CRACKS: Why do Cabbage heads burst? Why do Tomatoes crack? Wet weather or watering a plant with extensive roots too much, promotes high absorption. At the same time there is a slower transpiration (the breathing out of water). Thus the outside layer or skin of the fruit cracks.

COMPOST: Plant or animal remains in various stages of decomposition. Compost particles have a large surface area giving them the ability to absorb water. Humus has four times water holding capacity to that of clay so plants can survive short periods of drought.

          I have several trees and a chain link fence that catches wind blown leaves from the neighborhood.  These make a large compost pile that breaks down slowly unless the lawn clippings that are high in nitrogen or even some high nitrogen lawn fertilizer are added on top.  The leaves and other material needs to be damp.  I usually take my finished compost from the bottom of the pile as it breaks down first. There are a number of compost workshops in Lincoln you can attend during the summer and fall. It seems to me that returning to the soil all the materials removed by the plants while growing is a good idea. A well composted soil is easy to dig, retains moisture and feeds plants.

Soil and dirt are not the same thing! Soil is dynamic and made up of rock particles, accumulated compost, plus plant and animal life. There are several types of soil.

1.     LOAM with a balance of clay (18 to 25%), mineral particles, plus humus. This means good drainage, good water retention, and high fertility. 

2.     CLAY which is heavy and slow draining and slow to warm up in the spring , often quite fertile but compact and very easily bakes hard in the summer. To improve this kind of soil for growing plants, add compost.

ORGANISMS: Another word you will see quite often when soil is being discussed is organisms. They are necessary to keeping our soil fertile. Some are good and some are bad. Bacteria and fungus like loose soil. Mycorrhizue are fungus attached to the roots to help take up fertilizers. Microscopic worms help to improve soil. Large earthworms aid soil by feeding and digging. Soil goes through their tract and is one of the most beneficial additives you can find. Their work increases aeration and improves drainage. I sometimes like to lift a spade of dirt to check on them. I like to have 8-12 per square foot of soil. Many of the garden chemicals can harm earthworms so be careful what you apply to the soil.

BRANCH COLLAR: The slight swelling just outside where the branch of a tree or shrub joins the main stem. Leave this collar on the trunk when pruning as this is where healing occurs and a collar will form. If you cut flush with the stem, you will harm this protective area.

DEADHEADING: The removal of spent flowers. They need to be promptly removed before seeds are formed. This diverts energy to produce a new crop of flowers or leaves, saving the energy that would have produced seeds. This also prevents reseeding of some plants you might not want. Sometimes you can snap the flower off with your fingers. I like to use scissors and cut down to the nearest branch.

A CUTTING: Part of a stem, root, or leaf to be used to produce a new plant. Greenwood is taken from the tips of young growth after spring starts. Hardwood is taken when from older stems at the end of the season. A leaf cutting is made from a single leaf and is quite common in African Violet propagation. Root cuttings can be made from a part of a root.  It is important to start the cutting with the proper side up! I like to use rooting hormone on any cutting.

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