Penn State Extension News: Upcoming Events and Webinars

Penn State Extension is pleased to continue to provide quality education via a wide variety of webinars and recordings.If you have difficulty registering online for any of these live webinars, please contact Penn State Extension’s customer service team at 877-345-0691. Most of these webinars will be recorded and available for viewing at a later time, as well. Continue to search our website: for the latest offerings.

Save the Date: Saturday, May 20, 2023Franklin County Master Gardener Plant Sale The sale will be held at 425 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg, PA 17202, from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm. The Master Gardeners will once again offer a great selection of greenhouse-grown vegetable, annual flower, and herb plants, with many hard-to-find and unusual varieties, along with a wide assortment of sun and shade-loving perennials, groundcovers, shrubs, and trees, all for reasonable prices. Bring your gardening questions, and get information about plants and planting from friendly, knowledgeable Penn State Master Gardener volunteers.

Ready-Set-Grow Plant Sale – Homegrown Tomatoes

Tracy Snyder, Franklin County Master Gardener

What would life be without homegrown tomatoes?” Maybe you aren’t familiar with this lyric sung by John Denver, but I bet a lot of you agree with it one hundred percent! Since we won’t be eating homegrown tomatoes for a few months yet, let’s talk about them while we wait for summer. 

One way to categorize tomatoes is by plant habit or, in other words, how they grow.

Indeterminate tomato plants will bloom from the bottom up while the vines continue to grow until disease or frost kills them. Because the plants can get quite large, you will want a support system like a large wire cage or stake. They are a good choice if you have the space and want tomato season to last as long as possible.

Determinate tomatoes will grow to a certain size, set fruit from the top down, and then stop producing. Depending on their mature size, you may still need to support them, but the cage or stake can be smaller. They are a good choice if you want to preserve your harvest and process them mostly all at once.

Dwarf tomatoes combine the smaller plant size with the long fruiting season. Depending on the variety, you may need to support them. They are a good choice if you don’t have much space but want tomatoes as long as possible. 

In case a few warm days are making you eager to get your tomatoes planted, remember that tomatoes are heat loving. It is best to wait until the soil is warm. Memorial Day is the perfect time to plant tomatoes in much of Pennsylvania.

Now that you know a little more about tomatoes, you can start thinking about what you want to grow this year. The master gardener greenhouse team is doing just that and plans to have tomato plants that produce fruit in many shapes, sizes, and colors for you to grow at home.

Our plant sale is set for May 20 –just about the perfect time to plant tomatoes in the garden. We are open from 9 am to 1pm. We will be happy to help you choose the best plants for you. Hope to see you there! (In the meantime, the song title is “Homegrown Tomatoes” if you want to look it up).

Water Quality Drives Floriculture Success for Greenhouse Growers

Karly Regan, Commercial Horticulture Educator

Spring is a busy time of year for greenhouse floriculture operations, as sale of bedding plants and hanging baskets ramps up. Plant growth and the ability to reach target size and produce an adequate number of blooms can be very dependent on irrigation water quality.

Water quality issues can occur to do inappropriate pH, high or very low alkalinity, or high salt levels in irrigation water. These might first appear as yellowing of leaf tissue along the veins or between them in some cases and is often misidentified as a nutrient deficiency. A first instinct may be to increase the rate of fertilizer or add in micronutrients that could be missing, such as iron or magnesium. However, this won’t do the trick if water quality is actually the problem. Without first adjusting the irrigation water, any added nutrients won’t be available to the plant that needs them. If the problem is not addressed, leaf tips or edges will begin browning, curling, or dying back. Root growth might be stunted, and overall plant size is often smaller than expected or desired.

This photo shows chlorosis on a Gerbera daisy due to high pH and alkalinity in irrigation water, showing up initially as yellowing between the leaf veins. The leaf edges are also beginning to curl.

This photo shows dieback on the edges and tips of Calibrachoa leaves due to high pH. These Calibrachoas first showed chlorosis between leaf veins that later worsened until the pH was corrected.

Understanding the pH and alkalinity of water is an important part of fertilization because it influences how available nutrients are for plants to take up. A pH of 7.0 on a 0-14.0 scale is considered to be neutral. A value below 7 is considered acidic while greater than 7 is considered basic. Total alkalinity of water represents water’s buffering capacity, or how resilient it is to changes in pH. If alkalinity is very low, fluctuations in pH can occur fairly easily. This can be risky for crop production and make it challenging to provide the correct rate of fertilizer, so having some amount of alkalinity is desirable. However, alkalinity that is too high can increase the difficulty of adjusting pH to a suitable level.

Many bedding plants prefer to be kept acidic, between 5.8-6.2 pH. To achieve this, greenhouse producers in our area will usually add acid to the stock tank their fertilizer injector pulls from. Sulfuric acid is often the most popular choice due to its affordability and the risk of adding too much phosphorus if phosphoric acid is used. Citric acid is another popular choice and is the only option for organic producers, but it tends to be more expensive since more of it is needed. To determine how much acid is needed, the total alkalinity must be measured to account for pH buffering.

In addition to pH and alkalinity concerns, high soluble salts in irrigation water can cause further damage to ornamental plants, many of which are quite sensitive to elevated sodium or chloride levels. Having a comprehensive assessment of water quality can aid in determining the appropriate course of action to care for greenhouse irrigation water and ensure quality plants. If you’re a commercial grower needing assistance with assessing greenhouse water quality or troubleshooting fertility issues, feel free to reach out to your local horticulture extension educator.


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Janet Donahoe obituary 1935~2023

A graduate of Wilson College and The Catholic University of America, Janet taught English and Latin in Pennsylvania and was a school librarian in Virginia. 

Chewy commercial says it all

I have been what I like to call a television aficionado for many, many decades. I enjoy a good evening spent in front of the old boob tube and have since I was young.