Water plants deeply before going on vacation

How can I keep my plants hydrated when I go on a long vacation?

Train your plants. While you are getting them established, water deeply so that roots grow down and deeper. Frequent, shallow watering encourages shallow root systems. After two years, established perennial or woody plants should be able to withstand all but severe drought without being watered. Always select "the right plant for the right place," i.e., sun-loving drought-tolerant plants for dry sunny spots, etc. The same rule goes for native as well as non-native plants.

Before you leave for vacation, water deeply. Ensure water does not run off by using a soaker hose or a slow stream of water to allow the soil time to absorb it. If we're having a drought, water a wider area because parched soil can wick away water from around your plant. Mulch, no deeper than 1-2 inches. If that isn't deep enough to suppress weeds, then put 3-4 layers of newspaper under the mulch.

Sink pots in the ground — it's cooler, so less evaporation, spread mulch around the plants, and thoroughly water.

Annuals will suffer drought stress more quickly — get a neighbor to water those.

It happened again. Every year my apple, peach, and plum trees have loads of blossoms, but then all the fruit falls off. I never get a crop. What causes this?

We see distorted fruit with crescent-shaped scars in the photos you sent us through our website.

The insect pest you're encountering is an exception to the rule of insect specialization. Instead of infesting either stone fruits or pome fruits (apple and pear), this pest attacks both. Plum curculio is a small gray beetle that lays its eggs on fruit just beginning to develop. The larvae that hatch out eat into the fruit. Both their egg-laying and larval tunneling cause fruit to drop from the tree.

You have several options to choose from to stop plum curculio from ruining your crop next year. Call or email the University of Maryland Extension for details. And next time please contact us as soon as your problem starts.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at hgic.umd.edu.

Plant of the week


Tagetes species

Plant marigolds and add instant sunshine to your garden. From late spring through first frost, this easy-to-grow annual provides cheerful shades of gold, orange, yellow, ivory, and maroon. Members of the daisy family, marigolds have single, double, or semi-double flowers. Foliage is dark green, fernlike, and very aromatic. Cultivars vary from 6 inches to 3 feet in height. For quick spots of color, combine with annuals and perennials in containers, edgings, flower arrangements, and vegetable gardens. Marigolds grow best in sunny locations in well drained soils. Put bedding plants or seed outdoors after danger of frost or sow indoors four weeks before last frost date. Remove faded flowers to encourage new blooms. Water well during hot summer weather. Marigolds are deer-resistant and seldom bothered by diseases and pests. — Marian Hengemihle

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