Marianne Binetti

Binetti: How to fix your garden

Cat-face got your tomatoes?

This is a condition where the blossom end of a tomato or squash will crack and rot.

The third week of June is when this problem often begins. Cat-facing is caused by irregular watering which results in a lack of calcium available to the tomato.

So here’s a tip: Take a 2 liter empty pop bottle and use a push pin to poke six holes into the bottom and sides of the plastic. Now dig a hole next to your tomato, squash or cucumber plant and sink the bottle into the hole so that at least half of it is buried.

Fill the buried bottle with water and the surrounding soil will pull water from the bottle as the plants need more moisture.

Do this now and you’ll be ready to leave your tomatoes for a long weekend with an automatic supply of water.

Here are a few readers questions:

Q: What causes roses to change color? I planted a yellow rose and it bloomed well the first few years but now it has turned into a red rose and looks like it is also becoming a very tall climbing rose. — R.R., Kent

A: Arm yourself now with pruning shears because you need to stop the hostile takeover of your yellow rose now. Hybrid tea roses can be overtaken by their own grafted root stalk when vigorous shoots emerge from below ground. Follow the new cane and dig into the soil if you must to cut out the shoots at their source. If you don’t see any yellow blooms at all this summer than perhaps you have already lost the battle. Either dig out this wild rose or learn to love the small blooms and mildew prone foliage of the invader.

Q: I made a cute herb garden by planting herb plants into an old dresser with drawers. It is outside on a covered patio. The mint plants look great but the basil looks wilted with the lower leaves turning yellow. I water the basil and it still looks wilted. — T., Email

A: Your basil sounds depressed from too much water and not enough heat and sunshine.

A wilted plant that does not perk up after watering is most likely suffering from root rot caused by poor drainage.

Uproot that basil plant and replant into full sun in the warmest spot of your garden, such as against a west or south facing wall. Use a small clay pot or raised bed for better drainage. Snip out the top one third of the plant to harvest the foliage and encourage new roots. Do not water basil until the soil is very dry to the touch. If your basil plant continues to pout, churn it into pesto and buy another plant.

Q. I tend to kill plants because we have lousy rocky soil and I never water. What shrub would you recommend for my sunny front yard? I just pulled out some dead rhododendrons. They took a few years to slowly turn yellow and die. R.W., Bonney Lake

A. There are plants for every garden that any gardener can keep alive. Dry, rocky soil is great for barberries and there are colorful new varieties of barberry that grow in narrow, columnar forms or compact dwarf shapes that never need pruning.

Look for orange Rocket barberry, the compact yellow Golden Nugget barberry or the wide and purple and pink Rose Glow Japanese barberry. Lavender, lamb’s ear, sedums, artemesias, yucca and junipers are other plants that will thrive in your dry and rocky soil.