Fatalistic Gardening Spells Doom for Plants

San Antonio Express News
Sunday, August 21, 2005

By Dr. Jerry Parsons

“Fatalistic gardening” is a prophetic term which describes a gardening experience doomed to miserable production due to ignorance, confusion, neglect, misinformation, carelessness and, generally, inept horticulture. If you know the ingredients and practices which often lead to the gardening fatality, maybe you can avoid being a victim.

Key ingredients and practices of “fatalistic gardening” include:

Leaving old plant residue in a new garden so that an adequate innoculum of insects and disease will exist to begin again on newly established plants.

Practicing shade gardening. Plants will grow long and lanky, drop blooms profusely and will be easily contaminated with insects and disease. To grow good crops of tomatoes and peppers, plants should receive 8 10 hours of direct sun DAILY.

Planting slow maturing, non-heat-setting varieties to insure that fall frosts will kill plants before tomato and pepper fruit have the opportunity to ripen. The fastest ripening, most reliable fall tomato variety named Surefire is now available in local nurseries.

Disregarding instructions for fertilizer frequencies, rates and kinds (for initial applications use 2 3 pounds of a slow release formulation such as 19-5-9 then use more of the same fertilizer every 3 weeks at the rate of one tablespoon, sprinkled around each tomato and pepper plant and watered in thoroughly. This is also extremely important when growing the greens crops such as broccoli and spinach since all greens crops require an abundance of nitrogen to grow at an optimum rate.

Avoiding organic and/or chemical control of insects on the plants when needed. Insects are very nutritious and increase your protein intake. In addition, the bodies of insects which have devoured certain crops actually begin to taste like the crop on which they fed, so bug bodies collected from the vegetable to be served make excellent condiments which will enhance the dish and intrigue your dining guests.

Harvesting your vegetables when they are over mature. You may increase the volume of the garden yield by harvesting oversized produce such as squash which is large enough from which to make a canoe, but you may also increase dental bills from trying to chew the tough stuff. If you need a size comparison for proper harvest, check the size of produce at your local supermarket. Also, see the harvest recommendations at: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/nov_03/2.htm

Not weeding the garden so that it can be disguised as a herb planting and hidden from thieves and robbers. Weeds can also “shade” what few vegetables are produced and keep them from sunburning. Such a weedy growing area can also endear you to neighbors and get free publicity when you are hauled into court for visual contamination of the neighborhood.

Overwatering plants is just as bad and probably more commonly done than not watering enough. Plants with a rotted root system caused by overwatering obviously do not produce as abundantly as do plants which have been kept moist, not wet, not dry. Probe the top several inches of the soil with your finger; if you feel moisture, DON’T WATER!

To see the complete listing of the Fatalistic Gardening Practices, see the fourth column in the August listing at: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_columns.htm
Maybe by being aware of gardening practices which can lead to failure, you can become a more successful gardener.

Dr. Jerry Parsons is a Professor for Texas A&M University and a Texas Cooperative Extension Horticulturist for over 30 years in South Central Texas. For more information on this or other horticulture topics, go to www.plantanswers.com and our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu.

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