Volume 15, Issue 4 ~ January 25 - January 31, 2007

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

The Bay Gardener Nurtures a New Crop of Scientists

Since retiring in 1995, the Bay Gardener has raised more than $30,000 from lectures and articles in Bay Weekly, trade journals and association newsletters.

Beginning this year, The Francis R. Gouin Undergraduate Horticulture Research Grant at the University of Maryland will fund yearly awards of $2,000 to a junior majoring in horticulture or plant science.

Students submit their research proposals to the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, whose faculty selects the proposal most likely to succeed — and be completed in less than one year. The grant is divided into a $1,000 stipend, with the remaining $1,000 available to send the student to a regional or national meeting of a professional plant science society to present the results of the experiments.

The Bay Gardener’s grant fund gives ongoing thanks for a $250 National Science Foundation Undergraduate Grant he received in 1960 to study the effects of hormones on the rooting of mountain laurel and rhododendron cuttings. At that time these plants were extremely difficult to propagate from cuttings. Commercial nurseries propagated both species from seed or by collecting small plants from the wild and transplanting them in nurseries. The results of this study were presented at Harvard University at a regional meeting of the American Society for Horticultural Science. This study pioneered the use of rooting hormones to propagate mountain laurel and rhododendrons.

That early grant is one of many experiences that encouraged the Bay Gardener to pursue a career in teaching, research and the agricultural extension service. By sponsoring an undergraduate research grant, the Gardener gives back to the state of Maryland and provides opportunities for undergraduate students to experience the challenges of doing research with plants.

To support this grant, the Bay Gardener will lecture to any garden club or civic group on gardening, plant science or on organic waste recycling through composting. In return the garden club or civic group must contribute to the undergraduate horticulture research grant.

Reach the Bay Gardener at frgouin@erols.com; 301-261-5802.

Lay Straw for Summer Strawberries

Follow these instructions, and you’ll eat better berries

If you grow strawberries, now is the time to mulch with straw. By applying straw when the ground freezes, you’ll reap a fuller bounty.

First, straw keeps strawberries out of the dirt, so you can harvest cleaner berries. Spread three to four inches of loose straw — not hay or seed-covered straw — over your strawberry bed so the straw can filter down between the crowns of the plants, covering the soil before spring.

Second, straw minimizes the freezing and thawing of the soil. Rapid freezing and thawing can lift strawberry plants out of the ground, causing the roots to dry out. Successive freezing and thawing can also damage the crowns of the plants, reducing their ability to flower and produce fruit.

Third, mulching strawberries delays flowering. A late flowering can avoid late fall frost damage. Straw mulch helps keep the soil cool by shading and insulating the soil from rapidly rising day temperatures. Keep the soil cool, and you’ll delay spring growth.

Spread your straw mulch by breaking open each straw-bale and loosening it into a pile. Using a pitchfork, throw the straw five to six feet up into the air over the plants; let it drift down on to them. You have applied just the proper amount of straw when you can barely see foliage through the mulch.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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