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Some tips to help maximize your gardening experience

Some tips to help maximize your gardening experience

May 30th, 2016 by Sherry Beaty-Sullivan in Texarkana News

For the past few years I've been a gardening fool.

My husband, Scott, and I have been experimenting with different combinations of plants and garden arrangements. And bless him, he doesn't always understand my rhyme or reason for doing things, but he quietly complies. He's not one for change, but he lets me play. Things I have learned through trial and error and research so far:

  •  Give beans a running start. Like all runners, beans need a lot of water to finish the race. To make watering simple, dig trenches between your rows and pile dirt around your seedlings. Lay the hose down at the beginning of the trench and flood it, and your beans will be well-stocked for the run of their lives.
  •     Think spring for fall harvest.
  •     Vegetable gardening is an exercise in futuristic thinking. If you want to harvest broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or cabbage in the fall, you need to plant your seeds in the spring. May is an ideal time to sow seeds of slow-growing fall veggies. Cultivate cabbage on solid ground. Cabbages are rugged and actually thrive in conditions other vegetables hate. Dig and fertilize your cabbage bed for your tender seedlings earlier than others, then trample over it. By the time you plant, the ground will be good and hard, just the way cabbages like it.
  •     Attract super bugs with flower power. Flowers look great in the vegetable garden, but they are much more useful than their innocent beauty suggests. Take borage, for instance. Its tiny, blue, star-shaped blooms attract lacewings. These, in turn, become aphid lions. As their name suggests, these valiant little bugs eat plenty of veggie-chewing pests and are worth their weight in gold. So plant borage among your vegetable rows and you'll entice this friendly lion into your garden.
  •     Rotate crops to frustrate pests. Divide your garden into four zones and rotate your vegetable crops among them. Moving them keeps pests under control and prepares the soil for the next crop. For example, you start your rotation with the cabbage family since they need rich soil. Follow with a crop of beans, which replenish the soil with nitrogen. Peppers, potatoes, eggplant or tomatoes can come next since they are greedy eaters. Follow with vining veggies—squash or cucumbers. By now, the soil is poor but loose, just perfect for onions, garlic, carrots, parsnips or celery.
  •     Looking for an easy way to harvest veggies? No need to invest in an expensive harvest basket when you can make one out of a gallon milk jug. Simply cut out a large, square hole opposite the handle and punch some holes in the bottom of the jug. String your belt through the handle, and it will free up your hands for the harvest. Once you collect your bounty, stick the jug under running water and rinse your vegetables before bringing them inside.
  •     Tipsy tops signal an onion crop is ready. There should be no question about when onions are ready to harvest. When the bulbs are large, the green tops simply fall over. Pull them out of the ground and let them sun for a couple of days before storing them in a cool, dry place.
  •     Pep up your peppers. Spray your blooming pepper plants with a mixture of one tablespoon of Epsom salt and one gallon of water. Then spray them again 10 days later. The magnesium in the Epsom salt will encourage the peppers to grow.
  •     Trade an achy back for a planting stick. For a quick and easy way to dig holes at exactly the right depth for each vegetable seed, simply wrap a rubber band around the handle of your hoe. Turn it upside down and adjust the rubber band so it marks the exact depth for corn or bean seeds. Now simply go down the row and push the stick into the ground to the correct depth. You can easily switch to a different seed—just adjust the height of the rubber band and start a new row.

Sherry Beaty-Sullivan is the Little River County Extension Agent Agriculture/Staff Chair

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