Tomatoes, corn and more

Should tomatoes be planted in full sun or be given some shade.
I have tried four types of tomato plants over the last few months and the first two died. The second ones I think I over-did them with miracle-gro and they bloomed with great leaves, then some cabbage worms got into them and they started wilting.
Those cabbage worms looked pretty neat and the lizards don't seem to like them... but I can not currently confirm that. I watched lizards eat ants, small ground worms and flies and one lizard got close to a cabbage worm but then hesitated for a couple minutes before backing away. I got tired of watching the lizard and started to think that they might not think the cabbage worms are palatable, and when I move the lizard took off. I left the worm on the ground next to a weed tree.
Funny thing about the tomato plants, one started growing in a banana pepper pot. The banana pepper pot was near a tomato plant one week but couldn't take the sunlight, so I guess the tomato plant dropped something into the banana pepper pot. Is that possible ? I thought it was a pepper plant that was growing originally but it developed the hairy tomato stem, and the leaves definitely look like tomato leaves.
I've placed some corn outside as well and the first seed I planted is now over six feet tall. It looks like the male stalk, and I noticed that some seeds develop into multiple stalks.
I'm also wondering about the spacing of corn seeds when planted. And if the corn can be used to provide shade for various other plants. Also I've been reading that clovers make good green manure cover crops for corn, and am wondering if anyone has any experience with green manure cover crops or any suggestions.
Thanks.
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Jim Carlock
http://www.microcosmotalk.com /
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Tomatoes want sun, and lots of it. But, the actual fruit does better when it's shaded by leaves. They tend to crack less this way. So, the best way to plant them is to cage them. Some fruit will grow outside the cage, but plenty will develop inside. Store-bought cages are useless. Make your own from fence wire and metal fence stakes.
Do yourself a BIG favor: Go to online bookstore www.powells.com and order a used copy of "Crockett's Victory Garden". It was written about 25 years ago, but is still one of the best basic gardening books in existence. His advice on corn is perfect. He leaned much too heavily on chemicals, though. Ignore that part of Jim Crockett's suggestions.

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I've been making soil by using 1/5 sphagnum peat, 1/5 sand, 1/5 cow manure derivative, 1/5 organic humus derivative and 1/5 perlite. I've been told that seaweed is good to use in place of some of one or two of the above.
I'm currently mixing some beans and peas in between some of the corn stalks, and I'm worried about the heat that is starting to develop. The nights are around 70 F, the days between 90 and 100 F. I see the way the heat is affecting the tomato plants and pepper plants. The pepper plants die very easily when they lose their shading cover tomatoes. So I've started placing some basil around the area to provide cover as well as deter some bugs. I don't know currently if basil will be able to withstand the heat though. But the corn, is doing very well as long as there's not another corn stalk placed to close and the watering is kept up on a daily basis.
The peas are placed in a mostly shaded area, as the packaging indicates that they are susceptible to heat and don't like too much heat.
And I've read that legumes and all plants in general require NPK in a 1-2-1 ratio. So I'm thinking that I'll probably need to buy some bonemeal but is that the best way to go ?
The beans and peas are to be used as Nitrogen fixing, but that leaves me to wonder about the current soil situation and the amount of phosphorous in the soil (sand). It would be really convenient if there was a "tea" or some sort of solution that could be applied on a daily basis.
How would one determine the contents (NPK) of the current soil (sand in my case)? I think I've seen some kind of gizmo at Home Depot that determines the acidity of the soil, and it was advertized to do something else as well, but I'll have to take a run back there to see what it was.
Thanks, Doug Kanter, for your response about the Tomatoes. Once my sister returns my car to me... :-) I'm wondering if there is an online version of that book, "Crockett's Victory Garden", anywhere ? Would be more useful in a digital format for me, than a paperback or hardcover version.
--
Jim
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Beans like sun. Just give them mulch, and plenty of water when it's really hot. For the mulch, take a ride in the country and buy a couple of bales of straw. Not hay. Straw. Pull it off the bale by hand and spread it loosely as needed. For the peas, you've got the right idea, as far as shading them. My late crop always crashes into those unpredictable early heat waves. Another thought: I'm sure you've seen the lightweight black plastic mesh sold in garden centers, intended for climbing plants, and keeping birds out of the berries. Buy some wooden stakes and attach that black mesh like a flat roof over the plants that can't stand lots of heat. Now, buy some cheesecloth at a fabric store and clothespin it to the black mesh. The whole thing's lightweight. Just be sure to use lots of clothespins so the cheesecloth doesn't blow away. Plastic pins are better for this than wood.
Fertilizer: Just go buy some basic 5-10-5 granular stuff. It's the easiest thing to find. For plants that need 1-2-1, use less fertilizer. Keep it simple. Meanwhile, see if you can get a serious compost bin into operation. It'll lessen the need for other additions.
The book: I'm not aware of any online addition. Why would that be more useful than the paperback????? Incidentally, the book is organized perfectly. Each chapter represents a month of the year, and within each chapter, the plants are alphabetical. So, each chapter corresponds to what you should be doing that month. James Crockett gardened in Boston, so you may have to adjust slightly for your climate. Just go buy the book, will ya? Trust me.

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Thanks Doug,
I sent you an email earlier. I'm not sure if you received. Knowing how hotmail can be configured, I'm thinking I might need to be put on your list or somesuch. The email was in regards to the www.powells.com website.
I have a squash plant that I seeded about a month ago in a pot. The leaves are starting to wilt. There's a pic at:
http://www.microcosmotalk.com/images/garden /
It seemed to need more water. I'm wondering though how long it can last in a pot. It already looks like it has overgrown the pot.
Also, when I started planting the corn I was under the impression that there were female seeds and male seeds. But I have one corn plant by itself that has three or more stalks growing out of it and it looks like one stalk can make it's own corn grow. :-) In another area, I have three corn stalks growing, those are partly shaded and one stalk is only one stalk but is over 6 feet talk. All three stalks seem to be doing very well.
Is that true ? And if that is true, do most plants grow their own male and female stalks ? And if that is true for most plants, then perhaps I should be asking, which plants have male and female seeds ?
--
Jim
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Got your message and replied to it via email. I use hotmail only for newsgroups, and check it every few hours on weekdays. Weekends....rarely.

To determine the problem, get it out of the sun and keep it constantly moist for one day. Not sitting in a tray of water, but don't let it dry out. If it doesn't perk up, carefully inspect the stem down near the soil line. If you find a hole chewed in the main stem (which affects all future stalks), shoot the plant and give it a nice burial (in the garbage, not your compost pile). You have a squash borer. In his book, Crockett said he was sometimes able to pick out the creature with a knife, but usually, it's hopeless. Don't panic and start spraying all sorts of crap on the plant. Go get some seeds and plant a few more. They grow very quickly, which is why squash is one of the top choices when showing impatient little kids how to grow things. The best way to insure against the borer is just to grow extra plants and don't put them all in the same place. There've been years when I have 2 adjacent plants murdered, but a 3rd one 50 feet away was untouched.
Another thing: I see you're using a clay pot. They look good, but they can be tricky for plants grown in the sun. The clay acts like a wick, drawing moisture out of the soil, so it dries out more quickly. And, many plants fail completely if their roots are not kept cooler than the plant at ground level. For plants which require sun, like squash, you're between a rock and a hard place. It has to be in the sun, but it may dry out while you're at work. Suggestions:
1) Switch to a plastic pot. 2) Use a much larger pot, even if the plant looks silly until it reaches full size. More soil will hold moisture longer. 3) Fill all pots to within an inch of the top. Yours looks like you didn't do that. 4) Try and shade the pot, but not the plant, if the plant needs sun. Do this by grouping pots together. Once the plant is big enough, it may shade the pot. Squash probably won't when it's full-sized. The stalks are so long that the leaves will be outside of the diameter of the pot. 5) After watering, soak the outside of the clay pot thoroughly. 6) Add some shredded cedar mulch (not chunks).
Squash (and melons & cucumbers) like rich soil. Yours looks like soilless potting mix. Pick up a bag of composted cow manure and sprinkle some one top. And, keep some 10-10-10 granular fertilizer handy. Comes in 25 or 50 lb bags, usually. It should last for years unless you're overdoing it.

No male or female seeds. Corn plants make tassles at the top - they look sort of like the artists' depictions of wheat on cereal boxes. Pollen comes from the tassles and drops straight down onto the corn silks - the stringy things you remove along with the husks when you get ready to cook corn. Each silk leads to a kernel of corn. If there's insufficient fertilization, you get corn with less kernels. And, if it's very rainy when the pollen is being produced, it'll wash away some of the pollen, which is why you sometimes get corn with lots of empty spots where kernels should be.
The wind helps get the pollen loose from the tassles, and onto not only the plant from which the pollen came, but to adjacent plants as well. This is why home gardeners need to plant differently than farmers. You shouldn't plant a straight row of corn unless you can grow SEVERAL rows. For home growing, the best way is to plant in "hills" - small circular groups of 5-6 plants. Better fertilization that way.
Here's a resource that'll keep you busy for a while: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/menugard.html
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http://www.microcosmotalk.com/images/garden/weed3683.jpg
I keep thinking dandelion, but the dandelion pics I see don't look like that.
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Jim Carlock
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Jim Carlock wrote:

It's known as "Spanish Needles" by common name, Bidens bipinnata botanically. They have these annoying longish black seeds with prickles on one end that stick to clothing (and animal fur).
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Seems like there's a few botanica names for it and "spanish needle" means any of the botanical names.
Is bidens alba at the following sites: http://www.nbbd.com/godo/ef/plants1 / http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/BODY_HS150
The second link indicates that there should be hair on the underside of the leaf. I don't seem to find any hair there. But the plants look very much the same.
Is bidens pilosa at: http://www.medicineatyourfeet.com/bidenspilosa.html But the leaves are slightly different than what is viewed at: http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/carr/page3.htm
I'm reading that the soil in Miami is high in phosphorus and I'm thinking that might be close to what the soil rating of Saint Petersburg would be. Sometimes I only need to dig 1/2 an inch to get to sand. Is it possible that soil is turned to sand within a year ? We put about 800 pounds of soil out front in bare places trying to get some grass to grow but the soil has all seemed to turn to sand within the year.
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Jim Carlock
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