Residential Lawn & Garden

Vegetable FAQs

For information on other topics visit our A-Z Gardening Index.

If you'd like you can e-mail us a Florida gardening question.

My squash fruits get about 3 to 4 inches long, then shrivel up and die. What is the problem?

This is a pollination problem. 1. A small squash always subtends a female bloom. It will begin to develop and may reach the size you have described 3 to 4 inches, without being pollinated. If it is pollinated, it will continue to develop. Pollination of cucurbits requires bees. Bees will not be present if the garden is regularly dusted or sprayed with insecticides. Hand pollination of the female bloom can be done when bees are absent.


What causes the hard white or colorless spots on the outside of my tomatoes?

This is damage done by stinkbugs. These pests insert their mouth parts below the tomato skin and suck out the tomato sap. These empty cells create a hard, colorless spot. Stinkbugs do cause the fruit to have poor aesthetic quality, but the fruit is still edible.


Why do my tomato plants consistently drop their blooms?

This is a problem associated with several factors: (1) Variety selection is of utmost importance for all crops, including tomatoes. Varieties other than those that are recommended for this area by the University of Florida will not be adapted to the climate or soil conditions. Poor growth, bloom drop, and poor fruit set is to be expected from varieties not recommended for this area. (2) High nitrogen will cause a lack of blooms or bloom drop. High nitrogen availability will cause plants to grow excessive and lush foliage at the expense of bloom and fruit set. Reduce the nitrogen applied to the crop. (3) Tomatoes have a very narrow optimum temperature range which is best for bloom set and for production. Nights which are too cool or too hot will cause the bloom to drop. Planting tomatoes or any crop out of season is a common error and puts the plant under environmental stress resulting in poor growth and flowering. Late spring or early fall planting subjects tomatoes to temperatures that are too high for bloom set. (4) A water cycle that subjects the tomato plant to a wet then dry condition as opposed to a consistent moist condition results in bloom drop. This problem is very common in container grown vegetables. (5) Tomatoes require at least 6 hours of full sun. If tomatoes get less than 6 hours of full sun, poor blooming or bloom drop can occur.


After my seeds germinate and start growing, the little seedling just turns brown and collapses at the soil level. What is the problem and how can I treat it?

This is a disease called damping off. 4. It is caused by a soil borne fungus called pythium. There is no treatment for this disease once the seeds are planted. Soil sterilization is the only prevention and treatment against this disease. Soil sterilization can be accomplished by solarization.


My okra and other vegetables were not growing well. When I pulled them up the roots were covered with tumor-like growths. What is this?

The knots that you see are probably the result of a nematode infestation. Nematodes parasitize the plant by intercepting water and nutrients which would normally support active, healthy plant growth. The only treatment for nematodes is soil sterilization by solarization. This must be repeated at the start of all gardening seasons. Knot-like growths on the roots of leguminous plants such as beans or peas probably are not from nematodes but rather from beneficial nitrogen fixing bacteria.


When I plant onions, all I get are green onions. They never bulb.

There are two reasons why onions do not bulb: (1) Plants were started with onion sets, instead of seeds or seedlings. (2) Onions were planted too late in the season. The seeds must be planted in the fall and harvested in the spring. Onion tops need exposure to the change in day length to stimulate the plants to bulb. Garlic, like onions, is a long season crop. The seeds or cloves must be planted in the fall and harvested in the spring.


The bottom of my tomatoes have dark brown, rotten spots. What is this and how can I prevent this problem?

This is a nutritional disorder called blossom end rot. This deficiency may result from (1) Soils being deficient in available calcium. Soil pH should be 6.0-6.8. A pH lower than 6.0 may not supply enough available calcium, therefore, lime must be applied at a rate of 3 to 5 lbs./100 sq. ft., (2) Infrequent watering will cause calcium to go out of solution, therefore, it is in a form which plants can not use. Soil must be consistently moist to keep calcium in solution and available to plants.


I understand that if I plant different plants from the same family, cucumbers and squashes they will cross-pollinate and produce bad fruits.

Not true Plants in the Cucurbit family (squash, cucumbers and melons) cross pollinate readily, but the cross will not be expressed in that season's fruit. The results of such a cross would show up if seeds were saved from these cross-pollinated fruits at season's fruit and then planted. Therefore, do not collect seeds from your vegetables, especially cucurbits, for planting in the next gardening season.


I planted my vegetable seeds, but nothing came up.

Lack of germination can be caused by several factors. (1) Some insects such as mole crickets like to eat the seeds. When tunnels from these insects are seen, apply an appropriate pesticide and replant. (2) Seeds that are planted too deep may germinate but may not have enough food reserves to make it to the soil surface. A general rule for determining seed depth is to never plant a seed any deeper than 1 1/2 times the seed width. (3) Too much water may cause the newly germinated seedling to develop diseases such as damping off before it ever reaches the soil surface. (4) Some seeds, for example - beets, must be kept continually moist or germination will not occur. (5) Seeds may be too old. Always use fresh seed.


Can I grown asparagus in Florida?

Asparagus is not well adapted to Florida due to our environment (mainly temperature). For good asparagus spear production, a dormant period is required. Since Florida has neither, growth is more or less continuous resulting in weak, spindly spears. Hopefully newer varieties will prove to be better adapted to our climate.


Help Desk

Get Master Gardener gardening support by phone:

Call (813) 744-5519 x4

Contact Agents

Home Horticulture:
Nicole Pinson

Podemos Ayudarle