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Ask an Expert: Follow These Tips for Successfully Growing Pepper and Tomato Plants in Your Garden

The weather has turned wintery, but the calendar says it’s spring and that means gardening time has returned. You may have questions. For answers, check out Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension Teachers and Master Gardeners respond to questions within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to OSU Extension Website, enter it and include the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What is your?

Q: How well do peppers and tomatoes grow in Eugene? Would I need a greenhouse or plastic liner to get good growth or to create a proper growing season? – Lane County

A: Peppers and tomatoes can be grown successfully in Eugene. Peppers and tomatoes do best when planted in your garden as transplants or starters. Tomato and pepper sprouts are available at most garden centers. You can start your own starts from seed indoors, but it is now getting late in the season to start from seed.

Tomatoes need about eight weeks and peppers about 10 weeks to be ready to transplant from seed into the garden during their optimal planting time, which is May through the first part of June. The publication, Propagate plants from seedswill be a great resource if you plan to start from seed.

Tomatoes are a staple in most gardens and there are many varieties that do well in Eugene. Peppers need a longer growing season and can be picky. Look for varieties that have been recommended for cultivation in our region.

For best results after planting, peppers need temperatures of 70-80 degrees during the day and 60-70 degrees at night. Tomatoes need outdoor temperatures of at least 60 degrees and soil temperatures of 65 degrees. If they are too cold, they may not flower or develop fruit.

You can use a greenhouse for starters until it is warm enough to plant outdoors. If you must plant them outside before temperatures are optimal, using row covers will help keep them warm. Be sure to uncover or ventilate them during the day to avoid overheating them under the plastic.

When you plant your vegetables, make sure the soil drains well and has plenty of organic matter. Water the plants infrequently and deep in the soil for better fruit and root development. The following publications contain additional information on growing tomatoes and peppers:

Grow your own peppers

Grow your own tomatoes and tomatillos

Grow yours

– Jan Gano, OSU Expansion Master Gardener

Q: I just planted my vegetable garden yesterday – tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, peas. The weather for the coming week looks cool and wet. Will my 2-3 inch plants survive? – Clackamas County

A: I wish you had asked this question a week ago because even without the cold weather, it was too early to plant tomatoes and peppers. They need the ground to be at 65 degrees before planting. Peas are more forgiving and lettuce is “ifty”. I suggest you read the planting chart on page 7 of this Publication of the OSU. It contains excellent information. – Kris LaMar, OSU Extension Master Gardner

climbing hydrangeaOSU Extension Service

Q: I have a climbing hydrangea on a stucco wall facing north. After six years it has never flowered and I am ready to give up that experience. How can I remove it safely without damaging the stucco? – Clackamas County

A: I’m afraid the protection of stucco structures is not part of the OSU Extension education program, but I found this article out of Illinois.

I wonder if you would be willing to give your plant another year, trying to prune it to produce flowers next year? This variety of hydrangea does not produce flowers on horizontal stems; only on verticals. This may be your flowering problem. You usually prune after the previous year’s flowers have faded and you may need to prune afterwards until late summer or early fall. If you don’t see flowers this year, start pruning once all danger of frost has passed.

If you decide to remove it, I suggest you find an expert who specializes in stucco repair, in case the tendrils have weakened or destroyed the surface. – Kris LaMar, OSU Expansion Master Gardener

Q: I have two out of 13 blueberries that are very stunted this season. They both have clusters but look stunted and have brown around the clusters. The bushes are big bushes about 5 feet tall but they almost look like they are dying? The others are full of flowers and are beautiful. Do you have any tips on what I can do or look for to support the bushes?? – Clackamas County

A: What you are describing most closely resembles a common virus that can infect blueberries called Blueberry Shock Virus. You can read more about this virus here.

I was walking through blueberry fields yesterday and saw symptoms very similar to what you show in your photo. Plants can contract this virus when they are young or older, as you describe. The virus is transmitted by pollen – transferred from an infected plant to an uninfected plant by bees when they pollinate flowers.

There is NO control once a plant is infected. Almost all of the varieties you can buy from any nursery are susceptible, although they differ in how quickly they can catch the virus (how old). The good news is that plants should NOT be removed. If it is blueberry shock, the plants will recover. You will see them start to grow in a few weeks. Prune them well and they will flower normally next year.

Of course, they can transmit the virus to other plants you have, but those will also recover. Shock can affect plants differently. Sometimes one part of the plant will get infected and recover, then the next year you will see another part of the plant do the same. Just let the disease take its course. Just in case you were wondering, the damage was not due to cold injury (blueberries are very cold tolerant and it didn’t get cold enough). – Bernadine Strik, OSU Extension rack specialist, retired

How to Prune a Japanese Maple

Japanese maple. Oregon Archive Photo. LC- THE OREGONIAN

Q: Will pruning dead branches from my Japanese maple, which appears to have verticillium wilt, help? – Jackson County

A: Yes. Here are some other recommendations:

n Prune dead branches to discourage infection by other fungi. Sanitize tools between cuts in a 10% solution of household bleach.

  • Water generously, especially during dry periods.
  • Apply modest amounts of slow-release, low-nitrogen, high-potassium fertilizer.
  • Mulch to maintain soil moisture, keep soil temperature moderate, and minimize risk of root injury.
  • Avoid gardening under a Japanese maple, as root damage can be an entry point for verticillium wilt.
  • Do not use wood chips from infected trees
  • Since the verticillium fungus can survive in the soil for 10 years, do not move soil or debris from known infection areas.
  • Fungicides are not effective for control, as tree roots inevitably grow beyond the treated area.

– Chris Rusch, OSU Extension Master Gardener