The Kivett's 'outdoor room

Fertilize and water to combat warm, windy days

Details on wilted clematis vines, black tomatoes and more from our local gardening expert

Water and fertilize, weed, search and destroy. These are the necessary actions to maintain garden vegetables, flowering pots and beds. Wonder why your flowering annuals are less robust than when they were brought home from the greenhouse? The main reason is probably a lack of fertilizer and not enough watering in the warm windy days that we have been experiencing.  It a big change from the cozy “bed and breakfast” of the commercial greenhouses where the proper amount of fertilizer and water is given and no wind movement is experienced. Say “hello!’ to our hot windy days. Flower pots, especially those hanging will need twice a day watering and much more fertilizer. We add a small amount of 15-30-15 (Miracle Grow with the micronutrients), 1-2 teaspoons/2gal. container, once a day when frequent watering is needed.

When watering, make sure some water drips out of the pot after it has soaked in. If the water drips immediately lift the pot to check for light weight as it could be so dry the soil is unable to absorb the moisture. In that case give small amounts slowly, warm water being the best choice.

Newly purchased trees and shrubs need frequent watering throughout their first summer. A mulch of bark helps to retain moisture, but if used over a long period there could be a depletion of available nitrogen in the soil. Microorganisms that break down the bark take up the nitrogen in the soil to carry on the decomposition. During this decomposition phase plants that are deficient in nitrogen will show symptoms of pale leaves and stunted growth.

Weeding is a necessary evil as is hunting for insects that feed on our precious plants. Weeding must be done before the plants set seed or crawls underground only to emerge at some other unwanted area. Slugs seem to be less of a problem this year for me with the hot dry weather. Aphids are in full force and can be treated by hand removing or sprays, either homemade or commercially purchased.

Questions and answers

Some of my clematis vine and flowers are wilted, but the rest of the plant looks OK. What causes this?

A fungus has been identified as a cause for clematis wilt, but environmental factors also play a part. In its natural environment it prefers a deep fertile soil in a moist and shaded habitat. In our own gardens it is often planted in shallow soil and exposed sites. Root stress makes the plant more susceptible to acquiring the fungus and the resulting ‘wilt’. To control the wilt add soil up and around the base and provide shade with low growing perennials in front of the plant. Cut out the wilted stems back to healthy tissue and discard the infected material, not in the compost. The root system is often not killed and will regenerate from below ground level, however susceptible cultivars will eventually die. There are no chemical controls available for this disease. Cultivars that are particularly susceptible and those that are resistant can be found on the Internet.

One of the disease resistant cultivars in our garden is C. montana ‘Tetrarose’. In the spring it is covered with fragrant pink blossoms and conveniently covers our arbor for shade in the summer. The accompanying picture shows our “outdoor room”, the shade provided by the montana with purple ‘Kardynal Wyszynski’ and pink ‘Dorata’ below to enjoy while dining.

Last year my tomatoes were black on the bottom. How can I prevent it this year?

Blossom end rot (BER) has several causes and can be prevented in these ways; Avoid cold temperatures and cold soil when setting out, provide good drainage, work compost and organic matter into the soil, add quick-release lime to provide plenty of calcium for strong cells, and very importantly, keep the water supply even throughout the season. BER also affects eggplant, peppers and squash.

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