QUESTION: All of my crossbred Roma-cherry tomatoes last year were hollow and rotten inside. I admit that I overwatered them. I have always planted them in the same location without this issue in the past. Could it be a soil issue?
ANSWER: Tomatoes that are hollow inside are frequently the result of a pollination problem, not a soil or nutrient issue. Poor pollination can be caused by high temperatures, above 90, and low temperatures, below 55, when the plants are blooming. Of course, lack of natural pollinators can lead to poor pollination as well. While you can’t control the temperatures, you can keep an eye out for pollinators and help by shaking plants or physically moving pollen from one bloom to another. I’ve watched and helped as a greenhouse tomato grower used a battery-operated toothbrush to shake blooms and move pollen from bloom to bloom.
QUESTION: Last year, I had a problem with squash vine borer. I remember you said that the adult lays its eggs in the young, tender runners. I know you recommend covering the rows with a fabric row cover to keep the adult moth away from the plant, but my garden is small, and I don’t really plant in rows. What do you think of putting aluminum foil around the stems coming out of the ground to prevent the adults from getting to the stems to lay their eggs?
ANSWER: I do like floating row covers, where they are practical. They not only protect the plants from insects, but also tend to speed up the development of the squash plants. However, your idea is worth a try. Just be sure to remove the foil as the runners get more mature. The borers lay their eggs while the stems are young and tender.
QUESTION: In mid-May, a friend of mine had this thing growing on her oak tree. Is it a gall of some kind? It’s interesting looking, but will it hurt her tree? She saw only one of them.
ANSWER: It is a gall, a wool sower gall. It is caused by a tiny wasp. The wasps are not harmful, and as they develop, this casing will turn brown and drop from the tree. Interesting to look at, but not harmful to anyone or to the tree.
QUESTION: We had a beautiful Rose of Sharon that died over the winter, so I removed it. Fortunately, we have a volunteer that popped up in the flower garden about 50 feet away. I will probably transplant this young tree to the location of the one I removed. I think I should probably do this over the next winter when things are dormant, right? Any tricks or concerns I should know?
ANSWER: Your plan sounds good. However, one additional thing you can do now is to root prune it. This involves using a sharp spade and making a slice in the ground just inside the drip line of the tree to be moved. This slice should be the depth of the spade and completely circle the drip line. In other words, make the slice as if you were going to move it now, but don’t. This cuts the outside roots and forces the tree to make some new roots inside the circle. Root pruning allows the tree to get adjusted to the reduced root system, without going through any other stress. Once it drops its leaves in the fall, you can move it to the new location.