43 May 27, 2009

Memorial Day has come and gone and planting season is in a frenzy mode. If you haven’t planted your annuals or vegetable plants, you too still have time to join the frenzy.


Once planting season has begun, there are things to do even after the plants are in the ground.

Your tomato plants should be staked or caged as soon as you put the plants in the ground. There are two reasons for doing this. The most obvious is that it allows you to tie the plants to the stake as the plant grows. The second reason is that you will be doing less damage to the roots by putting in the stake before the root system grows out into the soil. You can also use tomato cages to place over your tomato plants. The cages should be placed over the plants as soon as possible. This allows you to place all the branches into the cage and allows you to get the maximum benefit of the cage by training the branches to grow up through the top of the cage. By doing it this way, the cage can support the bulk of the main stems. This will become very important when those stems are loaded with tomatoes.


Tomato plants that are grown in containers are prone to a problem called blossom end rot. If you have ever had black leathery looking patches on the bottom of your tomatoes, you have seen the results of blossom end rot. This is usually caused by a fluctuation in moisture in the soil. It is very easy for a growing tomato plant to pull all of the moisture out of the soil when the tomato is grown in a container. This is one of the reasons that I recommend that you plant only one tomato plant per container. The fluctuation causes an imbalance in calcium levels in the tomato, which in turn causes that black patch to form on the tomatoes. If the soil goes from very wet to very dry, especially early in the season when those first tomato flowers are forming, the tomatoes will develop blossom end rot. The key to preventing this is to make sure the soil stays evenly moist. This applies when you grow tomatoes in the ground too. An application of lime around each tomato plant will supply extra calcium, which in turn can help to ward off blossom end rot. Ultimately, keeping the soil evenly moist will prevent blossom end rot.


The warm and windy weather we had last week may have done damage to your plants. Unlike most hot days around here, the air was very dry. Along with the heat and the sun, the dry air pulled moisture out of the leaves faster than those tiny roots could get the moisture up to the leaves. You may notice a gray or white color to the leaves of the plant. This is caused by windburn. If it is severe enough, it can kill the plant. If it is only a few leaves, then an application of fertilizer and adequate water will help the plant to bounce back from this early season mishap.


Speaking of fertilizer, it is very important to keep up with fertilizing your annuals and vegetable plants. Early in the season, the plants are going in to a period of rapid growth. The plants need fertilizer to keep this growth going during the season. Since your annuals and vegetable plants grow and produce right up until the fall frost, it is important that you maintain a regular schedule of fertilizing these plants right up until the frost hits in the fall.


An early season insect that hits many of your vegetable plants is the flea beetle. It is a little black insect that is the size of a flea. The damage it can do is amazing. The leaves of your plants will have hundreds of tiny holes caused by the eating habits of this insect. Fortunately an application of an insecticide will knock back this insect and allow the plants to recover from this attack. Once the leaves grow and thicken up a bit, the flea beetle stops feeding on your plants.


I received e-mail from Nancy in Groveland who had a question about ponds she has on her property. She wants to use the mosquito control pellets to kill mosquito larvae in the pond. She is concerned that it may harm frogs and other wildlife. The pellets are a bacterium called Bt. The strain used is very specific to killing mosquito larvae. I have never heard of it harming any wildlife. It is referred to as a host specific bacterium. Go ahead and use it Nancy and don’t worry about the frogs. She also has a problem with poison ivy growing around the pond and was wondering if she could use Round-Up on the poison ivy. This is a tricky situation. There are formulations like Round Up that can be used but generally they are more of a commercial application. I think I would stay away from using it based on the warnings on the label. There are some of the clove oil based organic sprays that you could use to control the poison ivy. Ultimately, mowing down the poison ivy on a regular basis should help in killing off the poison ivy. The poison ivy usually comes from the birds in your yard. The birds eat the poison ivy berries and ultimately the seed comes out the other end of the bird. If you have bird feeders near the pond, the birds are going to drop those seeds as they feed at the feeder. If the feeders are there, move the feeders.


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

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