Garden Q&a

April 09, 2009|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld

The tomato plants I started from seed were big and healthy until I planted them. Now they're purple. Do they need more fertilizer?

Although purple or reddish tomato leaves are a symptom of phosphorus deficiency, the problem in early spring is not lack of phosphorus. The soil is just too cold for the tomatoes to be able to access the phosphorus. Tomatoes need warm weather. If you're trying to get a jump on the season, put them in a sheltered spot and use black fabric mulch to absorb the sun and warm the soil. The leaves should turn green as they warm up.

What is the weed that looks like short onion grass but doesn't smell like onions? How can I get rid of it?

FOR THE RECORD - The April 9 Garden Question column recommended the wrong herbicide to control Star of Bethlehem. Diligent hand-digging is the most effective way to control this difficult weed.

Star of Bethlehem, once sold as an ornamental bulb (sometimes still is), got loose and is difficult to stop. Never let it produce its white, six-petaled flowers because they, in turn, produce seeds. You can dig up clumps before the foliage dies back in summer, but remove a generous scoop of soil with the bulbs to get the multitude of tiny bulbs An herbicide with dicamba, or 2,4-D and dicamba, should work with repeated applications. Before applying, crush or bruise the waxy leaves to aid absorption. Digging may be easier.


* Tomato, eggplant and pepper seeds can still be started indoors under lights. They need six to eight weeks to grow to a good size for transplanting.

* Thin out your raspberry or blackberry canes so new shoots are spaced at least 6 inches apart.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions at the Web site

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