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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

Follow the doctor’s orders

Editor’s Note: Lest you forget, we share with you one last time the invaluable advice of Dr. Francis Gouin — our Bay Gardener for 12 years until his death in 2018.  

Eat these fall favorites for good taste and good health

Pumpkins come in many varieties. There are Jack-o-lanterns bred for stronger handles for Halloween. There are giant pumpkins; the current world record is an Atlantic Giant of over 2,000 pounds. There are pie pumpkins, heirloom edibles and specialty pumpkins in many different shapes and colors, all to match the autumn landscape.

The many buckeye trees are ­pleasing to the eye, too

The most magnificent horse chestnut is Aesculus parviflora: the bottlebrush buckeye. This native shrub attracts pollinators extraordinarily. I planted it several years ago along a sunny fence; it now takes up an area about 20 feet long by 10 feet wide.     It blooms June to July with beautiful candelabra-like white flower spikes that are abuzz with all kinds of native bees and beneficial flies. The peachy-pink pollen exudes a delicate fragrance into the air.

Plant seedlings now to eat well through September

Okra is the rare annual that performs best when the heat is on. I generally delay planting until late July, which allows the plants to grow at maximum speed and provides a full harvest into September.

It takes Mother Nature centuries to make fertile soil; with compost you can make it in days

Topsoil is a nebulous word. It means the top layer of soil. When ordering topsoil, you need to be more specific. If you need to import soil to change the grade of the landscape, the imported soil needs to be similar in texture to the existing soil. Never cover a sandy soil with a clay or silt soil or cover a clay or silt soil with a sandy one. Importing the wrong soil will cause drainage problems.

Light falls; growth happens

            Plant successions occur regularly in the forest. More vigorously growing plants shade out the slower-growing species. Shade-tolerant species occupy the forest floor. The lower limbs on trees in a mature forest do not exist because they have been shaded out, often early in the forest’s development. The result is tall trees with clean trunks. In the absence of branches, the trunks increase in diameter because new sapwood is formed where branches once protruded.

Your growing plants get hungry, too, as they start to produce

Tomatoes and peppers need your immediate attention if you hope to harvest a bumper crop.     By now your tomato, eggplant and pepper plants have clusters of fruit clinging at the lower branches with flowers initiating new younger fruit in the middle branches. Now is the time to provide them with additional nutrition and prevent blossom-end rot.

Plants have different feeding needs

Landscaping is an odd agricultural industry in that many different species of plants grow as near neighbors. To achieve desired effects, you might plant azaleas near junipers or yews and rhododendrons in close proximity to viburnums or tulips or lilies.

They're convenient, can be planted early and give higher yields

    If your soil does not drain well and gardening is in your blood, you should build raised beds. If your land is sloping severely, terraces  will help prevent erosion. Terraces are essentially raised beds using existing soil,  and are quite common in many Asian countries and in South America.

Some plants want one, some the other

Anybody can shear plants, but not everybody can prune plants properly. Black and Decker, Stihl, Echo and other manufacturers of hedge clippers have caused many landscapes to look alike. Foundation plantings are shaped into cones, balls, cylinders or squares. Sheared plants lose their identity and begin to look alike regardless of species.