on the fertilizer late in the season on trees, shrubs and perennials. But annual flowers and vegetables need fertilizer right up until the frost. So often in late summer, I will hear from people whose vegetable gardens are doing poorly. If I ask about when the last application of fertilizer was made, I usually get a blank stare. Happy plants are well-fed plants.

As the rhododendrons go by flower, you need to snap off those old flower stalks. The “antennas” that stick out on the stems are the old flower stalks. You need to snap them off where they meet the leaves. When you snap them off, you need to be careful to not damage the new leaf buds that are forming on the plant. Once the old flower stalks are removed, give the rhododendrons an application of fertilizer. Feeding rhododendrons as soon as they are done flowering enables the plant to form new flower buds for next years flowers.

Insects are becoming a common problem in the garden. Please take a few minutes each day to check out your gardens for any signs of insects. Catching the problem early will help you to prevent major problems down the road.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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