Garden Advice: Blossom End Rot

blossom end rot - public domainYou’ve put in the effort and grown your own juicy tomatoes. But when you finally go to pick them, you realize that the end opposite the stem is sunken and oozing. Yuck—it’s disgusting. Who wants to eat a tomato that’s rotting on the vine?

What you have is a tomato with blossom end rot (BER). It’s just what the name suggests—the blossom end of the tomato (where the flower fell off long ago) is decomposing, ruining the fruit. (Yes, we all know that tomatoes are fruit.) The question isn’t identifying the problem, it’s solving it. How can we keep our tomatoes (and peppers, watermelon, cucumbers, and squash) from succumbing?

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A Garden Retrospective

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How did your garden grow this past year? Did everything flourish? Did you make mistakes? What do you intend to keep on doing, and what will you change for the future? Occurring as it does in the coldest part of the year, New Year’s is an excellent time to review last year’s garden and then apply the knowledge gained to this coming growing season.

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Garden Advice: Don’t Waste Your Vinegar

Death to Weeds @TacomaWA 14oct07 LAH 037Every so often I come across an article that explains something so much better than I ever could. This is one of those times.

Tsu Dho Nimh writes a blog called Lazy Gardening SMACKDOWN. Back in 2013, he tackled the viral advice about making your own herbicide out of vinegar, detergent, and some other ingredients. I’ve been meaning to cover this topic, because this homemade “herbicide” doesn’t work. But then I saw Nimh’s article, and realized that he did a much more thorough job of explaining it all.

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Garden Advice: Keep Molasses in the Kitchen

Gingerbread man_Erie_LAH_6072There has been a sudden flurry of articles and ads all promoting molasses as a valuable garden fertilizer/weed killer/pesticide. I find the latter use particularly humorous. Molasses is sweet. Won’t that attract critters? I bet our resident bunnies would adore molasses-coated shrubs.

I have two bits of advice about using molasses in the garden. My first recommendation is to invest in Grandma’s Molasses stock. If my Pinterest feed is any indication, molasses should sell well in the near future.

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Do Houseplants Reduce Stress?

Are you stressed? You should grow houseplants! Just ask all the experts. Try an online search and you’ll come up with almost two million sites claiming that growing plants reduces stress. Even the National Institute of Health has jumped on the bandwagon with a study “proving” that houseplants reduce both physical and psychological stress, at least in young men.

Unlike the articles that tout huge benefits in air quality from including plants (especially spider plants) in your home (NASA said it so it must be true—but see my post here), there may actually be some basis for the stress-reduction theories. Or not.

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Garden Advice: Don’t Buy Ladybugs

Ladybug_XG-CoSpgsCO_LAH_9349Every gardener knows that ladybugs are “good” bugs because they eat “bad” bugs. Educated gardeners know that ladybugs are actually beetles, and that they eat aphids, scale insects, immature beetles and true bugs, and mites. The adults are efficient predators; the larvae are even more voracious. No wonder we want lady beetles in our gardens!

The simplest way to get lots of these colorful beetles is to buy them, and many people do just that. It’s a huge industry. However, buying ladybugs is largely a waste of money, and may even harm the environment! There are better ways to attract not only ladybugs but other beneficial insects as well.

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Garden Advice: Don’t Prune that Crown!

Quercus_Oak_COS-CO_LAH_1854It’s a common question. You’ve just planted a new tree. In the process, the plant has lost a significant portion of its roots—sometimes up to 95! Should you prune back the crown to compensate?

The intuitive answer would be yes. We assume that with fewer roots, there’s no way the plant will be able to sustain all that foliage on top—and that’s the advice I see on website after website. But if you do decide to prune, you’ll be doing the tree a disservice. You might even kill it! How can this be?

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