Q: I planted four types of tomatoes this spring. They are growing nicely except for my ‘Early Girls.’ The bottoms of those are puckered and callused instead of smooth. Any idea what’s wrong with them?
A: I probably receive more questions about tomatoes than any other vegetable. My hunch is you have a catfacing issue with the "Girls." Luckily, this is not a major problem and the fruit, while not pretty, is still edible. Catfacing is a cute name for malformed tomatoes that exhibit scarred indentations, holes and cavities on the blossom end of the fruit. It is more of an environmental problem then it is a disease. While the phenomena can be caused by an over-exuberant use of nitrogen fertilizer, I think your particular issue is the result of environmental stress, such as drought, high winds, and low temperatures, during the plants’ bloom time.
As it is only the "Early Girls," that are showing the problem, I suspect they were the first ones you purchased, probably when first available at a box store, which means they were planted way too early, the cool evenings dropped below 50 degrees and short-circuited the flower bud development. So, no insecticide or fungicide needs to be purchased or sprayed (and your beneficial garden insects thank you!). Next year, wait until May to plant your tomatoes, don’t overuse fertilizer, maintain consistent watering and I’ll bet the catfacing will be a gardening challenge of the past.
Q: The shrub roses I planted at the beginning of the season don’t seem to be putting out many flowers. What am I doing wrong?
A: YIKES! Where do I begin with this answer? There are just too many possible problems! But, let me touch upon my top four likely causes. I’ll take care of Causes No. 1 and No. 2 by assuming the roses are situated in a sunny (six+ hours/ day) location and in amended, well-draining soil.
Cause No. 3 - Have the roses been planted too deeply? They are normally planted at the same depth they were in their growing containers. Lower than this and they begin to become oxygen-deprived. If they are grafted roses, the graft should be just above the soil level.
Cause No. 4 - (and this is the issue that I think is most at play in this case) you mentioned the roses were planted this spring. Did you know that just about all perennials, shrubs, and trees usually take a solid three years to settle in their new garden homes and start doing what is expected of them? I think your plants are in their first-year' transplant shock' phase. They are doing next to nothing above ground while, below ground, their feeder roots are getting over having been roughed-up and, then, begin extending out into the surrounding soil.
For this year, simply stay on top of the weekly watering. Next year, in April, mix a bit of bone meal into the soil around the shrubs help with continued root development and maintain the weekly watering schedule. In the third year, you should have the young rose shrubs you had initially envisioned.
Have a horticultural question about your yard? Send it to the Woodinville Weekly’s Garden Guy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I suspect we’ll continue this Q & A column through October, so get those questions emailed in! Until next month, happy gardening, all!