Friday, May 7th, 2010...12:00 am

Growing Plants is a Trial and Error Learning Process

Palouse Falls custodian -“Pete” by oldmantravels

When readers write to say how they struggle to save a marigold, I must tell readers that I have lost more than just one marigold given to me by a friend. There is a saying among gardeners that to learn one has to have killed one hundred plants. This may or may not be an exaggeration. My father-in-law jokingly said that being in the nursery business was the best business because plants were always dying and people were always replacing them. So though I came from a farm, the problems on this property where I have now lived for 35 years were so different from that sunny farm that I had to learn a lot.

For example, mine is a property with trees. Much of the property is covered with huge trees whose roots are wide and the tree canopy shades much of the ground. And where there weren’t native trees, the previous owners had planted sycamore trees that are huge. The farm was open and sunny all day long. You can’t really farm in the woods. Some of the trees on this property are black walnuts. Nut trees in general and black walnut trees specifically give off a toxin called juglone that kills many other plants. We never had one nut tree on the farm.

This property has a stream that cuts it in half and floods during bad storms and is very low, almost dry, in time of drought. The stream nearest the farm was at the back edge of the property in the woods and it never flooded the farm nor ever went dry.

The soil on this property is clay and it is filled with shale. Every time one digs, one hits shale rocks. There were small rocks on the top of the soil at the farm when my parents bought the property, but once they removed them, underneath the soil was rich and fairly friable- good for planting.

When I was growing up, we never saw a deer. Most were routinely hunted for their meat and the hunters had to go pretty deep into woods to find them. Later, before my parents came to stay with me, they too had begun to have a deer problem. But I moved into a deer problem area as so many parts of the country are now because hunting is not allowed.

When I grew up we had dogs so we never had woodchucks or so many of the small animals that have moved into suburban areas today. TheGardenLady never saw a live woodchuck until she was a grown lady. Now, if you don’t have aggressive dogs that like to chase animals like deer and woodchuck, these animals hang out a sign that tells their family to come for free dining.

We rarely saw a wild rabbit on the farm. One elderly local farmer whose father before him farmed his acreage had fenced in his property to keep out the deer but he told me that rabbits crawling in under the fencing ate a lot of his vegetables. Besides hunting, dogs were always loose to chase animals and not as well fed as they are today. My late basset hound thought these wild animals were friends and never discouraged their visiting.

So TheGardenLady had to learn a lot about gardening in her special environment and she lost some of those 100 plants before she learned.

I am writing this to let you know that you are not alone in these problems. The reason the Master Gardener organization was started was to help people with these problems. By working closely with the state agricultural extension, Master Gardeners get some of the newest research on how best to handle these problems and they tell the new solutions when clients call.

So don’t get upset if you lose or have lost some plants. That is bound to happen. And take pride in your successes. TheGardenLady would love to have you show off your successes so that other gardeners can learn from your success.

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1 Comment

  • The only thing that worked for me to scare rabbits, deer, etc. away and was humane and non-toxic was the Contech Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinkler. You can find it at this website You’ll never have to worry about animals in your yard or garden again. Thought you might find this interesting. Take care.

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