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MSU Extension Service

Home Grown is an educational, entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.

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HOME GROWN 309

I desperately want good tomatoes this year. I keep looking at the plants and watering them but I think something is going very, very wrong. Recently, some of the leaves began to curl up. A couple on one plant rolled up like cigars. The leaves are green and some feel a bit leathery. I just know this is the end of my tomatoes. What did I do wrong and how can I save them?

Your guilt in this perceived disaster is that you can't control the weather. Bad, bad you. Tomato leaf rolling happens because of an irregular water supply. This can also happen during periods of hot weather when water demands for the plants are high. Symptoms are intensified if you are pruning the plants. Check plants daily to see if they need to be watered. Water them deeply enough that the soil is damp to at least six inches down into the soil. Don't prune the tomatoes. Then sit back and wait for the weather to change to cooler temperatures. The tomatoes will then produce regular leaves. The plants will not suffer because of the leaf rolling. But I'm worried about your suffering and I think that watering won't help.

We're putting a new addition on our house. There is a 50-foot maple that is in the same spot. This has been an absolutely beautiful tree. I want to move the tree but how do we do this?


You don't. The choice here is the tree or the addition. There can be only one. It would be virtually impossible to move a tree of this size. And here are the two top reasons: tree size and root size. It would be hard to find a company to spade this tree out and move it successfully. It's a behemoth. Not only is the top huge, the root system probably extends out twice to three times as far as the branches on a given side of the tree. If the tree with branches is 30 feet wide, branches are out about 15 feet on a side. The roots could be out 30 to 45 feet. They don't make spades big enough. This tree will have most of its valuable roots out at the end of the root system. If a 90-inch spade comes in and removes the tree, most of the root system is left behind. No roots mean dead tree plus the expense of moving it. That's the insult added to injury thing.

This spring, I dug up part of my lawn for a vegetable garden. I added topsoil, compost and manure. I now am fighting weeds that are popping up all over. These aren't the ones I have other places. I don't even know what they are. Whose fault is this? Was it the compost the topsoil or the manure?

All of the above, and throw in your soil for good measure. Crafty ol' Mother Nature just hates empty spots. She is very anti erosion. So all the things you mentioned come with their emergency packs of weed seeds to fill in those embarrassing gaps. If these materials were baked in a hot oven, it would kill those nasty seeds. It would also kill the soil. So get over it and figure how to control your new guests. You could mulch the garden with straw to shade the soil and prevent germination. You could use the time-honored hoe and loosen soil to the depth of one inch. Dry soil doesn't sprout plants. This means that you are walking backward and hoeing. Your footprints will have seeds germinate in them if you move forward. You have compacted the soil with your little feet and seeds will sprout. Don't hoe too close to existing plants. You don't need root pruning unless this is intended to be a bonsai vegetable garden. You know, those little dwarfed plants. You can use your rototiller and till shallowly. With all good stuff comes a little bad. Weed seeds are a small price to pay for better soil. Don't wait until the weeds are the size of palm trees to knock them off.

Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture
Agent 517/546-3950

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