Gardening is a skill that requires careful observation, a little bit of work, and a great deal of optimism. Every season teaches us something about the cultivation of plants that we can use in the next season or the next year. We want you to be happy in your gardens, remembering that all obstacles have solutions, and that plants are our most patient teachers and gentle healers. Here is a list of common questions with short answers that should help you along the way. Feel free to contact us through email, or by visiting us at the farmers market with more questions or comments.
Q: Will you reuse your plastic pots if we bring them back?
A: Yes! Please do bring back our pots. We will use them again and again. (No random pots please).
Q: I’m new to gardening, how do I get started?
A: The three most important factors in gardening are proper soil preparation, good nutrients, and correct watering. Turn the soil as deeply as you can with a sturdy garden fork (not a shovel), add compost, and give plants good watering with a drip line or soaker hose (4-8 hrs depending on the flow of your system) about once a week.
Q: My Basil plant always dies, what is wrong?
A: Basil is an annual, so it only lives through one season. If it dies after blooming, then nothing is wrong, it’s just the natural cycle of the plant. Basil is sensitive to cold dampness, so it is easy to overwater, especially in the spring when the soil is still cool.
Q: Why can’t I grow good cilantro?
A: Cilantro is a very fast growing annual, and the average harvest window in the summer is usually about 2-3 weeks. Then it will start to go to flower. The flowers are attractive to beneficial insects and make a beautiful garnish to salads and salsas. The seeds are coriander and these can be used green or dried. Once dried they can be planted to grow new cilantro!
Q: My tomato plant is beautiful and gigantic, but has no tomatoes!
A: To make good tomatoes, the plant shall have to suffer just a little bit. It’s a good idea to put your tomato plants in their own section of the garden where you can control the water. When you first set them out, give them a good deep soaking, and then don’t water them again for several weeks, especially if the spring temperatures are cool. If other plants nearby are getting regular water, the tomato roots will probably find this and they may not need any extra water all summer. If the lower leaves on the plants start to yellow and die, don’t worry – this is a sign that the plants are just slightly stressed and that is good. If the growth tips are discolored or wilty, then you are stressing the plant too much.
Q: How do I tell when my watermelon is ready?
A: First, check on the curly-Q tendril that connects to the main stem just opposite where the watermelon also connects. When this tendril starts to dry up, that is a good sign of readiness. Also carefully look at the underside of the melon to see if there is a yellow mark where it is resting on the ground. Thirdly, kneel down next to the plant and put your ear on the watermelon while you tap it with your fingers. It should make a beautiful resonant sound like a drum. If you are in doubt, wait a couple more days.
Q: How do I tell when my other melons are ready?
A: Cantaloupe and muskmelons are ready when the blossom end starts to get soft, they emit a wonderful fragrance, and the color of the rind starts to turn slightly orange. Many kinds of melon will fall easily from the stem when they are ready.
Q: Something is eating my _fill in the blank _ plant, what is it?
A 1- Insects: Now is the time to do some detective work. Inspect the plant from all different angles and at different times. Lots of plant eaters are nocturnal, so take your flashlight out at night and see what you see. Earwigs like to eat basil and tender seedlings in the mid-spring. They are not good swimmers and will drown themselves in little dishes of beer or coffee left near the plants. Slugs and snails are best picked off the plants early on a foggy morning. Little green caterpillars like to chew on mints and lemon balm. If your plant is really infested, cut it back to the ground and clean up the dead leaves around it. Flea beetles chew tiny holes in eggplant leaves as well as radishes and arugula. Usually the plant will outgrow the eaters, so try to support it as best you can with some compost teas and a little extra love. Always plant diversity in your garden with different kinds of flowers here and there to help support a balance of insects.
A 2 – Gophers: If your plant just disappeared into the ground, it is probably a gopher. These can easily be trapped. Use a piece of rebar or long screwdriver to find the run by poking it into the ground around where your plant was. Carefully dig out both sides of the run with a small shovel and sturdy kitchen spoon and place the traps (it’s a good idea to connect a piece of wire or chain to each trap). Cover the holes with some weeds or the dead plant and then put dirt over it so no light can get through. Gophers generally dig shallow runs, so if you have a dedicated garden space you can rent a small trencher and dig a perimeter trench around your garden about 2ft deep. Put chicken wire in the trench and allow it to come up 6” or so over the surface (higher if you also have trouble with rabbits). You will still need to trap an occasional gopher, but this will keep them from rushing your garden en masse.
A 3 – Squirrels and Rabbits: The little cottontail bunnies are not very high jumpers, so a small fence around your garden should suffice. Squirrels are a serious pest and should be trapped and removed if you plan to keep gardening. Bait the traps with apples, nuts, winter squashes (cut in half with the seeds in it) but not catfood or else you might catch possums, cats, or skunks instead!