Issue: May 27th
Tomato blossoms droppingQuestion:
I wanted to get a fast start on producing tomatoes, so I bought large plants with flowers on them. As soon as I planted them in the garden, the flowers began falling and no tomatoes have formed. What is wrong? It has been two weeks and I still don't have any little tomatoes.Answer:
The problem is that the tomato plants were moved from the nursery where there was probably more shade and protection from the wind. Now they are in the sun and more exposed to our winds. The plants must now adapt to the different soil conditions and extend their roots from the nice, rich, potting soil into the New Mexico soil of your garden. In other words, your tomato plants are suffering some transplant shock. In another week or so, as the plants become established and begin growing, they should also begin to set fruit. Some varieties, especially the larger fruited varieties of tomatoes, take longer than others so it may take even longer.
If it takes too long, then your plants will run into temperature problems. Once the days become too hot, the tomato plants will stop setting fruit (or fail to begin) until the temperatures begin to decline. This usually occurs with the arrival of our monsoon season. (I do hope the monsoon rains and cooler weather arrive in New Mexico this year!)
For now, continue to keep the soil around the plants moist, not soggy, and wait until the plants have established in their new location.
Dead tree branchesQuestion:
There are a lot of dead branches in the tops of my shade trees this year. I have had a few in past years, but it seems much worse this year. What is wrong? Are my trees dying?Answer:
There are several things that could be responsible, but a common problem in New Mexico this year is twig and branch dieback due to the dry winter. I have discussed this with several Extension Service agents from various parts of the state, and it seems to be a problem almost everywhere. Invariably, the problem is due to inadequate winter precipitation or irrigation.
During the later part of the winter, tree water use begins to increase as small hair roots begin to form. In dry soil, these hair roots die quickly and are not present to provide water to the development of leaves in the spring. The result is the dead branches which are now apparent. The trees will probably not die, but the dead branches should be pruned out. Be certain that proper pruning practices are employed.
In some cases homeowners irrigated their trees, but they did so in a manner that did not benefit the trees. Some watered too little with each irrigation, moistening only a few inches of soil. This water was lost to evaporation without doing much to help the tree. In other cases, the water was applied near the trunk, inside the dripline, and again was not in the right location to benefit the tree. The absorbing roots of established trees are found outside the dripline of most established shade trees. Applying water at the base of the trunk is only useful for trees the first two years after they are planted. After that, the absorbing roots are found at an ever-increasing distance from the trunk of the trees as the root system extends outward. It is this area that we must irrigate to benefit the trees.Top of page
Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.
Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!