Help for dy­ing leaves on tomato plants

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - CULTURE 2 - Richard Nun­nally Richard Nun­nally is a free­lance writer and is re­tired from Vir­ginia Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion. You can reach him at rt­dgar­

QUES­TION: My toma­toes have taken on a strong blight all of a sud­den. Do you think a dose of tomato fer­til­izer would help that? Or a fungi­cide treat­ment? Or both? The toma­toes had been ex­tremely healthy up un­til a cou­ple of weeks ago. They are pro­duc­ing beau­ti­ful fruit, but the leaves are start­ing to turn yel­low, shriv­el­ing up and dy­ing.

AN­SWER: If the dy­ing leaves are start­ing at the base of the plant and have black or brown spots, this could be early or late blight. These are fun­gal dis­eases that can usu­ally be stopped from spread­ing with a fungi­cide. How­ever, if there are no spots, this could just be the plant re­ject­ing the lower leaves that it no longer needs. By mid­sum­mer, plants that are con­tin­u­ing to grow will of­ten kick off ex­cess leaves that they can’t take up enough mois­ture to sup­port.

QUES­TION: I or­dered a red

maple tree from the Ar­bor Foun­da­tion and had it planted in my front yard in De­cem­ber 2015. Its branches have grown to what I feel is a length that is too long. I know noth­ing about proper tree main­te­nance. I am won­der­ing if any of the branches should be pruned? Also, many of the leaves have black spots. Are these things to be wor­ried about?

AN­SWER: Those spots are symp­toms of a leaf fun­gus, prob­a­bly stim­u­lated by the ex­tremely wet weather in May and June. They are mainly cos­metic and should not do se­ri­ous harm to the tree. A fungi­cide might stop it from spread­ing but won’t cure the leaves that are al­ready in­fected.

As for the long branches, next win­ter, af­ter the leaves have dropped, you could head back each branch by 10 to 12 inches by cut­ting that much off each long branch. That will force more lat­eral branches to de­velop, thick­en­ing up the canopy and mak­ing the limbs stronger, rather than longer.

QUES­TION: I have 20-year-old red tips that are about 20 feet tall. They now have the canopy of a huge beech tree over­pow­er­ing them. They get lit­tle sun­light be­cause that side of the house stays in the shade from my neigh­bor’s tall trees. Is it pos­si­ble to cut the red tips back to 5 to 6 feet and have them sur­vive? Or should I just cut them down en­tirely? There are leaves at the top, but they are very spindly and have dead lower limbs.

AN­SWER: You can cut them back that far, if you do it in Fe­bru­ary, be­fore they make their new growth. How­ever, with the over­hang­ing trees around, it looks as if the red tips have out­lived their value in your land­scape. My sug­ges­tion is to get rid of them and con­sider re­plac­ing them with some­thing low-grow­ing that likes full shade. Fall is the ideal time to re­place them with some­thing bet­ter suited for that area.

QUES­TION: Early in the spring, my lawn was mostly lush and green. Now it has a lot of dead grass ar­eas that I think came from the very wet spring. Have you ob­served that my lawn prob­lem is wide­spread in the Rich­mond area? What rec­om­men­da­tions can you give me to re­store my lawn?

AN­SWER: Our high tem­per­a­tures and high hu­mid­ity have cre­ated the per­fect con­di­tions for the brown patch fun­gus. It shows it­self as brown spots about the size of a din­ner plate. Even­tu­ally, these spots can co­a­lesce into larger ir­reg­u­lar ar­eas. The heavy spring rains cer­tainly con­trib­uted as can spring ni­tro­gen ap­pli­ca­tions. The lush spring growth is the most sus­cep­ti­ble to the dis­ease. The good news is, al­though it looks bad now, it only af­fects the blades and not the roots. As a re­sult, once we get into the less hu­mid, lower temps of late sum­mer, you will mow off the in­fected grass and the new sprouts will fully re­cover. Fungi­cides can be used pre­ven­ta­tively, if started at the first signs of in­fec­tion. How­ever, fungi­cides don’t cure the in­fected ar­eas, they only help to slow down the spread. This late in the sum­mer, it may be best to live with it and be pre­pared to do some light over­seed­ing around La­bor Day.

Spots on maple leaves can be symp­toms of a fun­gal dis­ease.

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