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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

These trees flourish after heavy pruning

Hollies can be butchered to near death and come back like gangbusters. Last year I did a pruning demonstration for a group of nurserymen to show how severely hollies could be pruned without killing them. I pruned American holly, Japanese holly and Burford holly.

Now’s the time to prepare your fruit trees and berry bushes

Fruit quality and size are based not on the amount or kind of fertilizer you apply but on how well you prune the plants in the spring before they bloom. You should be pruning your apple, peach, nectarine, apricot, pear and cherry trees now, as well as your blueberry, raspberry and blackberry shrubs.

Help needed in avoiding white core at tomato-ordering time

Have you ever sliced open a tomato and found one or two white spots, from the size of a pea to the size of a dime, in the flesh near the stem end of the fruit?     Several Bay Weekly readers have brought the problem to my attention, and it seems it was quite common this past summer in many home gardens. One home gardener noticed that the white core problem was rampant even when the plants were irrigated and asked why I had not written about it.

I prefer mine straight

I have been asked by several gardeners to respond to the use of compost tea.         I have spent nearly 40 years researching composting and the use of compost for growing plants. As a result of many successes, I cannot over-emphasize the benefits of using compost in gardening.

True or false: Oak is the best wood to burn.

As more and more people are using firewood for heating their homes, I am often asked about differences between hardwoods. Yes, there are differences. There are soft hardwoods and there are hard hardwoods.

Black walnut trees don’t mind bulbs and ground cover, but they kill competing broadleaf species

The black walnut is a unique tree. It selects its neighbors and wipes out its competition. The roots, bark, wood, leaves and husks of the black walnut contain an enzyme called juglanace. This enzyme remains in the tissues until they are decomposed beyond recognition. The horticultural term used to describe the competition-controlling properties of black walnut is allelopathic response.

They work for you; now it’s time to work on them

Now is the time to care for your lawn and garden tools. Sharpen the lawnmower blades, drain and replace the engine oil, replace or clean the sparkplug and blow the dust and dirt from the cooling fins.

Use the ash from your fires to help your garden grow

Wood ash is a great source of calcium and potassium, also providing some phosphorus and lots of essential trace elements. A 12-quart pail full of fine wood ash can be spread over at least 100 square feet of garden soil. Make certain that the ash is cool before spreading, especially if the soil is covered with dry leaves.

It’s much easier to buy next year’s colored blooms than to raise them yourself

Every January, I receive questions on how to keep poinsettia plants and have them flower again next Christmas. My best advice is to dump them in the compost pile as soon as you get tired of looking at them or when they start dropping their leaves. Leave the growing of Christmas poinsettias to growers of greenhouse crops who have both the knowledge and the facilities to produce quality plants in full bloom in time for Christmas.

It still holds gifts for flowers and birds

If you planted pansies in your garden last fall, use branches of your discarded Christmas tree to provide the plants with some winter protection. Cutting the branches near the stem and spreading a single layer over the pansies will provide light shade, thus reducing chances of winter injury if we don’t get sufficient snow. Next spring, remove the branches just as the plants resume growing.