What a wealth of new words we’ve acquired since the birth of the computer. Instead of being in a rut, we’re programmed. Instead of adding ideas to a discussion we add input. When we relax we go with the flow. We don’t shut down the computer, we log off.. Cookies? Not edible. They’re text files that Web publishers store on your computer.
Feedback is one of the more descriptive words to enhance our vocabulary. I got instant feedback in the years I gave my garden programs, as live audiences always send both good and bad responses. Weeds and Wisdom is totally different than public speaking. When I first began writing columns I really wondered if there was anyone out there reading them. Consequently when the first emails began to trickle in they were extremely welcome, whether they praised or panned or just posed garden problems.
In one of my early columns about wood ashes I mentioned that I didn’t sift my ashes any more than I vacuumed under my furniture. This elicited my first response from a reader, an Electrolux saleslady requesting an appointment. That wasn’t exactly what I’d call fan mail, but at least it meant someone was reading my articles.
I next heard from a lady in Sharon who was having problems with her beets and requested advice. Beets are not hard to grow, but they have some definite requirements. Like all root vegetables, they need loose, well-worked soil in order to grow plump. The numbly little balls we plant are fruits that each contain several seeds, so within a few weeks of sprouting they need thinning.
I find the process of thinning a morbid chore. Pulling out unwanted plants is as upsetting as weeding out my clothes closet of items that no longer fit. When I was young it meant it was time to go on a diet. Nowadays, having shrunk in my old age, it means shortening the hems on all my slacks.
Beets like quite a high Ph, 6.8 to 8.0. Remember the rhyme – when sweetened with lime, the Ph will climb. Adding wood ashes helps, too, as they’re rich in potassium and phosphorous, both needed by beets. One more requirement is the trace element boron, but this is usually plentiful, so don’t worry about it unless your beets have black, corky tissue.
A gentleman from Torrington once asked why his pepper plants had been bushy and full of blossoms the previous summer, but produced hardly any peppers. All pepper plants are bushy because as soon as a stem produces its single flower and two leaves, the auxiliary bud at the base of the flower grows into another branch, which also produces a single flower and two leaves, then… ad infinitum, all summer long. Nights that are either too hot (80s) or too cold (low 50s) will really set pepper plants back, causing poor fruit or even no fruit at all.
Once pepper plants pass the starting line on the race to harvest, they’re like marathon runners. They like to set a nice steady pace and stick to it. They insist on rapid, continuous growth to succeed. If they stop to rest for too long they stiffen up. To get a good photo of my plants I had to cut dozens of leaves and stems away in order to see the peppers.
A lady in New Hartford once wrote me that her pink poppies self-seeded each year, but she’d had no luck transplanting the young seedlings to other areas. That’s because they have a long but very tender tap root that can’t survive transplanting.
I know you’ve seen this photo quite recently, but there’s no longer a single poppy in bloom by August. Below are the seed pods. When they ripen you can open them and sprinkle their black coffee grounds in loose soil wherever you’d like new poppies to grow the following year. They should pop right up the following spring.
A reader who called herself a “blooming gardener” once requested I write a column on starting a flower bed. Despite the fact that she addressed me as Hasty instead of Hatsy, I eventually did so. I get called Hasty quite frequently, probably because I often am. You can call me Hasty or Hearty, Harmless or Hopeless, but don’t hesitate to send me your feedback.
P.S. I've written about onions several times in past columns, so case you’re wondering – my onions have looked so handsome this year I couldn't resist using their photo.