At our gardening information and soil testing kiosk at Paradise Valley Park in Middletown (every Sunday, rain or shine) from noon to 2, the following are some of the most common questions we've been asked.
1. Why are the tomato leaves near the bottom of the plant turning yellow and dying off?
You have to be very careful in watering your vegetables, especially with the high heat we have had lately. All plants need an inch of water each week and maybe slightly more with the heat conditions. That's all! Tomatoes like the heat and when watering all vegetables you should try to water the base of each plant and wet the leaves as little as possible. Also you should always water in the morning if possible, and never in the evening. The plants need to dry out during the day, and late watering will encourage fungi and other problems with your plants. Overwatering can also cause the leaves to yellow. Yellow leaves can also be a sign of a calcium or magnesium deficiency and that can be corrected with a little side-dressing of lime.
Clip off the yellowing leaves; they will not re-grow. By removing them you will also give your plant better air circulation. Yellowing leaves will not kill your plant unless, of course they all turn yellow.
2. My lawn is burned and dry. What can I do to restore it to its usual lustrous green? Should I fertilize it?
With all of the heat we have had this month and last many lawns have gone partially or completely dormant. It is not dead; you should not overseed it now. You should not fertilize it under any circumstances. It should come back fine with some rain and cooler temperatures.
Do not water your lawn excessively now and do not mow it unless it is absolutely necessary. Do not apply (or have applied) any chemicals at this time. A fertilizer application right now will burn your lawn further.
All grass should always be mowed at a height of 3' all the time, especially now. A height of three inches will enable the slightly higher grass to shade the roots of the plant and protect it well so that it can return from dormancy. Think of a blade of grass as a small plant, which it is. It has a root and a blade. Try to keep it as healthy as possible.
If you have a sprinkler system for your lawn, try not to let it run in the late afternoon or evening. The grass needs to dry out before nighttime. If not, various fungi and diseases will be encouraged.
The absolute best time of the year to overseed a lawn is late August and into September. You can overseed simply by adding seed to your lawn. Unless you have a serious problem you do not need to loosen up the soil. Of course a simple soil test is appropriate at any time to encourage a healthy lawn. Be sure to buy seed that is designated as "Premium" and pay attention to those that are for sun and shade depending on your conditions. Read the label!
3. How and when do I prune my flowering perennials?
All flowering perennials can be pruned by cutting off dead flowers at any time after they bloom. You should always deadhead day lilies and others after the flower obviously dies off. If you grow irises you can now cut back the stalks (the part that the flower bloomed on) but wait till fall to cut back the other leaves and then cut back a fan shape about 4 or 5 inches high. Dahlias should have their spent flowers cut off after they bloom. If you have butterfly bushes in bloom (Aren't they beautiful now?) you need to understand that there are three flowers on each terminal stem. The center one usually blooms (and dies first). If you carefully cut that lead flower off when it turns brown, you will find that the other two will pop out and the bush will retain its color for a longer time.
Daises can be cut back to the ground after blooming,and don't worry, they'll come back next spring. Chysanthemums are a fall-blooming flower, but if you pinch off some of the first buds, they will flower even better in the fall.
Rhododendrun can be pruned back now. Just be careful not to cut off the new shoots that will be next year's flowers.
These are a few of the questions we get at our URI Master Gardener Soil Testing and Gardening Information kiosk. We are there to answer any of your gardening questions. Bring in samples of problems or bugs; photographs if you can get them, and we will try to help you enjoy your gardening more.
Contact us by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by on any Sunday (from noon to 2) at Paradise Valley Park in Middletown. We are right next to the Boyd's eight-vaned windmill whch is also open for visitors at 2 o'clock.
Until next week enjoy your gardening and remember that the pleasure (and the work) is far from over right now.