Friday, October 22, 2010

Startling Things I've Learned

Wednesday night's Master Gardening class was on vegetable gardening.  It was the session I was looking forward to the most, and it did not disappoint.  Here are a few tidbits I learned:

1.  Soil temperature matters a lot.  Putting black plastic over your garden soil will help raise the soil temperature, which is good.  Using organic compost will lower it.  I'm certainly not willing to give up the organic compost, but next year I'll put down the plastic to help counteract its cooling properties.  You can cut holes in the plastic for the plants and leave the plastic in place the whole season.

2.  My squash couldn't have cross-pollinated.  I had no spacorn.  I still don't understand the spaghetti squash that the plant produced--it was nothing like spaghetti squash I've eaten before--but it couldn't have been a cross.  I'm deeply humiliated by this.  I took Genetics in college.  I spent an entire semester in the lab crossing fruitflies and counting the progeny.  (Fruitflies with vestigal wings tend to have a high mortality rate.  They drown in their own food.  It's a sad way to die, and it wreaks havoc on your results.)  I know that a cross would produce seeds that were a cross, but the parent wouldn't be affected.

I'm so embarrassed.

3.  Peppers should be planted two weeks after tomato plants.  Peppers are very sensitive to cool soil temperature.

4.  Tomatoes can be picked at the breaker stage, the stage at which there is a hint of color, and allowed to ripen indoors.  They will taste just as good as if they ripened fully on the vine.

5.  I don't fertilize nearly enough.  When the garden is planted, 1 c. of mixed water soluble fertilizer should be used for each plant.  Then it shouldn't be fertilized again until tomatoes are about golf-ball sized to avoid the plant producing tons of foliage at the expense of tomatoes.  Fertilize again two weeks after the first tomato is ripe, and again four weeks later.  If you're using granular fertilizer, you should "sidedress" plants by applying it a few inches away from the plants so the plants don't get burned by the fertilizer.

6.  For gardens and the lawn, water more deeply and less often.  Water so the garden gets very wet, then let it dry out completely.  Lawns, at least bluegrass lawns, can make it 4-6 weeks without significant moisture before there's damage.  In a drought like we're experiencing this year, you should water your yard very deeply once a month.  We, of course, didn't do that, so it will be interesting to see what happens next spring.

Hope springs eternal.  Even though the garden was a failure this year, at least in my opinion, I believe that armed with new knowledge I shall produce wonders next year.  This is why we garden.

And this is why gardening companies stay in business.


  1. Great entry, but wrong time of year. We are getting ready for winter here :o(

  2. Huh. Didn't know that about tomatoes being okay to pick with just a hint of color. But then, there's a lot I don't know about gardening in general. My mom has grown some sweet little cherry tomatoes this year that are to die for.