Master Gardener Responses to Questions About Vegetables

Following the publication of our August newsletter, we had two excellent questions about 2 vegetables that are common to most backyard gardens. We want to share the responses with you.

  1. The first question is regarding pole beans that have reached the top of the climbing structure provided. The question was “should I trim the ends off where they are hanging down or just let them hang there?”

Response: I encountered a similar situation this year with the beans in a community garden.  We thought we had selected bush beans, but were surprised with pole beans instead.  We didn’t have the appropriate supports in place. I do not advise cutting the healthy growing tips.  Some alternate and creative suggestions are:

  1. Let the ends simply hang there. They may find something to grab onto like the fence or another growing tip, and the vining stems are strong enough to withstand blowing in the breezes.
  2. Guide the ends back down the existing strings so they can intertwine with other growth.
  3. If there’s room, and you won’t damage the roots of the plants, put more tall supports in the ground for them to grasp and climb onto. In the community garden, we used long branches pruned from shrubs for this purpose.
  4. If there is an appropriate structure nearby, you could lead them to that with more lines of string.

    Beans growing on a support


2. Question two is regarding blossom end rot on the tomatoes. The reader was growing Roma tomatoes in containers on a deck.

Response:  Blossom end rot is commonly seen in tomatoes in containers. The developing fruit needs adequate calcium, which is delivered by the water added to the potting mix. If you used fresh potting mix to fill your containers, then this nutrient would be present.  The problem would then likely be due to uneven soil moisture.  When moisture is not available, the calcium cannot be delivered to the developing fruit.  Regular and even moisture is required.  If the soil dries out and the plant wilts, this is enough to cause the calcium deficiency and the resulting blossom end rot.

To reduce the incidence of blossom end rot:

  1. Keep the plants watered in a timely manner, and water deeply at the base of the plant. Because the plants are in a container, you may need to water once or twice daily to prevent them from wilting.  As a general rule of thumb, water slowly until the water comes out the drainage holes at the bottom.
  2. Mulch the surface of the soil to conserve water.
  3. Avoid excessive application of nitrogen-containing fertilizer (which causes the water to go towards leaf growth, rather than to the fruit).

authored by Lori Groves


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