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Master Gardener Sue Morris: Fertilizer, tomatoes, garlic scapes and more

Pots will need fertilizer each week now. Watch for blossom end rot as tomatoes are now setting fruit.

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This year the month of May seemed to be the monsoon season in our part of the state.

Whoever thought we would be hoping for rain in June. At my place, we had over 8 inches in May and about ¾ inch in June.

Hope this isn’t going to be a repeat of last year.

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When we aren’t getting rain, watering daily is important for planted containers.

Even if we bought soil amended with fertilizer and it said on the bag that it had enough fertilizer for 6 months, the daily watering tends to leach out that fertilizer.

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A good idea is to fertilize your pots weekly, weakly. That means mixing water soluble fertilizer half strength.

Make sure the soil is saturated first with water to prevent burning your plant. Slow-release fertilizer can also be added.

Annuals may be fertilized right up until frost but perennials shouldn’t be fertilized after Aug. 1. This allows the plant to slow down and get ready for winter.

University of Minnesota Extension reminds us it is not advisable to spray lawn herbicides during hot weather. The hotter the temperatures, the easier it is for lawn herbicides containing 2,4-D and dicamba to vaporize into the air and hurt garden plants — especially peppers, tomatoes and grapes. Wait until cool fall weather to spray.

Juliet tomatoes.jpg
Tomatoes are starting to set green fruit. Juliet tomatoes growing in a pot are shown recently n Willmar.
Donna Middleton / West Central Tribune

Tomatoes are starting to set green fruit.

It is not uncommon to find early tomatoes that have blossom end rot. This is a condition where you see flat black or brown patches on the bottom of the tomato.

This is said to come from inconsistent watering. Even if you have watered correctly and supplied plenty of nutrients, it is common for the first few fruits to have it.

This is especially true in very hot weather as the heat results in rapid cell division, and then the fruit grows faster than the plant can get calcium to the new cells.

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Don’t panic. Just remove the fruit with symptoms and then the plant can put its energy into new healthy fruit. I’ve read that you can still eat the tomato after cutting off the bad part but I’ve never tried that.

My experience is that I have had this problem more with the paste type tomatoes and I don’t know why.

Those that grow garlic have been harvesting garlic scapes for a couple weeks. Scapes are the flower buds that appear on the stem of the plant. These are delicious sauteed in olive oil or butter.

Even if you don’t want to eat the scapes, they should still be cut off so the plant puts its energy into the bulb. At this point the garlic will size up considerably and even moisture is important for good bulb development. It is said you should keep irrigating until at least 50% of the leaves have turned brown.

With the hot summer weather, it is a good idea to garden before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m. to avoid the intense sun and heat. Bring plain water with you to stay hydrated.

Over the years, we all have probably drunk from the garden hose but maybe not such a good idea. Use sun and insect protection. I remember my mother wearing a big floppy straw hat when working outside for protection from the sun.

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Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing this column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.

Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing a column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.
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