Califonia Bountiful

Gardening Q&A

May/June 2016 California Bountiful magazine

As a California Bountiful reader, you have the opportunity to get your seasonal gardening questions answered by gardening expert Pat Rubin. Here are a few questions from our readers.

I'm not going to be able to get my vegetables planted as early as I would like this year. Does that mean it's too late to plant a garden?

Absolutely not! Most California gardeners can't rely on the weather to be reliably mild until late April or early May, and most crops can be planted twice during any season, anyway. If the weather is getting hot by the time you get things planted, be sure to protect the seedlings from the hot afternoon sun until they are established. I use a piece of newspaper perched on top of a stick, or try those black, plastic flats you get from the nursery. They will block enough of the sun so young seedlings don't burn.

For the last two years my tomato plants, all heirloom varieties, have just up and died before the season ends. Entire parts of the plant wilt and turn brown. What's wrong?

It could be something as simple as your plants not getting enough water and the soil needing more organic matter. On the other hand, it could be a type of wilt that affects many tomato plants, especially heirloom varieties.

If you look at the label of hybrid types, it will likely say the plant is resistant to wilts such as verticillium and tobacco mosaic. Unfortunately, although some heirloom varieties are naturally resistant, many are not. If someone who is a smoker handles your tomato plants or smokes in the garden, the tobacco mosaic can become a problem. There is no way to save the plants. Take the entire plant and toss it in the garbage; do not compost the plant.

You might try covering that part of the garden with black plastic, to let the sunshine sterilize the soil. Don't plant your tomato plants in that area for several years. Switch tomato varieties until you find ones that are resistant to the diseases, or plant hybrid tomatoes that have been bred to resist them.

I understand your frustration. It's not an easy fix.

About Pat Rubin, California Bountiful's gardening expert

For Pat Rubin, gardening is more than just dirt and plants. "It's about history, romance, adventure and people," she says. "And it should be fun."

California Bountiful's gardening columnist has lived and chronicled this fun, hands-in-the-dirt approach for years—and for additional publications including Fine Gardening, Pacific Horticulture, Christian Science Monitor, Family Circle and The Sacramento Bee. Pat has also volunteered as a Master Gardener, speaks to garden clubs and appears regularly on gardening radio shows.

Need gardening advice? Ask the expert!

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