I’ve read that phosphorus promotes blossom and fruit production. I use 5-24-24 or 8-8-8 when I prepare beds as recommended by the LSU AgCenter. Here’s my question: The fruit production of tomatoes and bell peppers begins to decline both in number and in size as the plants get older. If I were to apply phosphorus now, would that help keep the fruit production and size up to par? — Jason Guillot
While an adequate supply of phosphorus is necessary for plants to flower and fruit properly, you cannot force a plant to flower and fruit simply by providing extra phosphorous. And too much phosphorus can interfere with the uptake of other nutrients.
Bell peppers do not do as well in the intense heat of summer. As a result, production is reduced and the size of the bell peppers is smaller. They will improve in the cooler weather of fall.
Tomatoes typically produce their main crop and best quality fruit in late May and June. Sporadic production occurs in mid to late summer, but quality of fruit is reduced and heat and pest problems take their toll. These issues are not nutrient related, and fertilizing with phosphorous will not help.
Phosphorous is especially persistent in the soil and is absorbed in smaller amounts than nitrogen and potassium. So, there is still plenty of phosphorous left in the soil from your earlier fertilizations (even from past years). Excess phosphorus can interfere with the uptake of other mineral nutrients (like calcium) and be a factor in problems like blossom end rot in tomatoes.
I have a small raised bed with various vegetables. There are four tomato plants with beautiful tomatoes but the birds are eating them before I can get to them. Please help! —Lyndon Pousson Sr.
Gardeners try lots of scare tactics to keep birds away from fruits and vegetables, from the classic scarecrow to rubber snakes, plastic owls or shiny objects like strips of Mylar. But the most effective way of protecting your tomatoes is with a physical barrier. Easiest to use is the bird netting you will find at area nurseries, gardener centers and feed and seed stores. These large pieces of netting can be used to cover vegetables and fruit trees to keep birds from getting at the fruit.
These spots just recently appeared in my yard. Do you have any idea what the problem could be? Thanks. — J.
It looks like urine damage. If you have a dog that urinates in the yard, that is the issue. If not, in the front yard it may be a dog that is not yours. The grass will recover. If it’s your dog, prevent this damage by applying a generous amount of water where the dog urinates right after it is finished.
I am having a problem with my gladiolas. They came up beautifully strong and green. But now the buds are dying before opening. Some leaves have small round rust-colored spots, and the buds, though fully formed, are turning brown and dying before ever opening. Do you know what can be wrong? — Linda.
I suspect gladiolus thrips. These insects attack the flower buds, damaging the tissue. This causes the flowers to open poorly and the petals to look burned. Ideally, gladiolus corms should be planted starting in mid-February through mid-March in our area. This allows the plants to bloom in late April and May when thrips populations are much smaller. By June, populations are generally high and can cause problems. If there are still enough young flower spikes with no damage to make it worth treatment, you could spray with spinosad (various brands) to control the thrips.
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Dan Gill is a retired consumer horticulture specialist with the LSU AgCenter. He hosts the “Garden Show” on WWL-AM Saturdays at 9 a.m. Email gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.