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Past Questions and Answers | August 2012

Question #1

Question:  I have enjoyed bee balm for the first time this summer. The blooms have now slowed down and the seed heads are left. Do I cut them off or leave them? I want it to continue to come back each year. I would like to grow more. This came from a small plant and did not bloom the first year, but grew well. If I use seed, when do I plant them and should they bloom the first year? I know this is more than one question, but also please tell me if I need to fertilize. Thanks!

  Nancy James, Robersonville, NC


ANSWER:   Bee Balm will self seed if you leave the seed heads where they are. Fertilizing now will not help the plant. Fertilize with some slow release nitrogen in the spring when the blooms first appear.

Question #2

Question:  Our tomato plants are huge this year, we have both determinate and indeterminates. The indeterminates are very high and we don't want them to tip over even though we have cages and stakes in them. Can we prune them and how?

  Kris Schleif, Nowthen, MN


ANSWER:   You can prune your tomato plants by simply cutting them off at the height you want them to be. It will not hurt the plant to top it off and will probably result in a bushier tomato plant.

Question #3

Question:  I have an established beautiful hydrangea, and I believe I've over fertilized it with miracid. Is there anything I can do to correct my error? Will the whole plant die? Right now the leaves on one side are brown on the edges and curling, and they have a light dusting of white. Please help! Thanks!

  Marcia Tunison, Edmond, OK


ANSWER:   Watering the plant regularly will help dilute the fertilizer and may save the plant. Water twice a week and put one inch of water on the plant each time you water.

Question #4

Question:  I just bought this home and found a pear tree with many dead branches, but a lot of yellow and green leaVES. I would like to save it. It had 2 pears on it grossly small and mishaped. What can I do?

  Elaine Hunter, Hemphill, Texas


ANSWER:   The tree will most likely die, but your best shot at saving it is to prune all the dead branches off and cut the plant back by one third. Remove the fruit so that the plant can put all of its energy toward growing. Water weekly at least five gallons of water at a time.

Question #5

Question:  How do you keep birds from pecking tomatoes?

  Ealine Utsey, Louisville, KY


ANSWER:   You can purchase bird netting at garden supply stores that you use to cover your tomato plants and protect them from birds.

Question #6

Question:  I do all of my vegetable gardening in pots. I have for the past 7 years. I reuse the soil each while adding home make compost, commercial potting soil, commercial manure and compost. I also have been fertilizing with Miracle-gro liquid. I have gotten good crops so far, although I am having problems growing radishes and green bean. The radishes are all tops and no radish. The bean, if they come up, shrivel and die before they get very big. Am I going to run into problems with chemical buildup and salt problems? What do you suggest for pot gardening like I do? Thank you

  E Kuhr, Greeley, Co


ANSWER:   How deep are the pots you are putting the radishes in? Root crops require a foot of soil to make properly. As for the beans, it sounds like you are having problems with damp off, a fungal infection. Keep the soil moist but not soaked, allow the pots to get plenty of air circulation. If you are going to reuse the soil each season, you need to sterilize it by heating it in the oven to 200 degrees for 30 minutes between plantings. Otherwise, you start to have problems such as damp off and other diseases.

As for chemical buildup and salt problems, that depends on the water you are using to water your plants. If you have a high mineral content, you will eventually run into salt problems. You can prevent them by using new soil each season so that the salt does not build up over time, or water using distilled water.

Question #7

Question:  I planted Nasturtium seeds 2 weeks apart. The first container of nasturtiums came up but leaves turned yellow and dried up. The second container is looking healthy but no flowers yet. The containers are sitting beside each other. What happened?

  Dorthy, Victoria, BC


ANSWER:   Sounds like the first pot had damping off, a fungal infection that can kill small plants. You want to plant seeds and then keep them moist but not soaking. Now that you have had this problem, you need to sterilize the soil in that pot before using it again. Heat it in the oven to 200 degrees for 30 minutes then let cool before putting it back in the pot and replanting.

Question #8

Question:  I stumbled across your website after moving to the countryside and being in undated with snails climbing up my windows and leaving poo all over my windows seal. I was told to put wd40 around my windows which helped for a few days. But they have returned and i believe its becuase of all the rain it has washed the wd40 away.

Is there anything you can recommend as i swear they are having a snail race to get to the top of my windows.

  Darren Smith


ANSWER:   Clear away any leaf litter or dead plants under the windows, as that is where they stay when they are not on the window. You can use some of the less toxic snail bait made of iron pellets and spread it below the windows outside, as well. The snails eat it and die.

Question #9

Question:  I have put down pine bark mulch around mature rhodies and have read your comments about nitrogen deprivation. How can I add nutrients to soil after mulching? I usually use HollyTone in fall and spring. Should I somehow pull mulch away and apply?

  MMM in Maine


ANSWER:   The easiest way to add nutrients to a mulched area is to use a water soluble solution and water it in. Then you do not have to remove the mulch but the nutrients filter into the soil where they are needed.

Question #10

Question:  When is the best time to cut back rhodendrons?

  Betty Greenlee, Point Pleasant, W. Va


ANSWER:   Rhodendrons seldom need pruning. Deadheading them will prolong the blooming and make them bloom well the next year. If you need to prune the plant, doing so right after they finish blooming for the year is the best time to do it so that the flower clusters for the next year have time to develop. Do not prune after July or you will not get many flowers the following year.

Question #11

Question:  Something is eating my loropetalums and I'm not sure what. When I planted them they were full of leaves and now three of them have lots of bare branches and two of them aren't even being touched at all. What could be eating them and what should I do about it before they are devoured?

How long after the first yield will it take for the next batch to ripen? Also, how do I keep the mocking birds away from them? It seems the birds have had tomatoes than I have.

  Brandon Curbow, Summerville, South Carolina


ANSWER:   Grasshoppers will strip plants like that. Tempo is a spray that you use on your shrubs to kill the grasshoppers. It is expensive, but works well. Nolo bait is effective on young grasshoppers, but does not do much to mature ones.

Tomatoes take a week to two weeks to ripen on the vine, depending on the type of tomato. You can purchase bird netting from garden supply houses to spread over the tomatoes and stop the birds from eating them.

Question #12

Question:  I have black spots on the bottom of my tomatoes. What can I do to stop the spots?

  Jerry Boyd, Empire, Al


ANSWER:   You have blossom end rot. This is an imbalance of calcium in the tomato. It most often happens when there has been a lot of rain in the area. There is no cure for blossom end rot in the tomatoes already affected. However, you can prevent it by changing your watering practices. Water your tomatoes from the ground with a soaker hose or drip irrigation. Be careful not to splash water up onto the tomatoes as that increases the likelihood of this problem.

Question #13

Question:  Can you please tell me why my beefsteak tomato plant was showing flowers but with all the rain we have had here in the uk this year, the leaves have wilted very badly, also my plum tomato plant leaves seem to be going the same way. What can i do to save my plum tomato plant & is there anything I can do to revive my Beefsteak Tomato Plant??

  Avi Cassidy, London, UK


ANSWER:   It sounds like you have a fungal infection called Anthracnose. The best way to treat it is to spray a fungicide labeled for tomato plants on it. Since you are in the UK, I can.t recommend a specific product as your laws are different over there. However, a fungicide labeled for tomatoes should take care of the problem.

Question #14

Question:  I have been pampering this plant thinking it was a watermelon. It has the leaves of such and flowers but it has thistle look. Can you tell me what it is??????

  Marilyn h


ANSWER:   It looks more like a cucumber than a watermelon. They are related and the only way to know for sure is let it develop the fruit and see which it is.

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When to Water

If you can, it is always best to water early in the morning. This allows the plant's leaves and flowers to dry off as the day warms up.

If you water at night, the plant stays wet for hours in the cool, which are prime conditions for fungi and other problems to set in.

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