Your oakleaf hydrangeas don't need soil to be acidic

Backyard Q&A

June 05, 2005|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,Special to the Sun

I bought an oak hydrangea. Is it acid loving? I have sandy soil.

Unlike their blue mophead cousins, oakleaf hydrangeas prefer a neutral pH, anywhere from 6.1-8.5. They are very shade tolerant, however they flower best in full sun. In their native habitat, they grow in sandy soil. Because sandy soil does not retain water well, you may need to water it during dry periods.

As the fruit on my Early Girl tomato plant has grown, it's rotting on the bottom of the fruit (opposite the stem). I've heard that this might be something called "blossom end rot." Does that sound right? We grow the plant in a pot, and we used a mix of the soil it came in and some potting soil and water it about once per week.

Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the developing fruits. There may be a lack of calcium in the soil. More typically, a lack of moisture can prevent sufficient calcium uptake by plant roots. The plant usually overcomes the problem with regular watering, as long as there is sufficient calcium in the soil. To prevent blossom end rot, we recommend stirring a handful of lime into the planting hole, before planting. Container grown tomatoes usually need to be watered every day during the summer. At this time, you could purchase a calcium supplement product known as a blossom end rot spray. This product is sprayed directly on each blossom as it forms. Also incorporate some lime into the soil around the plant. Pick off and discard tomatoes afflicted with blossom end rot. They are inedible and merely sap energy from the plant. For more help growing tomatoes, read our online publication, IPM Series: Tomatoes.

Checklist

1. Sow bush beans every 2 weeks to have a continuous harvest of fresh beans. Pick off Mexican bean beetle eggs, larvae and adults.

2. Don't get excited by the presence of defoliating caterpillars on shade trees. Orange-striped oak worm, green-striped maple worm and the red-humped caterpillar are three examples. Leaf feeding by these very noticeable guests will not harm mature trees.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information and answers to plant and pest questions. Call its hot line at 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail questions to www.hgic.umd. edu. (You can also download or order publications and diagnose plant problems online.)

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