A Little Compost is Good. Is a Lot Better?

CompostHow often have you been advised to add more organic matter to your garden beds? We all know compost is a magic elixir, but can you over do it? Most of us can barely make enough to keep up with our needs, so maybe this question is moot, but I was curious, none the less.

I’ve read that you shouldn’t start seeds in pure compost. I’ve never gotten a definitive answer as to why, but most experts are in agreement with a general “No”. However I know a couple of gardeners who swear by it and the tomato plants that have volunteered in my compost heap look healthier than the ones that have been putting on a valiant show in my garden.

But back to my original question, can there be too much compost? Continue Reading

Do You Soak Your Garlic?

Garlic-HarvestI didn’t have a terrific crop of garlic this year and I’m not sure why. My shallots and onions turned out great, but despite planting some impressive sized cloves last fall, my garlic harvest was puny.

Can You Plant Grocery Store Garlic?

I always order so called “seed” garlic, if I don’t have any of my own to plant. Grocery store garlic is always said to be treated with a growth inhibitor, to prevent it from sprouting in the store. I’ve always questioned that, because I have purchased plenty of garlic that sprouted. Maybe it was organic and untreated?

Well,  I’ve been doing some reading and poking around and found that this growth inhibitor, a hormone known as maleic hydrazide, or Royal MH-30, didn’t do a very good job of inhibiting garlic sprouting and is no longer widely used on it. It doesn’t even appear to be registered for use on garlic.Continue Reading

Had Enough of that Squash Vine?

Squash-VinesEvery year I would try a new winter squash variety that was supposed to be compact and every year it took up more room than I allotted for it. I finally decided to trellis the vines, but they don’t like to stay put. When I turn my back, for just a second, the vine reaches out and grabs hold of the hydrangea planted on the other side of the fence. Squash vines are not easy to un-twine, trust me.

So I asked a fellow gardener and squash enthusiast if he ever prunes his vines. He laughed at me, because he has way too many vines to be that particular about them. But he also assured me that it is very hard to kill a squash vine with pruning. Since winter squash can only reasonably be asked to carry 4 – 6 fruits each, once they set those fruits, he said it’s fine to trim away the excess.

How Much is Excess?Continue Reading

Is Poison Ivy Safer in Winter?

Poison-Ivy1I never saw poison ivy in my yard until a few years ago. I guess I didn’t get it all pulled out, because I’ve seen it around ever since. We had some mild winters when it wasn’t killed by the cold.

I’m not susceptible to it – so far – but I know you can develop a sensitivity at any time, so I treat it with caution. I wondered if I could tag it and safely pull it out once it went dormant for the winter.

Is There a Safe Season for Poison Ivy?

Alas, no. This vine has more tenacity than Kimye. Not only is the toxin (urushiol) present in every last fiber of the plant, from the roots to the tips of the leaves, it can even remain on the bark of the tree it latches onto.


So if you were waiting for a frost before you rip your vines out, keep the gloves handy. Certainly get it out of there before the berries form. The birds love them and will plant vines all over your lawn.

Do Trees Need Fertilizer?

Maple-LeavesMost of us will pamper newly planted trees for their first year, if at all. After that, trees are usually left to their own devices. I have to say, there is very little agreement out there about whether trees need any supplemental feeding and a whole lot of qualifications, even when fertilizing is recommended.

Where Most Experts Do Agree Continue Reading