Fall is creeping up, but there is still plenty to do in the garden. You many have some questions. For answers, turn to Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website type it in and include the county in which you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?
Q: Over the past two weeks my tomatoes have developed this unusual spotting, I’m hoping you can give me some advice as to the cause and possible remedy? – Benton County
This virus can attack pretty much at any time. The leaves may show a mottled color appearance and stunted growth as well as poor fruit set. The fruit has a mottled look as your picture and usually turns brown in the dead spots with rotting brown colored interior. Cut some open and see if there is any discoloration.
If you think this may be correct you should remove and trash the plant, clean all your tools, buckets, cages or whatever you have used in the soil with a 10% bleach solution.
Plant next year’s tomatoes in clean soil. Plant this year’s tomato bed with a green manure or cover crop. This disease has a number of variants causing problems in a number of plants.
This link will provide more information on this disease. There is no cure.
Your tomato looks like the classic “marbling” for the tomato virus of which there are several (viruses). Your leaves could be sun burned, or could have tomato blight or tomato wilt.
The only way to know what’s going on is with a lab analysis. I am sending a link from Oregon State on labs that you may want to contact. This was last edited in 2017, however, I do know that the OSU plant ID/pathogen lab is still running.
You can send samples to a lab, you can leave the plant and tomatoes in the ground and see if the other tomatoes develop the same way as the one in your picture (that would tell me the plant has the virus) or you can pull the whole thing and put it in the trash. If you do that do not use the soil again for nightshade plants (tomatoes, potatoes). Since it is in a pot, isolate it from other plants if you decide to take a wait and see approach.
Here’s another link for you – look at the top picture and then scroll down and look at the leaf picture with the browning on it However, your tomato does not look like the diseased ones. – Sheryl Casteen, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Q: I used baking soda as deodorizer in an area that has a thriving bee population and am now concerned that it may have an unwanted and potentially toxic effect on the bees. Upon searching for an answer to this question online, I was unable to find a clear answer. Is baking soda harmful to bees? – Benton County
A: Based on your description of use of baking soda, I do not think it will impact bees in your area. – Ramesh Sagili, OSU Extension bee specialist
Q: We are planning to plant grass/ clover in the compacted yard (from construction work) after it has been tilled and amended. It currently has wood chips on it. The landscaper said the wood chips need to be removed before tilling and planting because the wood chips will prevent the seeds from growing. I know that when the wood chips are mixed with the soil they will access the nitrogen, but my thought was that just adding more nitrogen would take care of that issue. Am I wrong? I did have a soil test done. It says that prior to planting spread 3.4% nitrogen, 3% potash and , 0.6% sulfur per 1,000 square feet.
My question is: how best to proceed to help the lawn grow? – Washington County
A: It depends on how thick the layer of wood chips is and how large the chips are. If it is a thin layer (less than 1-2 inches) and the chips are more like saw dust, then tilling them into the soil is fine as long as you do not create a layer and you till the wood chips in at least 6 inches deep so you are diluting it well. You are correct, the microbes will use up nitrogen breaking down the carbon from the wood chips. But there can be other problems as well (see below). As a guide, if you till in the wood chips and they mostly disappear in the soil, then I think you will be OK.
What you are trying to avoid is having too much organic matter. If the organic matter gets too high, you can have problems irrigating it where the soil either holds too much water, which creates disease problems, or has hydrophobic spots (really dry). One common disease with too much organic matter is fairy ring. This fungal disease can produce mushrooms, and both green and hydrophobic (extremely dry) rings.
If the layer of wood chips is heavy or the size of the wood chips is large, I would probably remove them and either use them for a landscape bed or give them to your neighbor.
I think you need to ask yourself what the worst outcome could be? If you till the wood chips in and you have problems, what are you going to do then? The solution is really difficult. Weigh that potential outcome against simply raking them up into a pile now and removing them. – Brian McDonald
Q: How do you kill a black locust tree? We had two trees cut down. We left the stumps and now we have dozens of saplings invading our yard and driveway. – Clackamas County
A: Here is an Extension article on control of this invasive species. Note that all of the chemicals may not be available to homeowners, and, assuming all other mechanisms are not effective, should be used only in accordance with label directions. – Kris LaMar, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Q: The previous owners of our home built a lovely fern garden, but removed a large tree that was providing shade for them. We’d love to get them more shade, but maintain the view we have. Can you recommend any trees that would stay 15-20 feet tall with a loose canopy for dappled light (partial shade)? A dogwood comes to mind, but I’m curious about other choices. – Multnomah County
A: Here is an OSU Extension publication (there’s also an app version) on tree selection and care that should provide some options. This publication focuses on native plants that might also be helpful. – Kris LaMar, OSU Extension Master Gardener