The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

Human acts affect the health of the planet 

      Lichen, the gray-green growths on tree trunks and rocks, are a symbiotic organism of algae and fungi. The algae produces the food through photosynthesis, and the fungi provides the nutrients, water and foundation for growth. Their presence on the shady side of tree trunks and rocks is a sure sign the air is clean.

Either poison the root stem now, or wait until summer to spray the leaves

       Is poison ivy getting the best of you? Are you afraid that English ivy, crawling up the trunks of  your trees, is going to kill them?        Trying to kill them by digging the roots out of the ground is futile. Allowing even a small  piece of root to remain in the ground will result in the sprouting of a new plant.

What you don’t know can hurt what you grow

      More and more Bay Weekly readers are having their soil tested, as evident by the number of soil test results that I am receiving by e-mail. In nearly all I have reviewed during the past year, soils are much too acid, and lawns have a surplus of phosphorus (P) but are deficient in sulfur (S) and boron (B). Very few results indicate near neutral or alkaline soils, except in azalea beds where hardwood bark mulch has been repeatedly applied.

No-till gardens make the best use of resources

       Plowing or rototilling your garden each year causes all sorts of problems. Turning up your garden destroys the soil structure, dries out the soil and destroys organic matter. It also contributes to the formation of a compacted subsurface layer of earth called a pan and destroys tunnels and channels that roots of new plants can follow, promoting deeper rooting and greater drought-tolerance.        It also exposes dormant weed seeds to light, which stimulates them into germinating,

Bloom out-performs both compost and commercial garden fertilizers

      Most commercial fertilizers are designed to provide nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  Unless your soil is rich in other major elements such as calcium and magnesium as well as essential trace elements, your plants will not grow efficiently. Worse yet, repeated use of commercial fertilizers often depletes essential trace elements from the soil.

The right potting mix makes all the difference

     Plant in most commercial potting media — including Pro-Mix, Sunshine Mix, Farfard Mix, Metro Mix, Jiffy Mix — and your plants get nutrients sufficient for four to six weeks. At that point, you need to begin fertilizing when that nutrient supply is exhausted. If you see bottom leaves yellowing and growth ending, you’ve waited too long.

And choose the soil to put in them

       Raised beds are a good way to grow healthy plants in areas that are poorly drained or extremely rocky. Raised bed kits are sold commercially, but more economical raised beds can be built using construction materials.

How to get the most out of less space

        Downsizing has become a familiar term. When children leave home to enter a new life, parents consider downsizing as they will no longer have the help to care for things. As one approaches retirement, it is not uncommon to see couples downsize so they can spend more time traveling, playing golf or becoming snowbirds.  The aging body also encourages downsizing. You can’t do the things you used to do. The Bay Gardener is now facing the same problem.

We have 1,800 volunteer gardeners helping gardeners

      Serving Maryland’s home gardeners are 1,800 volunteer Master Gardeners.       A program of the Maryland Cooperative Service of the University of Maryland, Master Gardeners have branches in all but Caroline County. The director is Jon Traunfeld, and under his leadership the program has gained nationwide recognition.

The Frugal Gardener’s advice

      Frugal gardeners save unused seeds from previous years, thinking they’ll save money.        Like everything else, the price of seeds increases almost every year. But you don’t save money if the seeds you saved and planted did not germinate or grow as expected.