UCCE Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County
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UCCE Master Gardeners of San Bernardino County

Posts Tagged: Gardening

Bring on the Tomatoes! 5 Common Tomato Problems and Solutions

UC Master Gardener Dave Freed, aka “the tomato guy” with three tomato plants---each plant has over 100 lbs. of Beefsteak-size tomatoes.

Almost any home gardener will tell you that one of the most versatile and rewarding plants to grow in a summer edible garden is a tomato. In fact, a 2023 study by the National Gardening Association revealed that 86 percent of gardeners grow tomatoes. It is understandable that the tomato plant is a popular home vegetable garden staple, tomatoes offer thousands of different varieties options and flavors. Plus, nothing beats the bursting flavor of a ripe tomato straight from the garden.

When properly cared for, a single tomato plant can produce 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 to 6.8 kg) or more of fruit. As with any gardening journey, sometimes there can be obstacles or challenges to overcome. If tomato yields aren't what was expected, or the fruit is damaged, it could be due to a number of abiotic disorders, diseases or pesky pests.

Abiotic disorders result from non-living causes and are often environmental, for example: unfavorable soil conditions, too much or too little water, extreme temperature, physical or chemical injuries, and other issues that can harm or kill a plant. Using research-based information from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) publication, Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden.

Here are five of the most common abiotic disorders of tomatoes and how to address them:  

Sunburn or sunscald appears when the tomato is overexposed to the sun. Keeping a leaf canopy helps protect the fruit during hot and sunny days. Photo credit: Tom Dinwoodie, Merced County.
  1. Sunburn or Sunscald: Yes, just like humans tomatoes can also suffer from sunburns because of overexposure to the sun. Sunburnorsunscald occurs on the side of the fruit exposed to the sun, which turns brown and becomes leathery in texture. Solutions:
    1. Maintain the plant canopy to produce adequate leaf cover for the fruit.  
    2. Avoid overpruning.
    3. Provide partial shade during peaks sunlight hours.
      When leaves on your plant suddenly roll upwards and inward, becoming dry and stiff it is called ‘leaf roll.’ To prevent leaf roll, choose a less susceptible variety and provide, maintain soil moisture and provide shade. Photo credit: Tom Dinwoodie, Merced County.

  2. Leaf Roll: You might find that the older leaves on your plant suddenly roll upward and inward, becoming stiff, brittle and tough to the touch. This is typically caused by high light intensity and moist soil, especially in staked and heavily pruned plants. Solutions:
    1. Choose less-susceptible varieties.
    2. Maintain even soil moisture.
    3. Provide partial shade during peaks sunlight hours.

      Blossom end rot is caused by inconsistent watering and an imbalance in calcium in soil. Photo credit: Anne Schellman, Stanislaus County
  3. Blossom End Rot: This condition appears as a water-soaked spot at the blossom end of the fruit, which enlarges and darkens, creating a sunken, leathery appearance. It's more prevalent in sandy soils and is primarily caused by calcium nutrition imbalance and inconsistent water levels. Solutions:
    1. Maintain even soil moisture.
    2. Amend planting area with compost to improve water retention.
    3. Avoid heavy applications of high-nitrogen fertilizer.
    4. Soils deficient in calcium may be amended with gypsum.

      Fruit cracking is caused when fruit grows rapidly, and the weather is hot, and the soil is moist. Photo credit: Tom Dinwoodie, Merced County.
  4. Fruit Cracks and Catfacing: Rapid growth during high temperatures and excessive soil moisture can lead to circular concentric cracks around the stem end, radial cracks shooting out from the stem, and malformation and cracking at the blossom end, a phenomenon known as ‘catfacing'. Solution:
    1. Keep soil evenly moist.
    2. Maintain good leaf cover or provide partial shade during hours of most intense sunlight. 
    3. Mulch around the plant 3 to 7 inches deep to maintain soil moisture and temperature. 
      A freshly harvested tomato [top right] showing signs of solar yellowing, or “green shoulders,” where the bottom half of the tomato is red but the top remains green or yellow. Photo credit: Melissa Womack

  5. Solar Yellowing and Green Shoulders: This problem is marked by the tomato turning yellow or yellow-orange instead of the normal red color, with the upper part of the fruit stubbornly staying green even though the lower part appears red and ripe. It's a result of high temperatures and intense light. Solutions:
    1. Maintian plant vigor to produce adequate leaf cover.
    2. Avoid overpruning.
    3. Provide partial shade during hours of most intense sunlight. 

A variety of insects and pests can cause other damage to tomato plants. Some examples of common pests, include: hornworms, tomato fruitworms, tomato pinworms, stink bugs, white flies, and leafminers. For information about identifying and managing pests in your edible garden visit the UC Integrated Pest Management (UC IPM) website, ipm.ucanr.edu

Navigating the ups and downs of growing tomatoes might seem daunting, but don't forget, every seasoned gardener has been in your shoes once. We've explored the common abiotic diseases and challenges you might encounter in your tomato-growing journey, and hopefully armed you with solutions to keep these issues at bay.

If you have additional questions or need more help, don't hesitate to reach out to your local UC Master Gardener Program. We have a team of volunteers trained and eager to help you have a bountiful harvest! mg.ucanr.edu/FindUs


Source: Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden Publication 8159 http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8159.pdf

Posted on Friday, August 11, 2023 at 11:49 AM
Tags: gardening (22), growing food (1), IPM (13), tomato (2), tomatoes (1)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Is Your Garden Ready for Spring? - March Gardening Tips

Fresh herbs can be grown in containers in a window to add flavor in your meals. Photo used with permission. Markus Spiske, Unsplash

Happy March! The days are starting to get longer, which means the spring gardening season is about to begin. As temperatures begin to warm, it's the perfect time to start tackling tasks in the garden. Whether you've been hibernating and taking a break from gardening this winter, or you've been planning your spring garden for months, we have some gardening tips to help your garden thrive. 

1. Clean up your garden just before the growing season swings into full gear. March is the perfect time to clean up your garden. If you haven't already be sure to: 

  • Prune dead branches to keep your trees healthy (for more information check out this pruning resource.)
  • Prune summer-flowering plants that bloom on new wood such as crape myrtle
  • Pull weeds once garden beds aren't water-logged
  • Remove dead leaves or plant debris
  • Clean your garden tools
Fertilizing your lawn now will reveal a beautiful lawn come spring and summertime.

2. Fertilize your lawn. The most important nutrients for lawns are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. But most lawns only regularly need nitrogen. To give your lawn the nitrogen it likely needs, you must decide between a: 

  • Slow-release fertilizer that lasts 8-10 weeks (typically marked on the package as water-insoluble nitrogen or WIN)
  • Soluble fertilizer that lasts about 4 weeks

3. Check your irrigation system to see if it needs maintenance. Adjust your irrigation controller for the appropriate season. Plants don't need as much water in late fall, winter, and early spring as they do in the summer months. Adjusting your watering schedule can save water and rescue plants from being overwatered. Do a walkthrough to check your irrigation system for any leaks or problems.

Common irrigation problems and solutions



broken sprinkler

replace with a sprinkler that applies water at the same rate

unmatched sprinklers

replace with sprinklers that apply water at a common rate

sunken sprinkler risers

raise the sprinklers or replace

crooked sprinklers

straighten to an upright position

turfgrass growing around sprinklers, other plants blocking sprinklers   

mow, prune or remove plant material

sand or debris plugging sprinklers

flush out sprinklers to remove debris; replace sprinklers as necessary   

 4. Look for standing water in your landscape and containers. It is crucial to ensure that there is no standing water in your yard or garden, as it can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

5. Plant cool-season vegetables. March is still a good time to plant cool-season crops like peas, lettuce, spinach, and broccoli. These crops love the cooler weather and will thrive in your garden this time of year. Make sure to plant them in a spot that gets plenty of sun and has well-draining soil.

Starting seeds indoors is a great way to get a head start on your warm-season plants.

6. Start warm-season seeds indoors. If you're planning on growing warm-season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants, now is the time to start your seeds indoors. Learn more about seed-starting from our recent blog: Get a Head Start on Your Garden by Starting Your Vegetable Seeds Indoors.

7. Grow herbs. March is an excellent time to grow herbs that can enhance the flavors in your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Herbs can be grown indoors (e.g., in a kitchen window) or outdoors in a pot, raised bed, or in the ground. Herb leaves and herbaceous stems are an incredible addition to most food. Try a new chimichurri recipe or herbed veggie dish this spring.

8. Look out for ladybug hatchlings. While inspecting your garden for pests, keep an eye out for newly hatched ladybugs and refrain from disturbing them. Ladybugs can be extremely beneficial to your garden as they prey on aphids that can be harmful to your plants. For additional information on ladybugs, you can refer to UC IPM's Lady Beetle information

Planting flowers such as milkweed can help support pollinators and butterflies.

9. Plant flowers to attract butterflies and support your local pollinators. Some great pollinator-supporting plants include:

  • Milkweed 
  • Lantana
  • Honeysuckle

March is an exciting time in the garden as it marks the beginning of the growing season. As the temperatures start to rise there's a lot to do in the garden from maintenance to planting. It's time to start putting in the work that will pay off when you see your beautiful spring garden.

Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program 

Have a gardening question? UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help. Click here to Find a Program and connect with your local UC Master Gardener Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer questions for FREE. Happy gardening!  

Posted on Monday, March 6, 2023 at 8:10 AM
Tags: Gardening (22), March (1), Master Gardener (53)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Get a Head Start on Your Garden by Starting Your Vegetable Seeds Indoors

February is a great time to start preparing for your spring and summer vegetable garden, especially if you want to get a head start on the growing season. According to the California Master Gardener Handbook, growing your own transplants from seed indoors can extend your garden season by several weeks, reduce your gardening cost and allow you to grow a more diverse variety of crops.   

Growing from seed is not only fun, but it can also save you money. When stored properly a typical seed packet can last several years. Seeds should be started indoors or in an outdoor hot box or cold frame. Start growing the seeds 6-8 weeks before the date you would like to transplant them and when the threat of frost has passed.

Another benefit of growing vegetables from seed is the wide selection of varieties available from seed catalogs. Growing different varieties is important for an extended harvest and to find plants that grow well in your area. Vegetable plants sold in seedling form are generally available in only one or a few varieties. Plants typically started by seeds indoors include broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, parsley, tomatoes and peppers. Seeds typically started in the ground include beans, beets, carrots, peas and turnips.

Only plant seeds from a reputable source, check seed packets for expiration dates and planting information. Photo: Melissa Womack. Used with permission.

What do you need to get started?

  • Soil mix - The soil media you choose should be fine textured, uniform and airy. Do not use garden soil. It is usually too heavy and often may have disease-causing organisms. A commercial potting mix suited to starting seeds will work well. Fill your growing containers about 2/3 full. 
  • Containers - You can start seeds in almost any container that has drainage holes. Sterilize recycled containers in a 1:9 bleach to water solution, rinse them well and let them air dry prior to use. 
  • A location with proper light and temperature - A sunny window is usually the perfect spot as it has strong but indirect sunlight. Seed packages should instruct you on sunlight needs. Additionally, keep your seedlings in an area that stays between 65 and 70 degrees during the day and 55-60 degrees at night.
  • Quality Seeds – Only plant seeds from a reputable source. Check your seed packets to ensure your seeds have not expired, and that you are planting them at the right time of year. You can also check for seed viability
  • Water – It is crucial to provide seeds with consistent watering. Seeds and seedlings must be kept evenly moist to thrive.
Seed packets come with planting and harvest information on the back, it is important to review and follow the information for a successful garden. Photo: Melissa Womack. Used with permission.

Steps to starting your vegetable garden indoors

  1. It is important to follow the instructions on your seed packet. Refer to the seed packet for the proper planting depth, plant spacing, and days to maturity.
  2. Once you have planted your seeds, water them and continue to do so consistently. The goal is to keep the soil evenly moist but not overly wet.  
  3. Two weeks before transplanting, or when your plants are two to four inches tall, expose them to outdoor temperatures to acclimate them. Do this by leaving them outside in a shady spot during the day for a week, and bringing them inside at night. The following week, leave them outside in their containers during the day and at night, gradually exposing them to more sunlight. This process is referred to as hardening off.
  4. Transplant your vegetables into the garden, planting them at their original depth. Tomatoes can be an exception to this rule however, so consider this tutorial before planting tomato seedlings. Be sure to handle seedlings with care.

Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program

Have a seed starting or home vegetable gardening question? UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help. Click here to Find a Program and connect with your local UC Master Gardener Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer questions for FREE. Happy gardening! 

Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2023 at 10:16 AM
Tags: Food (1), Gardening (22), Master Gardener (53), Seed starting (1)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

Give Your Garden Some Love! February Gardening Tips


Febraury gardening tips from the UC Master Gardener Program! February is the perfect time to plant bare root roses for stunning blooms in the spring and summer. Credit: "Roses" by James Jardine is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than to show your garden a little love? February means it is time to start planning and preparing your spring and summer garden. These gardening tips will help you get your garden ready for the spring growing season  

  1. Prune your roses. If you haven't already, cut back a third to half of their total height. Additionally, remove dead parts including old leaves on the bush and ground to improve overall plant health. Watch this video for more detail on how to prune roses. 

  2. Fertilize your citrus trees. Most mature citrus require regular fertilization with nitrogen. Typically, most other nutrients are available in sufficient amounts in the soil. Nitrogen should be applied in January or February just prior to bloom. The second application can be applied in May and perhaps a third in June. Information about fertilizing citrus can be found on the UC Integrated Pest Management website.  

 Suggested application rates of nitrogen 

   Year one (1)                           1 tablespoon nitrogen fertilizer 3 times per year, per tree.
   Year two (2)     0.25 lb. actual nitrogen per tree 
   Year three (3)      0.50 lb. actual nitrogen per tree 
   Year four (4)     0.75 lb. actual nitrogen per tree 
   Year five (5+)     1 lb. actual nitrogen each year 
  1. Plant these trees, shrubs, and perennials.

    •  Bare root deciduous shrubs and trees 
    •  Roses, grapes, blackberries, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, asparagus, chives, onions, green onions.  

  1. Plant cool-season crops like ... lettuce, spinach, and broccoli. These vegetables thrive in cooler temperatures and can be planted directly in the ground or started indoors for transplanting later.  

  2. Start seeds indoors. Get a head start on your vegetable garden and consider starting seeds indoors in February. This will give your plants a jump start on the growing season and allow you to get a head start on your harvest. Here are a few seeds you can start now: 

    •  Garlic
    •  Shallots
    •  Peas
    •  Peppers
    •  Sweet peas 
    •  Tomatoes 

  1. Protect your garden from snails and slugs. As the month progresses, you may start to see more snails in your garden. Make sure to remove them by hand-picking, baiting, or putting up barriers to keep snails and slugs out of your garden. Learn about snails and slug management from UC IPM.  

February is a great time for gardeners in California to plan, prepare, and get an early start growing their gardens for the upcoming season. From planting cool-season vegetables to starting seeds indoors, to protecting your garden from pests, there are many ways to get a head start on your garden. So make the most of this month and show your love for your garden and your special someone on Valentine's Day.  

Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program 

Have a gardening question? UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help. Click here to Find a Program and connect with your local UC Master Gardener Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer questions for FREE. Happy gardening!  

Posted on Thursday, February 2, 2023 at 2:38 PM
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

New Year, New Garden! January Gardening Tips

January is a great time to maintain, clean, and sharpen your garden tools. Photo © UC Regents.

Happy New Year from the statewide UC Master Gardener Program. Gardening in January can be a challenge with the cold weather and shorter days. However, January can be an excellent month for garden maintenance and preparing your landscape for spring and summer.

From giving your garden a makeover to planning for a vegetable garden, there are endless opportunities to stay active in the garden in January. What steps can you take to improve your garden this month? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Watch weather reports. Accordingly, protect your plants from frost and other weather conditions. Cover them when necessary and adjust watering both for cooler temperatures and for seasonal rains.

  2. Don't forget about your houseplants. Make sure to keep your houseplants watered, as they tend to dry out from indoor heating during the winter months.

  3. Clear dead plants and debris. Give your garden a clean look for the New Year and allow more space for new growth. Don't forget to pull out weeds.

  4. Keep your garden tools sharp and clean. Avoid rust and dullness and prepare for the pruning that takes place in January and February.

  5. Prune dead or damaged branches. Since January is the dormant season, it is the ideal time to prune. Prune your fruit trees while avoiding apricot and cherry trees. For more instructions on how to prune, check out this pruning guide.

  6. Start your vegetable garden indoors. Expand your growing season and start seeds, you can plant cabbage, chard, broccoli, cauliflower, and spring lettuce, to name a few. You can also start them in a cold frame or greenhouse.

  7. Plant flower bulbs. Get a jump start on planting flower bulbs this month, which can lead to a longer spring bloom!

  8. Plan your spring and summer vegetable garden. Design a garden plan now to prepare for spring planting. A great first step is to draw a map of your garden on grid paper and consider which seeds you want to plant and where.

January is a time of new beginnings, including in your garden. By preparing now, you can expect fantastic results in the spring and summer months.

Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program

January can be an unusual time in the gardening world, but we are here to help. For more gardening help and local county resources, click here to Find a Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer questions for FREE about your garden. 

Posted on Wednesday, January 4, 2023 at 11:52 AM
Tags: Gardening (22), Tips (2), UC Master Gardener (2), Winter (1)

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