“When is a good time to feed tomatoes and peppers? And what do you use?”
When they start to set flowers and fruit, that’s an excellent time for a nice side dressing of fertilizer. I use Espoma’s TomatoTone. It’s all natural / organic, and somewhat of a slow feed. It also has 8% calcium to help with preventing blossom end rot (make sure to keep even soil moisture as well), as well as Bio-tone. Follow the instructions for amounts, and can be sprinkled around each plant or as a side dressing. I’ll also keep Miracle Gro on hand just in case the plants seem to need a quick boost of fertilizer.
“My new apple tree is wilted and not looking good. We planted it per your instructions, and have been faithfully watering every day. What else should we do?”
First, thanks for letting us know early that your new Natorp plant is not doing well! Hopefully we can help get it back to where it needs to be. Secondly, stop watering it every day! For newly planted (container grown) trees, it’s good to water it in well when you plant; do it again the next day, and then maybe every 3-4 days for the first 2-3 weeks. Then back off to a 5-7-10 day soaking. And when you do water, soak it thoroughly, and be sure you’re soaking the immediate root ball! Not having the plastic pot to help hold moisture inside the root ball, sometimes the water flows into the surrounding soil, but doesn’t penetrate the root ball. The idea is to keep it evenly moist for the first 2-3 weeks, then let it get close to dry in between watering after that. And do remember, you’ll get the same symptoms from overwatering, as you will from staying too dry. So always check the soil moisture (immediate root ball) before you water. Let us know if this helps out your new tree!
“What can I do to stop tomato blossoms from dropping off?”
Okay so your new tomato plants are developing yellow flowers, but they just dry up and fall off leaving your plants with flower stem stubs and no new tomatoes. What’s a gardener to do? Be patient! You’re experiencing Blossom Drop in tomatoes. What causes Blossom Drop? (There are several possible factors!) -Temperatures / Humidity Levels (too high / too low) – If daytime highs go above 85 degrees or below 55 degrees or if nighttime temperatures go below 55 or stay higher than 70 degrees flowers will abort. Best range is between 70 and 85 degrees. Choose early maturing varieties for cooler climates and heat tolerant for hot / humid climates. Ideal humidity levels are between 40% &70%. Too high or too low may interfere with pollen release or sticking. -Nitrogen (too much / too little) – Too much food and the plants produce all foliage and weak flowers. Not enough and the plants -Water – Usually the lack of or inconsistent levels of moisture in the soil. Stressed Plants – Plants stressed from insect or disease issues, as well as moisture levels will abort flowers. Heavy Fruit Set – In some cases, plants that set too many tomatoes can only handle so many, so the flowers automatically get dropped. Lack of Pollination – Tomatoes are self pollinators, but still needs to be moved around. Lack of wind (or too much), insects, and plant movement may restrict pollination (too much rain as well). These are just a few of the many factors that could cause Blossom Drop. Bottom line is – just be patient. In most cases, as the plants mature and the weather changes, the flowers eventually turn into fruit. And if you don’t want to be patient, you can always try spraying the flowers with ‘Blossom Set’.
“We have a shady location and trying to establish a shade garden. Any suggestions for things that will come back every year and still grow in shade?”
For shady characters to grow in that shady garden take a look at these shade lovers: Hosta – so many great hostas today with wonderful foliage, and flowers to brighten up any shady area. Lamiastrum – try Herman’s Pride, a shade lover groundcover with great variegated foliage and yellow flowers. Brunnera ‘Jack Frost, Alexander’s Great, Looking Glass, blue spring flowers and great silver veined foliage. Pulmonaria or Lungwort. Lily of the Valley – wonderful foliage groundcover with white bell like flowers. Ligularia – The Rocket with bold handsome foliage with spikes of bright yellow flowers getting up to 5’ tall – pretty impressive in the shade. Variegated Bishop’s Weed – a wonderful variegated shady groundcover. Epimedium or Barrenwort – heart shaped leaves, love the shade and will compete with tree roots – flowers yellow and red. And don’t forget the ferns! So many wonderful ferns, some evergreen, some deciduous, some staying low and some reaching 4-5 feet – and simply eat up those shade gardens. When it comes to shade gardening, there are varying degrees of shade, and in some cases, shading from surrounding plants can make these locations dry, so keep those factors in mind, and maybe limb up or thin a few plants to get away from deep shade. Also realize you’ll need to water more as these plants get themselves established, due to the lack of rainfall if protected by larger plants.