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Problem & Solution
March/April 2014

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Tomato Pollination
Problem: If I completely enclose my tomato plants in plastic netting, will pollinators be able to get to them? The two choices I have are 1/4” 1/4” and 5/8” 3/4” plastic netting. It seems that either would keep out birds and sphinx moths, but I am concerned that the flowers will not get pollinated. What do you recommend?

Robert Evans

Solution: Tomatoes are pollinated by the wind, not by insects, so either option should allow enough breeze to get through to give you good pollination.

Root Invasion
Problem: My vegetable garden is in raised beds due to the limestone shelf under my thin soil. I have cedar elms close to the main garden, and the tree roots are invading. They are so thick in some spots that I can hardly dig. I plan to rebuild these beds before spring. Do you know of a good fabric I can put down to prevent these heavy root invasions?

Wayne Broyles

Solution: There is a heavy, black, woven landscape fabric that we have used before for mulch in a strawberry patch that should help in your situation. You should be able to find it at a landscape-supply company or possibly your local nursery. Of course, relocating the vegetable garden away from the cedar elms would be the best option.

Spindly Transplants
Problem: Last year, and again this year, I’m trying to start my tomatoes and peppers from seed. I have “seed flats,” heat pads with thermostat and Jump Start light. Seeds are placed in the compressed peat pot after it has absorbed enough water to expand as far as it will. These are then placed inside the flat, pad set to 75 degrees, and light timed to provide 12 hours. The peat pots are kept moist by hand. Last year this gave me some very tall, spindly, tomato plants and production was lower than the plants purchased at the local feed store.

Jerry Ryals

Solution: Weak spindly plants are usually a result of inadequate light. Try lowering the light to just an inch or two above the plants. Also, allow the light to stay on for 16 hours. For more on growing transplants, see Skip Richter’s article on the subject in our November/December 2003 issue, page 36 or at

Crapemyrtle Suckers
Problem: I grew up in a home surrounded by crapemyrtles and love them enough to have planted several around my present home in Burnet. But these keep sending up crowds of suckers. Is there any way to discourage that? Will it stop when the shrubs get more mature?

Or am I stuck with a variety that produces a lot of suckers. I have no idea what variety they are. I bought them because they were healthy plants and any identification on the container has long since been forgotten, if I ever read it.

Leon Billig

Solution: According to Skip Richter, author of “Crapmyrtles: Queen of the South,” January/February 2014 issue, “Crapemyrtles will develop suckers no matter how well you prune and care for them. Some varieties seem to be worse about suckering than others, but I haven’t seen a list that ranks them in this way.

“Your best bet is to prune the suckers back to where they attach, not leaving any stubs. The stubs have buds that just make growth of more suckers even worse. It is best to prune the suckers out promptly and to not allow them to mature. There are products on the market that will inhibit resprouting. Examples include Monterrey’s Sucker Stopper and Ferti-Loam’s Prune Smart Sprout Inhibitor. You’ll have to check on availability of these and may need to mail order them. They are a bit pricey, but it doesn’t take much. You just spray the fresh cuts when you prune out suckers and the products inhibit most of the resprouting.”