DEAR JESSICA: I have a big white arbor at the gate on the side of my house and would love to have a flowering vine that would come back each year. The problem is that the arbor and gate were installed into blacktop. I need something that can survive in a large pot on either or both sides, and climb up the trellis. Are there any plants you can suggest? -- Judy Tasch, East Meadow
DEAR JUDY: There are many vines that will thrive in containers. If planting perennials, look for varieties labeled "compact," "miniature" or "dwarf," as their roots will not need to run as deep or as wide as their full-sized counterparts. Smaller clematis, hardy jasmine and passionflower "Maypop" are perennials that are particularly well-suited for pots. Black-eyed Susan vine and morning glory are annuals that grow quickly from seed, and tropicals like Mandevilla and Bougainvillea can be brought in for the winter.
Choose a large container with holes in its bottom for drainage. Insert a trellis into the pot at planting time, before filling with soil, to provide a bridge to support the vine as it grows from the pot to the arbor. Angle the plant toward the trellis to coax it to grow in that direction, and cover with soil. Place the container next to the arbor with the trellis facing the arbor.
Keep in mind that plants growing in pots require more-frequent watering and fertilization than their in-ground counterparts. Apply mulch over the soil to retain moisture.
DEAR JESSICA: Every year, no matter where I plant my tomatoes, I get this terrible round, rotting black spot on the bottom. How can I avoid this? -- Annette Giordano, Blue Point
DEAR ANNETTE: What you're describing is called blossom end rot, a disease caused mostly by uneven watering, either from irrigation or natural rainfall. This often leads to a calcium deficiency. The result shows up as mushy black spots on the bottoms of tomatoes that grow bigger with time.
The good news is that this can be prevented. Test the soil pH before planting. Tomatoes are healthiest when grown at 6.5 or a little higher. If the pH is lower, incorporate dolomitic lime into soil before planting. Dolomite contains magnesium, which facilitates the absorption of calcium from lime into the plant. And ensure plants receive consistent watering.
If plants exhibit symptoms of blossom end rot, drench leaves with a calcium spray like Enz-rot or Rot-Stop. Affected fruit will not be cured but can be eaten if the black parts are cut away. Fruit that is produced after treatment should not develop symptoms.
DEAR JESSICA: I noticed a tree on my property that has an unusual substance oozing from the main trunk. It's a young wild cherry tree, and the ooze is very sticky and looks like resin. Any ideas what this could be? -- Jeffrey Schneider, Kings Park
DEAR JEFFREY: What you're seeing is called gummosis, and it can be a symptom of several maladies, from lawn mower injuries and improper pruning to insect infestation and disease. I feel comfortable ruling out borers, because those insects typically infest the base of the tree, and your tree is oozing relatively high. I cannot ascertain from the photo whether a limb was pruned away at the site of the symptom, but if so, it's possible a fungus settled into the wound. Insects would be sure to follow. It also appears there may have been some sort of injury, as the bark seems damaged. You can nurture the tree by ensuring the soil drains well and that the wound is protected from further damage by wildlife. Resist the temptation to fertilize, as that would stress the tree further by forcing it to spend energy on growth instead of healing, which would result in increased weakness.
Cytospora is a fungus that commonly takes advantage of wounded stone-fruit trees. The sometimes-fatal infection causes new leaf and shoot growth to yellow, wilt, turn brown and drop off. You might even see orange fungal threads grow before branches die. There is no cure for this disease, but you can perform surgery, although this is best done during winter, when the tree is dormant.
Score an oval about an inch outside the affected area with a sharp knife and remove the diseased bark, then treat the wound with a half gallon of water combined with a half gallon of alcohol and four teaspoons of a fungicide, such as Bonide Captan. Good luck.