2014-05-15 / From The Garden


Where Do I Begin?
By Cynthia Gibson

Goutweed, also known as bishop’s weed and snow-on-the-mountain, can quickly take over the garden. Goutweed, also known as bishop’s weed and snow-on-the-mountain, can quickly take over the garden. At this time of year we are all ready to see beautiful colors in the garden and look forward to the taste of summer fruits and vegetables. However, put a plan together before rushing off to a tree nursery or garden center.

Your plan should be made with a few things in mind. Did you like your garden last year? If not, how would you like to change it? Did the shape and size of your garden suit your needs? Are the plants you purchased last year now huge and taking over your space? Are you limited to a patio or small terrace? If you grow in containers, how large should the pots be and how many should you use? You may have very specific concerns from last summer, such as mealy tomatoes.

After reviewing last year’s successes and failures, a good plan should start with new soil, which is always best for a container garden. If you garden in pots, change your soil yearly. Mold, fungus and bugs will build up if you fail to do so. Prefertilized potting soil is excellent, but its label can be a bit misleading. Yes, it has fertilizer, but after about three weeks you should start fertilizing about every two weeks for the best results. Miracle-Gro is a good option and is readily available. Nurseries and garden stores also offer plant-specific fertilizers.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Gardening in containers is great fun if you have a little help. An extra set of hands may be needed to place larger pots. Fifteen-gallon canisters or “half-whiskey” barrels make great planters. It is best to get your pots in place before you fill them with soil and water. Watch out for hurting your back. Place the pots first, plant second.

The larger your planters, the bigger the vegetables you can grow. You will find that what your vegetables need most, like most plants, is water. If your pots are in a very sunny location, the plants will do far better with two daily waterings, once in the morning and again in the afternoon. Never water in the heat of the day. Sun and heat force the roots of your plants to the surface, where they will fry.

As we welcome the lush colors of the warm season, we are also greeted by weeds scattered throughout our fresh green grass and garden beds. Weeds are one of the banes of every gardener’s existence. While one might hope that the long, cold winter killed them, no such luck. It is time to attack the weeds and invasive plants that are always vying to take over your space.

Where weeding is concerned, hire a young person to help you. And remember that the best alternative to “hands and knees” weeding is the raised bed. It is important to keep aging in mind as you plan your garden. While some readers might be giggling at this thought, it is a valid consideration. The “gardenasium,” as I call it, is my health club. It’s a constant source of deep knee bends, pulling, tugging, and most definitely stretching. It may be wise to save your strength for making fresh tarts and glorious summer salads.

Also, take a long look at plants and flowers that may expand more quickly than you realize. Mint comes to mind immediately. A great pal from Maine once told me, “Plant your mint under a tree that you rarely visit.” Boy was she ever right. Almost any type of chive also spreads easily, as its seeds readily disperse with the wind.

The following list of invasive flowers and weeds deserves to be saved in your garden journal. You may decide to leave these out altogether, but a basic rule of thumb when planting any invasive variety is to cut off the flower blossom as soon as it starts to die.

Finally, did you have a problem with mealy tomatoes last year? Inconsistent watering is one cause. If your tomatoes don’t get a good soak every afternoon, their sugar turns to starch, giving them a mealy texture. On the other hand, excessive watering can cause your tomatoes to crack, making them grainy. Remember that varietal choices also influence your results. For example, the “Roma” tomato is grown to have a mealy consistency. This and similar breeds make the best sauce and tomato paste because of their starchiness.

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