New England

June, 2003
Regional Report

Mulch Vegetables

If you haven't already done so, spread a layer of organic mulch, such as straw, around the base of vegetable plants. This will help keep weeds at bay, conserve soil moisture, and prevent soil from splashing up onto plants. Keep the mulch an inch or two away from plant stems to minimize disease problems.

Prevent Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot shows up as dark, sunken spots on the blossom, or non-stem, 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.

Watch for Tomato Hornworm

If you see large holes in your tomato plants' leaves, examine them carefully for tomato hornworms. These large (up to 5 inches long), green caterpillars feed on foliage for about a month in early summer before dropping into the soil to pupate. If you see the caterpillars, just hand pick them. There are rarely enough to warrant any kind of spray.

Maintain Container Flowers

With summer in full swing, container-grown annuals are growing quickly. Because their roots are confined and can\'t explore in search of water and nutrients, you\'ll need to be diligent in providing these. Check plants daily and water when soil begins to dry; you may need to water small containers more than once a day. Use an organic fertilizer weekly -- or according to label directions -- to provide a steady supply of nutrients.

Train Tomatoes

Use cages, stakes, or trellises to keep tomato plants upright. Tie plant stems to their supports with strips of soft fabric to avoid damage. Fruit-laden tomato plants are heavy, so supports must be sturdy. If you're using cages, anchor them with a stake.

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