Ask the gardening expert



I used to be a pretty good tomato grower in central California, but in this part of Washington, the tomatoes all grow pretty good-looking at first, but they get an ugly rotting spot on the bottom.

That sounds like blossom end rot. It is a physiological problem that is quite common here.

Blossom end rot is caused by insufficient calcium in the fruit. Inconsistent soil moisture and high temperatures are often factors. The usual caused is overfertilizing.

Something to think about next season is to look for resistant varieties. When buying plant starts, disease resistance is usually indicated on the plant tag, or ask a garden clerk for help. You might consider adding lime (calcium carbonate) to the soil 2-4 months before planting tomatoes. You will find lime in garden stores.

My window boxes get worms at the end of summer. I think they are eating my plants. I've sprayed bug, and it did nothing, so I changed the soil, and I still see them. Can you tell me what they are? Also how can I get rid if them?

It's traditionally hard to identify worms as there are so many insects they could be. Scientists usually hatch them out to identify them.

You could bring some into the master gardeners' office, but I'm sure they would go through the same agony I would identifying worms.

Maybe you might cover the boxes for a few weeks around the end of summer, with row-cover cloth, to keep the egg-layers out.

Is the damage really noticeable at a distance? Could you ignore it since you are coming to the end of the growing season and know they were beautiful most of the season?

We have had a blue spruce for about 14 years. The last two years, right around now when the new growth is producing, the very ends of the new growth begin to turn brown and die.

It does not sound like insects, but a cultural problem. Something has stressed the plant and stopped water from reaching the needle tips. Thhe cause may have happened some time ago.

You might invest in a consultation with a certified arborist, one trained in diseases. The larger nurseries can give you names.

This is not a reader's question so much as comments on several previous questions.

• I suggested early fall as the time to harvest garlic. A local grower took exception, saying June is best. The websites I visited for my research suggested many different times --spring, some even into early fall, but depending on the type and variety of garlic. I am choosing to go with the local grower, since she has success with her crop. So, go harvest garlic, folks!

• Another reader commented on my list of pink plants along the freeways. She said I missed the most obvious — fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium. Yes, I had forgotten — I felt the reader had asked about shrubby landscape plants, and with fireweed being a weedy plant it didn't enter my head. It should have though, as I really like that beautiful pink "weed." Don't laugh, now, but I have a patch I allow to bloom by my front step. I pull it as it comes to seed, but it comes back each spring. P.S. It is Alaska's state flower.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to

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