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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Garden Problems? Cures and Suggestions

Garden Problems? Cures and Suggestions

It has been said that gardening is more or less the art of digging a hole, dropping in a seed, throwing a little dirt back on, sprinkling some water, and then waiting. Seems easy enough until something goes wrong. And oh, the things that can go wrong! From rotten looking tomatoes to bugs lunching on your leaves to a deflating squash plant, the possibilities are endless and can cause even the most mastered of gardeners to give up and head back to the grocery store!

But before you reach for the poison or rip that plant out in the name of “composting,” take a minute to truly comprehend your difficulties and what can be done to turn your frown upside down.

1. Problem: Black-ish rings or brownish spots at the base of tomato
Chances are your tomatoes are suffering from BER — Blossom End Rot. BER is a lack of calcium in the blossom end of the fruit caused by irregular or excessive watering. As it is not a disease it won’t spread to other fruits.

To combat keep the ground moist at all times without exceeding about an inch of water a week. You may also want to enhance the soil with a touch of lime.

2. Problem: Squash plant has rotted, died, and/or disappeared altogether.
The archenemy of southern gardeners is the squash vine borer, a moth’s worm that burrows its way into the stem of the squash leaving it hollow. And there is a 99.9% chance that the aforementioned is a direct result of the borer.

But how does a gardener deal with malady? Good question. By the time most gardeners realize their squash have been compromised, it is too late. While there is no absolute preventative it is a good idea to plant your squash as early as the weather will allow. You may also want to companion plant with radishes and nasturtiums or even wrap the stems of the squash plants with foil for protection. If you are looking for a pesticide Bt may make a slight difference. Just make a tiny slit in the infected stem and inject it with the solution.

3. Problem: Plants don’t appear to be growing in any direction.
More often than not this is an issue of improper soil preparation.

Step one would be to dig up your plants and tend to their soil. Till the soil. Work it. Break it up. And then add compost to the mixture.

4. Problem: My tomato plant is losing its blossoms.
Blossom drop is caused by fluctuations in temperature and this seems to be the case in this situation.

Pollen is needed. It needs to settle in order to fertilize and turn the bloom to veggie. Perhaps going Mr. Miyagi is the best option. Each morning take a set of chopsticks or even pencils and tap the bushes to allow the pollen to settle where need be.

5. Problem: Bugs appear to be chewing leaves and maybe even leaving eggs behind.
They appear to be because they probably are. But not all bugs are bad.

ID the pest before doing anything. You can then use a range of products including fish oil, vinegar, Bt, need oil, dipel dust, and even insecticidal soap to kill off the creature.

41 comments

1 stephanie in utah { 09.23.13 at 4:31 pm }

everyone with alot of green tomatoes you can pick them layer them in a box with newspaper in between the layers and they will ripen indoors in a box

2 CL Outen { 08.02.13 at 7:15 am }

I have potatoe bugs, at the beginning of growing season, my plants were beautiful, the in come the potato bugs, they ate all of my leaves. I picked them off daily, and used 7 dust. Books that I have read said the bugs become immune to the dust. Mt question is, they are still in the garden and soil. Will they stay there to return next year, and is there something I can put on the garden to kill them out. I also rotate the garden every year.

3 M Ambrose { 06.16.12 at 10:22 pm }

My tomatoes started early this year I puld my first ripe tomatoe the 22 of may. but recently they have developed a problem the base of the ripe fruit has a hard almost blisterd look to it at first glance it appears waxy but its had we have had a extreemly dry spring so I water every other day if I let it go longer than that the plants wil wilt so i dont think its over watering.

4 Jaime McLeod { 06.13.12 at 9:36 am }

Could be, Carol. Your best bet is to ask other gardeners in your area. It’s hard to diagnose a problem without seeing it in person.

5 carol { 06.12.12 at 12:55 pm }

my tomatoe plants have stems that are twisted and have lesians on the the stem,and
discoloration of the stem.just starting to get blooms.is that considered blite also?

6 Vanessa { 06.03.12 at 3:11 pm }

My cabbage looks like it has stoped grpwong. My red cabbage won’t head. Something was eating holes in the leaves so I dusted them with flour an hot pepper.

7 johned23 { 05.09.12 at 5:11 pm }

I live in VA and I just planted green pepper plants this week according to the moon phase and the leaves are falling off the young plants.Help?

8 Jaime McLeod { 05.01.12 at 8:58 am }

Companion planting is the way to go. Aphids hate cilantro, dill, fennel, oregano, and spearmint, as well as alliums, such as onions, leeks, garlic, chives, petunias, and sunflowers.

9 roblmn { 04.30.12 at 6:11 pm }

Aphids on my corn stalks shortly after harvest.
I had this problem last year and I am hopeful there might be a natural solution instead of a chemical solution.

10 uneeb { 04.29.12 at 10:56 am }

my sponge gourd plants is green and it has big leaves with buds and flowers. the flower turned in to a vegetable but the vegetable is not growing up and they die.

11 Joyce Hill { 10.16.11 at 7:00 pm }

We have a freeze coming in soon and I have a ton of small green tomatoes,because of the cool weather at nite they aren’t big enough to pick to let ripen. Is there anything I can do either with then or for them ???

12 Gloria Twiggs { 08.17.11 at 2:52 pm }

My first garden has given me beautiful bell peppers. Red, yellow, orange, lite yellow, and green.This week I noticed that the one on the end was wilted, so I watered them all. the next day the leaves began to fall off and the one next to it was wilting. I bought sevin dust but hated to use it as I wanted to know that the food was safe to eat. These pepper plants have grown 5 feet tall and produced a huge amount of huge bellpeppers. I checked for ants, aphids, sticky residue and crawling bugs. There appears to be no reason for the peppers to wilt and die. Am I doing something worng. This is my first “poverty garden” in many years. Please advise what I can try next.
Gloria Twiggs

13 anotherkindofdrew { 06.27.11 at 9:24 am }

@Jennifer – I don’t have much experience with honeysuckle but I can say that with most plants of such nature, disease can be minimized by carefully picking off affected leaves as soon as symptoms are evident and by raking and removing fallen leaves to reduce the amount of overwintering inoculum. Blight is generally not serious enough to warrant chemical control although fungicide sprays can be applied as soon as symptoms are visible. I seriously don’t recommend that though if you are seeing a healthy bloom starting.

14 Mark { 08.17.10 at 8:00 pm }

I have 8 tomato plants. 2 of the plants have healthy looking ripe tomatos but they have a yellowish looking specks all over them. What is it and is it safe to eat them?

15 matilda reed { 08.09.10 at 12:19 pm }

can someone help me, my dixie lee peas was growing so green and pretty and all of a sudden they began to get this red soft mush all over them. my grandson said they look like something pooped on them, i sprinkle sevin on them its only in certain areas in my garden. i have all kinds of beautiful flying insects such as dragonflies, wasps, bees horseflies etc. thanks for any help

16 Mary Stahl { 07.27.10 at 1:30 pm }

My tomatoes all have bacterial canker this year…I am wondering if it is still safe to eat the tomatoes–so far the fruit has not spots, the leaves are all just turning brown.
Thanks!

17 Cbuc { 07.21.10 at 1:20 pm }

How do you cure the tomatoe blite?

18 James Rittenhouse { 07.19.10 at 5:46 pm }

Sir, We had a good crop of RED CABBAGE but the heads had a lot of white hole in the base of the head, no signs of insects. Please advise if you can what it is and a way to kill it. Thank you for any suggestions,
James Rittenhouse

19 Andrew Odom { 07.17.10 at 1:11 pm }

@D. Richards – I am so sorry all your plants are infected with blight. It is becoming an epidemic this year and if more conscious gardeners like yourself don’t take note it could really become a plague of sorts by 2012.

If you want to try and save your plants I recommend the following:

- Remove any leaves damaged by blight. Leave the leaves that might be damaged by another deficiency, as proper fertilization might bring those back to health.
- Remove the bottom branches of your tomato plant, to keep it from having contact with the ground.
- Stake your tomato plant, or pull it up farther on the stake to keep it from having contact with the ground.
- Spread mulch around the base of your tomato plant, to keep water and soil from splashing up onto the plant and causing further blight or fungus.
- Purchase a supplement and a fungicide to treat your plant.

As far as eating the red ones, I don’t honestly know. I think it is safe too as the only way they would in fact ripen is if they were not stricken with the disease. If there is any sign of blackened area or bruising, do not eat the fruit.

Whatever the case, don’t be too hard on yourself. It is not your fault. Blight – like other diseases – is part of gardening and growing your own food. It is out of our control.

And as far as epsom salt goes, go easy on it. Epsom is nothing more than magnesium and it’s one of the big garden myths — if your soil is deficient in this element, it’s going to help. If not, then you’re not doing anything substantial.

Good luck, my friend.

–––––––––––––
Andrew Odom
anotherkindofdrew.com
Twitter: @andrewodom

20 D. Richards { 07.17.10 at 8:55 am }

We have all our tomatoes (50 plants) covered with this years blite. By the time the plantrs showed they had it they were already bloomed and producing small green tomatoes. Now they all have green tomatoes but few are turning red . What can I do to save my plants? Can I CAN the red ones? Some say it will cause GI Upset. Can you please advise. I heard Epaon salt kills blite but what do you say?? Can we save our plants. This is our food for the year. D. Richards

21 Theresa { 07.08.10 at 10:23 am }

I am having an issue with my cukes,they have white powder spots on the leaves.I know its a mold but what can I do naturally, no pesticides, they are still producing and I followed all the info I found on the internet..I used baking soda in the soil,and moved them this year and no nite time watering still same issue as last year.

22 Jane Seymour { 07.06.10 at 10:10 am }

I have a sugar magnolia tree that I am afraid I am losing. Ive had it for 10 years. It has something on the bark like a fungus or scale. Can u help me?

23 Andrew Odom { 07.06.10 at 9:13 am }

@Bob H – I could use a few more specifics. Have you seen any bugs at all on the plants? Are the munchers taking out the leaves or the actual peppers? What signs make you think bugs are the problem? Is there any rot on the fruit? Bruising?

@Joy – You have to be very careful about the levels of salt you use. Notice JP and I said to boil the salt water before splashing it on the plant. Low levels of salt water have been proven to help with growth as it adds nutrients to low pH levels and also “sucks up” excess water which can sometimes cause blite and bruising. Too much salt though and using just plain salt from the bag will actually shrivel up and kill the plant (much like you see happening to slugs when salt is applied.)

@D Wolsey – Two things come to mind. The first is the more extreme. Your plants could be suffering from Squash Mosaic Virus which is spread by aphids. I suggest using a Bt product or something with fish oil to control the aphids, thereby controlling the spread of the virus. However, the simpler solution is that you planted store bought seeds or store bought plants that had, at some time, been cross-pollinated and are causing an otherwise odd plant to grow. I suggest doing a thorough check for bugs both on the plant and in the produce.

–––––––––––––
Andrew Odom
anotherkindofdrew.com
Twitter: @andrewodom

24 D. Woolsey { 07.05.10 at 7:20 pm }

My yellow crook neck squash get green spots or turns green. What the problem and how do I solve it?

25 Joy { 07.04.10 at 5:25 pm }

About the salt water, I note you say it won’t harm plant but what will it do to the soil. Will it not cause it to be useless for growing later if not right away?

26 Bob H { 07.03.10 at 10:37 am }

Hi, I’m having a problem with something is eating my pepper plants. I had deer before and put up a fence and added a wind chime. any other ideas would help.

27 CA { 06.28.10 at 3:50 pm }

I have another question. The leaves on my bean plants look like they’re rotting, like lettuce after it’s been in the fridge too long, brown and slimy. No problems last year. By the way, the pepper spray seems to be working, thank you.

28 Andrew Odom { 06.24.10 at 1:47 pm }

@Linda Knight – This is a HUGE question and has a number of potential answers. However, I will take a stab.

Feed your toms! – Feeding the tomatoes is important and for hearty fruit/blossoms add some fertilizer heavy with phosphorus which helps plants to bloom.

Give ‘em a bath – Watering them every day is ideal as long as the soil drains well; tomatoes like warm, moist soil since they are originally tropical plants.

Let ‘em lay by the pool – Tomatoes need at least six hours of good sun a day, but I am wondering if either your tomatoes are not getting enough sun, or too HOT a sun. Tomatoes will drop their blossoms and wilt when the outside temperature goes over 85F-90F for several days or more.

–––––––––––––
Andrew Odom
anotherkindofdrew.com
Twitter: @andrewodom

29 Andrew Odom { 06.24.10 at 1:40 pm }

@jamnstv – A little more information would be quite helpful. How tall is your plant(s)? Were they transferred from a pot or smaller rooting area? Is the wilting appearing all the way up the plant? I ask these questions because I have found Yellow Pear to be very susceptible to wilt diseases especially in the thick of the season when the soil gets dry. It sounds like this may be what is happening to your plant.

Of course, this is assuming that what you are describing is true wilting (leaf midrib collapse) and not nutrient or fungal related problems, which harm the thin parts of the leaf before forcing the plant to kill its own leaf.

–––––––––––––
Andrew Odom
anotherkindofdrew.com
Twitter: @andrewodom

30 jamnstv { 06.24.10 at 1:11 pm }

My Yellow Pear Tomatoes have developed serious wilting this year,even after the fruit has started appearing. Had no problems with this type of Tomato last year. Please help!

31 Andrew Odom { 06.24.10 at 11:52 am }

@Judy – It took some research and a call to my local Ag Extension office to figure out your issue but I believe you are experiencing a Bacterial Spot Fungus. Spots on tomato fruit often first appear as a small white blister (similar to bacterial canker fruit lesions), which eventually expands to about 2 mm, becoming sunken dark to tan brown with a raised border. Severely infected fruit appear scabby and are unmarketable for fresh market or whole pack processing. Processors also have a difficult time removing the skin from infected fruit because the fruit adheres to the skin where the spot occurs.

Bacterial spot of tomato is challenging to manage. Bactericides containing copper, such as Kocide 101 and Parasol are all that is available to control bacterial spot in field tomatoes. Remember though, copper is only a protectant, which means it must be on the plant tissue surface before the pathogenic bacteria arrives.

–––––––––––––
Andrew Odom
anotherkindofdrew.com
Twitter: @andrewodom

32 Linda Knight { 06.24.10 at 10:28 am }

I need help. For some resson my tomato’s grow tall, with out me taken the suckers off of them. I also get very few tomato’s on the bunch. The one’s that I get don’t get any size to them. Even tryed the hanging basket the leave are all up side down and only one tomato. What can I do to get more tomato for canning.

33 judy { 06.23.10 at 10:18 pm }

concerning my tomatos
my plants r loaded with green tomatos.. but on the opposite end of the stem/bloom end the tomato has like a blister spot
thats the only way i know how to describe it
not on all just a few..what can i do for this
thanks

34 Andrew Odom { 06.23.10 at 3:28 pm }

@CA – Without a pic it is hard to tell. However, are they little grey bugs on the inside of the leaves? If so, I think they might be cabbage worms or cabbage aphids. I would try either a Hot Pepper Wax or introduce lady bugs to those infected plants.

–––––––––––––
Andrew Odom
anotherkindofdrew.com
Twitter: @andrewodom

35 CA { 06.23.10 at 3:19 pm }

Got any ideas what might be eating the leaves of my brussels sprouts? I’ve looked but haven’t seen any insects. Whatever is doing this is not touching anything else in the garden,ie, tomatoes, cukes, squash, onions, potatoes or peppers. Thanks!

36 Mary Derosier { 06.23.10 at 3:11 pm }

I save, dry and crush egg shells all year and use them in my gardens to discourage BER. Lots of free calcium. I also use them around things that slugs might bother. Slugs don’t like the rough edges.

37 Andrew Odom { 06.23.10 at 12:37 pm }

@shelwatson – Crop plants are the primary source of food for stink bugs. They typically feed on fruit plants and nuts. They particularly enjoy honeydew, tomatoes, beans, corn, squash, peppers, cabbage, and any type of fruit, using their beaks to pierce and suck plant juice. This activity can cause major damage to gardens. If you discover stink bugs on your plants you can scoop them up using a pill bottle or other small container. This is time consuming, but the containers help you avoid the smell they emit.

It sounds like your problem though is the common June Bug. Without knowing what region you live in I can’t be for sure but I would go with cabbage worms or June bugs. Either are pains in the bupkis and leave those holes in the ruffage that ultimately look like spoiled plants.

—————————————
Andrew Odom
anotherkindofdrew.com
Twitter: @andrewodom

38 Andrew Odom { 06.23.10 at 12:32 pm }

@JP – You are so right. I don’t use any pesticides or chemicals so I often forget to include those as possible symptoms. And as for the salty water? Great idea. I have never heard of it but will certainly give it a shot should the need arise. Thank you so much for commenting!
—————————————
Andrew Odom
anotherkindofdrew.com
Twitter: @andrewodom

39 Glenda Fisher { 06.23.10 at 12:31 pm }

I don’t have a tomatoe issue but I do have a question about whats going on with
my holly hocks still blooming but leaves are turning and falling off look like
some kind of pollon type substance was on the leaf before they fell off. Any
suggestions?

40 shelwatson { 06.23.10 at 10:24 am }

Our garden is infested with earwigs, crickets and stink bugs. We are eliminating them as we see them, and employ some organic trappings to assist. However, we don’t know which bugs are causing damage to the garden. Some leaves have tiny holes, others have areas where the green has been sucked off and all that remains is a lacy skeleton??? Who is doing that? I’ve read that these bugs are good for devouring rotting plant material. The crickets (huge!) are living in a nearby wood pile. I am not sure where the stinkbugs reside, but they are everywhere! Any ideas on these?

41 JP Madren { 06.23.10 at 10:22 am }

…concerning the tomato plant dropping the flowers … in addition to the reason listed above – another cause of this is the spraying/powdering of the tomato plant with sevin dust/spray. The plant will grow just great, but will not hold a blossom until the dust/spray residue is removed.
… and also concerning the tomato getting “black bottom” or the ends of the tomatoes turning black (wrotten looking) just before or as it gets ripe — you can take a fist full of salt, boil it in a gallon of water to dissolve it – then after allowing it to cool – spoon it over the plant (literally spash it onto the plant) and this will stop the bottom rot on all tomatoes that have not been affected and the salt water will not hurt the plant.

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