Dear Gardeners,

I will be away from the garden Monday. June 20 – Thursday. June 23 and will return Friday evening, June 24. I have an opportunity to teach 5th – 8th grade students cooking at a camp. It should be a lot of fun!

It was so nice to get all the edges and unrented plots mowed this week. Thank you to all the gardeners who have adopted areas and to those who helped mow and weed eat!!! I could not have done it all without you! Many hands make light the work!

During the mowing of the high weeds and grass next to the woods, I got a tick bite. Please be careful about the ticks. Unfortunately, I developed a rash around my ankles, had a slight fever, and muscle aches. This rash looked like clusters of bug bites but upon closer examination it is burst capillaries. It does not itch and is not raised. Went to the doctor and am now on antibiotics for 21 days. If you get a tick bite, remove it correctly, save it in a zip lock bag with a few blades of grass and send it off to this address to be analyzed. They are doing research on tick borne diseases in Kentucky and I got this information from our pediatrician when my daughter got a tick bite.
Dr. Kerry Clark
Public Health Research Lab
Building 39; Room 3002
Department of Public Health
University of North Florida
1 UNF Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32224

    Gardening tip: Tomatoes

Many gardeners love tomatoes. We stake them because they take up less space but tomatoes were designed to sprawl along the ground and every place they touched the ground they developed roots which drew in more water and nutrients.

So when you plant them, remove all the lower leaves, dig a deep hole, fill the hole with water and let it soak in, you can even put a little composted manure in the bottom of the hole. Next plant the tomato all the way up to the top tuff of green. Those hairs along the stem are all little roots just waiting to develop. More roots mean more fruits!

Water Deeply, Once a Week, During Dry Weather. Tomatoes have very deep roots, sometimes going down into the soil up to 5 feet. Shallow watering will stress and weaken the plants.
If your tomatoes rot at the bottom, you might need more calcium. You could add a sprinkle of the agriculture lime that is at the garden in the planting hole or around the plant. Another thing is to save your egg shells, rinse them off well, microwave the shells for 5 minutes. Let them cool, grind them into a fine powder and sprinkle them around your plants. This is a great way to add calcium to your soil.

When fertilizing, use a LOW nitrogen fertilizer to encourage blooms and fruit not leaves.
Sometimes animals and birds take bites out of tomatoes because they are looking for water, by providing a dish of water they may leave your tomatoes alone.

Another trick that works is hanging red Christmas balls on the tomato plant before the tomatoes ripen. The animals take a bite out of the ball and associate all the tomatoes there taste bad.
For tomatoes, the most important role of mulch is to prevent soil born disease pathogens from splashing onto the foliage and spreading disease. Place the mulch to within two inches from the stem, in a layer two to three inches tall. Happy Growing!

See you at the garden!

Susan Ballerstedt
Garden Manager