Soon the gardening season for Northwest Ohio will be in full “fling!”
By mid-May, the soil and the weather will be at the right temperatures for sowing seeds and planting transplants. Gardening in May is very different than gardening in June, July and August when drier weather, insects and plant diseases tend to hit. However, as the growing season comes and goes, keeping up with the specific needs of your garden each month will ensure the successful bounty of the buds, blooms, fruits, and produce that you are hoping for.
The following are some garden questions and answers that may be helpful to you in your gardening this year.
Q: Last spring, I bought some tomato transplants to put in my garden. The tag on the pots said they were “indeterminate” tomatoes. What does that mean?
A. Tomatoes come in three varieties: indeterminate, determinate and vigorous determinate. The indeterminate variety is probably the type that most gardeners grow.
Indeterminates grow tall with a lot of spread to their branches. They need to be supported in the garden by staking, cages, etc. These usually begin to flower in mid-summer and continue to produce buds and fruit throughout the growing season. Some common indeterminates are: Better Boy, Jubilee, Beefmaster, Brandywine, and Sweet 100.
Determinate tomatoes are a bush type of tomato. They do not need support and they produce their fruit and buds at the ends of their stems. They are early maturing and produce fruit for about three weeks. After they bear fruit, they die back. Some types include Bush Early Girl, Roma, Cherry Gold, Tiny Tim and Super Bush.
Vigorous Determinates produce an initial heavy crop and then, if cut back and fertilized, they will produce a second crop of fruit. Some vigorous determinate cultivars are Celebrity, Husky Gold and Ultra Sweet VFT.
Q. Carrots do not do well in my clay soil. Any suggestions?
A. Carrots do best in loose, loamy soil that allows them to burrow deep without obstruction to their growth. Over time, clay can be amended with organic matter and compost to become more porous and fine textured. However, there are some carrot varieties that are better suited to clay. Miniature types such as Kinko, Round Romeo, Nantes and Chantenay have round or short, blunt roots and excellent flavor. They can be grown in clay soils.
Q. I like to grow organically as much as possible. What plants can I use to help deter harmful insects?
A. By using the correct plants, companion planting can be a very effective organic means of controlling insect plant invaders. Alliums (onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, chives etc.) will repel aphids, cabbage worms, ants, slugs, cabbage maggots, and carrot flies. Basil is useful against asparagus beetles, mosquitoes, and flies while dill will repel spider mites, aphids, squash bugs, and cabbage looper. Sage and peppermint are a deterrent to cabbage flies, carrot flies, black fleas, beetles, cabbage loopers and maggots. Many types of mint will repel slugs but be careful, as mint can be quite invasive. Flax produces an oil that is very helpful in protecting root vegetables. Tansy is said to repel flying insects, Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and ants. However, it can be invasive and its spread needs to be controlled.
Geraniums and petunias are effective insect controllers as they will attract harmful insects away from other, more prized, plants. Planted near roses, they draw Japanese beetles, leaf hoppers, aphids, beetles, and other pests to themselves and spare the rose plants. Marigolds are an excellent plant to use as they will repel nematodes, beet leaf hoppers, beetles, and other pests. Nasturtiums are effective against aphids, cabbage loopers, squash bugs, white fly, and cucumber beetles.
Q. What is a good cover crop to grow in my garden area? Something that will add nutrients and help break up my heavy soil?
A.: A cover crop is grown on soil that you want to protect and improve. Overused soil and unused soil are both in need of correction and protection. There are a number of plants that can be used as cover crops. Some of these are: clovers, buckwheat, spring oats, winter rye, hairy vetch, crown vetch, field peas, beans, yellow mustard, etc. These crops will loosen and improve the texture of the soil and will transfer nitrogen from the air into the soil making it richer in nutrients. Cover crops can also be turned back into the soil with a tiller after they are grown. This will enrich the soil with organic matter as well.
Geraniums and petunias are effective insect controllers as they will attract harmful insects away from other, more prized, plants.