Q: If I plant indeterminate tomatoes can I crop the top to keep them from growing tall? Carolyn Byers, email
A: Pruning an indeterminate tomato to make it bushier is possible but you’ll be fighting Mother Nature. After planting, indeterminate tomatoes grow for a while and then produce a flower cluster. The leaf below the flower cluster then sends up a shoot (sucker) which produces three leaves and ends once more in a flower cluster. And once again the leaf below the flower cluster sends up a shoot, produces three leaves and a flower cluster on the end. This sequence repeats endlessly and gives the appearance of a long tomato vine.
Determinate tomatoes send up several shoots from below the first flower cluster. Each one makes a couple of leaves and ends with a flower cluster. This repeats only a few more times. Since there are more shoots under each flower cluster and fewer leaves between clusters, the plant takes on a bushy appearance.
So theoretically you could remove the growing tip of an indeterminate tomato vine to make it produce more shoots and then remove the tips of those shoots to give the plant several growing tips near the base. You would have a semi-bushy plant, but it would sprawl outward because after a couple of tip removals you would need to let the vine grow and flower as nature intended.
If you want a bushy plant, you would be better off to grow a determinate variety like ‘Celebrity’, ‘Roma’ or any variety labeled “patio” or “bush” type.
Q: Do different varieties of zoysia grass require different soil temperatures to root? Dan Marino, Wake Forest
A: Different varieties of zoysia grass tolerate cold air temperatures differently, but the soil temperature for rooting is similar for all of them. My general advice is that you can install warm season sod when soil temperatures are above 60 degrees, usually in early May. You can check your local soil temperatures at georgiaweather.net.
Q: How do you get rid of Johnson weed? Carolyn Mann, email
A: It’s tough! Johnsongrass, Sorghum halepense, was introduced from the Mediterranean as a pasture grass. But farmers soon found that this tall, aggressive grass, while favored by cattle, was very difficult to keep in bounds. Your only options are either to dig it out or spray with glyphosate whenever you see it. By consistently eliminating the leaves, the roots will eventually starve to death.
Q: We need a pet safe weed killer that will control dandelions but leave our fescue and bermuda alone. What do you recommend? Cathie Panosh, Charlotte
A: Products that contain chelated iron, FeHEDTA (Natria Lawn Weed Control, Fiesta, etc. ), will give reasonable control of dandelions after three applications at 21 day intervals. You won’t kill 100% of the broadleaf weeds but I think you’ll be pleased. Chelated iron is considered a very safe herbicide.
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Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.