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Friday, March 30, 2012

Common Sense or Nonsense - Try These and Decide

If all else fails go with the garden lore, the wives’ tales, and the chatter around the farmers’ table at the town diner (aka coffee shop). Generations of well-meaning, oft eyebrow-raising advise has been passed down to favored gardening friends by those who claim the inside track to successful vegetable gardens and flower beds. Disputing them, especially during the busy season, seems nothing more than a waste of good time. Unable and unwilling to “beat them” we think it’s fun, interesting and perhaps useful to “join ‘em”.

Maybe you have some wise words you’ve learned from a favorite gardener. If so, post a comment at the end. Until then, enjoy what we dug up.

Hang your dirty shoes from fruit trees that don't bear. We could not come up with a substantial history for doing this but our hunt did yield lots of offers to sell us new, and we assume clean, shoes. We’ve also driven through many small towns where the trend seems to be to toss dirty gym shoes up on power lines and/or into street-side trees. This could be a victory celebration or it could be there are no fruit trees in town and the kids were told they couldn’t wear those shoes inside.

Having mentioned inside, how about planting a banana peel with your staghorn fern? Ours here has shared space in a hanging container with a spider plant for at least 4 years. This year the last fern leaf which dared to show its colors lasted only a short time. The argument for putting a banana peel in with it appears sensible and reasonable as the potassium in the peel displaces the sodium which is in most water. Research results suggest we re-pot the staghorn and sprinkle the dried pieces on top of the moss so the potassium leaches out whenever the plant is watered. Most probably we’ll be separating the two plants and giving this a try.

If you have some extra banana peels left, bury them just under the surface of your rose beds. We hear you. “Who knew?” you say. Well, we’re always looking for economic and green ways to use what we buy!

Back outdoors, if your soil has high alkaline content and we don’t receive generous rains, your acid-loving plants such as azaleas, camellias and roses may be frowning. Give ‘em some coffee grounds, just like Grannie said. The grounds act as a mulch and soil improver. In other words, the grounds can’t hurt. What’s good for those mentioned may well be good for other flowers also. We’ve gone through stages of saving the grounds and tossing them onto a flower bed. It helps justify making that second pot of coffee now and then. If you’re a fan of tea, the tea leaves can do the same job. Word has it that wisteria loves a good tea leaf.

There’ve been more than a few discussions about how to get hydrangeas to bloom a vivid blue. Often when you’re shopping you see the gorgeous range of blues and are swept away enough to take one home, maybe even two or three. Planted in a showy spot in your yard they stand out beautifully. Then one day you notice the new blooms aren’t quite so blue. Well, did you put nails in with them, or maybe an old razor, or even hair pins? That may be the problem. Must be the rusting iron that does encourages the blue to pop. If you can’t get it to happen then love what you have and consider adding an outrageously pinkish hydrangea to the mix. Or you can add aluminum sulfate to the soil. Spoiled sport…remember we’re talking gardening lore not swift and modern techniques.

You may find it necessary to discourage creepy crawlers or 4-legged trespassers from entering your yard although it does seem a bit unnatural to us. Try these unscientific methods: a plastic jug of water put out where you don’t want dogs to trod; beer, the non-alcoholic variety, for slugs and snails; moth balls for skunks (they’ll need refreshing after rain); soap bars for deer (again, you need more the more it rains); human hair, steel wool, chewing gum – one time each works on some gophers.

Once you’ve implemented a few of these tricks you should go out and talk to your plants. People around you may already have written you off once they see what’s going on so you have nothing further to lose. Strike up a cheerleading conversation to get the radishes rolling, the lettuce leading the race. Tell the marigolds and delphinium how splendid they look. If nothing else you’ll be taking notice of how glorious your garden and beds look and you’ll feel better for it!

(With some content thanks to an old LATimes article)