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J.J. Strong
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Q: (An old one from a gardener around the bay, but still gardeners forget, or do not know.) My large and small tomatoes in the greenhouse are splitting, what is the problem?

A: Several people are experiencing the same problem, especially with the weather we have had this year. It applies to both indoor tomatoes and outdoor ones, particularly to those in patio pots.

The prime reason is an irregular supply of water. If water is withheld the plant and tomatoes will not grow on a regular basis. When watering is applied either by rain, or manually by watering can or hose, the plant immediately draws up the water very quickly and as such creates a swelling of the skin and it splits.  

Whether outdoors in the garden or in the greenhouse, keep to a regular watering plan. Do not let the soil dry out, but do not drown the plants, either. Plants in pots will dry out quickly through evaporation through the pots and because the volume of soil and water is reduced as opposed to plants in the ground. Such potted tomato plants may, on hot dry and windy days, require watering twice a day.

Q: My daphne plant has its red berries drying out.

A: There are several types of daphne. D. Mezereum is a deciduous plant with purple-red flowers and there is also a white variety, D. mezereum “Alba.” Plants are around four feet high and both have red berries. D. odera is an evergreen, 3-4 feet high. It is a winter daphne with low spreading and can be tender, with rosy-purple flowers. There are other varieties.     

There are varying views on its cultivation and some thrive in a garden where they may be neglected and yet they can often die in a garden where they are overly fussed over. In general, they variously prefer sun to partial shade and there are varying arguments on acidic or alkaline coils. However — and here may be the answer to the question — they prefer (the same as the tomatoes and many plants) a good moderately rich soil, even to plenty of moisture during the growing season. Do not overfeed..     

Most dislike root disturbance and are probably best planted from pots when they are young. No pruning required.


After the flowers have been cut and foliage left intact, the plants should remain in the ground for as long as possible to permit the foliage to die down and the corms mature. Six to eight weeks is ideal and —  with a good fall — can be achieved. If the weather turns very cold before this period is complete, then be satisfied and carefully lift and label the plants. Remove excess soil and bring the plant into a well-ventilated, frost-free area. The tops can be cut down to one inch (2.5 cm) and allow the corms to dry out.  

Around the base of last year’s corm will be baby corms, often called cormlets, cormels, or spawn, which can be removed, labelled and stored. Once the adult and cormlets are dry, they can be placed in separate boxes according to variety, dusted with fungicide and stored in a frost-free area.

Check periodically. Next spring they can be restarted and the adults will produce flowers. The cormlets may take up to three years to produce flowers.  

Jobs for the week

Once the frost kills the annuals, clear the beds and make ready for planting fall bulbs. Do not lift dahlias until the leaves have been well damaged by frost.

J.J. Strong is a longtime member

of the Newfoundland Horticultural Society

Organizations: Newfoundland Horticultural Society

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