NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

July 17, 2013

Tim's Tips: Watering can wash away fertilizer

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — We are into mid-July and back into another heat wave. On the plus side, most of the vegetable plants are growing like crazy. Ditto for any of the tropical plants that we all use in our flower gardens. We have some caladium bulbs that we potted up a few weeks ago. In a four-day period, they went from tiny shoots to full-size, colorful leaves. I’m glad something likes the heat! It sure isn’t me!

I have talked to a few people who might disagree with me when I say that the vegetable plants are growing like crazy. Once I ask people what is going on with their plants, I find out that the plants are growing slowly. The plants are being watered. When I ask about how often the plants are being fertilized, the answer is usually that the plants were fertilized at the time of planting in late May or early June. With all the rain we had in June, the fertilizer that was initially applied, even timed-release fertilizer, is long gone.

If you have not applied fertilizer on a regular schedule, your plants will not be growing the way they should be growing at this time of the year. This holds particularly true if you are growing plants in containers. With the hot weather, you naturally have to water container-grown plants more often. All that watering can quickly wash fertilizer out of the soil. If the directions on your fertilizer container say to fertilize once a month, you should fertilize every two to three weeks when you are watering container-grown plants.

The same can hold true if you have flowers or vegetables planted in the ground. Depending on how often you need to water your plants, you will also have to adjust how often you fertilize your plants. Fertilizer, along with helping plants grow and produce flowers or vegetables, also helps your plants fight off fungus diseases. If you don’t keep up with fertilizing your plants, they are much more likely to develop a fungus disease.

Many people have come into the store with leaf samples from their tomato plants. The leaves are yellow, and they have some spotting. The customers are concerned that the tomato plants have late blight. At this point in time, the yellowing is probably from lack of fertilizer. The spotting is a fungus disease that is called leaf spot. As with all fungus diseases, the earlier you treat the disease, the less likely it will be to permanently damage the plant. There are some good organic sprays that you can apply to your vegetable plants to prevent and control certain fungus diseases. The key to effective control is to start early before the disease gets well-established on your plants.

Ants continue to be a problem both indoors and out. If you see large, black ants in your house, you probably have carpenter ants. These ants bring eggs into areas of wet wood, and those eggs hatch out into a larval stage that eats wood. They can do a lot of damage to your home. If you can find the source of where the ants are living, you may be able to control the problem. If you cannot find the source, you should call in an exterminator to treat for these ants.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is www.harborgardens.com. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to ndn@newburyportnews.com, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.