Attack of the tomato killers!
🔥 PLUS: 50%-OFF FIRE SALE!
If you’re a first-time visitor, welcome! To receive The Weekly Dirt in your inbox every week…
In honor of the unofficial start of summer tomorrow, and to clear out my remaining inventory, I’m launching a fire sale on my 2022 Day-by-Day Gardening Calendar, slashing the $24.95 MSRP in half — to just $12.50!
If you’re unfamiliar, hanging one of these babies on your wall is like having a complete gardening course in a wall calendar! I’ve included 365 tips and chores — one for each day of the year — to ensure your garden stays on track. You’ll never miss a sowing, planting, fertilizing, pest-control or other important gardening date again!
By the end of the year, I promise, you’ll have earned a green thumb! Plus, your wall will be adorned with award-winning photography provided by The Weekly Dirt readers.
Grab one (or more — they make great gifts) today while it’s on your mind because when they’re gone, they’re gone (and I’m not going to publish a wall calendar in 2023).
📬 Ask Jessica
DEAR JESSICA: I've lived in Florida for 11 summers, and have tried numerous ways of planting the tomatoes, including pots, in-ground and raised beds. Every year something new arises, but my most prevalent problem is with leaf miners.
I’ve never gotten a full-grown plant and only get few, if any, tomatoes. Are the leaf miners harming my plants? I applied Seven dust but it only lasted for one day because it rained.
Attached is a picture of pests that devoured my plants last year. Someone told me they were stink bugs and assassin bugs.
I really need help if I'm ever going to have a crop. —Kathy Pollari, Florida
DEAR KATHY: I'm sorry to say the pests in your photos are leaf-footed bugs (in the stink bug family). The large ones are mature, and the orange ones, which resemble assassin bugs, are their nymphs.
They use their piercing-sucking mouth parts to suck the juices from your plant's tomatoes and leaves. They are even more attracted to beans, black-eyed peas, citrus trees, eggplant and okra.
Unfortunately, as you've noticed, they aren't easy to control. Your first step should be to eliminate weeds (even little patches, like those around fences and posts) to eliminate shelter for them. It's important to keep the property free of weeds in winter because they will set up camp there and hunker down while they wait patiently for you to plant more food for them.
Insecticidal soap and Neem oil offer some control, especially against the nymphs. In addition, Kaolin clay, a non-toxic, harmless mineral-based spray I recently learned about, promises to do a good job repelling many pests (and may actually help the plants, as it protects against sun damage).
Kaolin clay is labeled as safe and effective against apple maggots, codling moths, Colorado potato beetles, cucumber beetles, June beetles, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers, Oriental fruit moth, thrips and more.
Kaolin clay also is used as an ingredient in some cosmetics, and I've seen it sold as face masks, etc., but the pesticide version is sold as Surround WP (you'll find it on Google and maybe at your local farm-supply store).
It also is labeled to work against leaf hoppers, which you say you're struggling against this year.
I don't have personal experience using it, but if you're interested in trying it, let me know how it works out!
Good luck! —Jessica
💡 If you do one thing this week…
Apply mulch to beds, borders and around trees and shrubs. Use a natural mulch made of bark, straw, wood chips, etc. (not shredded tires!) and stay away from the dyed stuff, especially around edibles.
When you’re mulching, apply the product 2-3” deep, keeping it pushed 3-4” inches away from stems and trunks. And NEVER create “volcanoes” of mulch around trees — or they will suffocate, rot and die a slow death. Always keep the trunk’s flare at the bottom of the tree visible and uncovered.
Read my latest AP gardening column about gardening mistakes, linked below, for more about volcano mulching and other common garden blunders.
👏 Sunday shoutout
Michael Hinton says he discovered the Hugelkultur “growing method several years ago and went all in.”
Nice job, Michael! A deep raised bed like that is perfect for Hugelkultur!
Send in your photo, and you could be featured next!
📰This week in my Associated Press gardening column
I write a weekly gardening column for the AP, so you might have seen my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you happen to be. In case you miss it, though, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
Common gardening mistakes — and how to avoid them: Much of gardening is learned by trial and error -- and, unfortunately, that’s mostly error. Learn how to get ahead of those blunders for a healthy, productive garden.
7 tips for growing giant tomatoes As 13-year host of The Great Long Island Tomato Challenge, I learned the secrets of growing competition-worthy tomatoes directly from the champions — and I’m pulling back the curtain in my latest AP gardening column! Here's how to grow a whopper!
Not all shade is the same: Gardening where there's little sun: Gardening in the shade doesn't have to mean limited plant choices and lack of color. The first step is understanding which type of shade you have. Click in for guidance and plant suggestions.
Sunflowers! Homegrown sunflowers are popular, native and, for some, newly meaningful. Learn how to grow them— and how to harvest and roast their seeds.
Plant this, not that: Native alternatives for 8 popular invasive plants.
Go Native! If your idea of the perfect garden includes abundant plants that do well with little human intervention, while attracting and supporting all manner of pollinators, plant natives. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Annuals to plant for old-time nostalgia: Longing for grandma’s flowers? Here are 8 vintage garden favorites.
Filling raised beds? Save money—and grow better—with Hugelkultur: Hugelkultur is a different, more natural (and cheaper) approach to raised beds or mounds that doesn’t require so many bags of top soil or compost. Instead, you fill the space with organic matter that gradually decomposes, feeding the soil and plants. Here’s how.
Growing veggies in small spaces: Smaller new varieties can yield great results for vegetables grown in containers.
Plants to plant in spring for a beautiful garden next winter: When you’re planning and planting your spring garden, think ahead to next winter too, and include plants that will create interest in your landscape in the so-called “off season.”
Black innovators who reshaped American gardening and farming: The achievements of 19th-century scientist George Washington Carver have landed him in U.S. history textbooks, but many other agricultural practices and innovations that traveled with enslaved people from West Africa or were developed by their descendants remain unsung. Here’s a look at five.
Want more? You can read all my AP gardening columns here.
Let’s be friends! Follow me @JesDamiano on Instagram
📧 How’m I doing?
I welcome your comments and suggestions, so please send them along — as well as any topics you’d like to see covered and questions you’d like answered in the Ask Jessica section.
And if you’re enjoying this newsletter, please share it with a friend!
Until next week, stay safe. Be well. And always keep your mind in the dirt. —Jessica
Your latest changes have been saved.