Maryland Grows

Tomato problems? You’re not alone!

Concentric cracking of tomatoes

Concentric cracking of tomatoes

We are at the peak of tomato harvesting and enjoyment time in Maryland. But many gardeners are unhappy, to varying degrees, with the quantity and quality of the fruits of their labor. Those tomatoes we waited so patiently for may have disappointing spots, rots, cracks, and holes.

Before we get into the specific problems, let’s agree that we cannot expect all of our fruits to be perfect, no matter how much time, money, and effort we invest. It’s a garden, not a climate controlled factory. Weather and climate change, soil and sunlight, cultivars and spacing are just some of the many factors affecting plant growth — and they change every year.

This is a good time to think about what we can do next spring to get more out of our tomato plants next year. Picking fruits when they begin to change color from green will increase the number of usable fruits. It allows you to get your fruits off the vine before problems strike. Ripen them indoors on a counter or in a box, basket, or bag. I think you’ll find they taste just as good as their “sun-ripened” sisters.
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Converting Lawn to Meadow at the Goddard Space Flight Center

Americans have a lot of lawn – an area over 8 times the size of New Jersey is dedicated to alien grasses and the constant mowing that they require. Much of this lawn is unused, even unwanted. This is the situation at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which maintains about 100 acres of turf. Staff were interested in converting unused lawns to meadows for the cost savings and the environmental benefits: pollinator habitat, cleaner air, cleaner water. Unfortunately, no one on the staff had converted lawn to meadow before, so they teamed up with the Maryland Master Gardener program, and the Meadow Making Advanced Training class series was born!

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Master Gardeners and Goddard staff have worked side by side, learning how to convert unused lawn into native meadow by solarizing weeds, adjusting soil pH, remediating soil compaction, sowing native seeds, and monitoring the germination of native seedlings and weeds.

All that planning and preparation have paid off. On Tuesday I visited to assist Goddard staff with the monthly monitoring and maintenance of the meadow. Of the 34 native species originally sown or plugged, 24 were confirmed present, and some are even blooming already: Read More

Sustainable Landscaping on the Eastern Shore

Sustainable Landscaping on the Eastern Shore

  • Do you have property on the Maryland Eastern Shore?
  • Are you looking to revamp — or just add finishing touches — to your home’s landscape?
  • Are you interested in having a landscape that is both ecologically-friendly and low maintenance?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then you need to attend this event!

What: Sustainable Landscaping on the Eastern Shore

When: Saturday, September 23rd | 9:30-2:15pm | Optional field walk 2:15-4:00pm

Where: Eastern Shore Higher Education Center | 1000 College Cir Drive | Wye Mills, MD 21679

Who: Barbara Ellis, Sylvan Kaufman, and Christina Pax

Cost: $25

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Wilted Plants? Check for Signs of Southern Blight

Southern blight on sage

Southern blight on sage. Photo: Dave Clement

Southern blight is a plant disease that is active now in hot summer weather. It is caused by a fungus called Sclerotium rolfsii. This fungus has a wide host range including woody plants, vegetables and herbs, and ornamental perennials such as coneflower, peony, and hosta.

Signs and Symptoms of Southern Blight

  • The first symptoms seen are wilting and collapse of individual stems or entire plants.
  • Close inspection of the stem at the soil line reveals white mycelium (strands of fungus growing on the stem and/or soil surface), and small, white or tan spherical sclerotia that resemble mustard seeds.
  • Roots of infected plants are unaffected. Decay of the stem at the soil line is common during hot, humid weather.

    Southern blight on banana pepper

    Southern blight on banana pepper. Photo: Gerald Holmes, Bugwood

How to Manage Southern Blight

  • The cornerstone for control of southern blight is clean-up of diseased plants in the garden.
  • Wilted and blighted plants and plant parts should be promptly removed from the garden.
  • Do not compost material killed by southern blight because the resting spores (sclerotia) of these fungi may survive the composting process.

Visit the Home & Garden Information Center for more information on Southern blight.

Have a question about ornamental plant care? Submit your question to Ask an Expert.

By Dave Clement, Principal Agent, University of Maryland Extension, Home & Garden Information Center

Adventures in container food gardening

Several years ago I had to give up my backyard vegetable garden because the trees nearby were casting too much shade. I was lucky enough to find a community garden plot, which is where I now grow my tomatoes, peppers, and other plants that really need full sun. I’ve got some fruit and herbs in the sunny but deer-infested areas that remain in my home half-acre, and I still like to have some vegetables close at hand, so in spring, summer, and well into the fall I use every spare inch on the deck for container growing. It’s not a full-sun space, but I still manage to get okay yields from my salad table and various pots.

Here’s some of what I have out there this year.

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Lawn and Garden Tips and Tricks for August

For Ornamental Plants:

  • Late August through September is usually a good time to transplant, divide and plant perennials such as daylily, liriope (photo left), and echinacea. (HG 99) Be sure to keep them well watered during dry periods.
  • Annuals and perennials, like yarrow and salvia, may have grown spindly and are not flowering well. Cut them back to encourage re-bloom. Deadhead the spent blooms of annuals like zinnias and marigolds. This will encourage them to continue blooming more vigorously.
  • Plant hardy mums for fall color this month so they will become well established prior to the winter.

More August ornamental tips

For Lawns:

dormant lawn

Enter Dormant lawn. Photo: University of Illinois Extensiona caption

  • In dry periods grasses go dormant but recover when rain returns. Newly seeded or sodded lawns may actually be dead and will need to be reseeded.
  • Mid-August through mid-October is the best time to start new lawns and renovate or overseed existing lawns. We recommend a turf-type tall fescue cultivar at a rate of 4 lbs. of seed per 1,000 sq. ft. of area for overseeding, or 8 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. for new lawns.
  • If your lawn area contains more than 50% weeds, consider a total lawn renovation. Newly seeded turf must be watered regularly. See (PDF) HG 102, Lawn Establishment, Renovation, and Overseeding.

More August lawn tips

Outdoor Insects:

European hornet. Photo: Jim Baker, North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org

  • You may notice the European hornet stripping the bark off shrubs (especially lilac) and trees. This stripping of the bark is usually minor and does no real harm to a shrub or tree. The European hornet is a large yellow and brown hornet (photo) that nests in cavities in trees, stumps, wood piles, sheds, etc. and feeds on insects. Unlike most other wasps and hornets this one is a night flyer.
  • Do not spray pesticides in your garden unless you’ve observed a particularly serious pest and the damage caused by the pest. Follow all label directions. Always select the shortest residual, least toxic insecticide to avoid killing beneficial insects.
  • Avoid mosquito and midge problems by turning over any pots, lids or saucers that might collect water and create a breeding site. Also check clogged house gutters another favorite breeding place for mosquitoes and midges. Many people use corrugated drain pipe attached to downspouts to help move water away from their homes. The corrugations hold water and are a prime place for tiger mosquitoes to breed. To avoid the problem, use a smooth drain pipe or securely attach the corrugated drain pipe to the downspout and cover the open end with a piece of pantyhose secured with a rubber band. This will keep adult female mosquitoes and midges out of the drain pipe.

More August indoor and outdoor insect tips

Ask an Expert: Is This Blossom End Rot on My Tomatoes?

Q: I think this is blossom end rot on a tomato. Could you take a look and let me know your thoughts and a solution to the problem?

A: While this symptom indeed looks very similar to that of blossom end rot, it is actually indicative of anthracnose, a type of fungal disease. Anthracnose causes sunken black lesions and this type of white- to salmon-colored fungal sporulation. Blossom end rot, a nutritional disorder, appears as a black, sunken leathery lesion, with no signs of fungus.

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