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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

We have the knowledge but not the will to fix the problem

In a recent fishing trip with residents of the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, we could not help but notice how brown the water appeared even after several miles of boating into Herring Bay. One of the veterans asked why. I explained to him that what he was seeing was mostly clay in suspension.     Where is it coming from?     Clay comes from agricultural fields and home gardeners with exposed soils as well as from construction sites.

Our four have assisted all in their own ways

Four dogs have helped us run Upakrik Farm.     Our first farm dog was a black cocker spaniel. Dixie moved with us from College Park but adapted to farm life. She quickly learned the perimeter of the fields and the joy of riding on the tractor. The sound of its diesel engine made her stop what she was doing and make a beeline for the tractor. Despite her short legs, she would jump onto the platform and sit behind my legs, watching as we drove. She was a great companion during the many hours I spent on the tractor preparing the fields for planting.

Fall gardens want compost

It is highly unlikely your garden has used up all the fertilizer you applied this spring. This is especially true if your garden soil is rich in organic matter and you used lots of compost.     Compost raises soil temperatures, while its organic matter releases nutrients at a rate nearly equivalent to the needs of plants. The roots from the previous crop are also decomposing and releasing nutrients.

Cool-weather vegetables are ready to plant mid-summer

Now that spring-planted lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi and potatoes have been harvested, it’s time to prepare your fall garden. Many spring vegetables can be repeated. Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots cauliflower, lettuce, peas and snap beans love the cool weather of fall. Most can be planted in the garden from late-July to mid-August.

Big Eye keeps the birds away

For years I have covered my blueberry plants with bird netting just before the berries start turning blue. The netting was suspended from wires stretched on top of eight-foot-tall piles.  After harvest, the netting had to be removed and returned to storage. This was a demanding job that required most of a day. Despite my best efforts, mocking birds and robins always managed to eat the berries.

When water replaces air in the soil, plants die

If plants are wilting in your gardens despite all of the rain we have been having, it is due to a lack of oxygen in the soil. This is a bigger problem in heavy-loam soils than in sandy loam or loamy sands. Heavy soils become saturated with water faster than sandy soils because the pores are smaller and thus exclude all the air.

Okra, for beauty and taste

Okra likes it hot.  Soon the cool-loving cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi will have been harvested, leaving a large empty space in the garden. Lots of nutrients still in the garden can be used for growing a crop of okra.

Help these fruit trees recover from two bad winters

The winter of 2013-’14 killed the stems of most of the figs in southern Maryland. However the roots were still very much alive and generated an abundance of new stems from the ground. The robust roots produced stems that were able to produce a few figs. But most stems produced no fruit. They would have this year, except for another killing winter this past year.     At the northernmost range for growing figs, we have to face the fact that extremely cold winters can mean no fruit.

It’s harvest time

If you planted garlic last fall, the tails should be at least 24 inches tall, and you should be seeing the tops of the bulbs by now.     If you, like me, planted elephant garlic, flower heads will now be developing at the end of its tall cylindrical stem.     Most German, Italian and other soft-neck garlics do not flower. 

There are better ways than mulch

Do you think the only method of controlling weeds is mulching?     If so, you’re likely to add another layer of mulch every time you see weeds growing through the last layer. From there on, mulching becomes a habit.     Mulches control weeds by suffocation and by shading the soil, thus denying the weed seeds the red waves of sunlight. The red wave band of the sun’s spectrum stimulates weed seeds to ­germinate.