University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A
Again today, the University of Maryland Extension experts answer your garden questions.
Do you have garden questions? Send them to the University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center. Click on the tab "Send a question" on the left.
Q: My tomatoes have big cracks on top. I have been growing the same variety of plants for many years, and the ones in the ground are still okay. Only the ones growing in pots are cracking.
A: One cause of cracking is excessive or uneven moisture. Cracking tends to happen when we have a lot of rain following a dry period, causing fruits to swell quickly. We did have droughts this summer, but since you have not had this problem in the past, we bet that you water your plants consistently. Cracking can also be exacerbated by very high temperatures, which we also suffered, and this is probably the culprit in your case. Plants in a pot get even hotter than those with roots in the cooler ground. Try to cool off potted plants by mulching or moving the pots to a cooler location (such as off the deck onto the lawn.) Cracking can also be caused by excessive nitrogen, and some tomato varieties are more prone to it than others.
Q: I’m sending a photo of our young shade tree. It is slowly dying no matter what we do. We’re sure we have not watered too much or too little or over-fertilized. Can’t see any insects or disease. What gives?
A: The trunk goes straight into the soil like a lollipop stick. No trunk flare is visible at soil level. It is planted too deeply. This slowly kills trees or shrubs. To avoid planting too deeply in the future, position a plant at the same depth as it was in its container. However, be alert for plants which were already repotted or balled and burlapped too deeply in the nursery. If necessary, brush away soil at the base of the tree until you see where the trunk widens (the flare) as it transitions to the root system, then plant. In addition, do not dig a planting hole deeper than the container. This results in loosened soil under the plant. When this soil settles, the plant will sink and, as soil washes back around the trunk, the trunk gets buried.