Volume 16, Issue 37 - September 11 - September 18, 2008

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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Frank Gouin

Green Thumb — Or All Thumbs?

Successful gardening is not in your thumb; it’s in your head

A friend said his neighbor has a green thumb: The neighbor can grow anything. His flower garden has an abundance of bloom, and his vegetable garden feeds the entire neighborhood.

After listening to his bragging for several minutes, I asked my friend what type of work his neighbor does. Come to find out, the neighbor is a soil scientist who works at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville.

The neighbor does not have a green thumb. He is simply applying the science of horticulture in the production of flowers and vegetables.

My friend and colleague Dr. Carl Whitcomb wrote a book titled Know It and Grow It. It’s still very popular with nurserymen, despite having been published 20-plus years ago. Know It and Grow It is all about gathering information before trying to grow plants. It also describes basic experimental procedures for growing a limited number of plants and compares the different growing methods. The book also encourages beginning nurserymen to visit other nurseries, ask questions of professionals and take horticulture courses.

Horticulture is a science and is not based on maternal or paternal intuition. I often find myself at odds with people who tell me that they simply do not have a green thumb. Based on many that I have questioned, I have come to the conclusion that they don’t read directions, they fail to ask questions from the right people or they believe they know it all and plow ahead.

There are many different ways of growing plants. The best method is generally the method that produces the best plant or the largest quantity of vegetables or flowers with the least amount of input. However, success is dependent on providing plants with the proper environment in which to grow: the proper soil conditions, adequate light and proper temperature of each species.

Unless you have this knowledge, or take the time to acquire it, you will never benefit from the joys of gardening and developing a green thumb.

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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