Garden Advice: Baking Soda Balderdash

baking-sodaType “baking soda garden” into your web browser and you get over a million hits. Not surprisingly, most are something along the lines of “17 Smart Baking Soda Tips,” and “7 Natural Uses for Baking Soda.” Depending on which list you read, it sweetens tomatoes, increases the blooms on geraniums, begonias, and hydrangeas, prevents black spot on roses, cures powdery mildew, discourages soil gnats, and kills slugs and other harmful insects “while not harming beneficial insects.”  (So tell me—how does it know which are the bad bugs?) Plus, it’s natural, cheap, and readily available.

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Garden Advice: Re-using Tea Bags

20160406_095352It seems such a waste—we use a tea bag to make a lovely cup of tea, and then toss it into the trash. It just screams to be repurposed—surely there’s some way to get some extra use from that depleted bag! So it’s no big surprise that the internet is suddenly full of lists with titles such as “7 Random Uses for Used Tea Bags.”

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Garden Advice: Marigold Myths

Tagetes_Marigold_DBG_LAH_7897It sounds too good to be true. Not only are marigolds pretty, but growing in your vegetable garden will protect your harvest from nematodes, beetles, hornworms, whiteflies, squash bugs, thrips, hornworms, and even rabbits. I know it must be so, because I read it on the internet:

  • “French marigolds repel whiteflies and kill bad nematodes. Mexican marigolds are said to offend a host of destructive insects and wild rabbits as well.”
  • “Annual Marigolds can be used anywhere to deter Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies. They are also known to repel harmful root knot nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) that attack tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries.”
  • “Marigolds also repel pests, including beetles and nematodes.”

Gee, if it’s that easy, why not? Marigolds are easy to start from seed, grow quickly, thrive almost anywhere, and produce tons of sunny yellow and orange blooms all summer long.

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Limiting Factors

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Spring has finally arrived here at 7,100 feet, and I’ve been feverishly planting—move the mulch, dig a hole, dump the perennial out of its  pot and stick it into the ground. Fill in any gaps with leftover dirt, replace the mulch. Rinse, repeat.

As I work around the lawn, adding flowers everywhere I can, I’ve noticed how abysmal my dirt is. Since we added compost, I assume that eventually it will qualify as soil, but right now I’m dealing with lumps of bentonite clay embedded in a deep layer of gritty, coarse sand. The clay was supposed to be seven feet down, but in the process of digging a basement, it got mixed  with the surface layers.

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