Cool spring slows tomatoes trying to set fruit

Here are some gardening concerns I encountered this past week.

Poor tomato set: We’ve had an unusually cool spring. Tomatoes will not set fruit when temperatures drop below 50 degrees at night. It looks like we are moving into good tomato-setting weather that will last about a month before it gets too hot.

Shriveled corn kernels: Those planting superenhanced sweet corn may wonder if something is wrong with the shriveled seeds. They are viable seeds and will produce supersweet sweet corn. But the sugar within the seeds shrinks, while older varieties full of starch maintain their shape.

Holy cabbage leaves: It is the cabbage looper or inchworm causing those irregular-shaped holes on beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale, radishes and turnips. Either pick bugs off or apply Bt, an organic compound for control.

Pill bugs in strawberries: Why does straw precede berries? In earlier times, gardeners placed straw under plants to create a barrier between the berry and pill bugs. Straw becomes a source of food for the pill bugs and they leave the berries alone. Taking it a step further, pill bugs decompose the straw for you to work into the soil next year. In the meantime, enjoy the berries.

No apples: Trees overloaded with fruit last year usually don’t produce much fruit the next year, because all the energy went into producing fruit. Once fruit sets seeds, they release a hormone inhibiting the development of next year’s fruiting buds. This causes alternate bearing or no fruit one year and lots the next. If your tree is loaded, remove many of the fruit to restore balance to the tree.

Thin fruit: To prevent the production of small fruit and breaking of limbs, thin out the fruit on your trees. Start thinning when the fruit gets marble-size. Save the largest fruit and remove the smaller ones. When finished, you want fruit about 3 inches apart. If you don’t thin, you may affect next year’s crop.

Jujube fruit tree: It does well here and is a beautiful tree for smaller landscapes. It has graceful limbs covered with shiny leaves. When the fruit matures, it is shiny brown and tastes like sweet apples.

Green purple plum plants: This happens when suckers come from below the bud union of the plant, and if allowed to grow, they will take over the purple-leafed plants. To stop this, remove the suckers. By the way, flowering plum fruit is edible.

Aphids on roses: If you study aphid activity on roses, you may find ladybugs and lacewings pursuing them, so let nature take its course. Or wash off the plants with detergent followed by a strong jet of water to remove the honey dew caused by the aphids. Or use neem, an organic compound. Finally, keep a close eye on new growth, because aphids multiply fast.

Tarnished rosebuds: The damage is a combination of wind and thrips. You can’t do much about wind except water more. Tiny bugs called thrips tarnish the petal edges as they unfold. Use garlic spray to chase the bugs away.

Harvesting wildflower seeds: That’s a no-no, but you can take their pictures.

Leveling Bermuda lawns: When the grass gets a half-inch tall, filter sand into the lower areas. Then let the grass grow and if it is still uneven, repeat until it’s level.


"A Gardener’s Song" is the theme of the Sunset Garden Club annual flower show from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Paseo Verde Library, 280 S. Green Valley Parkway in Henderson. Let those beautiful flowers sing a song to your spirit. You can enter your flowers by calling 451-0854.


Learn how to install a drip-irrigation system from the street to plants, and how to select and assemble components at this free workshop at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. It will help you save water and have great-looking plants.


Nature’s Kitchen is always open. Join experts as they begin these "Un-Cooking Classes," which include everything you need to know about setting up a "raw kitchen." You also can taste refreshing drinks, guilt-free sweets and high-protein snacks. The class is at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Springs Preserve. Call 822-7786 to reserve a seat.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at or call him at 822-7754.

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