Gardening Daily Tips July 7

Thursday July 7, 2011

Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)

Today’s Featured Plant
Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)

Read the full profile of this plant at

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Q&A: Splitting Tomatoes

Question: The leaves on my tomato plants are turning yellow. They also are not producing and more flowers. The few cherry tomatoes that have ripened are all split. Help!!

Answer: Yellowing leaves on tomato plants is quite common and can be caused by a variety of things, including transplant shock, over-or under-watering, and lack of nitrogen. Tomatoes like rich, moist soil that’s has plenty of organic matter and drains well. Tomatoes need nitrogen at the start of their growing for green healthy leaves. Try fish emulsion for an organic source of nitrogen or use a balanced fertilizer, e.g., 10-10-10. Follow package instructions for application rates. Water well before and after applying. To address the splitting problem, tomatoes are moisture sensitive and need a regular supply of water to thrive and produce fruit. How often to water depends on your particular soil’s characteristics. You want to keep it uniformly moist, but not soaking wet, to a depth of 12-18 inches. Tomatoes will grow rapidly during a hot dry spell followed by heavy rainfall or heavy watering. It can also happen during wet, warm periods. Unfortunately, these conditions almost force the tomatoes to grow right out of their skins! When they can’t stretch any more, they split. This is most annoying as you have found. If the cracks are shallow they will heal over. The fruits certianly are edible – they just look bad! If the splits are deep enough they can be susceptible to decay organisms. If you keep soil evenly moist with frequent watering and mulch, this will reduce the problem. Try tomato varieties that are crack tolerant or resistant, such as ‘Burpee Big Girl’, ‘Celebrity’, ‘Husky Gold’. ‘Sweet Million’ has better crack resistance than many other cherry tomatoes. I hope this information helps with your tomatoes!

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Q&A: Small Blooms On Geraniums

Question: When I purchased my geramiums they had blooms the size of baseballs or larger. Now I’m lucky to get two or three petal clusters on each blossom. I have fertilized regularly and the foliage looks great. But why have the blossoms become so much smaller than when purchased in May?

Answer: You have to remember that before you purchased your plants they were treated royally by the grower and given just the right amounts of light, humidity, and food. These perfect conditions are hard to duplicate in a garden setting. Weather that’s too hot or too cool and too much or too little fertilizer can all have an effect on the blossoming of your plants. Make sure they are in full sunshine, water only when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch, pinch off the old blooms to encourage new flowering stems, and be sure the fertilizer you’re using is higher in phosphorus and potassium than in nitrogen. (The second and third numbers on the label.)

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Q&A: Lawn is Hard Underfoot

Question: My lawn looks fairly healthy but is very hard under foot. Would aerating help?

Answer: If your soil is composed of compacted clay, it will feel quite hard. Another factor is the type of grass; some forms a denser mat than others. If compaction is the problem, aerating will definitely help loosen the soil and allow water and air to reach the grass roots, which will improve growth. You can go a step further and sprinkle screened compost on your lawn with a fertilizer spreader after you aerate, which will encourage the presence of earthworms and other organisms that help aerate and loosen the soil. Avoid using chemical weed killers because they can harm soil life. Mow high to reduce weed growth, and leave grass clippings on the lawn to contribute organic matter and improve the health of your lawn.

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Tip: Root Coleus Cuttings

Coleus, for either sun or shade, are among the easiest plants to root. If you need a larger supply of this plant for your garden, take 3-inch stem cuttings, strip off all but the top three leaves, then stick in water or potting medium. When rooting in water, separate cuttings into individual containers (such as baby food jars), or roots will become hopelessly entangled. Keep those stuck in growing medium (vermiculite, perlite, or sand) moist and humid until roots are established.

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Tip: Avoid Mower and String-Trimmer Damage

Prevent lawn mower and string trimmer damage to tree trunks by creating mulched beds around them, keeping the mulch a few inches from the trunks.

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