Five tips to help you garden

Green Knees Newsletter     Vol. 2 #1     June 2010

Five tips to help you in the garden.

You can view the entire newsletter online and see other gardening articles at as well.

I don't think I can remember ever having as cold a May as what this one has been. I start plants in a greenhouse every spring. Usually by the third week of May the plants are moved outside while they await their turn for planting out. The greenhouse temperatures can shoot over 100° in late May.

This year we spent a week on the Oregon coast from May 20th to 27th. And I left my plants in the greenhouse and glad that I did. Locally, a snow storm added two feet of snow in the south mountains here in Southern Idaho while we were gone.

The greenhouse has been no problem this year. It has been cold, rainy, or just gray skies. Everything is behind -- inside or out. Lilacs are just in bloom in the first week of June and normally they are gone before Memorial day. Iris and peonies are in bud but not much sign of color yet.

While the Midwest is being ripped to smithereens by tornadoes and thunderstorms we are languishing in the rain.

The trip to the Oregon coast reminded me of some gardening truisms. The first being every gardener would like to have an extra $100, or $1,000 or whatever to lavish on new plants. Gardeners also long for one USDA Zone warmer temperatures to deal with.

The witch hazel bushes were in bloom and added quite a bit of color to the western Cascade area, although locals consider it a weed, as I understand it. Rhododendrons were in bloom. What glorious colors, I would want a 100 ft. hedge of them if I could grow them; one of every color if possible. But they do look tattered when hit with a heavy rain...ah well. Maybe not.

My final longing rather came to an abrupt halt when I ran across a slug the size of my index finger. Ugh! At least I don't have to battle with slugs and snails in monster sizes.

I guess the answer to a larger gardening budget is to just 'budget'. And for the one zone warmer part, well, you've got what you've got and there is no point in complaining because Mother Nature doesn't listen.

If you live in an area that is cooler and/or wetter than normal this year, you might fill empty milk bottles with water. Place two bottles close to the tomato plants, windward-side, so that they give off extra heat during the night. Tomatoes are heat lovers and this may help them.

For other heat lovers the only answer would be to put floating row covers over everything. If you don't have the covers already, I would not recommend ordering them. The need could be gone for a cover before it arrives.

I usually don't recommend vegetable varieties because people like the varieties that do well in their soils, temperatures and growing season. But I'm often asked what I plant in the vegetable garden. I garden in a USDA Zone 5 with high alkaline soil and water. The garden is watered by drip hose because we only receive 8-11 inches of precipitation a year, little of it in the summer.

Finally our last average frost date is May 20th with a ten percent possibility of frost still existing on that date. Our first frost in the fall can happen around Labor Day, so say we have 95° frost-free days to mature vegetables.

Here are a few of my favorites.

I'm trying a new bean called Garden of Eden, a climber from Johnny's Seeds. The bean is quite large but remains edible on the plant for a long time. I usually plant 'Tendergreen' beans for eating and canning. People who purchase fresh produce at farmers' markets tend to like fillet type beans.

Tomatoes: our growing season is so short that I never plant a beefsteak. I prefer Early Girl, Rutgers and Romas. For cherry tomatoes I grow Sun Gold tomato and Chocolate Cherry Tomato, both purchased from Totally Tomatoes.

Protect yourself

Use hand lotion on your hands before going out to garden. It will help with clean up at the end of your gardening session.

Wear a hat with a wide brim. Baseball caps are popular, but give no protection to the tops of your ears, and, depending on the bill, to the upper lip, both areas that are susceptible to skin cancer.

Use kneepads or a kneeling pad to protect your knees.

Gardening is tough work so limber up with a few stretch exercises before starting. Also opt to change gardening chores from time to time, so as to not overextend your muscles doing one job only.

Protect your eyes with sun glasses and wear safety glasses/shield when using weed whackers and other cutting equipment.

Check out our new link

You'll find a new link to the University of Idaho through Minidoka County's website and their horticulture related material. Many of their gardening brochures are now available as pdf files on line,free of cost.

Articles to soon be found on the website

Providing summer color with annuals

Keeping your hydrangeas happy in an alkaline landscape

Summer bulbs add color in USDA Zone 5: Dahlias, Crocosmia, and Gladiolus

Perennial bulbs provide a boost: Liatris, Eremurus and Alliums

From A to Z with tender bulbs: Agapanthus, Callas and Zepher Lilies


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