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Gardening Tips Part II
March 17, 2014

Top O the day to you.

Happy St. Patty's Day.

The one day of the year where most people have some Irish in them.

Karen is 100% Dutch and still manages to do things up in Green around here.

Even Yolanda is dressed in green as she heads off to Hope Network.

Of course, the menu today offers Corned beef and cabbage.

It's the only time of year we have this meal.

I don't think my health could handle it more than once (plus leftovers) a year.

You know its been a rough winter when the deer are in backyards looking for food in the middle of the afternoon.

Picture was taken the middle of last week.

March 20 is the first day of spring :-)

Transition into spring is very slow this year, however.

Still, nature knows.

Tree buds are beginning to swell.

Red-winged blackbirds are now here in masses.

So much so they are a nuisance bird right now at the feeders.

Even though we have had several robins over winter, more robins are appearing too.

Even the Common Grackle, and Parasitic Brown-headed cowbirds are here.

Even with a good foot of hard pack snow still on the ground, the birds know.

It is the length of day that gets the hormones going.

Still, the past couple of nights have been in the single digits once again, and the Mourning Doves are supporting the new style of winter fluff (pictured below).

The length of day also gets the gardening juices flowing as well.

I don't know about you, but I am one restless gardener/nature boy right now.

At least we have had a few more sunny days, and that always helps.

Let's get to a few more gardening tips.

Experienced gardeners, feel free to blow right by these.

New and inexperienced gardeners You may want to pay attention.


Transplant on a cloudy day if at all possible.

This will reduce the shock to seedlings and plants they experience when moved from a pot or one location to another.

if cloudy days aren't an option, transplant in the evening when the stress of a hot sun is minimal.

Use plant collars.

What is a plant collar?

If you have gardened for any length of time, you probably have experienced a visit from Cutworms.

Cutworms are not worms, but caterpillars.

Indeed, they are moth larvae that hide under litter or soil during the day, coming out in the dark to feed on plants.

They feed on, and cut a young plant down right at or slightly below the soil line.

Thus the name cutworm.

Before you plant your seedlings, take a paper bag or some other sturdy paper and make some collars.

Cut about 2 inches thick by 4-6 inches long.

Place the collar loosely around the stem of you plants and partially bury it as you plant.

Be sure to leave a rim above ground so the larvae can crawl over it.

Collars are also good to use as a water well.

Collars also work wonders when planting on a hill.

For hillside planting, I use paper cups or even the pot the plant came in.

Cut out the bottom of the cup, and slit it if needed.

Place your plant inside the cup collar and plant, leaving an is of the cup above ground.

The paper cup now works as a water well, and deters erosion around your plants.

About the time your young plants are established, the cup has broken down into compost.

With larger plants, shrubs, and trees you may choose to plant on a hilly bank, you will want to use the plastic pot it came in as a color.

Again, remove the bottom and slit the side or cut the pot in half.

You may also want to remove a bit of the bottom portion of the sides to allow for more root growth.

Prepare your hole as usual, place the pot collar around the dirt ball and plant.

Again, leaving the pot a couple inches above ground to use as a water well and to prevent erosion.

After several weeks, as the roots grow deep and the plant becomes established, remove the cut pot, one side at a time.

You may be surprised how well this works for you.

Planting trees and shrubs.

Give your plant roots some elbow room, by digging a wide and deep hole, and loosen the soil around the edge.

(This is also good for seedlings and transplants.)

Ideally, you should dog your hole twice as wide and twice as deep and then do a back fill.

This loosens up the surrounding soil, while adding oxygen to the mix.

Once your hole is prepared, loosen or fluff up the root ball or prepare the bare root plants are directed.

Your trees and shrubs can now stretch out their roots and grow stronger and healthier.

Be careful not to pack the soil down too tight. you want to remove large air pockets, but not all of the oxygen.

Soil pH.

Have your soil pH tested before you go out and purchase too many plants.

You can buy an inexpensive soil tester, a good garden center should be able to test pH for you (no charge.)

When all else fails, your county extension will handle this for a nominal fee.

While most plants will do just fine in a neutral soil, some plants need acid soil, while a few need alkaline soil.

I digress a bit.

The soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity in the soil.

It normally ranges from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral.

A pH below 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline.

Blueberries need acid soil to produce good fruit.

While hydrangeas bloom well in a neutral soil, to get pink to turn blue, the pH should read about 5 - 5.5.

Blueberries prefer 4.5 to 5.5 on the scale.

Save your eggshells and banana peels starting now.

If you aren't saving and using banana peels around your flowers and vegetables, you are missing out on a good thing.

Rich in phosphorus and potassium, bananas and peels with jump start flowers and vegetables with root growing, fruit producing energy.

The saying goes 'More roots, more Fruits'.

An added bonus, banana peels for some reason deter plant sucking aphids from attacking such plants.

Eggshells are all about calcium.

Wash and microwave the shells for about a minute, and let them cool.

This not only kills off any bacteria, but makes the shells brittle.

Easy for crushing and grinding into a powder if desired.

The more eggshells, the more you can use them for.

Crushed shells can be placed around slug loving plants.

Slugs crawl over the sharp edges and no more slugs.

Place crushed shells with bird food and offer a small dish of crushed shells.

Here eggshells work double duty.

Not only do crushed shells work as grit (required year round), birds need the added calcium for mating and laying their own eggs.

Ground eggshells can be directly planted in the ground with your plants.

Tomatoes and peppers require an extra dose of calcium when producing fruits, especially if they aren't getting watered enough.

A good dose of calcium help to prevent blossom end rot on fruits.

Blossom end rot is caused when the plant isn't getting enough water and thus nutrients, that it pulls what it needs from developing fruits.

This causes the end of the fruit (where the blossom was) to turn black and rot.

By providing a good and direct source of calcium, you can help to prevent this.

Calcium tea is also a good idea

Steep ground shells in water, or even use water from hard boiled eggs to water plants with (allow water to cool first).

Go Native.

Yes, I like to beat this drum.

Use native plants, don't use chemicals and encourage worms.

Add a couple of earthworms to planted containers.

Worms not only help to break up the soil, they open waterways and produce worm castings that feed your plants.

You may want to feed your worms a bit of garbage or dead leaves when you plant.

The returns on your plants will be noticeable.

Return the worms (and there should be many by now) to the ground this fall.

Say, I think I'll do "Garden Tips" for one more week.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God bless.

"When life takes away, something of greater value is always given in return."

Michael J. Fox

I've used this bible verse before, however it is always worth repeating.

Read it carefully.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Jesus Christ (John 10:10)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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