Garden Questions of the Week
“We have been growing the Bjut jolokia (ghost pepper) for 3 years now. Is it still the hottest pepper in the world?” – I’m sure it is for many folks, but believe it or not, there have been 3 new hottest peppers take over the title! The heat in peppers is measured in Scoville units – jalapeños usually come in around 2,500 scoville units and habaneras around 250,000 to 500,000 units. But these peppers are in a totally different category with Bjut jolokia coming in around 1,000,000 scoville units! Last year, ‘Naga Viper’ took the title with 1,359,000, only to be dethroned by ‘Trinidad Scorpian Butch T’ at 1,463,000, only to be dethroned by the current world’s hottest pepper ‘Trinidad Monuga Scorpian’, coming in at a scorching 2,009,231 Scoville units! And yes, Natorp’s grew a very limited amount of all 4 pepper plants being sold at the garden stores.
“We placed newspaper in between the rows in our garden as a weed barrier. Can we use grass clippings from a ‘treated for weeds’ lawn as the mulch on top?” -NO! Definitely not! Grass clippings are excellent soil amendments and mulch for the garden, but not if the lawn has been treated with herbicides. Return those clippings back into the turf.
“We’re growing the horseradish in 18 inch pots. When do we harvest them? This is the second year and they’re flowering.” Harvest container horseradish in the fall of the second year. Slide the plant out of the pot, and you should have a solid mass of smaller nice white horseradish roots. Funny how the flowers actually smell like horseradish! (Ps – Smaller / newer leaves can be picked and used in salads.)
“We want to do more container gardening, but the watering has us thinking twice. Any suggestions?” -If you have many containers in the same area, consider installing a micro irrigation system (drip) that would water all the pots for you by simply turning on the water. Not that expensive and well worth the investment. But there are a couple others you may try. First, make sure you use a top grade potting mix. The main ingredient will be sphagnum peat – very airy yet holds moisture, which is very important in container gardening. After you have the top grade potting mix, there are 2 products that can be added to help maintain moisture even longer. Coconut coir – looks and feels like sphagnum peat, this by product of ground up coconut hulls is also extremely airy, and actually holds more moisture than sphagnum peat! And Soil Moist – these small polymers, when mixed with your potting mix, soften, swell, and absorb and hold water, until the soil dries out, then releases the water back into the soil to help water the plants. Somewhat like a water reservoir. The expanding and contraction also helps in soil aeration. When using Soil Moist, be sure to follow the directions, and incorporate it into the root level of the potting mix, not at the top or surface. Two more products for container gardeners – always have a good watering wand to water with, and I love the Dramm series of watering wands. And if you need to go out of town for a couple days, try using Aquacones. Attach a 2 liter bottle of water, punch out the drip hole, place in the soil, and these will slow drip water your container. Soak the soil really well just before you leave, add the Aqua cones, and you should be good to go for at least a couple days.
“My roses are developing holes in the leaves, but I can’t find anything eating on them? Is this a disease, or what am I missing?” -Not a disease, it is an insect, and a hard one to see and find. It’s called a rose slug, and is not a slug at all. It’s a sawfly, and looks like a small lime green caterpillar (looks like the veins on the bottom on the leaves). Rose slugs feed on the undersides on the leaves, so what you notice are small white dots, then small holes, then larger holes that look like windows. And if they get really bad, they eat almost all of the leaf. Control for the rose slug includes hand smashing when you find them, applying a systemic insecticide around the base of the rose, and repeated foliar sprays of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, spraying the undersides of the leaves.
“When you’re growing your tomatoes in containers, what size pot do you use, and what fertilizer do you recommend?” For tomatoes, the larger the pot the better! This is one time bigger is really better. I like 20-25 gallon pots, but anything 18 inches or larger will work. I add Osmocote for a slow release fertilizer and a source of calcium to the potting soil. And yes, add Soil Moist (now also using coconut coir) to help reduce watering, which the larger pot will help as well. For the fertilizer, I use Espoma’s Tomato Tone (has calcium added). And plant your tomato plants deep, for better rooting.
“Any tomato better to grow in pots than others?” -Not really. I think all of them can be grown in pots, but unless you have a means of supporting them, you may want to try the determinate rather than indeterminate tomatoes. ‘Husker Red’ and ‘Husker Red Cherry’ are two examples of determinate tomatoes. Stocky, usually only require a support stake, but can be caged for extra support, and only grow 4-5’ tall – more of a bush form. Indeterminate tomatoes can be grown in pots – they just need caging / supports for 5-9’ vines. Also look at the newer selections of cherry tomatoes grow just for hanging baskets and smaller pots like ‘Tumbling Toms’ (red and yellow). So many choices of tomatoes today you can go nuts trying to decide which ones to grow! But that’s a fun thing.