Asphalt Garden: Pruning, Fertilizing and Troubleshooting

It’s been one month since I’ve planted my vegetables, and I think I can safely mix my metaphors and say, “Houston, we have lift-off!”

Both tomato plants and the jalapeño are beginning to flower. The herbs are growing well, too. The oregano is beginning to shoot up, and the cilantro is growing new leaves. Cilantro can have trouble when it is transplanted, but both seedlings took to the soil.

Today it was time to give my garden a little more attention …


I trimmed the stalks on my basil plants that had started to to flower. This will encourage the plant to make more leaves, and also keep the leaves from getting bitter.


I also picked the suckers from my tomato plants. Suckers are side shoots that start in the notch between the main stem and a branch. While not required, the general consensus is that it’s good to prune indeterminate tomatoes – which both of mine are. Indeterminate tomatoes grow and produce fruit all summer long (as opposed to only producing one large crop) and a plant that is investing its energy making side shoots is spending less of it making flowers and fruit.


I fertilized my plants today for the first time since I planted them. I used a fish emulsion with kelp, which my local nursery recommended. Fertilizing flummoxes me, frankly. I know it’s especially important to do in container gardens, since nutrients are only draining out of the soil. The different requirements for each plant is what gives me pause, plus I don’t want to get too heavy-handed with the fertilizer. I think that I’ve been too cautious, however, and should be fertilizing more.


Note the leaf on the ground that has completely shriveled up, and the other one that is mostly brown and yellow.

While everything in the garden has been going well, the zucchini plant has been giving me the most trouble. Remember when I worried about the leaves on all my plants turning black? I concluded that the basil was just super temperature-sensitive, and the weather had gotten a little cold for its tender leaves. I was right, and the basil is

The leaf on the left is at a later stage than the leaf on the right. Ignore the dirt on the right-hand leaf.

doing great now.

I also noticed browning on the edges on some of the zucchini leaves, and this problem is not going away. If anything it has gotten worse. Zucchini leaves get completely dry and brittle on an outside edge, and this keeps spreading until the entire leaf is dead.

Once again I returned to the nursery, but this time I didn’t get a clear diagnosis. The zucchini might not have enough food, or it might have a fungus. I have a fungicide that I’ll spray on the zucchini leaves, and I’ll also keep up the fertilizing. Hopefully that solves my problem. I can see tiny flower buds starting to form, and I want to successfully harvest zucchinis this summer.

  • Tatiana Promessi

    Can anticipate some zucchini bread tests this summer?

    • Mark Evitt

      Definitely! I also have a great pesto and zucchini pasta dish I’ll post once I can harvest fresh zucchini and basil.

  • Lydia

    Is the zucchini doing better?

    • Mark Evitt

      Not really, I’m still having the same problem. But the plant is producing lots of flowers, so theoretically I’ll be getting zucchini. I’ve decided to take a wait-and-see approach. I figure this first summer with the garden is mostly an experiment to see what works and what doesn’t.

  • Tammy A Hsu

    One – I am really glad I found your blog.  I live in Chicago and have started my first container garden, which I feel I’ve already messed up (planted more than one plant per container), but I’m also starting to see the beginnings of zucchini.  I look forward to reading more about your zucchini and how they turn out – do you think you will need to manually pollinate?  I think I will…. Two – my zucchini plants have the same problem.  The leaves that are older, and thus larger, are turning black from the outside in.  There are very few spots, and the stems still look healthy so I am hesitant to pinch off the leaf.  What kind of fungicide do you use? 


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