gardening tips


June, 2006

June is the month for harvesting many early crops such as blueberries and strawberries in some regions of the country. It is also the time when insects begin to make their appearance with a vengeance. Insects are not really villains but rather excellent indicators that something is wrong with the soil-microbe-plant system. Often, deficient or unbalanced soil nutrition is the problem. This is also the time of year when trees will begin to show signs of stress or disease, again often related to nutrient deficiencies. Commercial chemical fertilizers generally do not address the root cause of the soil fertility issue and may actually suppress or kill valuable soil microbes and leave a residue of salts over time. Organic fertilizers that provide balanced nutrition and organic matter build the soil and enable plants and trees to better withstand insect and disease damage.

Question: My young oak tree is losing its leaves at the top. What is wrong?

Answer: If the tree appears to be otherwise normal, the problem can be one of several things: drought, water-logged soil (note that these two extremes in water provision result in the same symptoms), chemical injury (such as excessive salts from chemical fertilizers), nutritional imbalances, and a disease called “oak wilt”, which actually results in reduced flow of water and nutrients from the roots upward, causing the tree to wilt from the top down. An experienced arborist or Cooperative Extension tree specialist can diagnose oak wilt for you and help you get specific treatment before you lose the tree. You may usually submit samples for diagnosis through your County Extension Office. If the problem is drought, generously water the tree. Make a “tea” using Bradfield Organics® Luscious Lawn & Garden™ 3-1-5 and apply it to the soil at the base of the tree to give it a rapid “shot in the arm” of nutrients. If the problem is excessive water, you will need to provide better drainage. If you have a lawn service do your yardwork, be sure they use organic (such as Bradfield) rather than chemical fertilizers to build soil and avoid salt build-up.

Question: The leaves on my magnolia tree are falling. What can I do?

Answer: Magnolia trees will normally lose their leaves in late winter/early spring. However, if this leaf loss is continuing into June and appears to be excessive, your tree is probably lacking vital nutrients. Magnolias are heavy feeders with high requirements for iron and nitrogen. Supplementation with organic products (such as Bradfield Organics® Luscious Lawn & Garden™ 3-1-5, Pasture & Farm 4-1-4, and Luscious Lawn 9-0-0) that build up the organic matter of the soil, improving soil health and nutrient status, will help your trees maintain their health. Magnolias are also good drinkers; if your area has been dry, be sure to provide supplemental water.

Question: My river birch is losing its leaves. Why?

Answer: Birch trees are understory trees and can be stressed if overexposed to sun on a southern exposure. They are also heavy drinkers and need lots of water. You might also have your tree inspected for bronze birch borer and leaf miner, both of which can cause or compound leaf loss. Another cause could be chlorosis caused by a lack of iron (and sometimes manganese). This generally occurs in more alkaline soils (soils with a pH greater than 7). Use of natural fertilizers, such as Bradfield, that build up the soil and stabilize it to an optimal pH help to improve the immune status of the tree through superior nutrition so that it can better resist insects and diseases. Healthy trees also have deeper root systems and can better withstand periods of drought.

Question: My tomatoes have blossoms, but no fruit is setting. What is the problem?

Answer: First of all, how warm has it been in your area? Most varieties of tomato plants will not reliably set fruit, despite an abundance of healthy blossoms, until the temperature is consistently above 55F. This means that in northern climes, and even southern ones if the spring has been cool, tomatoes will need a little help from a greenhouse, walls of water wells, or clear plastic over them to keep them warm enough to encourage fruit-set. Secondly, make sure you are using an evenly balanced fertilizer such as Bradfield Organics® Tasty Tomato™ 3-3-3; too much nitrogen, especially in relation to phosphorus, can result in big, robust plants with no tomatoes. If you have tomato blossoms that appear to be rotting on the end, you have blossom-end rot, and this will result in poor fruit-set and poor fruit quality. This is generally a sign of calcium deficiency; use of organic fertilizers with a hefty amount of alfalfa (such as Bradfield) can help alleviate this deficiency, as can mulching with alfalfa hay (see the next question).

Question: What can I use to mulch my tomatoes?

Answer: Slabs (or flakes) of alfalfa hay, butted together, make excellent mulch for tomato plants. Not only do they help to keep the soil moist, but when watered, the alfalfa creates a “tea” that is rich in nutrients, one of which is calcium. Calcium can help to prevent blossom-end rot in tomatoes.

For more information on organic fertilizing techniques, visit



April, 2007
Early Spring, 2007
Winter, 2006-2007

January, 2006
February, 2006
March, 2006
April, 2006
May, 2006
June, 2006
July, 2006
August, 2006
September, 2006
October, 2006



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