How to construct tomato cages
Q.I enjoy reading your column. I tried growing tomatoes this fall for the first time, and had some success. I think I would have had more success if I had gotten tomato cages, as you recommended in your column. I have been unable to find the ones that are your favorite, made from concrete reinforcing wire. Do you know where I might find them?
A. They were sold at various gardening programs as a fund-raiser. It is a big job, but you may want to make them yourself. It takes a roll of concrete reinforcing wire (1/4 inch or less with 6-inch squares). Cut off pieces 6 or 7 feet long and connect the ends to form a cylinder about 2 feet in diameter. Cut so you have wire spikes to penetrate the ground and so you have (half a square) wires to connect the two ends. If you don’t have any luck finding them, consider the new folding cages now available in area nurseries.
Q.Last year, sand burs and crab grass dominated my summer lawn. You advised that I apply a pre-emergent herbicide, such as Amaze or XL in late winter. Is now the time?
A. Apply Amaze or XL to prevent summer weeds in late February or early March.
Q.Can I use leaves for mulch around my newly planted shade trees? How deep?
A. Absolutely; live oak leaves make especially good mulch because they are easy to shovel and rake, but all leaves are valuable. Anything over 3 inches contributes to water conservation and weed control. Six inches is not too much.
Q.Did I hear you say on the radio show, “Gardening South Texas,” that the snapdragons will bloom again this winter?
A. Yes, their best bloom period is usually March and April into May. Dianthus, calendula, and stocks also may re-bloom at that time. Keep them watered and fertilize one more time in early March.
Q.What is the one best thing to be doing to improve my lawn this winter?
A. How about two things done in tandem: aerate and top-dress the lawn. Rent an aerator and then apply a ¼ to ½ half inch of compost over the surface. The aeration opens up compacted soil to air, water, and nutrient penetration to the root system. The compost filters into the aeration channels to bring organic material with all its benefits to the root system. For more information on aeration and top-dressing, visit www.plantanswers.com.
Q. Is there anything we can do now to get our winter weeds under control? We have dandelions, thistle, henbit, annual bluegrass, and rescue grass.
A. Next year, apply a pre-emergent herbicide in August or early September. This year, a contact herbicide could be applied to control the broadleaf weeds. 2-4-D products are effective if you have Bermuda, zoysia, or buffalo grass. Some formulas will have a negative effect on St. Augustine grass. Review the labels of Weed B Gon and similar products at your favorite retail nursery.
I rely on mowing to keep the winter weeds under control and prevent seed production.
Q.My Meyer lemon tree is lush with blossoms. I think this happened last year and they all fell off, or they would make a baby lemon and then fall off. In the fall, I ended up with only four lemons. What am I doing wrong?
A. Meyer lemons will bloom this time of the year, especially if the tree is young and the summer was dry. Young trees also are prone to drop fruit. We also had a late freeze last year that could have helped cause the fruit to drop. Be patient with the tree.
Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.