Some Tips and Tricks for the Sun Challenged


    What can you do when the only sun on your property falls directly on a driveway? Mike McGrath, host of You Bet Your Garden, will suggest a few tricks that’ll allow you to park some plants there for the summer. Plus your fabulous phone calls!

    Question of the Week

    Would it be possible to garden in a raised bed on my driveway? (It’s the only place that gets enough sun.) Or would it be too hot there for the plants?

    Penny in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, PA

    Can You Park Your Plants on a Driveway? »

    Highlights from show for April 4, 2015:

    Fish Fertilizer

    Josh in Sundance, WY has heard of an old method that Native Americans used to fertilize their plants by burying a fish beneath it. He was wondering if it was true and if it was safe to do so, since he would like to begin growing his tomatoes and peppers. Mike explains that this process is best used when trying to grow corn and not for fertilizing fruit crops such as tomatoes and peppers. Mike advises that if Josh wishes to grow corn fish heads and fins are ideal to bury it in soil under corn. However, Mike warns Josh that corn may attract raccoons and other creatures who will might be attracted to the fish in the soil.


    Maryanne from Milltown township, NJ has been experiencing a ‘wet powder’ of some sort on her lavender, rosemary, and sage leaves. She turns to Mike to check what she should do to get rid of these white powder patches. Mike says this is an air flow and drainage problem. Rosemary and lavender only want superb drainage and good air flow and to prevent this a good idea is to have a fan blowing on them throughout the whole day to keep the air moving. Mike also adds that she should blast or spray them with lots of water. Next, he would apply the cornell formula on the plants which is a pint of water mix baking soda and oil and let the fan continue blowing on them. Which, Mike guarantees, will prevent the problem from coming back.

    Rusty Leaves And Lichen

    Eric in NJ has been noticing “dark, rusty leaves” on his laurel plants that have been dying off and decreasing in number year after year. Another problem he is facing are green lichens that have been growing on branches in one area of the property. Mike first instructs to cut back from any feeding of plants or fertilization; if there is any possible pruning that can be done-do it. Put an inch of milled peat moss or bricks that are sold at garden centers, around the plant and cover that with an inch of compost. This process will feed the plants naturally and prevent any disease into his area. For the Lichen problem, Mike says to open up the area and give it better air flow or circulation and prune the plants around the branches with the lichen.

    Iris Borers

    Alaina in WI has a little fit with Iris borers and doesn’t know what method is best to prevent eggs from hatching. Mike gives a brief explanation of the cause of Alaina’s problem: “Sometime in the mid-summer ,night-flying moths will lay their eggs down at the base of your Iris. It is my understanding that then the eggs over winter, the actual pest hatches out in the spring and does minor damage to the leaves and will show leaf damage of little tunnels in them”. As soon as plants begin to grow once again in the spring, it is advised to spray BT or organic pest control on leaves. Additionally, it will not cause any harm to humans, animals nor any other plants in the garden for this spray only applies to caterpillars who eat the leaves. However, “After your flowers are all faded for the season, and the greenery is starting to fade down, you know you can dig these up and store them or you can cover them with whats called remay, this is a floating row cover”. Contacting one’s local extension service can notify when these pests are in the air, and if the row cover is placed over the plants for about month, the moth will find a new place to lay eggs and the cycle can be broken. As a tip, Mike adds not to add lights over night for that definitely attracts moths.

    Animals Eating Compost

    Bob in Frenchtown, NJ has had deer coming in and eating things in his compost pile. Mike is surprised and warns that a compost pile that has kitchen scraps will attract raccoons, rodents, etc. There are multiple ways to prevent animals eating bob’s compost pile and one way would be to move it indoors as a worm bin. Another would be to set up fences around the compost outdoors to keep the animals away. Lastly, the most simple method would be to set up a motion activated sprinkler for when they deer pass the beam barrier, it sprays them with cold water, which will send them running!

    Squirrels Eating Tomatoes

    Tom in Merion Station, PA has raised beds in his garden full of tomatoes that pesky squirrels continue to nibble on. Mike gives Tom his first piece of advice which is to put up welded-wire fences that have holes that are too small for squirrels to enter around these raised beds to keep out squirrels. It is recommended to cut six foot linear lengths, lay it out on your drive-way, cut out a six foot linear length and turn that into a tube and then you’ve got a cylinder thats around two feet across the top. Place it over top of the center area of the tomato plant and don’t restrict the plant you need to steak the cage if your growing big tomatoes. “Tomatoes are vines they will always reach towards the sun but they are not attaching vines, they don’t cling to anything so they’re just going to lean against the side of the cage. Also it is important to take the wire and make a top for the cage” instructs Mike. An alternative method is to purchase a motion activated sprinkler which will spray the squirrels when they break the beam and keep them away as well as other creatures.

    New Jersey Tomatoes

    Charles from Chester County, PA would like to know why New Jersey tomatoes seem to taste better than others. Mike first points out that it’s something from their child hood to remember the taste of a Jersey tomato. New Jersey is the garden state and a lot of tomatoes were grown there. Mike discusses that back then there were big commercial farms out in NJ such as Campbell’s and Heinz. New Jersey soil is rich, high amounts of sand in the soil as well chemicals weren’t used as frequently as they are today which allows the tomato to have more flavor.

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