Tomatoes can be finicky. They like even levels of soil moisture, a specific set of temperatures for blooms to set and fruit to ripen, and seem to attract a number of fungal diseases.
One way to help tomatoes overcome our environmental extremes so they can thrive is to mulch them. Soils are well beyond warm enough now that it’s time to consider mulching to prevent excessive evaporation. Along the way, mulch helps with weed suppression and crusting that can restrict air movement into and out of the soil and slow the water infiltration rate.
Not all mulches are created equal. Hay and straw mulches work well — so long as they don’t contain weed or volunteer grain seeds that can lead to trouble later. Grass clippings are readily abundant, but they should be dry and applied to a depth of only two to three inches. Wet clippings mold and can become hard enough that water can’t pass through them. Know the history of clippings as well. If the lawn has been treated with a weed killer, make sure ample time has passed since treatment.
According to KSU Horticulture Specialist Ward Upham, with most types of weed killers, clippings from the fourth mowing after treatment may be used. If the lawn was treated with a product containing quinclorac (Drive), the clippings should not be used as mulch. If the weed killer used has a crabgrass killer, it likely contains quinclorac.
Bagworms – time to treat?
Kansas Forest Service Forester Dave Bruton noted the hatch and feeding of bagworms in northeast Kansas this week. That means it’s time to initiate scouting measures, as they can be very difficult to see when feeding first begins. The best control efforts will occur when larvae are small and coverage is thorough. Multiple treatments may be needed if hatching continues even after the first insecticide application.
For information, see K-State Research and Extension publication Bagworms, available at https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/mf728.pdf or from your District Extension Office.