Monday, May 18, 2015

Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot is a very common problem for tomatoes (it can also get on peppers, squash and watermelons).  A dark water soaked spot appears on the blossom end which is opposite the stem end of the tomato.  This spot usually gets bigger and turns black, and then mold will grow on the surface. 

Ways to avoid blossom end rot include soil testing to be sure your calcium levels are adequate.  If calcium is lacking, you can amend it by adding calcium nitrate, lime, gypsum or spray foliage with calcium chloride, calcium nitrate or Neptune Harvest’s Crab Shell product (23% Ca and helps with nematodes).
Other factors that contribute to blossom end rot are:
·         Fluctuations in soil moisture.  Letting the soil get very dry then very wet.  Cotton Burr Compost used as a soil amendment or as a mulch will add organic matter to the soil reducing these fluctuations.
·         High nitrogen fertilization.  If plants get too much fertilizer, then get hit by a dry spell, this will cause blossom end rot.  Avoid trying to grow the monster tomato bush by piling manure or fertilizer around the plant.
·         Root damage.  Root damage can be caused by cultivating (hoeing) too close to the plant, having the tomatoes sit in water after a rain, nematodes and excessive salt.  When hoeing, stay away from the root zone of the tomato plant.  Be sure you have well drained soil (Cotton Burr Compost will help), so your roots will not suffocate.  Test your soil for sodium and remove the salts by leaching the salts out or by applying a salt removing product.  If you have nematodes, plant in a different area or in a container. Using Neptune Harvest’s Crab Shell product has shown to reduce nematode populations by building up chitin eating bacteria in the soil.
·         Container growing. Many potting soils are sterile and ‘soilless’ – meaning they do not have any fertilizer or nutrients built into the soil. Happy Frog or Ocean Forest soils would be an exception to that. If you are growing in containers, be sure you are adding what the plant needs for proper growth.

The main thing in controlling blossom end rot is to soil test and be sure there is plenty of calcium in the soil before you plant the garden. 

A product that might help you with blossom end rot is called Mighty Plant.  Mighty Plant triggers the plant’s natural defense mechanisms, and toughens up the plant against disease, insects, fungi and bacteria.  Mighty Plant also gives your fruit longer shelf life (it thickens up the skin of the tomato), and will give you more blooms. For those of you that remember Messenger, Mighty Plant is Messenger with an 18-18-18 fertilizer added to it. Messenger won the Environmental Protection Agency’s Presidential Green Chemistry Award based on its beneficial properties and safety profile.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Choosing A Lawn Care Company

Bill, will you recommend a lawn care company to me?

I have been hit with some variation of this question a lot recently. Since we sell products to many different companies, it is best to ask your friends. We rarely see the end results of our customer’s applications to various yards. Also, we wouldn’t want you to be at a family reunion talking to your distant cousin that is also a good customer of ours, and say that Possum’s recommended a different company other than your distant cousin.

Lawn care companies can spray several different products to solve several different issues at once. In order to tank mix different control products, they need to make sure the products are compatible with each other.  Also, the lawn care applicator must calibrate the sprayer to make sure they are getting the proper amount of product out, in the given amount of square feet according to the product labels.  Knowing the correct amounts to put into the sprayer to control what you are trying to control is critical.  Does this all sound “Greek” to you?

A professional lawn service regularly mix several control products together to control many issues in the lawn at one time.  They are licensed by the state to apply control products and they apply control products on a daily basis.  Many applicators have years of experience putting out products as well.   Most companies have different programs and they will either treat your yard on an “on call” basis, quarterly program, or complete yearly programs.  Check with the individual companies for what they have to offer. Just beware that if your yard is all green weeds and they kill all your weeds, then your yard will be brown. I have been told, “Bill, they came out and killed my yard!” When in reality the yard was weeds and they killed the weeds.

When choosing a lawn care company or any contractor, it is good to get references from neighbors and friends.  With lawn care companies, it is especially important to find one that is doing good work in your neighborhood.  Most applicators that work for a lawn care company have a route in a certain area and different applicators have different abilities and experience.  If you sign up with a company who is doing a good job at your neighbor’s two doors down, chances are you will get the same applicator that they have.

One thing to remember, even though your house is right next to another house, the results of lawn care can be totally different because of sun / shade patterns. Trees and the way your house is positioned on your lot can greatly affect the way the grass grows. A sunny yard is best for good grass growth.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Get the Most Out Of Aerating the Landscape

As the night time temperatures warm up and the grass starts to actively grow, aerating should be considered for the health of your whole landscape. While you have the holes open in your yard, there are many products that you can add to that root zone area that will benefit your turf, trees, and shrubs.

Aerating reduces compaction, reduces thatch, increases oxygen movement to the roots, brings beneficial microorganisms to the surface, cuts runners, and allows better penetration of water, fertilizers, or control products into the soil.

Right after aerating, while the holes are open, is a good time to add SeaHume G, BGK 7500, products containing mycorrhiza, Crab Shell, Mule Mix and/or Cotton Burr Compost.  Even if you are not aerating, these products are great to add to your lawn and beds.
·        SeaHume G is a bio-stimulant humic acid product that will help your roots grow, soften up the soil, feed beneficial micro-organisms in the soil, make nutrients that are in the soil more available to the plants, and keep fertilizer from leaching. SeaHume G also contains 10% cold water seaweed. The seaweed also acts as a bio-stimulant and is a source of over 60 minor elements, amino acids, and natural chelating agents.
·        BGK 7500 is a granular organic product that has thatch eating bacteria mix in with a 03-03-03 fertilizer. BGK 7500 is also fortified with 6% humic acid.
·        04-04-04 Bolster and other products that contain mycorrhiza. By applying these products while the roots are exposed, the mycorrhiza can attach to the roots quickly. These friendly fungi will help the plant absorb water and nutrients from the soil while competing with bad fungus in the soil.
·        Crab Shell by Neptune’s Harvest will increase the chitin eating bacteria in the soil. These bacteria will help control nematodes and fungus. I would definitely use this product in areas that I have problems with large / brown patch.
·        Mule Mix (Turface) can last about 20 years in the soil and help manage moisture.  This is a clay product that has been super-heated until it pops!  This makes this product sterile as well as turns it into a little capillary.  This capillary holds water and then releases it as the plant needs it.  This product is used on baseball infields to manage the moisture levels in clay; otherwise the clay would be rock hard or moist and slimy. Mule Mix (Turface) will also keep fertilizer and water from leaching in sandy soils. Mule Mix (Turface) is great for wet or dry areas.
·        Cotton Burr Compost will add water holding capabilities to the soil by adding organic matter to the soil.  Cotton Burr Compost will soften up clay as well as giving sandy soil nutrient holding capacity.  Cotton Burr Compost is very high in nutrition and will also help increase populations of beneficial organisms in the soil.

All the above products will help conserve moisture as well.