GARDEN FOR FEBRUARY 24, 2007
Tips for the new
OR NOVICE gardener PART II
BY GEORGE EDGAR
I told you last week, I asked the Master Gardener Class last year to
share with me what they would say if a new or novice gardener asked
“How can I improve my landscape?” Or “How can I make my flowers,
shrubs, and trees grow better?” The group broke into small groups and
provided written tips and recommendations.
idea for this exercise came from Dr Cindy Haynes, Professor of
Horticulture at Iowa State University. She wrote two articles with the
same premise after a novice gardener asked her, “What can I do to grow
plants better or have a better looking landscape?” She pondered her
answer and then wrote, “I think it might have been easier to tell him
and others what not to do first.” (Garden Don’ts, Parts I & II,
published in Horticulture and Home Pest News, March 9, 2005 and April
20, 2005.) In Part II she asked some of the other Horticulture
Department professors to share their wisdom. The information is very
I am going to share some more of the tips from the Nebraska Master
Gardeners. Some are quite similar to what the professors at Iowa State
University said. If you want to read what Dr. Haynes and the other
faculty members wrote go to “ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews”. In the
search box, type in “Garden Don’ts” or the date of the article.
Master Gardeners suggest that you select
good quality tools when you start out and then keep them
maintained. For example, good quality garden pruners will last you a
long time. Poor quality ones will be a pain after a short time and will
not do the kind of cutting you want. After purchasing good tools, take
care of them!! Clean them after each use and coat any metal
with oil. The easiest way to do this is to use a container with course
sand or gravel with motor oil in it. All you have to do then is put your
spade or pruners in the sand and the dirt will come off and the metal
will be coated with oil to protect them from rust.
they highly recommend that you ALWAYS
READ THE LABEL!!! The label on all pesticide containers has very
important information. This is true regardless of the pest you are
after. The pest may be an insect, a weed, a disease, or an animal. The
label will tell you what the active ingredients are, where you should
use this product, any precautions, and how to mix the ingredients if
necessary. Then FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!!! If the label says to use 2 ounces per
gallon remember that 3 or 4 ounces will not be better. Increased dosage
may injure your plant and not do what you want it to. Also if it says to
spray every two weeks, application once a week is not necessarily
better. Apply the right product, on the
right plant, at the right time. The right product at the
proper dosage and at the right rate but at the wrong time is a waste of
time and money. So learn the life cycle of the pest you are trying to
get rid of so you know when the optimal time to treat is. This is true
whether the pest is a weed, an insect, a disease, or an animal.
BUY QUALITY SEEDS AND PLANTS!!!!
Poor quality transplants or seeds, planted in the wrong location
or at the wrong time will not reach full potential. Also, soil
temperature is very important when planting seeds and/or transplants.
Seeds planted too early may just sit there and rot while seeds planted
too late may not grow to maturity before a frost gets them. Many books
on starting seeds will list the ideal germination temperature and it may
be on the seed package. Transplants set out too early will also just sit
in the soil and not do anything until the soil temperature reaches a
certain point. I have a small kitchen thermometer I use to measure soil
temp. Stick it in the ground only 3 to 4 inches deep and wait for about
5 minutes. Then read what it says.
PLAN BEFORE YOU PLANT!!!
Planning means deciding where you are going to place a plant before you
buy it. Too often we go to the garden center and see a very nice looking
plant, buy it, take it home and then wonder where we are going to put
it. It also means placing like plants together. I don’t mean those of
similar color, shape, or form, but put plants that have similar water
needs, similar soil needs, similar fertilizer needs, and similar
sunlight needs. If you don’t take these needs into consideration some
plants will grow and some will struggle. Or all will struggle because
you are over watering one time and under watering the next, or you may
be fertilizing too much or too little. .
ROTATE YOUR CROPS!!!
The best way to prevent an infestation by insects that over winter in
the soil, or prevent soil borne diseases, is to rotate where you plant.
This applies to more than vegetable crops though these are the most
likely plants to be affected. Some tomato diseases are soil borne, so
try to rotate. I grow mine in one raised bed for two years and then move
over and plant something else in that raised bed for at least two to
three years before I replant tomatoes or anything in that family like
peppers or potatoes.
This means when you are planting a tree, a shrub, or flowers in your
yard, or a windbreak on your farm or acreage, do not plant all one
species or all one variety or you are asking for trouble. Many
windbreaks now have too many Scotch pines and they are being devastated
by pine wilt. In your orchard quite often you need at least two
different varieties of the same fruits. For example, apples take two
different varieties and they need to flower about the same time to have
good pollination. DIVERSIFY.
DO NOT PLANT MORE THAN YOU CAN CARE
FOR!!! The last couple of
years I had too many tomato plants and too many water lilies. They did
not grow and produce very well. So, this year I plan to cut back so I
can take care of what I plant.
last tip from the Master Gardeners is IT
IS OK TO FAIL!!! Most of us at one time or another have planted too
much or have tried to grow a plant that is not suited for our growing
conditions, or have planted something in the wrong place, or at the
wrong time. However, it is fun to experiment and try new things, so
don’t be afraid to try and don’t worry if you fail. I have found
that some parts of my garden have a micro-climate that allows me to do
things I didn’t think would work. By taking a risk I have found out
what grows best where.
Master Gardeners above all encourage you to HAVE FUN AND ENJOY YOUR GARDEN!!!