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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

There’s a future in horticulture

       Horticulture is the second largest income-producing agricultural industry in the state of Maryland and the third in the nation. There’s way more to this field than digging holes or filling pots. Horticulture is an evolving science. The efficient production of fruits and vegetables, 60 percent of our daily diet, requires a thorough knowledge of plant and soil sciences as well as tons of experience.

Over-fertilizing with this element will cut your crop yield and worse

      Horticulture is a science. It is not based on intuition, feelings, grandpa or great grandma. When I started college and my career, horticulture professors often would say that 25 percent of what we know is based on science, 25 on hearsay and 50 percent on experience,         Today the saying goes: 50 percent of what we know is based on science, 25 percent on experience and 25 percent on hearsay. We have come a long way since 1956.

Aeration and compost beat fertilizer this time of year

       If you cut your grass with a riding lawnmower or your lawn is a frequently used playground, most likely the soil is compacted and the turf would benefit from a good aeration. The purpose of aeration is to loosen the soil to improve both drainage and air flow. Grass roots breathe in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. This is entirely opposite of what leaves do.

That’s another job for compost

      Compost is well known as an amendment for formulating potting blends and improving the productivity of soils. Less well known is its efficiency as a filter.        As an air filter, mature compost is helpful in the break down of biosolids and other odoriferous materials. Large commercial composting facilities force air through the compost piles to hasten the process. To filter the air, the ends of the exhaust pipe are covered with compost.

Human acts affect the health of the planet 

      Lichen, the gray-green growths on tree trunks and rocks, are a symbiotic organism of algae and fungi. The algae produces the food through photosynthesis, and the fungi provides the nutrients, water and foundation for growth. Their presence on the shady side of tree trunks and rocks is a sure sign the air is clean.

Either poison the root stem now, or wait until summer to spray the leaves

       Is poison ivy getting the best of you? Are you afraid that English ivy, crawling up the trunks of  your trees, is going to kill them?        Trying to kill them by digging the roots out of the ground is futile. Allowing even a small  piece of root to remain in the ground will result in the sprouting of a new plant.

What you don’t know can hurt what you grow

      More and more Bay Weekly readers are having their soil tested, as evident by the number of soil test results that I am receiving by e-mail. In nearly all I have reviewed during the past year, soils are much too acid, and lawns have a surplus of phosphorus (P) but are deficient in sulfur (S) and boron (B). Very few results indicate near neutral or alkaline soils, except in azalea beds where hardwood bark mulch has been repeatedly applied.

No-till gardens make the best use of resources

       Plowing or rototilling your garden each year causes all sorts of problems. Turning up your garden destroys the soil structure, dries out the soil and destroys organic matter. It also contributes to the formation of a compacted subsurface layer of earth called a pan and destroys tunnels and channels that roots of new plants can follow, promoting deeper rooting and greater drought-tolerance.        It also exposes dormant weed seeds to light, which stimulates them into germinating,

Bloom out-performs both compost and commercial garden fertilizers

      Most commercial fertilizers are designed to provide nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  Unless your soil is rich in other major elements such as calcium and magnesium as well as essential trace elements, your plants will not grow efficiently. Worse yet, repeated use of commercial fertilizers often depletes essential trace elements from the soil.

The right potting mix makes all the difference

     Plant in most commercial potting media — including Pro-Mix, Sunshine Mix, Farfard Mix, Metro Mix, Jiffy Mix — and your plants get nutrients sufficient for four to six weeks. At that point, you need to begin fertilizing when that nutrient supply is exhausted. If you see bottom leaves yellowing and growth ending, you’ve waited too long.