Common Garden Questions Answered

__Question:__ What Do I Plant Right Now?
__Answer:__ The beginning of Spring in Charleston is an opportune time to plant a wide array of vegetables, herbs and flowers. The temperatures are usually cool enough to still plant cool season plants such as: spinach, lettuces, beets, arugula, dill, parsley, cilantro, collard greens & pak choi. But it is, also, time to begin planting warm season crops to make sure you get ahead of the heat. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, beans, cucumbers, squash, corn, irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion sets, basil, zinnia, sunflowers, rice, etc… Always start with what you like to eat!

__Question:__ My Tomato Plants Have Long Stems With a Tuft of Leaves on Top. Will They Be Able to Hold Fruit?
__Answer:__ Your tomato plants were kept out of direct sunlight and had to stretch to reach the sun which is called phototropism. The stretching toward the sun created a long, “leggy” stem and very little vegetative growth. These long stems will not produce a healthy robust plant to grow fruit. Don’t despair! Tomato plants come prepared with tiny little hairs along the stem of the plant. All of these little hairs are potential roots. Tomatoes do best with a strong healthy root system so when planting tomatoes, plant them to their neck whether they are leggy or not. Any tomato plant bought from the store or grown at your home should have the bottom leaves and stems taken off and planted about 1-2” below the largest grouping of leaves. This will allow the hairs on the stem to create more roots and the plant will be strong enough to produce and hold the weight of your tomatoes.

__Question:__ What Is This Insect?
__Answer:__ Cooperative Extensions have excellent insect identification. Peruse websites such as: University of California, Purdue University, Cornell University for their garden pest insect guides.

__Question:__ Why Do My Tomatoes Have Flowers but No Fruit & Why Didn’t My Tomatoes Produce Flowers?
__Answer:__ Heat, Humidity, Lack of Pollination, Disease, Heavy Nitrogen Fertilization. Tomatoes will not produce once daytime temperatures reach 85 or night temperatures reach 70 or go below 55. Plant in March to mid-April in order to harvest fruit before the high temperatures of summer set in. High humidity can cause interference with the release of pollen. Although tomatoes are self fertile, the pollen needs help being carried from the anthers to the stigma. Lack of wind, bees (or other insects) or shaking of the plant will cause the pollen to stay in place and the plant will not be pollinated. Fungal disease can cause flowers to drop. As with most all fruit setting plants, fertilizing with heavy nitrogen will cause beautiful, lush, green foliage but the plant will be spending its resources on the leaves rather than producing fruit.

__Question:__ Why Is My Squash Wilting Even When I Water Daily?
__Answer:__ Squash Vine Borer. This larval stage of a moth that can easily be mistaken for a wasp due to its orange/red and black coloring. The squash vine borer lays eggs along the stem of the squash plant. Once eggs hatch, the larvae bore into the stem eating the vascular system creating an inability for the plant to draw water to its leaves. Protect against squash vine borer with lightweight row covers, by daily inspection, removing eggs, making an incision and removing the larvae if present. Refer to this blog on the Conservancy website for more information on dealing with insects: Insects: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

__Question:__ How Do I Kill Fire Ants Using Organic Methods?
__Answer:__ Diatomaceous Earth is an acceptable solution to deal with fire ants in an organic garden. D.E. is a sedimentary rock consisting of the remains of fossilized algae. D.E. coats the exoskeleton of insects causing them to dehydrate. Apply to ant nests by digging into the nest, sprinkling D.E., digging further and sprinkling more. Two to three applications may be needed. Do not wet the powder after application. While application of D.E. is acceptable, you want to disturb the nest as much as possible when applying this. If you would prefer not to make a trip to the store, disturb their habitat each day by digging or by spraying with a strong stream of water. They will quickly discover that your garden is not a smart place to rebuild their home.

__Question:__ How Much Should I Water?
__Answer:__ 1”-1.5” per week.
Seeds direct sown need to be watered daily to keep the soil moist until germination.
Seedlings need to be watered for first two weeks and then can be watered every other or every third day once established. Plants with high water contents like cucumbers need more water. Strawberries need lots of water once they flower but water needs to slow down once fruit gets to a larger size to allow sugars to develop.

__Question:__ Why Didn’t My Seeds Come Up?
__Answer:__ Lack of germination can be due to different causes. Common causes are: planting too deep (follow seed packet guidelines), soil temperatures too hot or cold, excessive watering or too little watering (keep soil moist but not soaking).

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