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Put gardening efforts into faves – not produce that will vegetate


By now, you have decided that having a little garden is going to be a piece of cake!

No matter what type of container you have adapted to hold the garden, the next step is to fill it with a nutritious soil blend that will hold moisture and allow the plants’ roots to extract a maximum amount of the “stuff” that plants eat.

Plants eat? Yes, indeed – your plants have to eat to grow big and strong, and to produce their offspring, which will be those lovely vegetables you will love harvesting!

This need not be at all complicated. It can be as simple as pouring a bag of potting soil in and top-dressing once a month with a blended organic fertilizer. You do want to make a decision as to whether you are willing to allow any chemicals into your garden or whether you want it to be “pure.”

My guess is that you want to stay away from chemicals! Most surveys of first-time gardeners show their No. 1 reason for the garden is purity; No. 2, flavor; and No. 3, to be able to themselves learn and to be able to teach their children about the natural world.

Many novices ask, “Do you have organic soil?” Of course, all soil is mostly organic. Organic means that the substance has been alive at one time. Peat moss and composted mulch, the two major ingredients in soil, are decidedly organic. I would suggest that perhaps a better question might be, “Do you have soil with no chemical additives?”

Fortunately the industry has made a foolproof way for you to be able to know the absolute answer to that question. Look on the bag or box for a small symbol that says OMRI certified. That is your green light that the product has been rigorously scrutinized for any chemicals. If you use a product with the OMRI certified label, it is safe. For more information, go to the Organic Materials Review Institute at omri.org.

With that out of the way, feel totally confident that your OMRI-certified soil will grow wonderful, healthy vegetables.

Next question: “What should I plant?” By all means, plant only what your family will eat. There is no point growing the most beautiful turnips in the world if your family won’t touch them!

At this point, we are somewhat in between growing seasons. You still have plenty of time to grow beautiful lettuce and greens for salads and cooking for the next couple months. If you are careful, and have a place to protect tender summer vegetables, you can get started on tomatoes, peppers, chiles and more. Protecting them means not allowing freezing temperatures to affect them. For all but the coldest parts of the Tucson valley, you can pot up some tomatoes and – by using a wall o’water, plastic water-filled tubes that surround the plant; cloches or covers; or simply moving the pots to a warmer patio at night – get a jump on summer planting.

Next week: how to keep those veggies happy all summer long.

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience.

E-mail her at familyplus@tucsoncitizen.com.




Put gardening efforts into faves, not produce that will vegetate

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