Articles, Blog

Conversations Live! Get Your Garden On – Fall 2019


– [Announcer] Support
for Conversations Live comes from the members
of WPSU and from the Environmental
Programming Endowment. And the Gertrude
J. Sandt Endowment. – Good evening and welcome
to Conversations Live, Get Your Garden On. I’m Anne Danahy. It’s fall and that means
it’s time to prepare your garden for the winter. Tonight, two experts
join us to discuss what’s on their to
do list for the fall. Plus we’ll hear their insights on the growing season. We’ll also get an
update on the invasive spotted lantern fly and
we’ll take your questions. Let’s meet our guests. Tom Butzler is a Penn State
Extension horticulture educator. He works with commercial
horticulture operations and the landscaping
community in Clinton County. His areas of expertise
are vegetable production and bee keeping. Tom Ford is also a
Penn State Extension horticulture expert
and educator. He works with commercial
horticulture operations and growers in Cambria County. His areas of expertise
include greenhouse and nursery production
and fruit trees. You, too, can join
tonight’s conversation. Our toll free number
is 1-800-543-8242. Our email address
is [email protected] Tom Butzler and Tom
Ford, thank you both for joining us tonight. – Thank you.
– Thank you. – Fall is the season when people are starting to
think about putting their gardens to
bed, maybe having a little free time in the winter, but it’s also a really good time to start planning
for the spring, and in particular I’m
thinking of planting bulbs, so we have daffodils,
we have hyacinths, we have tulips. Tom Ford, for people
who do want to enjoy those in the spring, what should they
be thinking about and doing right now? – Probably the most
important thing is get your bulbs early. Because the longer
they’re sitting in the garden center
or a mass merchandiser, the greater they’re
going to deteriorate. So, fresher is better, and then when you
think about planting, we like to try to
go ahead and prepare the soil thoroughly, like to
loosen it up a little bit. And then the rule of
thumb on planting is is usually, you
want to make sure that your planting
depth is about two to three times the
height of the bulb. So if the bulb is
an inch in length, basically you’re
going to go between 2 to 3 inches deep as far
as below the soil surface. – [Anna] Okay, so should
the people be doing that now, is this a
good month, October? – [Tom F.] Usually once we
turn the page to October 1, it’s bulb planting season. So we need to go ahead
and get them done, select our bulbs. We want to make sure
that when we’re planting bulbs that we plan them in mass. Don’t plant them like we
say single rank soldiers in a line. – [Anna] That’s ’cause
it creates a nice effect. If you have that
big kind of mass. – Right a drift or a mass. And then the other thing
that you can do, too, is somebody will say
well what about squirrels and chipmunks and
things that eat could possibly eat the bulbs? Well, there’s a couple
schools of thought. First off, daffodils
are poisonous to most of the rodents. So even if it would ingest, it would be the
last meal they had. So daffodils are
a good investment. Tulips are a
delicacy for rodents, so with tulips, one
of the old tricks of the trade is get
those green plastic mesh strawberry
boxes that you can go pretty much to your
local grocery store, get you a pint of strawberries, take that little mesh box, plant your bulb in that mesh box and then plant that
at the proper depth. That’ll stop the
tunneling of many of the rodents that may
be coming after your bulb. – Okay, so they’ll be good at least until they
come up and they get eaten by a deer or something. – [Tom F.] Maybe
a deer, but we do have repellents and such that can work on deer,
too, but you know the key thing that
we have to look at is bulbs do not like wet feet. So, avoid wet soils. They’re better off in a
full sunlight environment and again mass them. And daffodils will naturalize. Tulips typically
have a little bit shorter life for us
in our environment. – When’s the last
date that people can get those bulbs in? So if someone wants to
plant it in October, but for whatever reason
it just doesn’t happen, is there an end date
when okay, that’s it, you’ve gotta get those bulbs in? – I would rather see
you try to get the bulbs in in October, but if
you have to delay it, November and December are fine. The one thing you
don’t want to do is put the bulbs in a
drawer and forget about them until spring ’cause if you do that,
they’re not gonna come up. – You won’t get to enjoy
them, great advice. So unfortunately this
is also the time of year when we are on the
lookout for pests and invasive species
and I’m thinking about the spotted
lantern fly and that’s causing a lot of concerns
this year in Pennsylvania ’cause it’s moved
into some areas and there is quarantines
on some places, concerns about it. Tom Buztzer, can you
bring us up to speed on where things stand with
the spotted lantern fly, what people should
be looking for and where the areas
of concern are. – Sure, sure, so for
those folks looking on the screen right now, it’s an immature with
a black with white dots and right now
central Pennsylvania, western Pennsylvania
is kind of not facing the wrath of this insect. It’s really relegated
to the eastern part of the state and I
think it’s 13 counties that are under a quarantine and some of the counties
in the surrounding states also have a
breeding population. So there is an extensive
effort to kind of keep it contained until the
research catches up maybe with some biological
control mechanisms, maybe some insecticide sprays, things that might
keep it contained. There is a big concern
with this insect because of the damage it can do to our agricultural industry. And so what we’re
encouraging folks to do is recognize the
different life stages of this insect. So on your screen
right now you see the egg life stage and
the lower left-hand corner is the little eggs. It’s typically covered
with a gray mass, a material to kind of
give it some protection over the winter
and the those eggs will hatch out in the spring. But right now we’re
dealing with the adults and their egg
laying capabilities, so that’s kind of the stages
we’re seeing right now. The adult, very colorful. It’s not a real
aggressive flyer. It’s movement really
is hitchhiking on either people, clothes, well, not necessarily clothes
but on equipment, vehicles and so that is really how we think it’s gonna spread outside these quarantine zone. And again, the
emphasis is trying to limit the damage to
the agriculture industry, so in the picture that’s
showing up on your screen now, is a mass of adults
spotted lantern flies on a grapevine and these
have piercing sucking mouth pots that are sucking out the juices of the tree, the sap, the vine here in this case. It’s gonna weaken the plant, but also as it
feeds, it’s excreting a lot of material underneath it and it gets kind of sticky and it gets black over time and it really
degrades the quality of the product, some of
these agricultural products, especially in the
grape industry. – So that’s where the
damage could come in. So right now we’ve got
the spotted lantern fly and it’s still kind
of in that fly stage. If you don’t see it now, you want to keep on
the lookout to see it in the egg mass? – Right, so right
now those females are actively laying eggs and eventually, they
will die off with this colder weather. And what will left behind, you know, in the late
fall into the winter will just be that egg stage and so if that’s
something that we see, at least in central Pennsylvania or the western
part of the state, you do need to contact
the authorities so that, you know,
we can kind of start manning up an effort
in this part of the state. Once you report it,
then you’d want to scrape it off, maybe bottle it, if they need a specimen
or just eliminate it. – Okay, so if you’re in an area where it doesn’t have
a large presence yet, you want to make sure
that you report it, try to keep it at bay
for as long as possible. – That’s correct. Penn State has a website,
a very extensive website with a lot of fact
sheets, pictures, showing the life
cycle, some calendars showing the different
life stages. So, for those folks
that aren’t familiar with it, it’s a great resource, but there are also some
phone numbers for contact, as does the PDA, Pennsylvania
Department of Agriculture has some contact information and some other, you know
life cycle information. – So great, and right
now it’s the fall season and people are starting to think about putting their
gardens to bed. What are some tips that
you have for people who want to start
wrapping things up? We’ll start with
you Tom Butzler. – Okay, well, you
know, the garden is slowly dying off or synessing You know, I guess
the first thing is to make sure that you get some of the stuff out of the garden that’s still kind of hanging on. Here in central Pennsylvania, the first frost is what,
middle of October I think. And so you might want to go out and harvest some
of those tomatoes that are still on the vine, bring in some of
the winter gourds, get them out so they
can cure properly and then, you know,
stay three, four months in some sort of storage area. So, harvest, what’s
left out there and then start
putting it to bed. Could be removing the
stakes, the trellis system. It could mean at this
point, you still have time to put in a cover crop. You know, put something down so that the soil remains in place, some of the nutrients
are captured and saved over to the
following growing season. – Tom Ford, what do you think? What would you tell people who are getting ready they should have on their
checklist for the fall? – Well, one of the
first things to me is the soil testing. Because first off we
think about lawns. We also have vegetable
gardens as well. When you think about the
average vegetable garden, most of the crops
we grow like to have a higher soil pH, usually 6.2, 6.5. When you start dealing with
things like potatoes, though, they like a pH around 5.2. So there’s a variation in pHs, but if a home gardener
just routinely puts lime down, they
may increase the pH so high, that encourages
scabble in potatoes. Or if causes micronutrients
to be tied up. In the home lawn situation, if we have to increase the pH to a 6.2, 6.5 level, lime takes
about six months to work. So it’s very important
that a home gardener get that soil test done now so the appropriate amendments can be applied prescriptively to get that core
benefit for next spring. – Okay, interesting,
so you don’t want to just wait till spring
and think you can do it. So while we’re talking
a little bit about some of this stuff
that you can take to get ready for the spring, why don’t you give us
a call, 1-800-543-8242. This is Conversations
Live on WPSU and we’re getting some tips on having a great garden
season in the fall and moving into spring, too. So you want to make sure
you’re testing your soil pH. What about weeding? Do you really need to get
into the weeds literally and weed it? Sometimes it seems
like oh, I can just kind of maybe put some
mulch on top of it and call it a day. Is there a better
approach for that? – Well, a lot of the weeds that we saw this past summer are
basically summer annuals. So the first hard
frost could have killed a majority of them. If we have any
winter annuals or if we have any perennial weeds, the perennial weeds
can be a problem next year for us, but a lot of those winter
annuals and such, if you’re gonna till or
plow that garden down, you’re gonna mitigate
a lot of that weed growth anyways. But mulching would
be a good idea. It keeps the soils
a little warm. It may keep the soils
a little more friable so they’re easy to work. There are some home
gardeners who do not want to practice tillage
and what they’ll do is they’ll scavenge
cardboard appliance boxes. And they’ll cut
them to large sheets and lay them over their garden when their garden’s
finished for the season and chokes out
the weeds and then next spring they flip
the cardboard over and they simply
plant without doing any type of tillage. – You’re good to go. So what’s the disadvantage
of tilling now? Some people don’t
like to do that, they just kind of
want to let it rest? Any problems with that? – There’s two schools
of thoughts on that. There’s folks that
really kind of like to bust up that soil, get
it really kind of loose, but it does destroy some
of the soil structure, maybe dry it out
quicker, maybe interfere with some of the
microorganism activity there, so there is some folks out there that like to keep things
in places as Tom mentioned. But when you do till the soil, it does allow you to work
in the organic matter, let’s say you’re
using a cover crop or you’re putting some
compost or mulch on. If you’re working into the soil, it does build up
that soil structure a little quicker. You know, some people
use it as a means of weed control. You know, you have
some germinating weeds, one way to mitigate
the weed from, well, prevent that weed
from growing any further is basically to till it under or disturb, you know,
it’s root structure. So, you know there’s some
pros and cons with that one. I also understand there’s
kind of pros and cons with some weeding, too. There’s the school
of thought that hey, maybe it’s good to
leave some of those plants and their seeds there
because those are good for the birds
and for other animals and if you pull everything out, uproot it and take it away, then it’s nothing
left for the birds. Any truth to that? – You know, it’s not mentioned. Most of the weeds in
the garden right now are your summer annual weeds. They will be dying off. You could let them
stand for birds, but you will have
some of those seeds drop off in the soil, they’ll be able to
survive in the winter and if you don’t do
anything it could be a major problem
in the spring. But as Tom had mentioned, he had mentioned
this term mulch. If you put down some sort
of mulch in the spring as you’re planting,
late spring or summer, that will prevent a lot of those weed seeds from germinating. Or if they germinate,
they just can’t see the sunlight and they
eventually die off. So you could leave
those weeds around. Just be aware that you
need to take some action in the spring to
prevent that from being just a jungle out there
and so the term is mulching in the planting season. – There’s another issue, too, is pathogen reduction
because there are certain pathogens, certain diseases
we have seen coming in on vegetable crops and
so by incorporating those organic residues
in some situations, we may reduce that
pathogen from carrying over for the following season. So in some cases tillage
may be recommended. – [Anna] Okay. – With corn for example. There is an odd disease
we’ve been seeing more frequently called
diplodia ear blight. And it’s usually seen
in sweet corn fields where they use no till
with commercial fields. The number one recommendation to control it is tillage. And, of course, we try
to minimize tillage today because we’re worried
about health and things like that at Chesapeake Bay, we’re worried
about soil erosion. But there are times
where tillage may be the best practice. – One reason you
want to avoid tillage in some cases it to
prevent some of the runoff into the waterways,
but sometimes it is the better way to go. And just talking a little
bit more about mulching. So you can mulch
your garden bed, try to keep the weeds
down and kind of give it some nourishment
for this spring, what about your trees
and your flower beds, what’s the best
approach for that? – Well, the first thing is that majority of people over mulch, especially when you think
about trees and shrubs. All of us has seen
the volcanoes of mulch in commercial landscapes. That should be the
best how to video on how not to do it. We have a photograph right here. We’ve seen in some cases where I’ve seen 18 inches,
24 inches of mulch placed up around the tree. It does two things. It encourages collar rot. It impacts the depth of rooting, and in some cases could
encourage surface rooting, which then the surface
rooting can then turn into a girdling root, which can basically encircle
the trunk of the tree and kill the tree. So, it can be very
traumatic and end up resulting in the loss
of your plant material. – So the root actually starts
to grow around the tree. – Around the tree. We also see it if a tree
was grown in a round pot. At times that circular
root pattern is maintained and we see the horror stories. Tom and I both get
called out to sites. You can see an entire
street tree planning, where the trees are dying. They’re trying to
blame the gas company. In some cases, it’s a gas leak. It’s why all the trees are dying and you see girdling
roots the side of your arm wrapped up around the trunk, basically constricting
the vascular tissue and as it constricts
the vascular tissue, the tree starts to die. – So make sure you
leave enough room for those roots to grow well. If you’re just joining
us, I’m Anne Danahy and this is Conversations
Live, Get Your Garden On on WPSU TV, FM radio and
online at wpsu.org/live. Joining us tonight are
Penn State Extension horticulture educators
Tom Butzler and Tom Ford. Our toll free number
is 1-800-543-8242 and our panel is ready
to take your calls. You can also send us
questions by email at [email protected] So we’ve been
talking a little bit about the wrong way to mulch. What is the right way to mulch? When you are mulching the trees, what do you want to do? – No more than two
to three inches of accumulated mulch, which means you don’t add
2 to 3 inches each year. You basically when you
look at the depth of mulch, it should be 2 to
3 inches, no more. There should be no
mulch coming in contact with the bark of
a tree or a shrub. They’re the key areas. The mulch should be
flattened out over an area, never mounted up
against the trunk. – Okay, never the
dreaded mulch volcano. – [Tom F.] Right. – What about lawns? Do we want to do anything
to take care of our lawn in the fall, is this a good time to reseed or fertilize,
what’s the best approach? – This is the best time
to take care of your lawn. In Pennsylvania we grow what
we call cool season grasses. So they grow actively
in the spring and actively in the fall. They go somewhat
dormant in the summer. So right now Tom had
mentioned soil testing for the garden. I think he also
said the lawn, too. It’s a great time to
take the soil test for the Lawn, but
it’s also a good time if you got some thread
bare sections in the turf, it’s a good time
to do some seeding or a good time to do
some aerification, where you’re taking
little small cores out of the lawn. It’s a destructive practice. It’s something
you do in the fall when the grasses are
actively growing, but it relieves compaction. It might, you can top dress it, you can get some
organic matter down into that rooting zone,
so it really improves the health of the soil. And then finally if you’ve
got some weed issues in the lawn, it’s a good
time to deal with some of those weeds as
they’re translocating material down into the roots. It would very
effective at that time. – And you mentioned aerating, so is that the same as kind
of just poking some holes in the yard or do you
actually have to make sure some of the dirt comes out? – Yeah, so there is some
equipment that you can hole over the lawn,
it just pokes hole and that’s really
not very effective. It probably does
more negative things to your lawn than beneficial. The idea is that
you have something that goes down into
the rooting zone of the turf and
pulls out the cores, dirt and little bits of root. And it kind of tosses it up on the soil surface. It looks kind of bad at first, it almost looks
like you had a visit from a goose, what do you
call a grouping of geese? – [Tom F.] A flock. – A flock, there
you go, that visited because it looks almost
like goose droppings. But over time that
tends to break apart and it kind of works
its way back down into the soil where you
had the cores removed. So it is destructive, looks
kind of rough initially, but for long-term
it really improves the health of a lawn. – Aerating and seeding it, okay. So also in the fall,
this is when they’ve got the leaves coming
down on the lawn and there’s different schools
of thought on this, too. There’s people that
like heavy duty raking, they’re gonna rake the
lawn and there’s also people who think no, you
want to let the leaves go into the yard,
maybe mow them, serve as a natural fertilizer. What are the pros
and cons on that Tom? – So are there any kids
listening to this show? They probably don’t want
to hear the cons to this so they can use
this as an argument to not go out and
rake the leaves, but I think there’s
a lot more pros to raking leaves than cons. Some of these mature trees,
when they drop their leaves, there’s a lot of leaves
on the ground there and as I mentioned before, our cool season grasses
are actively growing in this cool weather
and so with those leaves falling on that surface there, it’s gonna really
reduce photosynthesis and potentially weaken
that stand of grass. And the other thing is
we get a rain spell, rainy weather, those leaves
will tend to mat down and almost act like a
mulch and it could kill, I mean I’ve seen
situations where if those leaves are not removed, it will kill that
grass underneath. – Forming a blanket
almost on the lawn, okay. – If it’s a light
enough leaf drop, just run a lawnmower over
it and shred them up. I mean, it will add some
nutrients to the soil, some organic matter over time, but just to leave leaves
lay on the surface of the lawn, I don’t
think it’s a good idea. – Yeah, and the other thing
is pathogen removal again because we look at the
two springs in a row we had very wet weather. We saw a lot of anthracnose,
a lot of tar spot. They’re diseases that
cause premature leaf drop in things like maples and oaks. So, if those leaves remain there through the winter, they
will sporulate in the spring and potentially start that
infection cycle back over. – Okay, so the
downside to that, too. Okay, looks like we’re
getting a caller. We have Lenny from
Blairsville calling. Hi, Lenny, thanks for
calling Conversations Live. What can we help
you with tonight? – [Lenny] Over the
years, I’ve practiced no till in my garden
and this time of year, I prepare the garden for
my tomatoes and peppers and I mulch and, like
I said I don’t till. And I have had a bad
experience this past spring when I planted my pepper
and tomato seedlings, the soil was basically muck. Then I still had to plant. It was late May. It didn’t look like
we were gonna frost. I’ve kept journals on
this area I live in and we generally don’t
have a hard frost after the frost or so in May. So I planted, but the
plants really struggled to get a start with
the soil being so wet and especially peppers. I know they like dry scape. And I actually just started
getting pepper production. So I’m not yanking them out yet. – [Anne] So you’re
wondering if it’s a no till? – [Lenny] How do you dry it out when you pre-mulch in the fall? – Well, that’s one
of the disadvantages with putting that mulch down is it does conserve
that soil moisture, doesn’t allow it to dry
out and you know last year, at least in Center County, I didn’t see it
here, Blairsville. I’m sure it was very
similar down there. I mean it was a wet,
wet several months with all the rainfall we had and so when you have that
mulch on that soil surface, that garden surface,
it’s not allowing it to dry out for
some of that water to evaporate off. As to correcting that problem, other than not mulching it, just kind of either
pulling it off. – Yeah, probably the best thing would have been just to pull
the mulch off temporarily, try to allow it to hopefully
dry out a little bit, then pull the mulch back in. Tillage actually
may have expedited the shallow tillage
and like I say till six inches or eight
inches to plow that, but a light shallow soil move may expedite some
of the moisture. In the timeframe, Lenny,
you’re talking about up until about the
first or second week of June, many of those
areas in the central and western PA were anywheres from 5 to 8 inches
over the norm still. – [Tom B.] That’s true, yep. – So, it’s a situation. We were dealing with, again, and over application
as far as rain and there really wasn’t
much we could do about it, but all you can do is
pull the mulch back, do some shallow tillage
to try to expedite some of that moisture loss
and the only other thing would be is possibly mound,
create a smaller berm within your garden
area and then plant the tomatoes in that berm. That would have given you a
little bit better drainage. The peppers, in
particular, ’cause peppers hate wet feet. – Okay, well, we
hope that helps Lenny and we also have
another call now from Mary in State College. Hi, Mary, thanks for
calling Conversations Live. What can we help you with? – [Mary] Well, hello. I’m been having some
pumpkin problems. Last year I had pumpkin vines, very big and healthy and
many blossoms and blooms, but no pumpkins and this
year the same thing, big healthy vines and blossoms. And finally I did
just get two pumpkins, maybe four weeks ago. And by the way, I’m growing them on black plastic underneath. So I was just wondering if
I’m doing something wrong or was it the weather? What’s happening to
prevent pumpkins? – What can she do to
get better pumpkins? – I know this year
with the growers that I work with and
visit, I mean it’s a pretty good pumpkin year. So I guess a couple of
things that might come, you know, I would
ask you is one, when those blossoms were open, did you notice any
visitations by honeybees or bumblebees or
squash bees moving that pollen from the male
flower to the female flower? – [Mary] No, not specifically, but I had bees in my
garden so I thought, well, bees were around,
but I can’t tell you they went to the
pumpkin blossoms. – Right, so yeah, maybe
pollination wasn’t an issue. I mean usually if you
got bees in the garden, they’re probably gonna
visit those flowers. I guess the other thing would be did you apply fertilizer
to these pumpkins? – [Mary] No, I didn’t, sorry. – No, no, no,
sometimes if you put too much nitrogen down, you promote excess
of plant growth at the expense of fruit growth. You’re promoting
vegetative growth instead of reproductive growth and so sometimes
we see that where people put down
too much nitrogen or too much compost. – Yeah, compost and manure
can be an issue, too. Also mushroom substrate. All three of those
things basically can increase excess fertility. If the leaves were
healthy, dark green, giant like elephant ears, somewhere along the
line their fertility was too high. – [Anne] Okay. – But it was a good year
for pumpkin growers. Now the other thing, I
guess the comment on that is, you know, there
are some diseases and that’s something
that our growers battle every year,
but that necessarily doesn’t interfere
with fruit production. It might lengthen the life span of that plant, but
usually fruit is set. – So a couple of
different variables. So Mary, we hope
you have better luck with your pumpkins. And we have another call
now from John in Jefferson. Hi, John, thank you for
calling Conversations Live, Get your Garden On. What can we help you with? – [John] Hi, guys. I’ve had a problem
with blossom end rot on my tomatoes
for several years. I was at a show down
at State College and they told me
that this disease can be harbored in the
soil and not go away. I also from our
home garden center, I bought some, I guess
it’s a copper spray that you spray every
seven to 10 days, but you’re not supposed to put more than four applications
on in a season. That seemed to help,
but I work out of town and I’m not readily available or I forget to make the
application of this spray. And you can tell these
plants are blighted because far before
season for these tomatoes to ripen,
habitually every year the plants start to die off. Of course, then all
the crop on the plant begins to rot. So what can I do to either
eradicate this disease or do something different
with my fertilization? Now one thing I was
told is I use Manure T. We have horses
and I use Manure T instead of fertilizer
most of the time and someone told me
that by over watering with this rich Manure T, that I could also
damage the tomatoes, so there’s a couple
of things for you to get your mind into. – Yeah, there’s a lot in that question there,
those comments. And I’ll answer part of it and then Tom can jump in. I’ll answer the
disease part of it. You know there are several
diseases that occur on tomatoes, a warm season crop and on the monitor
we’re seeing one of them which is light blight on tomato. That one’s not one that
happens every year. We’re seeing it more and more, but it’s not every year, but there’s others
that happen every year and it’s really
critical to identify what disease you
are dealing with and then it will
help you to determine what management
practice to take. I mean we have some
fungal leaf diseases. We have some copper
leaf diseases and he mentioned, wait. – [Tom F.] Bacterial. – Bacterial, I’m sorry. So he mentioned, so there’s
fungal leaf diseases and bacterial leaf diseases. And he mentioned
the use of copper and that is one that
is really effective on our bacterial leaf diseases, so it’s really critical for him to identify why these
plants are dying off and I suggest maybe contact
his local extension office so we can take some samples in. They may not be
able to identify it, but at least they
can either take some pictures of
it and send it off or send some samples
up to Penn State’s plant disease clinic. So that’s really important
to kind of hone in on the problem and
then we can come up with that management strategy. But the other thing
you mentioned John was blossom end rot
and even though we kind of classify that as a disease, it’s not caused by
a living organism. – Yeah, blossom end rot’s
actually physiological and when you look
at your Manure T, and any time we also use
any other fertilizers, if they tend to have what
we can ammoniacal nitrogen, it can exacerbate
blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is
caused by calcium uptake, so it’s actually a
localized calcium deficiency that appears in that
blossom end of that tomato. So, uneven moisture,
inconsistent moisture, the wrong form of nitrogen, excess applications
of potassium, all those things can impact
and cause blossom end rot. – So lots of different
possibilities and it sounds like
he definitely needs to narrow it down,
maybe get a sampling and see if he can get some
testing done to do that. Okay, if you’re just
joining Anne Danahy, and this is Conversations
Live Get Your Garden On on WPSU TV FM radio and
online at wpsu.org/live. Joining us tonight are
Penn State Extension horticulture educators
Tom Butzler and Tom Ford. Our toll free number
is 1-800-543-8242 and our panel is ready
to take your calls. You can also send us
questions by email at [email protected] And I think we already
have another call. This is from Ashok
in State College. Thank you for calling
and what’s your question? – [Ashok] Hello, thank you. I did a soil test
in my back yard and I was recommended
to put lime and also some fertilizer, but when I put the
fertilizer, I put too much and I have some
patches of burnt grass and I think at least I said
I’ll leave it alone now. So I don’t know if
that’s the best thing to just leave it alone. – Well, probably
the best thing to do to try to mitigate the amount
of injury you’re seeing would be to leach
heavily with clear water because when you actually
over apply a fertilizer, we don’t think about
fertilizers as being salt based, but they are salts
and when they have too high a concentration
of a salt in the root zone, water moves from the
plant into the soil to dilute the salt, which
causes a chemical burn. So, the best
scenario we can have for you to try to
get some relief and to get some recovery
would be to take really copious
amounts of clear water and to irrigate
thoroughly where the quote injury is. Once you have leached
it, then what I would do is take a rake, scratch
the soil up a little bit, abrase it and then go
ahead and over seed. As long as you’ve reduced
the salt concentration in the soil there,
you should be able to go ahead and get the
grass to reestablish. – So hopefully that will help. – Great, thank you. – You’re welcome. And we have another question
coming in via email. And Frank wants to know,
“When is the best time “to plant garlic? “Is it possible to plant cloves “purchased in the
grocery store?” Any garlic secrets that
you want to share with us? So can you just go
to the grocery store and you buy some garlic and then just put the
cloves in, is that okay? Are there any
tricks of the trade? – I don’t know. I guess you could buy
garlic in the store and plant it. I mean it’s an excellent time
to plant garlic right now into November, early
December, but as for store, I’ve never tried that. I guess it would work. – You could do it. The concerns would be
is that a lot of times we buy garlic in the
store, we’re buying that little white hard garlic
that’s in the little package. The quality may not be good as compared to
some of the garlic that’s been raised
specifically for planting. We may actually get
some better cultivars, better varieties, more
pungent aromas from it. So even though physically
and scientifically you can do it, you could
probably get better varieties. – Okay, so hopefully that helps. You can do it if you want to, if that’s all the garlic
you can get your hands on, but maybe try to get something that’s specifically
made for planting. Well, that’s an excellent
time to talk about what, if anything, can be
planted this time of year. So, garlic, onions, is
there anything else, or is it really just
getting to be too late? – It’s really getting
to be pretty late. I mean if you can get
some lettuce seedlings that have been started
in somebody’s greenhouse, you still have a couple
of weeks of growth with that, I think. Asparagus and rhubarb
can be planted. That’s for next spring, though. It’s not like you
will be getting that, harvesting anything now. I guess for the really
entrepreneurial gardeners out there, there
are ways to extend the growing season
for several weeks, well beyond the frost events and that’s using some
of these low tunnels and so you create
this micro-climate and so you could,
you know, push that, lettuce, spinach, radishes,
well into late fall or early winter. So there are ways to kind of
extend that growing season, but just for the
traditional garden which has kind of opened
up to that atmosphere. You know there’s very
little at this point, it’s getting kind of late. – Time’s running out, okay, unless you want to protect
it from the frost somehow. – Right, and there’s always
the odd vegetables, too. There’s one was call a
mashe or a corn salad, some people call it
a lamb’s lettuce. You can actually brush
the snow off of it and harvest it. It’s not grown too frequently
in the United States, but in Europe it’s a staple, but that’s one
that we could plant for quote that winter garden. – [Anne] Okay. – There are other people that, my father was one, who
would plant turnips and even if he didn’t
get a lot of turnips, the idea was then
they would become a green manure crop for him. – [Anne] Oh, okay. – And so, we would also get
a couple bushels of turnips that we could use
basically early winter to feed the family. – Okay, so for the
gardeners out there, they can still get a
few more things in, kind of extend the seasons. – [Tom B.] The
window’s narrowing. – Yeah, act now. We have another call from
Marlene in Morrisville. Marlene, thanks for
calling Conversations Live, what can we help you with? – [Marlene] Well, thank
you and good evening to all of you. Great show, I love your show. – Thank you. – [Marlene] And I have a comment on the blossoms on tomatoes. I’ve been gardening
for 50 years plus and I used to have,
that was a big problem and old timer told me, you
plant two calcium tablets with every tomato
plant and you’ll never have blossom end rot and I says that’s
exactly what happened. I have never had blossom end rot since I started doing that. So I find that interesting. I though I’d pass that along. – [Anne] Thank you Marlene. – [Marlene] Really,
if you have too much. My question is if you
have too much clover in your grass, how
do you get rid of it? Or what do you do? Should I leave it,
it looks pretty, but we made the mistake
of putting in a new yard and planting too much
clover seed when we did it so we have a lot of clover. And we also have moss. So I would like to
know if you can tell me what I can do for
those two problems and I’m going to hang up
and listen to your answer and thank you very much. – Thanks Marlene,
so clover and moss, two different problems. – Right, well, for the moss one, you typically see moss in a lawn because of a couple
different situations. One, it’s just too
wet and so grass isn’t really gonna grow in that, moss will kind of
cover that empty niche. Or it can be too acidic and Tom had talked about soil testing and that’s one way to
alleviate that issue is by, you know, the proper pH. And the third one
is dense shade. So most of our
grass is really like a lot of sunlight, not a lot, but they need sunlight
and if it’s not there, then something else
will grow there and then moss
typically moves in. So those three
issues right there could easily address
the moss issue. As for the clover one, I
guess either one, accept it. I mean there are a lot of
pollinators that visit that. One issue I hear
with some homeowners is that their kids
are running around, you got all those
flowers in the turf and then a kid would
step on a clover that’s being visited
by like a honeybee. – [Anne] Oh, so a
higher risk of getting stung by a bee possibly. – Possibly, I mean
it’s kind of rare occurrence or event. But either start over by just killing everything in the
lawn and then receding or them applying a
selective herbicide that goes after
broad-leafed weeds, which clover is. And allowing, you
know that grass to kind of grow up
through that done clover. – She also said they’re
kind of pretty, though, so I mean in a way, maybe
say there’s no harm in it. – No, there’s not. The thing with clover
is that aesthetically it may not look perfect, but it is supplying nitrogen to that grass that’s
growing around it and then it’s serving
as a nectar source for these pollinators,
honeybees and others. I mean, there’s a lot
of benefits to it. I think at some
point maybe we need to start accepting
some of these lawns that maybe don’t
look the greatest, but, you know, we’re getting
some other benefits from it. – [Anne] Right. – The other thing is, too, if she’s against
using chemistries, raising the mower height, letting the grass
growing a little taller, adjusting the mower
height to 3, 3-1/4 inches, you may get some
shading of the clover and make the clover
less competitive and the other thing
is as Tom alluded to, Moss is an opportunist. Something’s usually not
right with the soil, so start with a soil test. She may need the lime, she may need to apply
more phosphorous, but if she makes the
grass more competitive, that’ll make the clover
less competitive. – It won’t eliminate it. – But it will reduce
the competitiveness. – Okay, some great advice there. And we have another call. This is from Susan
in State College. Hi, Susan, thanks for
calling Conversations Live, Get Your Garden On. What can we help you with. – [Susan] Well, I’m curious
about the application of mushroom manure
on flower beds Pittsburgh seemed to
use this all the time and when I moved here,
nobody seemed to use it. I tried it this last fall and had really good
luck with this, but I’m just wondering what they think about mushroom
manure being used as a mulch in the fall. – Okay, great question. So mushroom manure, what is that and do you recommend
it Tom Ford. – Well, it’s what we call
spent mushroom substrate. And so when a mushroom
house turns over, what they grew the
mushrooms on is a substrate is considered a waste product. So it enters typically
the landscape supply yards and the
it’s solely distributed. The downside of using
mushroom substrate can be the soluble salts levels. Okay, we don’t think about it, but there’s a
soluble salt level, elevated soluble salts that can actually
cause plant injury, just like your
previous caller saw with fertilizers and lawns. So the key issue is
use it in moderation. If someone puts two
to three inches down, like we suggested with mulch, that could be significantly bad for herbaceous plant material. So we would rather
see a light top dress or incorporation in a
quarter inch, half inch, but not the 2 to
3 inches that we sometimes recommend with
harbored bulk mulches. – Okay, great advice,
so don’t over do it if you’re going to us it. – Yes. – Right, great. And we have another call. This one is from
Rick on Johnstown. Hi, Rick, thanks for calling and what’s your question. – [Rick] My question
basically is more like watering your plants. If you’re not blessed
with like a well to water your
plants and you have to use city water,
how would that affect the plants like after
a various effect, especially if you’re on like
the tail end of the line of the water
system, you know you get all the chemicals
and poisons and whatever. How would that
affect your plants? – So where the water
is coming from, is that an issue that you
need to be concerned about? – [Rick] Yeah, like
a lot of people aren’t blessed with the
well and clean water, but you have to
use city water to water your plants
so how would that. – Tom, I couldn’t hear. – Thanks for your
question, Rick. I think what Rick
was asking about is where the water comes from, if it’s from a well or if you’re at the end of a line. Does where it comes from, is that going to affect
the quality of it. – Almost any water source can have potential
consequences, okay? When we think about well water, we don’t think about the amount of calcium carbonate
that’s in the water supply. We have elevated calcium
carbonate in a well, that’s actually when you water, you actually put a dose of
limestone around your plants. Every time you water,
it raises the pH and ties up iron. When you look at a
public water supply, a lot of times they
keep the pH high so that metals don’t
become available to the people in the home. So you sometimes
you’ll see the pH’s is elevated as well. The concern would be with
something like fluoride, only with fluoride
sensitive plants. When you think about the old
traditional spider plant, and we always used
to see the brown tips and people would
cut the brown tips off the spider plant. That’s fluoride toxicity. So there are some plants that if the municipal
water supply is injecting fluoride, it can injure some plants, but majority of plants are
not impacted by fluoride. At the chlorine levels,
they’re being used at municipal plants. That chlorine’s not
gonna be an issue either. So, municipal
water is considered to be probably one of
the safest water sources for most plant material. – Okay, so are you
pretty well okay then to just go ahead and use it. Do you recommend
getting it tested or is it really just if
you start to see problems that you would want to
get your water tested? – Usually most municipalities
have water testing done. You can ask for a
copy of their report. Once in a while we’ll run
into a rural water system that’s on a well field and in their situation,
they may have their elevated calcium carbonate levels. In Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, is one of the areas I work in, the alkalinity level is like over 300 parts per million. So they’re getting
significant dose of limestone every
time they irrigate. One client who worries about
his turf turning yellow because the high pH
ties the iron up, he actually injects
sulfuric acid every time he irrigates
through his water supply to try to keep the pH
artificially suppressed in the soil. – Okay, so it just depends. – [Tom F.] It all depends. – We have another
question and this one’s about oak tress and
Linda sent us an email. And Linda wants to know,
“What causes certain “oak trees to produce
large quantities of acorns “in a given year and
which variety of oak tree “is having a mast year in
Pennsylvania for fall 2019?” So we know there’s some
years there’s just acorns everywhere and in some
years not so much. What’s behind that? – Good question. I’m not sure. – The squirrels just get
lucky some years I guess. – In my area in the
Blair County area, Red Oaks have a significant
level of acorns this year. They’re producing
massive, mass crop. And the white oaks
in my area are not. But I think it
depends on your area a lot of times. It depends on plant stress. If a plant is stressed more, the tendency is you
may produce heavily from a reproductive standpoint. The second thing
you look at, too, is if we have very
late spring frost, they may actually remove
some of those flowers from that oak tree, as well. So there are other
environmental variables. But I don’t look at
there’s some message always being sent when
we look at a mass crop. Somebody will say
well, we’re gonna have a terrible winter because
the mass crop’s so heavy. Other times, it’s other
environmental factors. A lot of times,
stressors on the plant. – Okay, but hopefully
they’ll still be okay in the next year
and we have call from John in Huntington. Hi, John, thanks for
calling Conversations Live and what can we help you with? Hi, John, I think
you’ve got your TV on in the background, if
it might be possible to turn that down. – [John] We toilet our dogs in one particular
area of the yard and I presume there’s. – So we have an
issue with the dogs and if you’re
taking the dogs out and are they gonna cause
problems on the lawn? – Right. – [John] Would
the salt build up? – Right, it’s the same situation that Tom talked about
a couple of callers ago about the over
fertilization of a lawn and they got the burning and that fertilizer is a salt and so also in urine
stream or urine coming out of a pet animal, there’s a salt in
there and if it does it in the same spot
where you’ve trained it to go to the bathroom
in a specific area, that salt builds up in the soil and it will kill everything
in close proximity, turf or whatever
plants are there. And again, the only
way to correct that is to have that dog trained
to go maybe elsewhere, you know, vary it’s routine or to drench that area with water or hope for a wet fall to drain those salts out of there. – Okay, so the
same type of issue and the same type of solution to like rinse it out. – [Tom B.] Same as
the fertilizer which
Tom talked about. – With water. – And the only
other thing possible is an application of gypsum. Gypsum, usually 40
pounds per square feet. We use that with salt injury
from the icing compounds and so that’s another option if for whatever reason
they’re not able to leach effectively. – And we have a call
from Charles in Kane. Hi, Charles, thanks for
calling Conversations Live. What can we help you with? – [Charles] Well, we
have a dehumidifier in our basement and
I collect the water out of it during the summer and we’ve been using
it to water our plants. We have container
plants on our deck and I’m just wondering
if that’s a bad idea due to the chemicals
that are in the metal that’s in the dehumidifier. – Great question. So it’s great, he’s
reusing the water. Does it cause any
problems or issues? – Not that I’m aware
of, I do the same thing. I haven’t had any
burning of my plants. – Yeah, when you’re
dehumidifier water first off, the only thing they warn
against is drinking it because of bacterial
contamination. But when you think of
that dehumidified water, it’s basically distilled water. There’s no minerals in it. The pH is very, I guess
you could say fluid based on what you
would add to it. The metals may
impart some things as far as if it was zinc
or galvanized metal, but as long as the
pH in the container around the plants in that
six, five, seven range, it’s not gonna impact
the plants whatsoever. – [Anne] Okay. – [Tom B.] Been
doing it for years, never had a problem with
any of the houseplants, so. – Okay, great,
well there you go. So, while we’re on
the topic of water, last year we had record rainfall and precipitation in some
parts of Pennsylvania and it’s not the same this year, but I’m just
wondering are we still feeling the effects of that? Are you getting
calls or questions from people just for all
of that precipitation last year and what
they’re feeling and seeing today Tom Ford. – We have seen some
commercial landscapes where they lost 25 to $30,000
worth of plant material because of overly
wet soil conditions, which caused a disease called phytophthora root rot,
use in particular. We lost conifers in
Christmas tree fields. So, we went through
the wet season. We ended up seeing some
plants unfortunately suffer. So they’re suffering,
we’re going through a dry spell right now,
so all that may do is actually expedite the decline of some of those
plants that were sort of trying to recover. So the dry conditions
are not helping. The wet conditions
early in the year definitely didn’t help either. – The other thing we’re seeing, Tom mentioned some root rot, but in some of our
really tight soils high in clay content, with
that extended wet spell that we had for several months, those soils are saturated
and remain saturated for a long period of time
and roots do need to breathe. There’s an exchange
of gases occurring down in that soil and so
when all those air spaces are filled up or pushed
out and it’s just water, they basically
drown, so I saw that on some of the landscapes
with a lot of clay. Normally that would be okay, the water would be
able to drain off, but without any rest or
break in the wet weather, it really caused some damage. – Yeah, so hopefully
things will continue at a normal level this
year and into next year and we have a call from
Mona in Coudersport. Hi, Mona, thanks for
calling Conversations Live. What can we help you with? – [Mona] Thank you, ma’am. My question is in
regard to apple trees. We have quite a few in our yard and this year it seems like they’ve lost their leaves early and some of the trees look like, almost like half the tree died and the apples weren’t very good and they had green
spots on them. – Okay. Yeah, what we saw with
apples was apple scab. It’s a fungal disease. Basically starts pretty
much really close to bud break on apples and then usually about the
mid part of May, sometimes early June,
the spores release in the atmosphere,
they’re called ascospores. And the only way you
can prevent apple scab is prophylactic
applications of fungicides. Apples, crab apples,
apple scab will defoliate, except the very tip
growth of that apple tree. – And I think part of
the reason it was worse, I get the idea that
she’s calling in because it was
really bad this year is because of the
weather that we had. – [Anne] Last year. – Right, so this is
a disease that likes that wet spring
weather, right when he was talking about bud break and it was perfect timing. Some years it’s not as bad and those trees can
kind of hang on, but we’re seeing a lot of that in our area, too, in
central Pennsylvania. – And even if she applied
a fungicide like Captan, Captan is what’s used
by home orchardists to prevent apple scab,
Captan’s a protectant. So if you applied it on Monday, it rained on Tuesday, it’s gone. – Okay. – So basically it
made it very difficult to keep your trees protected. And we talked to
people in western PA, all the way up to McKeen
and Potter County this year. Everyone has the same phenomena. No leaves on their
apple trees by August. Except the commercial growers. – Not alone. We have one more question
and we got an email and this one is from Linda and she writes, “I recently
planted some Paw-Paw young trees, however
the soil is clay. If I dig it up and add good soil and horse manure,
will this help?” Is this a good approach
to take for the trees. – We generally don’t
recommend modifying the native soil because
you might modify that small little area where the roots are gonna grow, but that area outside
that root ball or that small modified soil is gonna be the native soil and those roots are
gonna be kind of adverse into growing into
that harsher condition so the idea is to try to use that native soil. You can kind of
modify it a little bit if it’s really
tight, really clay, but I guess, you know,
maybe if possible, digging up plants that
have been established, that might be a little rough. – Well, the other
thing with Paw-Paw is Paw-Paw’s a native
tree, but when we look at some of the places
that they occur naturally, if you go along
the C&O canal path off the Potomac River,
Paw-Paw’s are naturalized, extensive on the canal
and you’re dealing in some cases with
flood plain soils. So, they’re very
tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions
and as Tom suggested, if you over amend
that clay soil, it becomes like a
bathtub or a flower pot and you actually
encourage that tree to create a gurgling
root scenario which causes that tree
to have a short life. – And we have just
a few seconds left so we’re going to have
our lightening round for advice here. Tom Butzler, what’s one
thing that you’d like people to take
away from tonight? – Well, the planting
season’s pretty short, not much you can do with that, but we are heading
into the fall, late fall, winter and it’s a great
time to go to some of the massive gardener events that we hold across the state where we have symposiums
on how to garden, it’d be well worth attendance. – Tom Butzler and Tom
Ford, thank you both for talking with
us this evening. (upbeat music)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *