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Gardening Q&A

Ask the Master Gardeners: March 2014

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Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or
March 1, 2014 | 3,162 views | 1 comment

Q: I want to plant tomatillos. What should I know about them?

A: You probably have to buy the tomatillo or husk tomato (Physalis ixocarpa) by seed. There are lots of varieties available, such as Cape Gooseberry, Mayan Husk Tomato, and Rendidora. When I was a kid growing up in Florida, everyone had a plant or two in their garden. Now that I read the growing conditions, I see why. Tomatillos like well-drained, sandy loam soils with a pH between 5.5 and 7.3 according to AgriLife Extension’s Masabni, King and Taylor. This Mexican native is sensitive to the cold and likes 80 to 90 degree days and 60 to 70 degree nights. It prefers low humidity and sparse rainfall and should do very well here. Cuttings root easily.

Masabni says that tomatillos have only a few pests and diseases. Those include cutworms, root-knot nematodes, tobacco budworm, and whiteflies among the pests, and black spot and tobacco mosaic virus as the diseases. Once planted, tomatillos bear fruit in 65 to 85 days and continue bearing until the first frost.

Q: I love goldenrod and hear that it attracts bees and other pollinators. Can I plant it in my garden?

A: Goldenrod is beautiful and, contrary to popular belief, does not cause hay fever (which is caused by pollen from ragweed). If, however, you are planting tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima), you need to make sure you know what you are getting into. Sally Wasowski (in Native Texas Plants) mentions that you need a lot of room. She started with one plant and it spread. I transplanted one plant into my garden last fall. Now I have about 20 plants which I am sharing with my friends. Goldenrod blooms from September to November. The plant likes dry to moist roadsides and open woods in part shade and shade and grows in many different soil types. According to (the Wildflower center in Austin), the height is determined mostly by the fertility and moisture content of the soil. Goldenrod flowers attract both bees and butterflies, so if you have space, it is great for a wildscape. For a smaller yard, Wasowski suggests using Prairie goldenrod and Wright goldenrod since they are far better behaved.

Q: I’m getting ready to mulch my plants. How do I know how much to buy?

A: Doug Welsh in his Texas Garden Almanac says that to figure out the amount of mulch you need, multiply the area by the desired depth of mulch expressed in feet; then divide that amount by the number of cubic feet in the bag. His example is for 1000 square feet of area at a 2 inch mulch depth: so 1000 times 0.167 foot equals 167 cubic foot. Divide that by a two cubic foot bag and you get 84 bags. Or you can just guess and keep running back and forth for more like I do. Some people buy mulch by bulk because it is cheaper. But I find that bagged mulch is much easier for me to handle.

Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, at the Mary B. Erskine School in Seguin at the corner of E. Krezdorn and N. River.
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