Treat your poor turnips right -- give them iron sulfate and borax

BACKYARD Q&A

May 14, 2000

Q. Last year, I had terrible luck with my turnips. Most of them had black, rotten spots in the middle. I had my soil pH checked and it was 7.6. Is that the problem? My soil is nice and sandy and I had not noticed this problem in the past.

A. You have two easily corrected problems. The soil pH should be around 6.5, so you'll need to incorporate 15 pounds of iron sulfate plus 10 pounds of garden sulfur per 1,000 square feet of area. The black spots are caused by a deficiency of boron, made worse by the high soil pH. Boron is often deficient on light, sandy soils. Mix 7 tablespoons of borax in enough soil or compost to distribute over 1,000 square feet and then lightly work it into the soil.

Q. I'm trying to save money by growing all my flowers from seed instead of transplants. What are some easy flowers that I can grow in the city in full sun beds?

A. You have many good flowers to choose from, including butterfly weed, zinnias, California poppies, celosia, sunflowers, gaillardia, cleome, cosmos, four-o'clocks, bachelor's buttons, strawflowers, ageratum, snapdragons, asters and marigolds.

Q. I am confused by the conflicting information I read and hear about what kind of fertilizer to use on blueberries. Some say ammonium sulfate, others say 10-10-10. We love our blueberries. What's the best product for the best results?

A. Ammonium sulfate is the recommended fertilizer because blueberry roots prefer the ammonium form of nitrogen to the nitrate form found in most fertilizers. The sulfur will help to maintain the necessary 4.5-5.0 soil pH. Adding 1 inch to 2 inches of compost to your bed each year will also help produce large crops.

This Week's Checklist

1. Don't worry about spittlebugs, those small, frothy masses you may see on pines, shrubs and perennials; they're harmless.

2. Be a good neighbor by picking up and disposing of pet waste when you walk your dog.

3. Prevent blossom-end rot by incorporating a small handful of lime into the planting hole soil. Also, keep plants mulched and well watered.

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