Tag Archives: gardening tips

What’s Wrong with My Tomatoes?

Gina McG. texted me this photo and asked, “What’s Wrong with My Tomatoes?”

I texted back:  “This looks like to much water, which is a common problem, especially with all the rain we’ve had. Thank goodness we only get stretch marks when we grow too fast!”

Gina replied that she was growing her tomatoes in containers inside her screened-in lanai.  Below, I have elaborated on the information I gave her.

Gina's Mater

At the time this photo was taken, we had had more than our fair share of rain. Too much water causes rapid growth for many plants. The tomatoes were growing faster than their skins could stretch, which caused the skins to split open.

If the splits are very recent, and are not too large, you can simply cut away the exposed portion of the tomato, and eat the remainder.  If you have been away for a few days, and the problem has gone unnoticed,  pests and/or disease could have infiltrated most or all of the tomato. In that case, simply toss it — preferably into your compost bin. From what I can see in this photo, I believe the top half of this one should be trashed. Maybe all of it, but I wouldn’t know for sure without cutting into it and seeing the inside.

Unfortunately, there is not much we can do about too much rain on our gardens. On the other hand, if you are growing your ‘maters in containers, simply take them into a covered area whenever they have had too much rain.

During extremely hot weather, container-grown plants will need more water than those planted in the ground. A good way to monitor moisture is to put your finger into the soil. If the top inch is dry, add some water. Use a saucer to catch the water that drains out of the bottom of the container. The plant will soak up water from the saucer, BUT be sure to pour off any water that remains in the saucer after about 30 minutes has passed, as most plants don’t like wet feet (aka, roots).

Starting Coleus From Cuttings – Nothing Could Be Easier

Coleus Variety

Whether you pronounce it “cole-yus”, or “col-e-us” you have to agree it is one of the most colorful foliage plants we have. This plant comes in so many color combinations it is mind-boggling:  burgundies, reds, purples, various shades of green, white, and even yellow. Coleus is easy to grow, and will add beauty to your garden.

The photo above shows just a few of the many colors and leaf shapes available. The top left  frame contains one I call my weird coleus. That is all one plant that came up as a volunteer from seed dropped last summer.  I have never seen have its colors evenly divided right down the middle vein like one stem of that plant has. The original plant had the splotches of burgundy on chartreuse that is on parts of this plant. I assume it is some kind of genetic mutation. If so, I think it’s a pretty cool mutation.

Until the last few years, coleus grew only in the shade. Today, however, there are many new varieties that do well in full sun. Oh, the wonders of hybridization! Some of them do well in either sun or shade, but change depth of color based on the amount of sun they get.

The following photos show the process of going from cutting to garden-ready:

To root your own cuttings, simply break off a piece, with a long stem, if possible. Strip the cutting of its lower leaves. Any leaves left on the lower part of the stem will be under water where they will rot and contaminate the water. Place the stems into a glass or jar of water, or even an empty cottage cheese container as shown below. Within only a few days you will see pale bumps begin to emerge on the stem. The little bumps will become tiny hair-like roots.

Some of the leaves above the water level may dry and fall off. That’s OK. New leaves will soon come. If any fall into the water, be sure to remove them. They will make great compost for your garden or flower beds.

Starting a cutting

Below is a closer view of those baby roots. Roots that sprout in water are tiny and delicate. These need another two-to-three weeks to grow. They will soon appear to be ready to plant, but don’t be too hasty. They will protest by wilting if suddenly moved from water to soil because, when taken from their watery environment, these little roots quickly become brittle. They can recover, but it is traumatic for the plant, and will require daily extra effort on your part.

Zoomed on Baby roots

The best way to avoid that problem is this:

When there are sufficient roots that have grown 2-3 inches long, begin to add small amounts of clean (un-used) potting soil to the water.  Used potting soil or soil from your garden will contain microbes that will likely encourage mold to grow in the water.  If you are rooting a lot of cuttings, you will need to move them to separate containers before the roots grow large enough to become entangled. I save empty cottage cheese containers for this, as well as for starting seeds. On the other hand, if you want to plant them all in one spot, no need to separate them.

Gradually increase the amount of soil and decrease the amount of water. The photo below was taken after several additions of soil. You can see that the soil is still extremely wet.

You may be wondering why the container below is sitting in a bowl of water. It’s because I realized too late that I had put the cuttings and soil into a container with holes punched in the bottom. These cuttings are not yet ready to have their water drain off, so I put them into a bowl that would hold the water.

After the roots adjust to this much soil, you should begin to back off on the water, and add more soil. When the plant thrives as a normally potted plant, it is ready to move to your garden. You can also grow coleus as a potted plant, if you prefer. In that case, you do want a pot with drainage holes!

In Wet Soil

Soon you will have a beautiful coleus plant like this one, or those at the top of this page.

Wine

Leave your gardening questions or comments below, or e-mail me at inthegarden.maria@gmail.com.