Xeriscaping and ‘green’ lawns

With some ingenuity smart gardeners will find a way to continue gardening in some form or another.

Did xeriscaping come to mind during the last hot dry spell? Will we see green lawns turning into rock gardens and drought-tolerant plants replacing our evergreen shrubs? Or will a ‘green’ lawn actually be a synthetic carpet? It remains to be seem what our weather has in store for our gardens. With some ingenuity smart gardeners will find a way to continue gardening in some form or another. For me, fruit and vegetables will take precedent over green lawns and flowers if summer droughts are the norm.

Questions and Answers

Last year my ripe tomatoes turned brown and were inedible. How can I prevent this from happening this year?

Tomato blight disease has affected your plants. The spores of the fungus that cause the blight are mainly wind borne. If rainy weather comes in mid-July and August when plants are actively growing and the leaves are wet for 48 hours, there is a good chance the blight will occur. It starts out as tiny brown spots on the lower leaves, turning yellow as it spreads and eventually the leaf areas appear dead with a yellow ring around the ‘dead’ section.  The disease will eventually affect the whole plant causing the damaged fruit. A hooded covering over the plants before July is a sure prevention, but if that is not possible, copper sulphate spray can be applied to the leaves every 7-10 days. This product is readily available in garden centers and should be applied as directed on the container.

What is the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes?

Determinate tomatoes are often known as “bush” tomatoes. These tomato varieties are compact and generally grow to 3-4 feet in a growing season. They stop growing when the top bud of the plant sets fruit. After all of the crop ripens the plant has finished its job and will start to die off. They are good candidates for growing in pots outside the kitchen door for quick picking for the table or snacking.  Indeterminate tomatoes are commonly called “vining” tomatoes because they can grow 6-10 feet tall in a season. They continue to grow and set fruit if conditions are right, until they are killed by frost or wet, cold weather. They require some type of staking and pruning. Often the plant tag won’t specify “vining”, but will mention “bush”.

When and how do I prune my tomatoes?

The term “pruning of tomatoes” refers to removing suckers or young growth from the “crotch” which is where a stem and branch meet. They usually occur after the tomato plant has reached a mature size. Some growers feel that if suckers are allowed to grow there will be a smaller overall crop production. On the other hand, some gardeners will let a select number of suckers produce fruit. It all depends on the size of crop desired. When conditions are right tomato plants will grow rapidly, so a frequent search for suckers is needed before they get too big. When removing them, take care not to damage the larger branch. When the growing season is coming to a close we pinch off flowers and small fruit that will not make it to full size, therefore the plant energy can be directed into increasing the size of the fruit. Determinate tomatoes do not need pruning since they only grow to a certain height, any pruning would reduce the amount harvested.

More questions and any comments are appreciated. Send to news@ahobserver.com