GARDENING BY RONELLA: Tips for gardeners new and experienced
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Jan 15, 2014 | 68 68 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gardeners learn some neat tricks over many years of gardening and I have picked up some things to share, some of which you may have read before and for some new readers, they may be things, which you haven’t heard.

Since we are all looking forward to fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, here are some tips that help with growing the best tomatoes. Save egg shells and crush them to make a mote around each tomato plant of the crushed egg shells to discourage cut worms. Did you know that alyssum planted near your tomato vines will attract the insects which pollinate the tomato plants to give you bigger crops? On the other hand, marigolds planted near tomatoes will repel insects. Crushed marigold leaves and blooms added to a sprayer (sprinkler kind) will make a good spray to repel insects. Rain will wash it away so you will need to repeat this each time it rains but it really works. I have found that marigolds planted here and there in a big flowerbed works extremely well to keep out insects. I am not sure about the good insects.

If you have bananas that get too ripe to use, throw them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer and use them this spring around your roses. One banana or just a banana peel added to each rose in spring give them a spurt of energy. The bananas and skins will be a big black glob in the freezer but will work wonders in the garden. Friends always helped me save them until I would have a garbage bag full by spring so I put them around some of my perennials and found they work on them as well.

The smelly yarrow makes a great addition to a compost pile because it acts as a compost activator. I have always grown the big yellow ones because they look so good in a back border and because I like to dry the flower heads and when the stem was cut back, I just automatically put it in the compost, not knowing that it was good for the compost. A wonderful addition to the center of your compost pile is fresh manure because it really heats up the compost to hasten the composting. Fresh grass clippings will do the same thing. You can even see the steam rising from the center of the pile sometimes.

Today I heard something that may or may not interest you but I find it interesting. Raw milk poured on any plant or grass fertilizes it greatly. When I find out more, I will let you know. Not many of us have access to raw milk.

Spray your evergreens now to keep down the red spider as well as scale and other pests. Check with your local gardening store for the best spray.

It is also time to prune your fruit trees. They must be pruned if you expect to get a good harvest. To learn to prune correctly, check with your local County Agent. My Pa had a wonderful very old orchard and he had the pruning done by an old man who went through the country just pruning trees. I remember that it took him several days. Maybe that was because Ma’s cooking was famous. Just like the Watkins salesman always made it to their house just at lunch time.

I hope you have many bird houses or are making some. A little knowledge of nesting needs of our birds will keep them safe and coming back each year. A metal collar around the pole that holds the bird house will keep Kitty from climbing up for a buffet of eggs and babies. Different birds need holes of different sizes and different kinds of houses.

And they need to be dull colored. Birds like to gather their own building material and sometimes it’s really bizarre. They will gather bits of string, rubber bands, lint from the dryer, old rag scrap, yarn scraps and hair from the barber seems a favorite.

None of our birds like to have other nests nearby so don’t space them too closely. The Purple Martin is the exception. Seems they like to enjoy a front porch gossip with friends and love a big apartment house.

It would take a full column to describe the needs and types of houses for each bird in our yards. In my book, I describe much more of their needs and habits.

It is not true that once you feed birds, you have to keep it up. On cold, snowy days, they need some food from their friends. Many birds die in winter from lack of food and water.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632. Your calls are encouraging.
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