Cold temps, water issues, reasons for split loquat skins
Published: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 5:18 p.m.
Q: The loquat tree on our property has fruit that are just turning yellow. Too bad they all seem to have their skin splitting. Did I do something wrong?
A: The mild winter has the loquats or the Japanese plums producing crops slightly earlier this year. This evergreen tree, that is commonly used in the landscape, has yellow, 2-inch oblong fruit with one large pit. The skin is thin and edible, and the fruits are easy to harvest. The flavor is reminiscent of its cousin the plum. Mature loquat trees are very cold-tolerant and withstand temperatures as low as 10 degrees without damage. But the fruit and flowers are killed when the temperature drops below 27 degrees. Your fruit might have been touched by the cold and then split. Or the tree received too much irrigation or rain and the fruit swelled beyond the tight skin and burst. For more information about loquats and other fruits, call the call the Alachua County Master Gardeners at 955-2402, or email them at MAG@alachuacounty.us.
Q: I am seeing grafted tomatoes being offered in some of the gardening catalogs. Would they be good for my garden in Gainesville? Do you think they are worth the extra money?
A: Grafted tomatoes have been offered in gardening catalogs for the past couple of seasons, and they look really tempting, even though they are about three times the price of un-grafted plants. But they may be worth it, especially for some of our heirloom varieties that have trouble with root knot nematodes or soil-borne diseases.
What you would purchase is actually a combination plant that has a disease-resistant root stock fused to a fruit-bearing top. The top of the plant produces the desired fruit, and the roots are resistant to diseases. Researchers at the University of Florida IFAS have found that grafted tomatoes in greenhouse studies showed increased plant vigor, fruit yields as well as better absorption of water and nutrients that were applied.
One of the main issues we have with tomato plant roots in North Central Florida is root-knot nematodes. These are microscopic worms that form galls in the roots of plants and inhibit absorption of water and fertilizers, and make the plant less productive or stop production altogether. If the grafted tomatoes that you are looking to purchase are resistant to root knot nematodes, you will have better success in your tomato garden. Ask the seed company about what the root stock is resistant to before you make your order. For more information about tomatoes and other vegetables, visit the UF/IFAS Extension website at www.solutionsforyourlife.com.
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.