People new to gardening ask the darndest questions: about how seeds work, growing the perfect tomato and waging war with insects (many of them beneficial).
No question is a bad question, though, since good gardening requires a never-ending supply of information. Beginners can find it by talking with neighborhood gardeners, nurseries, extension agents or by looking online.
“I often get questions dealing with garden problems like, ‘I planted my winter squash in the winter so why didn’t they grow?’ ” said Rose Marie Nichols McGee, owner of Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany, Ore.
Fertilizer is a topic that intimidates many gardeners, McGee said. “I usually tell them to put in a cover crop. It adds a great many nutrients when you turn it over in the spring. I’m also a great champion of using seaweed,” she said. “It’s the least likely (fertilizer) to burn plants.”
McGee recommends against using cattle manure to fertilize vegetable gardens, citing its potential to be infected with harmful strains of E. coli bacteria.
Other gardening questions:
How to begin? “They usually start by saying. ‘I’ve got some lawn,’ ” said Roger Doiron, founder and director of Kitchen Gardeners International in Scarborough, Maine. “I generally tell them to get started by using layers and layers of organic mulch. Smother it with organics. That will give them a good base.”
What’s eating my plants? “I had a woman call asking what disease or insect could strike overnight and ... destroy her vegetable plants,” said Donna Coffin, an educator with University of Maine Extension. “I asked what the symptoms looked like and she said the plants were gone. I asked if she had deer or woodchucks in the area and she said no. I suggested she spread flour or cornmeal around the edge of the garden to see what comes in to eat the rest of her veggies. When she called back, it was evident she had deer.”
In this August photo, a buck looks up after feasting on grapevines in a backyard vineyard near Langley, Wash. The area is surrounded by an 8-foot-high fence, but it was of little use that day because the property owner forgot to close one of the gates.×
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