Weatherford Democrat

December 21, 2007

Gardening is the purest of human pleasures

Jo Anne Boudreau, Democrat Columnist


We can get rid of fungi, beetles and aphids in the garden, but there is one bug we can’t get rid of — the Gardening Bug. Once bitten, we’re incurable and will be drawn to the garden to dig in the soil from here on.

An old-time gardener stresses how important it is to remove dry brittle rose leaves from the bushes in the winter in order to avoid black spot fungus.

If a frost or freeze hits your blooming plants, hose them early in the morning to remove the ice. You might lose some, but you won’t lose all. But if the sun hits, they freeze. Melting ice absorbs heat. Ice crystals grab heat from the plants during the melting process, however, hosing melts the ice so quickly it has no chance to rob heat from the plants.

If you’re tired of weeds taking over your dormant winter garden, try growing a cover crop such as wheat, oats or rye for the season. They have a natural weed suppressant in their root systems. Mow it three or four times during the season.

Let nothing leave your site. We can’t have the luxury anymore of putting our leaves and trimmings at the curb to be hauled off and then buying commercially produced mulch at the garden center to replace them.

Confine each variety of rose in a separate bed. Plant brightly colored annuals in the area. Cold weather bloomers are pansies, violas (Johnny-jump-ups), dianthus and snap dragons. Roses love mint, parsley, garlic, chives, leeks, geraniums and tomatoes.

People put too much nitrogen fertilizer on the lawn because it gets green quickly, and we’ve been brainwashed by national advertising. But too much nitrogen makes it more acidic. It’s all top growth, and roots get weak; that’s when we get weeds and moss. It’s better to use fertilizer like corn, alfalfa and cottonseed meals mixed together and spread at 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet to feed the earthworms and microbes in the soil. They will keep the lawn alive and healthy.

When you mow, don’t remove the grass clippings. They’re beneficial to the grass, and you reduce the need to fertilize by putting back the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and trace elements that came from the lawn.

To soften and aerate sandy-clay soil, spread grass clippings, cedar chips and finely chopped leaves. I top these with corn, cottonseed and alfalfa meals to bring in the earthworms and feed the microbes. Within two seasons, hard, sun-baked soil will turn soft and pliable.

When you spread sawdust from horse stalls on your gardens and beds, be sure to add plenty of cottonseed meal, manure, compost and wood ashes to improve the pH and tilth of the soil. Sawdust depletes nitrogen from the soil and plants as it decomposes.

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Listen to Jo Anne Boudreau on Herb Talk Thursday morning from 8 to 9 on KMQX 88.5, 89.5, K249 97.7, K72AZ 93.3 FM Radio and www.KYQX.com.