In search of a solution for dry blossoms

GARDEN Q&A

July 01, 2006|By JON TRAUNFELD AND ELLEN NIBALI | JON TRAUNFELD AND ELLEN NIBALI,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

We have two Brandywine tomato plants with numerous blossoms that are drying up. Tomato plants next to them are doing fine. Do we need to supplement the soil?

Tomato blossoms will dry up and fall off for a number of reasons, but adding something to the soil won't correct the problem. Blossoms are sensitive to high or low temperatures. They don't like it above the mid-90s or below 50 degrees.

Other reasons for blossom drop are excessive nitrogen, lack of sunlight or initial heavy flower set. Varieties vary in their response to conditions, and the neighboring tomato plants may be able to tolerate what the Brandywine cannot. The Brandywine plants will produce many more blooms this growing season, most of which will bear fruit.

How can I get rid of the weevils eating my rhododendron leaves?

The feeding habits of black-vine weevil and two-banded Japanese weevil are somewhat different. Both notch leaf margins beginning in June, but the black-vine weevil may mostly damage interior leaves, whereas the two-banded Japanese weevil feeds on lower leaves first.

Larvae live in soil and feed on the roots. Black-vine weevil adults feed at night. Two-banded Japanese weevils feed during the day and drop off when disturbed. You can shake the branches over a tray to verify and remove them.

The damage may be unsightly but it is not serious. If you feel the damage is not acceptable, you can spray with a Neem oil product such as Bioneem or use a soil-drench insecticide, such as Bayer Advanced Garden Tree and Shrub Insect Control. Bioneem and the Bayer product are available at garden centers, nurseries and online. You could also spray the systemic insecticide Orthene when damage begins.

Checklist

Sweep Japanese beetles into a bucket of soapy water. You can also use a labeled repellent or insecticide to control these pests.

Soak your compost pile once or twice a week during periods of hot, dry weather. It should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, which offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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