Master Gardener: Tomatoes, crop rotation, lawn seeding all good topics this time of year

Chris Himmelwright
Pratt Tribune
Different varieties of tomatoes are more or less prone to pithy hard-core centers.

Hard Core in Tomatoes

During periods of fluctuating temperatures--usually aggravated by excessive fertilization--the central core of a tomato may become tough and turn greenish white. The walls also may become pale and corky. This is usually a temporary condition known as “hard core.” Older varieties of tomatoes normally have five distinct cavities that are filled with seeds and jelly-like material called locular jelly. However, many newer tomato varieties possess genetic traits to make the fruit meatier and firmer with the seeds being produced all over the inside of the fruit rather than in the five distinct cavities. These types of tomatoes do not seem to produce a hard central core nearly as readily as ones that are not as meaty.

The older variety, Jet Star, which has been widely grown for many years by Kansas gardeners, has a tendency to produce a hard core when stressed. Newer varieties such as Mountain Spring, Mountain Fresh, Florida 91, Sun Leaper, Sunmaster, Celebrity, Carnival, and other ‘semi-determinate' varieties are less likely to suffer from this condition.

Prevent Disease with Rotation

Rotating vegetable crops is a standard way of helping prevent disease from being carried over from one year to the next. Rotation means that crops are moved to different areas of the garden each year. Planting the same crop, or a related crop, in the same area each year can lead to a build-up of disease. Also, different crops vary in the depth and density of the root system as well as extract different levels of nutrients. As a rule, cool-season crops such as cabbage, peas, lettuce and onions have relatively sparse, shallow root systems and warm-season crops such as tomatoes, peppers and melons have deeper, better developed root systems. Therefore, it can be helpful to rotate warm-season and cool-season crops. As mentioned earlier, it is also a good idea to avoid planting closely related crops in the same area as diseases may be shared among them. For example, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant are closely related. Also, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts share many characteristics in common. For example, do not plant cabbage where broccoli was the previous year or tomatoes where the peppers were. So, why is this important to bring this up in the fall? Now is the time to make a sketch of your garden so that the layout is not forgotten when it is time to plant next year.

Lawn Seeding Best Done in September

September is the best month to reseed cool-season lawns such as tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. See last week's newsletter for information on how to seed or overseed. We usually recommend not planting Kentucky bluegrass past early October. However, you can get by with an early to mid-October planting for tall fescue. October 15 is generally considered the last day for safely planting or overseeding a tall fescue lawn in the fall. If you do attempt a late seeding, take special care not to allow plants to dry out. Anything that slows growth will make it less likely that plants will mature enough to survive the winter

Seedings done after the cut-off date can be successful, but the success rate goes down the later the planting date. Late plantings that fail are usually not killed by cold temperatures but rather desiccation. The freezing and thawing of soils heave poorly

rooted grass plants out of the ground, which then dry and die. Keeping plants watered will help maximize root growth before freezing weather arrives