Garden Journal – Week of April 27

Changing colors in a forget-me-not

The Plan this Week:

And the Billy Button Project gets underway.


What is the problem with these Strawberries?

Having some trouble

Hasn’t put out strawberries since the first year

As I try to spend another week drilling down into a couple of the plants, I’m realizing more and more that I’ve been just barely keeping them alive. They could be thriving.
I guess I’ll count my lucky stars that I’m trying to get everything growing again just as spring is really unfolding. We just had one of our first head waves of the year over the weekend (finally got over 80F, I think!), so now’s the time.

What do Strawberries want?

SunWaterDirtNutrition
Warm days and cool nightsToo little is badWell-draining organic soilToo little will cause lack of fruit
Too much can rot the crownRoots only reach a few inches deepToo much nitrogen can cause excess foliage growth and stunt fruit growth
Loves phosphorus
Sources: Gardening Know How

Too hot, and there won’t be many berries. Too cold, and the flowers will be damaged – causing little to no berries. I don’t really have those problems here, so the issue probably isn’t temperature.

The roots only reach a few inches deep. For a potted plant, this can be a problem – and this particular pot has had a past of drying out its contents quickly. To remedy this, I put some sphagnum moss up top when I transplanted the strawberry last year. Seems to be working out alright. However, if it’s holding moisture near the strawberry too much, it could cause rot. I may need to replant it. Other sources recommend being very careful not to get the actual above-ground crown wet until any potential fungus or bugs (lygus bugs?) have gone away.

I know I’ve been deficient on all my balcony plants in terms of nutrients. I should have been fertilizing or adding nutrients probably five times as much as I was. That one’s on me, and I still feel really bad for neglecting that. Unfortunately, this is COVID time and the only fertilizer I have is some 4-2-3 liquid stuff (so a little more nitrogen than phosphorus), but I’ll do what I can.

Another factor that some sources claim is the age of the plant. Under a year and there likely won’t be any fruit. Mine is getting old (and looking old too), so that’s not an issue here.

The Plan

Fertilize

Water more effectively

Look more closely, prune as needed


Olive leaves are getting dry up top

First off, I’d like to say there is such a website as OliveTreeGrowers.com.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this plant has not given me any issues before now. (That’s not entirely true. I’ve found little outbreaks of ‘black scale’ – a parasite – which I’ve plucked off by hand. But the plant itself has been in great health).
Seems like all my other plants are letting this one know that it needs to show some problems to get in on the love. What’s that saying about the squeaky wheel?

I’m hoping this comes down to nutritional problems as in the other plants, but we’ll give it a good looking-over to see what might be going on.

SunWaterDirtNutrition
Minimum 6 hoursNo standing water
No 2-ft water holes nearby
Well-drainedRegularly throughout growing season
Drought tolerant once establishedMay have troubles in sandNot before spring, usually
10-10-10 slow release or something of the sort, with trace elements
Sources: Olivetreegrowers.com SFgate

The other nifty thing about olive trees is that transplanting from a pot to the dirt is incredibly easy. Dig a hole to the same size and depth as the pot, then plop it in. No extra feed, backfill material, or anything else.
Another thing: the tree requires a stake support until the main train reaches 1 1/4 inches thick. I have mostly removed the support, because I thought the tree wanted to be free. It may instead be developing issues supporting itself, which is why it’s having trouble pushing fluid up.
Another ‘nother thing: Mulch on the ground can rob the soil of nitrogen in the decomposition process. I’m already low on nitrogen, and now I’m wondering if some of this old, mixed-up dirt is part of the problem too.

Liquid fertilizers may be used… but it should be remembered that liquid feeding is a fleeting thing and must be repeated often… Whatever type of fertilizer is used, it is best to feed lightly and often during the growing season.

OliveTreeGrower.com

Okay, that hit me. When I first got the garden in place, I think I read too much about ‘root scorch’ and all sorts of over-nutrient related problems. Now it seems my problems may be from too few. Gotta walk that middle path.

Finally, be sure to keep ant colonies away from your trees.

OliveTreeGrower

I’ve had black scale. That stuff’s no joke. Fortunately, those bugs are visible and leave even more visible traces on the leaves. I can see there’s none of that going on right now. They can encourage ant action, so I’m always very careful to remove any black scale insects.

The olive tree may just be a bit dry and under-watered. I knew it was drought tolerant, and I may have subconsciously taken that to mean it preferred less water.

Other Concerns

I found a few other sources on problems that could be causing the leaves to fall off or dry. There are a few fungi that could be causing it, though they’re also sometimes easy to spot. No giant ‘galls’ growing off the tree, so it’s probably not Olive Knot.
If it’s Verticillium Wilt, the tree will die in 3 years. I’m going to assume it’s not that, because that’s sad; and also because the leaves in photos of that condition are curled up like tubes. Mine are drying from the tip down, not curling.

It could be Root Rot. The things happening to the leaves are similar to the pictures I’m finding online. Then the tree will likely die in 1-2 years.

It definitely can’t be that, then.

The Plan

Add some nutrients. Just a taste, but it probably needs it for new growth.

Make sure not to over-water. The planter, where the dirt and roots are, is usually in shade. The leaves reach up over the handrail and get sun.

Wait… impatiently. And tie the tree back up.


Catch up on Past Plants

Mint is a weed.
It’s one of my favorite plants, which is why it was one of the first plants I wanted to fix the issues for. Since that time a couple weeks ago, I have pruned 3 shoots nearly a foot tall, getting 10 or more leaves off each of them. Not exactly the height of production, but more than I had gotten in a month from the whole plant before.
Lesson learned. Don’t be afraid to prune down to the dirt, make sure to add nutrients, give it some (more) sun, and make sure you’re not flooding the poor thing.

Apple mint - new shoot
Apple mint – new shoot
Some apple mint getting pruned
Some apple mint getting pruned

The pepper plants are thriving like nobody’s business! Whether it’s from being walked into the sun or the presence of nutrients in the soil again, I’m happy for the plants. We’ll see how the fruit develops as things go on – so far, they’re still small, but slowly getting into shape.

There’s still some misshaping in the leaves, but hopefully not the signs of another disease on the way. I’ll have to wait and see.

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