June is the month for harvesting many early crops such as blueberries
and strawberries in some regions of the country. It is also the
time when insects begin to make their appearance with a vengeance.
Insects are not really villains but rather excellent indicators
that something is wrong with the soil-microbe-plant system. Often,
deficient or unbalanced soil nutrition is the problem. This is
also the time of year when trees will begin to show signs of stress
or disease, again often related to nutrient deficiencies. Commercial
chemical fertilizers generally do not address the root cause of
the soil fertility issue and may actually suppress or kill valuable
soil microbes and leave a residue of salts over time. Organic fertilizers
that provide balanced nutrition and organic matter build the soil
and enable plants and trees to better withstand insect and disease
Question: My young oak tree is losing its leaves
at the top. What is wrong?
Answer: If the tree appears to be otherwise normal,
the problem can be one of several things: drought, water-logged
soil (note that these two extremes in water provision result in
the same symptoms), chemical injury (such as excessive salts from
chemical fertilizers), nutritional imbalances, and a disease called “oak
wilt”, which actually results in reduced flow of water and
nutrients from the roots upward, causing the tree to wilt from
the top down. An experienced arborist or Cooperative Extension
tree specialist can diagnose oak wilt for you and help you get
specific treatment before you lose the tree. You may usually submit
samples for diagnosis through your County Extension Office. If
the problem is drought, generously water the tree. Make a “tea” using
Bradfield Organics® Luscious Lawn & Garden™ 3-1-5 and apply
it to the soil at the base of the tree to give it a rapid “shot
in the arm” of
nutrients. If the problem is excessive water, you will need to
provide better drainage. If you have a lawn service do your yardwork,
be sure they use organic (such as Bradfield) rather than chemical
fertilizers to build soil and avoid salt build-up.
Question: The leaves on my magnolia tree are
falling. What can I do?
Answer: Magnolia trees will normally lose their
leaves in late winter/early spring. However, if this leaf loss
is continuing into June and appears to be excessive, your tree
is probably lacking vital nutrients. Magnolias are heavy feeders
with high requirements for iron and nitrogen. Supplementation with
organic products (such as Bradfield Organics® Luscious Lawn & Garden™ 3-1-5,
Pasture & Farm 4-1-4, and Luscious Lawn 9-0-0) that
build up the organic matter of the soil, improving soil health
and nutrient status, will help your trees maintain their health.
Magnolias are also good drinkers; if your area has been dry, be
sure to provide supplemental water.
Question: My river birch is losing its leaves.
Answer: Birch trees are understory trees and
can be stressed if overexposed to sun on a southern exposure. They
are also heavy drinkers and need lots of water. You might also
have your tree inspected for bronze birch borer and leaf miner,
both of which can cause or compound leaf loss. Another cause could
be chlorosis caused by a lack of iron (and sometimes manganese).
This generally occurs in more alkaline soils (soils with a pH greater
than 7). Use of natural fertilizers, such as Bradfield, that build
up the soil and stabilize it to an optimal pH help to improve the
immune status of the tree through superior nutrition so that it
can better resist insects and diseases. Healthy trees also have
deeper root systems and can better withstand periods of drought.
Question: My tomatoes have blossoms, but no fruit
is setting. What is the problem?
Answer: First of all, how warm has it been in
your area? Most varieties of tomato plants will not reliably set
fruit, despite an abundance of healthy blossoms, until the temperature
is consistently above 55¾F. This means that in northern climes,
and even southern ones if the spring has been cool, tomatoes will
need a little help from a greenhouse, walls of water wells, or
clear plastic over them to keep them warm enough to encourage fruit-set.
Secondly, make sure you are using an evenly balanced fertilizer
such as Bradfield Organics® Tasty Tomato™ 3-3-3; too much nitrogen,
especially in relation to phosphorus, can result in big, robust
no tomatoes. If you have tomato blossoms that appear to be rotting
on the end, you have blossom-end rot, and this will result in poor
fruit-set and poor fruit quality. This is generally a sign of calcium
deficiency; use of organic fertilizers with a hefty amount of alfalfa
(such as Bradfield) can help alleviate this deficiency, as can
mulching with alfalfa hay (see the next question).
Question: What can I use to mulch my tomatoes?
Answer: Slabs (or flakes) of alfalfa hay, butted
together, make excellent mulch for tomato plants. Not only do they
help to keep the soil moist, but when watered, the alfalfa creates
a “tea” that is rich in nutrients, one of which is
calcium. Calcium can help to prevent blossom-end rot in tomatoes.
For more information on organic fertilizing techniques, visit www.safelawns.org.
Early Spring, 2007