Got wilting tomatoes? Can you help?

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Comments (35)

Boiling salted water works well, but I got this great tool called a "giant torch weeder" from lea vally tools. You hook it up to your propane tank! It just burns the weeds permenantly!

Melanie replied to kate | September 23, 2009 at 8:02 PM

Hey can I get rid of weeds popping up between bricks on the patio? The bricks are too hard to pull up and i don't want to use weed killer..

kate | September 20, 2009 at 9:10 PM

Wilting Tomatoes can be a number of things. Here in Ontario the rain has been a major factor. One tip I've discovered, which comes from a long, multigenerational group of gardeners, is to remove all of the under growth - the suckers of the tomato plant, the branches that will not produce fruit, by mid-August - or earlier depending on the plant's growth rate. This helps to keep the soil under the plant from splashing up on these leaves when it rains. The soil contains naturally occurring fungus, blights, etc - and when the conditions are right, as in...lots of rain, fungus will spring into action. By removing the leaves, it helps with air flow around the base of the plants, allowing for some drying time between rains or waterings - and remember to water from the base of the plant, not from above. And prevention is key. Make organic sprays with powered milk and water to help prevent fungus and blight. Other recipes include 1 tsp of dish soap, 1 tsp of veg oil with 1 litre of cool water. Spray tops and bottoms of leaves and after it rains. And remember, don't plant tomatoes too close togethter - our clothes will pick up mold spores and will spread them around, give each tomato plant about 2' between other plants, so you can move between. Who knew that tomatoes were so fussy? There are plenty of books in your local public library - why buy 'em when you can borrow? Good luck!

Pamela | August 27, 2009 at 12:04 PM

Regarding Caitlin's questions about "using compost on garden vegetables": our answer is "usually - absolutely!".

It really depends on what was put into the compost pile. If you've only been adding vegetable/fruit scraps, egg shells, and yard waste, then the resulting compost is amazing for growing vegetables. We use it exclusively for our black raspberries and vegetable crops.

If you are concerned over what was put into the composter (old pressure treated wood, lead painted wood, etc), then I would test the compost on a small section of the garden (ornamental plants, lawn, etc) first to see how the plants react to it over a couple of weeks.

Then re-build the compost pile with clean scraps and use it for vegetable plants next year!

Calvin replied to Caitlin | August 19, 2009 at 8:11 AM

Hi Wendy!

If they are true honeybees, I would contact a local bee keeper, usually they will come out (and if it's not too hard), they will remove the queen and most of the worker bees for free.

Getting a free queen and working hive is normally a desireable thing for bee keepers. At the very least, they have the equipment (and patience!) to advise how to proceed.

If you want to keep the bees on the property, they might still have some ideas (moving the bees to a bee house, etc)...which would cost a bit of money (but it would be done right).

Local nurseries or feed stores might also have some contacts (some crops require specialized pollinators, as an example).

Good luck!

Calvin replied to wendy | August 19, 2009 at 8:05 AM

We need to replace the entire roof of an old garage.It has been discovered recently we have honey bees in one of the walls. How can we do this without losing them all in the process? Without being stung repeatedly?

wendy | August 14, 2009 at 10:49 AM

For tomatoes on a balcony, make sure your container is big enough. Root rot can be quite problematic. That is if the wilting and yellowing is not from under watering the plant. From what I've read and my own experience, a 35 litre container would do the trick. Of course this depends on the variety. Cherry tomatoes seem to do better in smaller containers. I'm curious though, is adding small amount of hydrogen peroxide to a water solution considered an organic method of dealing with root rot?

Mike | August 12, 2009 at 4:17 AM

Hey Leanne :) If they're not carpenter ants eating away at your foundation, not invading your cupboards and are not otherwise being "pesty" I'm wondering if they can't just continue to live amongst the remaining roots in the garden? My inclination would be just to leave them! I'd think that since their stump is gone they're going to look for greener pastures anyway - am I missing something? Cheers, J.

Jill replied to Leanne | August 11, 2009 at 10:22 AM

My pear tree is sick and has bugs!! Any suggestions on how to treat it without chemicals??

anna | August 4, 2009 at 5:08 PM

Other than the boiling water method (which kills plant life around the hill),
dust the ant-infested areas around your plants with Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. The ants eventually disappear because baking soda is poisonous to them.
Another method is pouring Cream of Wheat on an anthill kills the ants. When an ant eats a tiny grain of wheat, it expands in its stomach, causing death by bloating. Best of luck!

Melanie replied to Randi | July 27, 2009 at 8:18 PM

Hello super star gardeners - I have a pest question. My backyard has been invaded by sugar ants who are burrowing everywhere underground, and while they don't bite, they are totally irritating...especially now that they seem to be nesting in my kids' sandbox! So rude. Any ideas about what I can do to evict them without using poison?

Randi | July 27, 2009 at 10:39 AM

My advice is: get large containers. Grow vegetables (such as tomatoes) labled as "patio variety" for they will still do well in this confined environment. I have always found lettuces,hot peppers,many herbs, swiss chard and the above mentioned tomatoes to do well. Edible flowers are another option: see my blog on such! Best of luck.

Melanie replied to Dee | July 25, 2009 at 8:07 PM

Little black specs that are killing your plants, could be spider mites. Check with a magnifying glass, do they look like tiny spiders? You can mix water with pure soap, make sure it is pure real soap (not detergent), and either wash the whole plant or spray on. This can be hard on some plants, so you might want to test it first.

kate replied to Moira | July 25, 2009 at 5:40 AM

Over the winter I composted our scraps and now I have a container full of gorgeous rich compost (Hurray!). I don't grow ornamentals, but I've read that I can't use this compost to fertilize edible plants. Is this correct? Is there a way to "sterilize" it for use on edibles? What do I do with my compost if I can't use it??

Caitlin | July 23, 2009 at 1:11 PM

I have a small balcony garden, the plants are being attacked by minute tiny specks on the undersides of the leaves, and they are turning yellow. How can I get rid of these without hurting any of my beneficial insects?

Moira | July 23, 2009 at 6:14 AM

I want to grow some vegetables in containers on my roof deck -- what advice do you have on how to get started?

Dee | July 22, 2009 at 1:58 PM

I miss a garden-so I am growing a mini-garden on my balcony.
The geraniums are fine, so are the chives. But the tomatoes have not even one flower, and the thyme is dead.

any ideas on on good plants for a balcony?-esp edible ones.

sara | July 21, 2009 at 12:05 PM

The most effective, chemical-free way to rid an area of ants... boiling hot water! voila... gone.

Tanya replied to Leanne | July 21, 2009 at 11:33 AM

Amazingly enough, baking soda is toxic to ants. Just sprinkle on and around the holes.
Best of luck!

Melanie replied to Leanne | July 21, 2009 at 9:41 AM

We recently removed an old stump in our backyard. The stump served as a home for a lot of ants. The old stump plot is now garden. But I still have a lot of ants. The are creating a mound on my grass and are still in the place where the stump is. I have used borax and molasses traps but that only catches some of them. Maybe I am not being aggressive enough with the borax? Any suggestions?

Leanne | July 17, 2009 at 7:02 PM

I was wondering what types of eco friendly, preferably home made types of treatments I can use on roses..for aphids, mildew etc. Thank you for any help.

Monica | July 3, 2009 at 1:01 PM

You rock! Thanks so much!

Melanie | July 2, 2009 at 9:43 AM

Oh my bad is my math today? Hehehe!

Of course, 10 feet by 50 feet is actually 500 square feet. I'm totally off in my original reply. You would still need 3 square yards to cover the 500 square feet to a depth of 2 inches.

And bear in mind, 2 inches will pretty much smother all the existing grass, but will really help make the lawn sustainable. If you wanted to gradually build up the topsoil layer 1/2 inch at a time, then the existing grass would be able to grow through (overseeding is still recommended).

I would also aerate the lawn first to help loosen up the existing layer before topdressing, if the current lawn seems hard and compacted.

Calvin | June 30, 2009 at 3:06 PM

Hi Melanie!

Compost works great on the lawn, but it can be hard to get enough saved up to make an overseeding project possible. I've bought triple mix from garden centers, and had it delivered just before the fall rainy season starts. The triple mix I used contained equal parts topsoil, composted material, and peat. There seemed to be some shredded bark in there too.

For amount, if the lawn is 40 feet x 50 feet, then that's 500 square feet (as an example). Putting 2 inches of triple mix on, would equal just over 83 cubic feet, or almost exactly 3 cubic yards of triple mix from the garden center for a lawn 40x50. It's best to have them dump the triple mix on top of a tarp in the driveway, as opposed to right on the lawn. Otherwise you might have to scoop any extra off the lawn and find a place for it before you can seed and the big truck tires might make some ruts on the lawn if the ground is wet at all.

Good luck!!

Calvin replied to Melanie | June 30, 2009 at 11:44 AM

Hi again Calvin!
I've read the blogs -- I'll be trying the triple mix and overseeding this fall... One question -- is it possible to get the wrong triple mix? (Or rather -- what is it?) I have a composter in my yard -- I can use that, but I'll probably try mixing it with triple mix as well. Give the seeds a good, strong chance... ;)
Thanks so much!

Melanie replied to Melanie | June 30, 2009 at 10:48 AM

Thanks so much! Yes -- I'm thinking you may be right about my lawn being dormant... This year has been quite minimal with rain, which could be why its so brown already. I will have to watch what happens toward the fall tho. But it most definitely is not taken over with weeds -- just the odd one that I pull out.
I will definitely check out Calvin's blogs! And otherwise -- yes -- if you're up to it, organic methods are what I'm looking for for general care of my lawn. I have flower/plant beds on all four sides already and am looking to keep my green (hopefully!) lawn as well ;)
Thanks again!

Melanie replied to Calvin | June 30, 2009 at 9:18 AM

@Melanie regarding: lawn care

Is the lawn green during the rainy seasons, such as the spring? If so, then the lawn is going "dormant" when the heat of summer sets in. If the lawn recovers well once the rains start again in the fall, then the turf is surviving the normal dry periods. (I'm assuming the spring/fall weather patterns...I may be wrong for your area).

If the lawn is gradually (or sometimes rapidly) losing grass, and weeds are taking over, then the lawn roots have been compromised and/or the soil isn't sustaining the type of grass. In this case, I'd humbly suggest you read almost of all Calvin's blogs (click on "blogs" below the gnome at the top of the page). We present a few ideas to create/sustain an organic ground cover.

If you prefer just grass for the lawn, you can achieve that too using organic methods. Just respond back and we'll get into that too!

Good question!

Calvin | June 29, 2009 at 4:05 PM

Hi! I am fairly new to lawn care and don't have a clue ;) I was wondering if anyone could help me out with the basics? I am coming up to my 3rd summer with the house I am in and it seems to be getting more and more brown each year- all I do is water it, so I'm assuming the previous owners used more than water to keep it green...?
-Is it possible to have a lush green lawn with only water?
-Is June too late to work with power raking or spring fertilizing (if this is possible without chemicals)?
-How is a person to know what will help when so many products state 'organic' and yet there aren't any details on the packaging to help you understand what is going into your soil?
Sorry for the laundry list of questions! Anything will help! I might also look into an enviro-lawn care company out here in Calgary... Among other things, I'm bummed its uncomfortable to hang out in my yard bare foot because of how dry and prickly my lawn is... :(
Thanks so much!!!

Melanie | June 29, 2009 at 8:51 AM

On the subject of pesky digging squirrels, I've used small mesh chicken wire to cover my flower beds and herb garden. This also prevents the neighbourhood felines from using the beds as a litter box. The flowers and herbs grow through the mesh just fine.

Sharon replied to Paula | June 22, 2009 at 3:57 PM

I'll keep the discussion going, and hopefully others will join in too.

I am not a chemist, and I only have second hand info from people I've talked to this week about your question. I asked my wife (environmental engineer who used to arrange soil testing), and her dad (PhD in chemistry). Here's the bullet list of stuff I've found out:

- older pressure treated wood (pre 2004-ish), was impregnated with chromated copper arsenate
(CCA). Of most concern is the arsenic put into the wood, because it can (and will) leach out.

- here is one of the more "factual" articles I found on line:

- I like how this article attempted to measure arsenic uptake in different food crops.

- almost all other articles I viewed also advocate not using soil contacted by pressure treated wood.

- The one lab my wife uses charges about $90 for an aresnic test. The lab has a minimum fee of $375 however, so you'd have to order other stuff to get an analysis done. I'm sure there is a cheaper lab, somewhere, but I don't know of any.

- I've seen home test kits on-line (just specifically for arsenic, which sounds like one likely contaminent at your site). Prices wife has contacted her former consultancy firm to see if they know of any reliable home kits (we wouldn't mind measuring our soil as well).

For the money, could it be cheaper to replace some soil, or build over top with raised beds? As long as the new soil is not getting the rainwater falling off the old fence, it shouldn't get any arsenic in it (arsenic doesn't appear to move laterally, from what I've read). Raised beds do dry out faster, as water drains away faster the higher you build.

Last year, I bought 4 yards of triple mix, and had it delivered from a local nursery. I then made sure we composted all our veggie scraps and yard waste, to offset the fuel used to deliver the new dirt :-)

I hope that helps...and I hope others comment too. I can see a real need for a company to offer soil analysis like you are after. I'd easily pay a one time fee of $100-$200 to get a full analysis done too.

Devin replied to Lee | June 4, 2009 at 9:07 AM

I'm converting my urban backyard (formerly concrete blocks) to native species in the shade and vegetables in the sun But I'm concerned about possible toxins in my Toronto soil. Also, do I need to be concerned about growing vegetables next to my neighbour's pressure-treated wood fence? How can I have my soil tested?
Thank you!

Lee | May 31, 2009 at 4:45 AM

@Paula re: "Squirrels digging"

During the critical times (such as immediately after planting something out the squirrels like), I've caved in and provided other food for them instead. A $10 bag of peanuts is cheaper than buying more flower stock...and with two young kids, it can be entertaining feeding the critters.
We've placed out 4 different size & colour cups upside down on the deck, and tried to test the squirrels by only putting the nut under "red" things one day, as an example.

Squirrels are territorial, so if you can train the 2 or 3 dominant squirrels to behave, maybe they can help police your beds by chasing away other squirrels too. Although, the squirrels sometimes mess things up by planting the peanuts INTO the garden beds ;-)

An internet search turned up varied advice, as always, about this problem. Here's one of the more useful links I found:

Good luck!!

Calvin's Dad replied to Paula | May 29, 2009 at 4:47 AM

How does one rid raised garden beds of pesty, nut crazed, digging squirrels. They are digging up all my seeds. I've covered the gardens with burlap sacks, but it has proven to be unsuccessful. What can I do?

Paula | May 23, 2009 at 11:24 AM

Good try on the wine idea!! I'm looking forward to some environmentally-friendly suggestions to reduce the dandelions (so I hope some folks add their ideas here too!).

Here's our method:
We crowd the dandelions out with thicker turf. With a very thin topsoil layer (less than 2 inches in"5 centimeters" hehe), we couldn't sustain the grass-only turf without bi-weekly watering and twice-yearly fertilizer. Even at that, the grass was thin enough to allow weeds to reach the soil/thatch and germinate.

To launch our recovery plan, we topdressed with triple mix to a depth of 2" to give the topsoil layer a boost..then overseeded with standard grass and white clover (one clover seed every 10 cm or so). The clover dug into the clay subsoil and really thrived for the first year, then the grass came back strong once the clover started helping fix nitrogen in the soil.

If you visit GradeSchoolGardener on YouTube, you'll see Calvin explain this some more. We'll move those videos here once we get the David Suzuki blog working next week.

Today, we still pull out the occasional dandelion (not because we hate them, but I respect that other people don't want them. We are trying to be a showcase for zero emissions turf, so we currently go all out). I spend about 30 minutes a week pulling dandelions for 5000 square feet of lawn....most of that in areas where the clover is just getting established. Once the clover & grass are really thriving, it's hard to find the dandelions until the yellow flowers give away their position!

Calvin's Dad (Devin) | May 22, 2009 at 8:19 PM

Hi, my friend wants to get rid of the dandelions on her front lawn. What are products that are recommended, I tried to get her to love the dandelions and make wine but she is having nothing to do with that.

Catherine | May 22, 2009 at 3:54 AM
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