Make us your home page

Ask Dr. Hort: Time to give pepper, tomato a boost of fertilizer

Time to feed fertilizer to tomato, pepper

Q: The tomato plant's leaves are or were turning yellow. I had to prune it. I bought some fertilizer and they seem to be doing better. The pepper plant doesn't seem to be doing well either. There is a black spot on the largest pepper and the leaves look wrinkled. Bev Boese

A: If your tomatoes are hungry, they are going to yellow from the bottom up, which they are doing. You diagnosed your own problem. Fertilizer is needed. Your pepper looks like it could use some more light. It also looks like it is in a nondraining container, which is not a good idea. The black spot is a calcium deficiency, called blossom-end rot. Your tomatoes can also get the same problem. Pick up some calcium nitrate and apply it to both tomato and pepper every other week to solve the problem.

Be patient when it comes to fruitfulness

Q: I had four tangerines the year I planted my Ponkan tree, which was last year. This year I had no blossoms, therefore no fruit. I read online recently that I should hit it with a 2-by-4. This makes no sense. Could you give me some advice before the next growing season begins? The tree is about 4 feet tall and looks healthy. Carl H. Weisser, Homosassa

A: Use a baseball bat. The tree is small and it is easier to swing. Just kidding! You don't want fruit the first few years after planting, and if it does flower and produce a few fruit, pick them off, for it takes energy away from growth and root development, which are much more important in its first years. Using the plant's allocation of energy to produce an extensive root system, strong trunk and many branches will lead to a bountiful crop in years 4 to 5. Be patient. Make sure your cultural practices, water, sunlight, fertilization and pruning are optimized for strong healthy growth.

That pretty flower is pretty prolific

Q: Is this a weed or a wildflower? It's multiplying in my garden and gives a nice white lacy effect. Pam Purol

A: Your pictured flower is none other than beggars-tick (Bidens alba), an annual to perennial plant that honeybees love and many a butterfly would go to bed hungry without. The only problem in the urban landscape is that it reseeds everywhere. The seeds also catch a ride on anything they come in contact with: shoes, socks, pants or shirts for starters. As you put it, "It's multiplying in my garden" — and any other place a seed lands. The insect world will love you for adding Bidens alba to your butterfly garden, however, your neighbors might not.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. Email him at or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned.

Ask Dr. Hort: Time to give pepper, tomato a boost of fertilizer 12/31/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 31, 2011 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours