University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Summer News Article

Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Staking plants, watering deeply, and harvesting strawberries often are some of the gardening tips for this month.
Blossom end rot shows up as dark, sunken spots on the blossom end of tomatoes, peppers, and squash. It's caused by a calcium imbalance in the plant -- the soil may have adequate calcium, but the plant isn't able to take up enough to supply the rapidly developing fruit. To minimize the problem, keep soil evenly moist, apply a layer of mulch to conserve moisture, don't overfertilize (especially avoid high-nitrogen fertilizer), and avoid damaging plant roots while cultivating.

If you have a strawberry bed, harvest frequently and remove any berries that show signs of grey mold or rot diseases. These berries not only are inedible, they quickly spread the diseases to other ripening fruits. Pick and remove the rotten berries and mulch under plants with straw to reduce contact with the ground where the disease spores reside.

Ground covers such as vinca, pachysandra, carpet bugle, and dead nettle (lamium) can be divided and transplanted now to create new beds or enlarge existing ones. On a cloudy, cool day, use a sharp shovel or trowel to separate offshoots from mother plants and transplant them into a shady new location. Keep them well watered.

Apple trees are notorious for setting more fruit than they can support. Usually the tree relieves this burden by dropping some young fruit in what's called the "June drop," but you may have to thin in addition to this natural drop. Try to leave six inches between fruits so they can develop to their full size and sweetness.

To encourage good rooting of new plants in the ground, make sure you water long enough to moisten the soil around the root zone of the plant. Sprinkling a little water on plants every day can do more harm than good by encouraging the roots to stay close to the surface where they are susceptible to drying out faster. Stick your finger into the soil and if it's dry two inches deep, it's time to water. Apply enough water to moisten the soil a bit deeper than the root zone.

Set your tomato supports in place before plants get too large. Smaller determinate varieties can be supported with small cages, but larger indeterminate varieties need large cages or tall stakes. Secure cages with stakes so they don't topple.

Support plants that tend to flop over now, while they're still small. Use wire rings and supports, or make your own by placing sturdy branches in the ground in a ring around the plant. Then loop twine from stake to stake to encircle the plant. Or you can wrap the twine around each stake and the one across from it, to make a criss-cross pattern for the plant stems to grow through. If you set the cages in place now, the foliage will soon hide them.

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