41 July 16, 2008

The weather is a funny thing when it comes to our gardens. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were dealing with almost too much rain. Now we need to be watering our plants almost every day.


The changing weather has created problems in our gardens. One of the most common customer problems we have seen in the store is a problem with leaf curl on tomatoes. The leaves actually curl over themselves. This leaf curl is caused by a fluctuation in moisture levels in the soil. Whenever you have weather conditions where we get a lot of rain followed by a period of lack of rain, you will probably see leaf curl on tomatoes. Tomato plants need a consistent level of moisture in the soil. This can be particularly hard to do when you are growing tomato plants in containers. As the plant grows, so does the root system. Over time, the roots fill the container and there is less area in the soil to hold water. The same thing can happen in the garden when tomato plants are growing too close to each other. The roots compete for available moisture in the soil. As the plants get larger, there is less moisture available as each plant pulls more moisture from the soil. Your job is to keep the moisture levels even. In container grown tomatoes, you may have to water each day. As the plants get really big, you may have to water several times per day just to keep up with the water demands of the tomato. Tomatoes in the garden should also have evenly moist soil. Hopefully, your soil is of sufficient quality that you don’t have to water every day. However, you are the only one who can determine how often you will need to water the garden. If you take your finger and push your finger into the soil, you should feel moist soil about 2 inches down. If the soil feels dry, then you need to water the plants.


Keeping the moisture levels consistent also helps to prevent the condition called blossom end rot. If you have ever had tomatoes that have a black leathery patch on the bottom of the tomato, then you will have seen blossom end rot. The easiest way to control this problem is to keep up with the watering. Soil that goes from wet to dry and back again will usually start blossom end rot. This diseases starts when the tomato is forming. Once the tomato develops the problem, it is too late to do anything about it. Prevention is the best “cure”. If you have had the problem in the past, you can spray the plants with a product called Rot Stop. The spray will help to prevent the problem. Watering properly is the best solution. Remember that any plant should be watered early in the morning. This allows the plant to take up water before the heat of the day. Early morning watering also allows the leaves to dry out before the sun sets. Leaves that are wet at night are a magnet for all kinds of fungus diseases.


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

42 July 9, 2008

July may be vacation month for many gardeners, but the gardens still need attention. Let me give you a list of things to keep you busy.


We have been getting the rain we need to make everything grow in the garden. The plants are growing very well. The weeds aren’t at a loss for growing either! Weeding is one of the gardening chores that many gardeners hate. However, you have to keep those weeds under control. Weeds do take some fertilizer away from plants and they even can take enough moisture out of the soil to negatively impact your plants. The real danger is that weeds can harbor insects that can damage your plants. For many gardeners, there is the feeling that you have to go out there and weed the whole garden in one giant blitz. If you want to make life easier, do the weeding in segments. You can always do a third of the garden and then do another third in a week or even the next day. Chipping away at a gardening chore you don’t like makes it a little more bearable.

Many of you have learned to use a product called Preen to prevent weeds that grow from seeds. Preen is usually applied in early spring before the seeds of the weeds have a chance to grow. The Preen lasts about 14 weeks in the soil. If you applied Preen in April, you are coming up on the time to put down a second application.


The Japanese Beetles must have been reading this column this past week. As you may remember, I had said that it was about the time that the beetle would make its appearance in the garden. Sure enough, we had reports of people with this beetle attacking plants. You should take some time to look around the gardens and see if the beetles have made an appearance in your yard. If they have arrived, it is time to begin a program to keep the beetles in check. Get your beetle traps up and apply an insecticide to any plants that are under attack.


The rainy weather has created an explosion in the population of slugs in the garden. Slugs feed at night. In many cases, you will see damage to your plants, but you will never see any insects on your plants. If you go outside after dark, take your flashlight and check on your plants. If you see slugs on your plants, you will need to apply slug bait at the base of your plants. Slugs are not an insect. They are related to clams. You need to apply slug bait because insect sprays won’t kill slugs. When you apply slug bait, make sure you read the label carefully. Some slug baits are very poisonous to pets. If you have pets that roam around your gardens, use slug bait called Sluggo. This slug bait is safe to use around pets.


Many people have come into the store with leaf samples. One thing that we have seen time and time again is mealy bugs and scale on holly plants. The thing that most gardeners see first is a black mold growing on the leaves. The black mold is called sooty mold. The mold grows because of the insects feeding on the leaves. As the insects’ feeds, it cannot digest all of the sugar in the plants juices. The insect excretes out sugar that falls onto the leaves. The mold grows on the sugar and causes the black mold to show up on the leaves. If you wish to use an organic control, you should use horticultural oil. The oil must be sprayed on the top and most importantly, the underside of the leaves. The oil coats the insect and causes the insect to die. In the case of hollies, it may be very hard to get the oil spray on the bottom of the leaves. You can apply a systemic insecticide to the plant. The systemic insecticide is absorbed through the leaves or the roots of the plant. This insecticide stays on the inside of the leaves. The insecticide kills insects feeding on the leaves.  If you have holly plants in your yard, it would be worthwhile to go out and check the leaves to make sure no one is feasting on the leaves.


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

49 May 21, 2008

As we rapidly approach Memorial Day weekend, I have 2 questions. How did the month of May go by so fast? And is this weekend really the weekend to plant all of the frost sensitive plants? As far as the month of May going by so fast, I guess that is what happens, as you get older. Is this the weekend to plant frost sensitive plants? Well, Memorial Day is about a week early if you consider that Memorial Day was always the 30 Th of May. Could we still get a frost? It isn’t likely, but it isn’t unheard of to get a frost this time of year. The old wisdom was that you planted after the full moon in May. The full moon was the 19 Th this year. If you asked me to make an educated guess, I would say that it is all right to plant tender annuals and vegetable plants. However, Mother Nature isn’t talking to me so …….


Once new annual and vegetable plants are planted in the gardens, you will find a few insects that wish to take advantage of the new meal you are providing them. Cutworms are in the soil and are waiting to chew through the stems of your plants. You can apply Sevin to the soil after planting to control the cutworms. Diatomaceous earth is an organic control for cutworms. It is incorporated into the soil at planting time. You can also make barriers that go around the stems of the plants to protect the stems.


Flea beetles will also quickly find your plants. This insect feeds on the leaves, making tiny holes in the leaves. Once the flea beetle has fed on your plants for a while, it will look as though something has shot a tiny shotgun blast at the leaves. Most organic and chemical insecticides will control flea beetles. The good news is that once the leaves begin to grow, the leaves get too tough for the flea beetle to eat. However, don’t wait for the plants to outgrow the attack. The flea beetle will destroy the leaves in a short period of time.


We saw something at the garden center on Sunday that I have not seen in years. We had Gypsy Moth caterpillars eating the leaves of a crabapple tree. Any of you who remember the early 1980’s will remember that the Gypsy Moth caterpillar devastated many of the trees in this area. This may be an isolated incident, but it bears watching to see if the Gypsy Moth caterpillar is making a comeback.


If you purchased a hanging flowering basket at Mother’s Day, you should be fertilizing the plant on a regular schedule. If you bought any of the hanging petunias, they will do best if fertilized with a plant food specifically formulated for the new varieties of petunias. The other varieties of hanging baskets will need a fertilizer high in phosphorous. The phosphorous is needed to help to produce new flower buds.


Lawns will benefit from an application of fertilizer during the later part of May. The lawns will be going into the summer months where growth can be either erratic or if the lawns get some water, growth can be strong. Either way, the lawns will need food during this stressful growing period. Late May is also a good time to apply weed control to your lawn. Lawn weed controls need to be applied when you will have at least 24 hours without rain. Rainfall or irrigation during that 24 hour period will make the weed killer much less effective. I know that it is hard to figure out the weather this month, but just keep that thought in mind.


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