Plants and gardening have been revealing their secrets to the curious for thousands of years. This gradual revelation of knowledge has enabled gardeners to do a better job of growing plants for food, shelter and decorations. Here are a few of those secrets.
Many factors influence the flavor of vegetables. Some soils, such as sandy loam, produce vegetables with a full rich flavor, while poor soils can sometimes yield vegetables with a more earthy taste. Plants grown in drought conditions often are not as sweet and, in some cases, taste more sour than well-watered vegetables. Stress on plants will cause vegetables to be hotter and ranker in taste.
Many transplant vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, tomato and others can be started indoors rather than always relying on store bought. This gives the gardener a better selection of varieties and they can be ready when the gardener is ready. Using a fine seed-starter soil mix, sow seeds about four to eight weeks before the expected planting date. Scatter very small seeds on top of the mix then cover seeds lightly. Larger seeds, such as beets can be planted in 1/2-inch-deep soil mix. Keep the soil moist while the seeds are germinating. To thin the crop use scissors to cut the unwanted plants rather than pulling them up.
How well a soil drains determines how much oxygen will reach plant roots and soil organisms. Soils that drain too fast, such as sandy soils, will have excellent air exchange but poor water retention. Soils that drain poorly, such as heavy clay, will hold vast stores of water but often have low oxygen levels. For a good garden spot create a soil with sandy loam soil and plenty of organic matter (humus) to give a balance between soil, air and water retention.
To most people the value of worms in the soil is no surprise. When earth worms are found in the soil then that is a good indication that the soil had the right combination of soil, organic matter and moisture. Using chemicals in the soil and tilling the soil often eliminates the earth worms. There is no need to buy worms and add them to soil because if the soil is right, the worms will show up.
Plants have childhood just as people, and like people, juvenile plants look a bit different from their adult counterparts. In many plants, leaves from adult stems look different than those produced on juvenile stems. Some juvenile stems are softer and more pliable. Study has shown that the ability of a plant to form the type of roots produced by cuttings decreases with age. As a general rule, cuttings taken from juvenile plants root easier than those taken from adult plants.
Gardener who collect their own seeds should sort the seed before they are stored. Spread the seeds on a table and sort the seeds by three sizes: large medium and small. Come planting time, sow the large seeds in their own row. In the next row over, plant the medium seeds, followed in the last row by the small seeds. It has been proven that the larger seeds will germinate first followed by the medium size seeds with the smaller seeds germinating last, thus extending ripening over a longer period of time.
For some of us, life in the garden is sort of a love/hate relationship: We love the beautiful flower but hate the pollen that gives us allergies. Here are a few plants that the American Lung Association says are not likely to cause respiratory allergies: firs, redbud, dogwood, ginkgo, magnolias, pines, ornamental pears, fire thorn, azaleas, viburnums, yucca, begonias, daffodils, poppies and tulips.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly gardening column for The Lawton Constitution.