Doug’s mailbag: Leggy tomatoes, struggling plant, shrub IDs and more

Posted on: May 26, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Gardening editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

There are three ways to send in your questions:

  • Email askdoug@535mediallc.com
  • Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site
  • Send us a message on Facebook.

(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)

tomatoes

Question 1: Leggy tomatoes

Tom: I had sent you a note last year about my very leggy tomatoes. You mentioned that they probably needed more light. I gave them 24/7 grow lights (AeroGarden panels) for their first six weeks. They are less leggy but not like the broad stemmed plants I see at Sam’s and Trax. How do I get my plants to be more thick stemmed, shorter and stronger? I can’t add more light. Is it more fertilizer? Heat?

Doug: It sounds like you did everything right. Every different variety grows a little differently. With lots of light, they will not be leggy.

Your tomatoes look slightly leggy, but the color is off. Next year, even more light and some liquid organic fertilizer like Espoma’s Grow (available here) will green them up. They will be fine for the garden though.

struggling plant

Question 2: Struggling plant

Chris: I hope you’re having a wonderful spring. I’m hoping you can tell me why this plant’s leaves have turned light green and yellow. It seems healthy otherwise. It lives on a window sill and gets a lot of light. I only water it when the soil feels dry. Any suggestions?

Doug: It looks like it could use some liquid, organic fertilizer like Grow (available here). I would also keep it on the dry side, as the soil looks really wet. See how that works for you.

mystery bush

Question 3: Mystery bush

Karen: I have this bush in my yard and I don’t know what it is. It just popped up. I’m hoping it’s not poison.

Doug: No worries, that looks like a multiflora rose or something like it. You can simply cut it at the base if you wish to remove it.

Question 4: Shrub ID

Jo Ann: I was wondering if you know what this variegated shrub is? It has beautiful pink flowers.

Doug: That’s a weigela, an easy shrub to grow. It might be the cultivar ‘My Monet,’ which has variegated foliage. You should be able to find it at a local nursery.

Question 5: Weed block

Terri: Is it harmful to use new/unused roof shingles as a weed block on pathways only in a raised bed vegetable garden?

Doug: I wouldn’t recommend using them anywhere in the vegetable garden. I would go with 7-10 layers of newspaper. Get it wet, then put mulch on top.

Previous mailbags

Wildflowers, cicadas, tree identifications and more

Rabbit problem, discouraging dogs, geraniums and more

Cypress, wild garlic, gnats and more

Lawn damage, daffodils, ground cover and more

Southern flower, planting peas, lily of the valley and more

Propagation, rhubarb, hydrangeas and more

Mint, cucumbers and mountain laurel

Larkspur, Chinese lanterns, moss and more

Native grass, safe cleaner, garlic and more

Tithonia seeds, bulb auger, elephant ears and more

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”