A Gardener’s Vocabulary

New Gardeners are often puzzled by expressions which seasoned landscape/gardeners take for granted, and therefore never think to explain.

“Mulch-what’s that?”

Present day gardening methods find mulches of all kinds used. Various materials are spread on the ground around plants (or over them for a winter mulch) for specific purposes. For example, in the winter, clean straw may be placed on the strawberry bed to retard the blooming season in the spring when a late freeze might blacken blossoms that opened too soon.

I’ve heard gardeners scoff at the idea of a straw mulch on strawberries. They insist that those who use straw do so because there is “straw” in the word “strawberry” and therefore there must be straw on the strawberry patch. Nothing could be more absurd. In the spring after the straw has completed its winter duty, the straw is tucked between the plants and in the paths to control weeds, conserve moisture, and to keep the fruit clean and from rotting. Sawdust is recommended, and ground corn cobs are good for summer mulching not only for strawberries but also for raspberries, roses, fruit trees, shrubs, and other growing things. Such mulches in addition to advantages previously mentioned keep the soil cooler during periods of extreme heat.

mulch ready for the landscape

Winter mulches prevent plants from being heaved out of the round, or may protect somewhat tender plants from too low temperatures.

A Dust Mulch is maintained by cultivating around plants or between the rows. This forms a loose layer of soil (or dust) at the top of the ground which checks the evaporation of moisture by breaking up the natural capillary action of the water before it reaches the soil surface. It also serves to keep down weeds but must be repeated after each rain.

Be sure to have…

Good Drainage

Good drainage means that conditions are favorable for getting rid of surplus water in the soil quickly. On large areas it might mean putting in extra drainage in a flower pot, putting small stones, gravel, or sphagnum in the bottom of the container, and checking to see that there is an unobstructed hole in the bottom of the pot. Poor Drainage causes a Water-Logged soil… soil that contains such a quantity of water that most of the air, so necessary for the healthy growth of plants, is excluded.


Humus… humor your soil with loads of it!

When plant or animal matter… this includes all parts of any kind of plant, or dead animals from tiny bugs and worms on up, and manures has rotted completely and is practically like soil, it is called Humus. Compost (made by piling garden and lawn refuse in alternate layers with soil) makes good humus. When thoroughly decomposed the compost or humus is a valuable addition to soil.

In Good Tilth

In Good Tilth refers to soil free of hard clods… a soil that is of a soft crumbly nature. Soil that is well-drained and contains ample humus is usually in good tilth.

Those Numbers Puzzle Me

In recommending commercial fertilizers, the numbers given such as 4-12-4 (there are other combinations), may be puzzling to the novice. The figures indicate the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash (always in that order) that the fertilizer contains. In the 4-12-4 formula, there is four per cent nitrogen (sometimes written as N), 12 per cent phosphorus (P), and four per cent potash (K). The materials found in a commercial fertilizer are all obtained separately, but the mixtures may (and usually do) contain other elements in addition to the three essential ones… nitrogren, phosphorus, and potash. When a fertilizer lacks any of these three important ones, it is said to be Incomplete, or Special. When all three are included in the formula, the fertilizer is said to be Complete, or General. When it has been mixed in the correct proportions to promote the best plant growth, it is called a Balanced Fertilizer.

Plant Them in Hills

Such seeds as pole beans, corn. and the vine crops are planted in Hills. A hill may be a mound, flat and low, where five or six or a dozen seeds are sown (to be thinned later if too many grow). Or the hills may be the places or spots on perfectly level ground where seeds are planted in rows but with definite spaces between each group of plants.

Planting Medium

Planting Medium is a convenient expression which includes the materials used when planting seeds or potting plants. It may be sand, peat, sifted sphagnum, vermiculite, good garden soil, or a mixture of two or more of these things.

Damping Off

“Got Damping Off Troubles?” You’re new at gardening and have been given a packet of choice petunia seeds. You are warned: “‘The little plants sometimes Damp-Off… watch them.”

The seeds germinate beautifully and you gloat over the tiny plants. Then suddenly they collapse-fall over and die. That’s Damping Off. It can happen to other plants, too, and is caused by any one of several fungi just before or soon after the little plants break through the soil. Baking the planting medium, or using sterile material such as sphagnum or vermiculite, will help to prevent the trouble. Water the plants only during the morning… see that there is good drainage and free air circulation.

Harden It Off

“How do I Harden It Off?” You have a geranium, house plant you wish to put . You have been advised to Harden It Off first. This is the process of gradually acclimating plants to a change in temperatures and conditions. A plant that has stood in a warm window for months is “soft” and has to be protected from the direct rays of the sun and from the wind for a week or ten days. Set it in a sheltered spot where it gets only filtered sunshine through the branches of a tree or shrubbery, and where it will get only a little wind. Seedlings started in fiats in the house to be set outside later need to be
hardened-off also.

Tips To Improve Your Plant Care
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