Heatwave and Watering

Well, we are about to get hit with the first official heatwave in June, just in time to coincide with the beginning of summer.

Watering is essential during the whole summer but especially during the excessive 90+ degree days. The best time to water is in the morning.  Watering during the heat of the day allows the water to evaporate at the same time the roots are trying to absorb the moisture.  If your time schedule only allows for evening watering, take extra precautions to only water around the root zone.  Wet leaves during high humidity (especially at night) can lead to mildew, fungal problems, and possibly leaf and/or stem rot.

When watering trees, perennials, and annuals planted in the ground, you must soak them enough to allow the water to penetrate deeply into their root system.  Quick sprinkles or short bursts of water will only wet the top layer of the soil.  This will encourage shallow root growth rather than deeper roots.  Healthy, deep, root growth allows plants to withstand dry weather because they are able to access moisture in the lower layers of the soil.  Shallow roots will simply dry out during the hot and dry summer conditions, leading to the demise of your plants.

Keep a close watch on those hanging baskets and container gardens.  Because their root system is contained within a smaller environment, they are very sensitive to overly dry conditions.   If subjected to dry conditions for too long, they can suffer irreparable damage…or as I like to say, “crisp up.”  Soak them thoroughly until the water begins to come out of the bottom of the pot.

Hold off on fertilizing until the heatwave passes.  Plant growth can slow during the excessive temperatures and some fertilizers can cause certain plants to require even more moisture for absorbtion which is not ideal at this time.

Just hang tight.  The heatwave will pass.  Take special care of your plants and they will come through the tough conditions in good shape.

Tomato Growing Part 2

As your tomatoes grow, you may notice that there are some insects that have taken a liking to your plants.

Some common insects are:

Horn Worms – large green caterpillars with a horn on one end.  They eat holes in the leaves of your plants. Snip them off at first sight and dispose of them!

Cabbage Loopers – smaller green caterpillars that eat all of the tomato leaf but leave the veins, skeletonizing them. Again, remove them at first sight and dispose of them!  They can do damage very quickly.

Flea Beetles  – tiny dark beetles that hop quickly when disturbed.  They will create pits in the leaves and eventually the tomatoes as well.  Must be treated quickly!

Potato Beetles – larger striped insects that also love to munch on the leaves.  Must be treated quickly!

Aphids – tiny green or dark insects that eat in colonies, sucking the sap right out of the plant and exuding a sugary substance that can lead to a black sooty mold that will grow on the stems.  Aphids left to multiply are very damaging to the plant, especially new growth.

When I have these pests, I use an organic product which is Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap.  Saturate the leaves and stems, (but not during the height of a sunny day for risk of sun scald), and repeat every 7 to 10 days as needed.  This soap is very safe and can be used even up to the day of harvest.

Another common problem with tomatoes is yellowing leaves.

This can be caused by under-watering to the point of wilt.  If this happens too often, it will lead to blossom-end-rot which is a dark blemish on the bottom of forming tomatoes.  Over-watering can also lead to yellowing leaves.  Too much water can actually begin rotting the tomato’s roots.  Soak the plants thoroughly and then keep check on them frequently to soak again when the soil begins to become dry.  Sometimes a larger plant will shade the leaves at the bottom, causing them to become yellow due to sun blockage. Nothing to worry about there.

If you suspect a lack of nitrogen, (which I am seeing in my hanging basket tomatoes), give them a dose of vegetable fertilizer.  Be sure to follow the directions on the package.  Over fertilizing will burn the plant and lead to decline.  In reality, vegetables really don’t need to be fertilized unless there are definite signs of deficiency.

Alright, so now you have it.  I have discussed terminology, soil preparation, and planting in Part 1 and now we have discussed possible problems and care.  I hope you are well on your way to healthy plants and an abundance of tomatoes to harvest.  If you have questions or comments about your tomatoes, be sure to share.

We will delve into other great additions to the vegetable garden soon.  One cannot live on tomatoes alone.

Wind, Water, and Sun

The past few days have been so windy, even though the temperatures have been on the cool side, it still takes a toll on your plants.   Well, I made the mistake of forgetting to water.  I thought about the cool temperatures and forgot how drying the gusts of wind can be.  Luckily, I caught my mistake in time – even though my plants were pretty unhappy with me.  Because I had let them dry out, a thorough soaking was in order.

When plants get extremely dry, a regular watering is not sufficient.  I had to soak my plants three times to make sure that the water didn’t just run off the ground or quickly pass through my planters and hanging baskets.  It is really important to thoroughly wet the soil in order to provide enough moisture.

Now, the weather forecast is calling for the next 4 days to be in the upper 70’s and even hit 80 degrees – with no rain in sight.  Please remember your plants.  Check them for water daily, especially newly planted seeds and plants.