, Newburyport, MA

August 21, 2013

Tim's Tips: Check your container plants

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — Well, it looks like we are back in the heat again.

Having hot weather at this time of the growing season can present problems for any plants that you are growing in containers. At this time of the year, the plants are pretty much full-grown.

As an example, think about the tomato plants that you have in pots. The plants could be 6 feet tall. The root system fills the pot, and the plant quickly uses up any water you put in. In some cases, the soil is so full of roots that a lot of the water just flows through the soil and out the bottom of the pot.

It is critical that you keep up with watering your plants during any periods of hot weather. The plants in containers will need to be watered, in most cases, on a daily basis. In the case of the tomato plants, you may have to water several times per day.

It’s not just your vegetable plants that will need water during a late-season hot spell. Window boxes, raised beds and flowerpots will all tend to dry out quickly. If you want to have your plants survive a hot spell late in the season, you need to keep up with watering the plants.

Lately, a question that is frequently asked at the store concerns the flowers on tomato plants. At this time of the year, tomato plants are still setting new flower buds. Most varieties of tomatoes will need 70 days or more for those flowers to turn into ripe tomatoes. If you check the calendar, you will see that many of those tomatoes will never ripen before the frost kills the tomato plant. If you remove those late-in-the-season flower buds, your tomato plants can put all their effort into ripening those tomatoes that already exist on your tomato plants.

It is also important to keep those tomato plants fertilized if you want those tomatoes to ripen. Tomato plants use a lot of potassium to ripen tomatoes. If there isn’t enough potassium in the soil, the tomatoes will stay green. Potassium is the last of the three numbers you will see on your fertilizer container.

Your lawn has been through a period of stress due to a hot July and a generally dry summer. Your lawn will benefit from an application of fertilizer now. The fertilizer will help green up the grass and also help the lawn repair and put out new roots.

If you or your neighbors have had a lot of Japanese beetles, the female beetle has been busy laying eggs in your lawn. These eggs hatch out in early to mid-September. At that point in time, it is easy to control those grubs before they do major damage to your lawn. Depending on which approach you want to use, you will need to put down some type of grub control to get those grubs before they get your lawn.

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


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