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Gardening tips for a fruitful season

Every gardener I know has their own way of doing things. They have their own way of laying out their garden, which seeds and plants they use and even how they water and grow their goodies. And if you look at their gardens, they will be similar, but very different at the same time. What I find amazing are some of the shortcuts and gardening aids different gardeners use.

About a month ago, I planted two trays of tomato seed. Both trays had 72 pockets. All the seed came from the same packet, so there was no difference. I put the trays on heat pads under the same light, so there was no difference there. Both were watered exactly the same. The only difference was in one tray, I filled all the pockets about 3/4 full of potting mix and the rest with seed-starter mix. I planted the seeds in the top part of the seed starter. In the other tray, I only used seed-starter mix.

The tomatoes I planted in the starter and potting soil mix have multiple leaves and are growing out and up. The tomatoes I planted in only the seed-starting mix didn’t germinate very well, tend to be leggy and barely have the twin leaves all tomatoes have when they first come up.

Last summer when I planted my okra, I made two rows about 12 inches apart. My plan was to let the okra come up, put a soaker hose between the rows and water both with the same hose.

After making the furrow and planting the seed, I took my watering can and sprinkled one row with water before filling in the seed furrow. So one row of okra seed was wet when I covered it up with soil. I did the same thing with a couple rows of corn. I sprinkled one row of planted seed, and the other row I didn’t.

It was amazing how much faster the rows I’d sprinkled came up. What stood out as well was almost all the seed came up together. Many times seed comes up at different speeds, so you have some seed that is tall and growing and some that is just coming up.

I grow a good part of my tomatoes in my high tunnels. In the past, we have covered one tunnel with a shade cloth that filters out about 25 percent of the sun’s light. This tunnel will be noticeably cooler in the summer than the tunnel with no shade cloth.

What I find is in the tunnel with the shade cloth, the tomatoes tend to get leggy as if they aren’t getting enough sunlight. The plants are reaching up higher to get more light because the shade cloth is limiting the sunlight.

The cooler temps help the plant stay cooler, but at the same time, it wants more sunlight. It would be nice if I could figure out how to install a shade that could be removed after the heat of the day. Tomatoes need lots of sunlight. A healthy tomato plant is bushy and not long and lean.

I have friends who swear by Fords, and then some swear by Chevys, and others like a Dodge. Honestly, I’d drive any pickup if it’s paid for. Ads on TV, though, try and tell us one is way better than the rest.

If you really want the honest truth about a pickup, talk to the repair people, especially those who work on motors or transmissions. They aren’t all equal, and it’s the same with seed.

All seed is not created equal. In the past, I have bought seed from the source with the cheapest price and best bargain on shipping. I bought seed from one supplier years ago, and after receiving the seed, I found it all came from China.

Most of it germinated and did very well; some of it was worthless. The germination was poor, the plants weren’t healthy, and the fruit wasn’t true to what it was supposed to be. As a whole, I buy all my seed from established, well-known suppliers. I may have to pay a little more, but I feel the cost is worth the rewards.

When you buy your transplants, make sure they are healthy, ready to grow and in season. If the plant is taller and not very bushy and the container it’s in is small, the plant may be root-bound.

You can cure this with a tomato by planting the transplant deeper in the ground. A pepper or cole crop can’t be planted deeper. If the leaves are not deep green and healthy, the plant may have a fungus or be diseased. Be careful.

If you are buying a cole-crop veggie, such as broccoli or cabbage or cauliflower, realize they should be planted soon after April 1 where we live in Southeast Missouri. About four weeks or so before the last frost date is perfect.

If the plants you are looking at are showing signs of blooming, they are too late to grow. Pass them up. What they won’t do is grow a good root system to produce a good head. All they will do is put on small heads or such, and they won’t amount to anything.

Make sure to write it down. I know I can remember, but the truth is I won’t. If it needs to be marked, then mark it. I try to mark all my new transplants using either Popsicle sticks or pieces of mini blinds.

The mini blinds are perfect. Use a pair of scissors and cut them about 4 to 6 inches long. You can write on them with a permanent pen. Get a notebook or something and jot down what you plant and when, how it’s growing and what you pick.

Put down the dates. Grow notes could really help next year.

I hope these ideas help. If you have a grow tip, send me an email along with it. Have a great growing season.

Until next time.

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