Digging Deeper Vol. 8

Recent rainfalls, accompanied by more seasonal temperatures, have done much to ease the immediate drought stress on our gardens and lawns, but as vigilant gardeners, we need to keep a close watch on moisture conditions.  With summer just slightly more than a month away, those daily highs will be climbing into the upper 80’s and beyond, ever increasing the danger of drought stress and other associated maladies.

Even though we try to water regularly and thoroughly as necessary, our container cottage garden in front and our container vegetable garden in back have responded dramatically to nature’s watering.  There’s just some magical ingredient in raindrops that we can’t seem to duplicate with water from our faucets, and our flowers and vegetables just shout out the difference in their flowering, green growth and general appearance.

Although some of the climatologists say that the recent end to La Nina (the cycle of abnormal cooling of the equatorial Pacific Ocean waters) could mean some relief from drought stress for North and South America, but they are uncertain about how soon that relief might take affect.  They are also currently about equally divided about whether the counterpart cycle El Nino will return before the end of the year.

What all this actually means in regards to the weather forecasting for our summer growing season here in the Southeast, certainly appears to be very unclear at this point, but most veteran gardeners make their plans on past successes and failures, not on future predictions.  So in our garden, we are preparing for another dry, hot summer, while hoping for an end to this extended 12-15-year period of seriously below average annual rainfall.

In addition to our early applications of lime to help prevent blossom end rot (caused by a calcium deficiency that is enhanced by drought stress), we have just begun our weekly foliar feedings of calcium chloride, which allows the calcium to be absorbed through the foliage, helping to insure proper levels are maintained in our tomato plants.  Experience has taught us that the best way to stop blossom end rot is to prevent it, rather than trying to cure it.  The best prevention practices are to keep available calcium levels high and water (total of 1-1.5 inches per week) at regular intervals to allow plants to absorb it when needed.

Always be certain to apply foliar fertilizers early or late in the day, as they can cause burn damage to the plant if the foliage surface is too hot.  Also be careful to follow recommended application timing and rates as too much can also result in fertilizer burn.

By Guest Author Randy Peele

As has always been the case with my garden writings, I would like very much for all of you to interact with me in “Digging Deeper.”  Recommended topics, critiques, opinions, questions, etc. all are encouraged and welcomed, and I look forward to hearing from you by e-mail at email@headleenursery.com