Home-brewed gardening ideas
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Mar 27, 2013 | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Just when you think you have heard all the strange ideas from gardeners, along comes another one. From my gardening friend, Matthew, I heard this one and I’ll bet it works. Soak a plug of chewing tobacco in a large jug of water for some time. Use the water to sprinkle over plants to kill insects. Sounds very much like placing the tobacco stalks, after stripping the tobacco, in a criss-cross pattern on the rows of Ma’s garden plants. The nicotine seeped into the ground and Ma had a systemic insect killer. I know that worked. My grandfather would bring a wagonload of those stalks to her back garden each year.

Another little tidbit of lore I read recently: when the soil has dried sufficiently to plant corn, wait until the little new oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear and then it’s time to plant corn.

Those folks who want a perfect lawn may be wondering if they need to dethatch their lawn. Most of the time, it isn’t necessary. Tall fescue and ryegrass don’t develop much thatch. If you have ½ to 1 inch of thatch you probably need to rent a dethatcher. Too much watering and too much fertilizer cause that thatch. That thatch, or organic matter, can prevent air and water from getting to the roots of grass and gradually kill it. A dethatcher cuts down to the soil and you may need to criss-cross a few times to bring all that mess up to the top of the grass. Then you have to rake it all up and put it on your compost pile and what a great addition to compost!

When you are considering what kind of grass seed to use, remember that the temperamental Bluegrass is likely to need more watering, thus may need to be dethatched more often.

I often hear from someone that they just can’t grow certain perennials. Some may look good for a season and then die. It has happened to all gardeners, including this writer. The answer probably lies in the fact that you plant something without studying its needs. You should always study the tag attached to a new plant. If that isn’t possible, read about it either from your gardening books or from those in your library. There is always so much information on the Internet. The lack of some small bit of information makes all the difference. A long time ago, I spent several seasons trying to grow delphiniums. I changed the area of my garden where I was planting them to an area that had a lot of old rotten leaves and rich soil and lo, I became a delphinium grower. But the best advice is still to read the tag on the plant.

If you receive a bare-rooted tree from a catalog nursery, soak the roots in a bucket of water for at least two days or more before planting. The same advice goes for any shrub that comes without soil. If you are tempted to buy roses that have no soil in the package, soak for several days. They sometimes coat the stems with a green wax to make them look alive so check to be sure they are still live stems. Just keep in mind that, with roses especially, you get what you pay for.

If you want to grow some of the early crops such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, remember that April may still have some cold nights and those babies may need some protection. I love the use of those gallon size plastic milk jugs for protection from the cold, and also the rabbits and birds can’t get to them. You cut the bottoms out and leave the caps on. I learned that tip from my old Norwegian neighbor in Minnesota and then I noticed that all my neighbors had a garden full of plastic milk jugs.

Recently I read that some gardener had just learned about starting rose cuttings with a potato. I learned that tip many years ago from my grandmother and she learned from her mother-in-law. My great-grandmother used the oldest of the seed potatoes that she had kept all winter to slice and put the stem of a rose cutting inside the potato. Place the potato/rose about six inches into the soil and water well. The potato rots and furnishes moisture for the cutting. It works well but sometimes I had nice potato leaves to come up.

Ma could start a new rose from a rose cutting from a neighbor in the summer. She didn’t usually use the potato. She put a fruit jar over the little stem and that worked for her. The trick is to keep the soil moist, either way. Ma had lots of little tricks that she had learned from her ancestors.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions, suggestions or comments.
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