The most important thing to remember as we move into the heat
of summer is water, water, water!! July has the longest and the
hottest days of the year. All plants, especially newly planted
trees and shrubs, need deep watering. Check for dryness every three
to five days during this period. The soil would be wet six inches
down after watering or after a rain shower. Shallow watering encourages
shallow root systems and stresses the plant. Automatic watering
systems should be programmed to run longer and fewer times to get
ample depth and penetration of the water. Early morning is the
best time to apply water in order to reduce the incidence of fungus
and mildew. Use a good organic fertilizer such as Bradfield Organics® Luscious
Lawn & Garden™ 3-1-5 every ninety days. Chemical fertilizers
cause plants to release compounds from their roots that actually
inhibit the microbial growth so critical to a healthy soil (and
therefore healthy plant). Reduced soil microbial activity eventually
leads to plants that are not as efficient at extracting nutrients
from the soil and are more susceptible to diseases and insect damage.
Question: The leaves of my hibiscus are turning yellow.
It's newly planted. What do I do?
Answer: Hibiscus plants habitually respond to stress
with yellowing leaves. Your plant may simply be exhibiting stress from
being newly planted. Give it some time to recover. Remove the affected
leaves and make a tea of alfalfa, or if you cannot get alfalfa locally,
make the tea by putting a cup of Bradfield Organics® Luscious Lawn & Garden™
3-1-5 in a gallon of water, stir occasionally for 24 hours and pour around
the base of the bush. Hibiscus tend to be heavy feeders – once
a week during growing season is great -- who like low phosphorus and
high potassium, so avoid fertilizers that are high in phosphorus. They
also like a hefty supply of micronutrients, so natural fertilizers such
as Bradfield will more readily meet your plant’s needs than a simple
inorganic NPK fertilizer. Spider mites are a common insect infestation
on hibiscus that will cause yellow leaves. If your plant has spider mites,
shower it with lukewarm water, being sure to clean the undersides of
the leaves (you may need to do this once a week for a while). If the
infestation is heavy, add some soap to the water. Also, leaves will yellow
naturally as they become old and are ready to drop off.
Question: When can I prune my snowball bush?
Answer: Snowball bushes should be pruned right after
blooming. Remove the cane right down to the base. Viburnum, hydrangea
and Ceanothus are all referred to as “snowball”, but all
are best pruned right after blooming is done.
Question: Can I apply lime to my garden or lawn now?
Answer: Yes, although fall is the ideal time, as lime
breaks down slowly. Applying lime in the fall means that it will become
incorporated into the soil over winter and will be ready for the new
growth of spring. But if your lawn/garden needs it now, by all means
apply it. However, be sure to conduct a soil test first to determine
if you really need it, and if so, how much. Too much lime is just as
harmful as too little (if pH gets too high, nutrients become unavailable
to the plant). If the recommended application is over 50 lbs/1000 square
feet, you may want to break it into multiple applications for aesthetic
reasons (a lot of lime can lie there like a white powder for quite some
time after application). One accurate application should be good for
four to six years; soil testing will let you know when another application
is needed. Do not apply lime and inorganic nitrogen together, as the
increase in pH (due to the lime) will result in loss of nitrogen around
the fertilizer granules.
Question: My tomato plants are dropping some of their
blossoms. What can I do?
Answer: Tomato blossom drop can be caused by many things,
but the number one reason is temperature. Days above 90¾F and nights
above 70 - 75¾F or nights below 55¾F will interfere with fruit set, causing
blossoms to fall off (the night temperatures tend to have more effect
than the day temperatures). These temperatures stress the plant, and
it switches from reproductive mode to survival mode. Another factor is
excess nitrogen; be careful not to overfertilize tomatoes. One application
at planting and another after fruit set is plenty. Other less common
causes are insects (especially thrips and aphids), excessive wind, and
too little light (tomatoes like sun) or too much light for too long (tomatoes
need darkness at night to rest – if you are growing them in a greenhouse,
be sure you turn the lights off at night). If your plant is growing very
well and sets an excessive number of blossoms, it may drop some simply
because they are all competing for a set amount of nutrients. Be sure
to plant tomatoes that are designed for your area – they will be
better able to handle the temperatures and day lengths common to your
Question: Why are my tomatoes cracking?
Answer: Cracking is a disorder caused by moisture fluctuations.
If the plant goes through a dry period, then receives water, the pulp
of the fruit will plump up and expand faster than the skin can stretch,
resulting in cracks. These cracks can be circular around the base of
the stem, or perpendicular, from the stem to the bottom of the tomato.
The best control for cracking is a constant water supply. Water once
a week and water deeply – tomatoes have deep roots and are stressed
by shallow watering. Apply a mulch, preferably using alfalfa hay, to
the base of the plants to help prevent evaporation. This is especially
important when fruits are maturing. Using fertilizers that are high in
nitrogen and low in potassium will increase the susceptibility to cracking.
Use Bradfield Tasty Tomato to provide balanced nutrition to your plants.
For more information on organic fertilizing techniques, visit www.safelawns.org.
Early Spring, 2007