Community Greens

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Gardening 101: Read The Tags and Labels

vegetablesGardening is one of the most wonderful hands-on activities you can be involved in, so why should you read the tags and labels. What tags and labels? Tomatoes don’t come with labels but often the little plastic info tag in the starter pot tells you everything you need to know about what the plant needs and what to expect. Fertilizer is advertised as organic or not and compost, well, is compost and all you need to know is whether it contains manure or not. Right? Well, there is a lot more information available to gardeners that are willing to do just a little more work.Do you want cherry or globe tomatoes? Beyond the picture, the tag can tell you whether they are a determinate or indeterminate variety. Determinates produce during a specific period and stop. Indeterminates can produce over a period up to several months. The tag may also tell you if it is a bushing or vining variety. Bush varieties are generally more compact and are often suitable for containers, patios or porches, while vining types may climb vigorously and need stronger and higher supports. Since there is limited space, often the information on that little label is contained in a graphic. Learn to translate and understand the graphics.

Many gardeners wait until there is a good selection of transplants at the local garden center and make their selections from what is available. You can certainly be a successful and happy gardener this way but you are limiting your selections to what the nurseryman feel will be popular this season. What’s better is growing your vegetables from seed. You’ll have much greater choice if you grow from seed, however, don’t limit yourself to the racks at the hardware store and supermarket because you may again be settling.

The garden center will have a greater variety but they don’t make as much of a profit on seeds as they do on starter plants so there will never be a complete selection but it’s a good start. Haven’t had a lot of success growing tomatoes? Maybe you start too late in the growing season. Maybe your garden doesn’t really get enough sun. Maybe you have to water and fertilize more when they are young and tender so that they mature into rich, flavorful vegetables. Reading seed packages can answer lots of gardening questions.

You can also buy seeds from catalogs or online websites. Most catalogs and online sites provide excellent information because they have to 1. entice you into growing from seed 2. ensure what they sold you is what you expect will grow. Consider catalogs as product specific text books. Their descriptions are surprisingly comprehensive. Typically they include what type of soil is preferred, the amount of sunlight needed and the plant’s water and fertilizer requirements. Most importantly, you select the type of vegetables you want to grow and the ones that will best match your growing situation and growing expectations. You’ll be overwhelmed by the different varieties of vegetables available to you.

For the best garden results, start and keep a garden journal. That way you will have a record of what worked and what didn’t, what you liked and what you didn’t and the things you’ve learned and want to try in your garden. If you don’t label the plants in your garden, draw a garden plan in your journal and identify what is planted where, when you planted it and when you anticipate it to mature. You’ll start getting better and more consistent results year after year after you begin journaling. Remember, Read the Tags and Labels. Happy Gardening!

Garden Tip: Plant Reference I keep all of my plant tags in alphabetical order on a bulb shaped key ring with my garden tools. I use a hole punch to make a hole in the spike end of the tag usually inserted in the soil and add it to the others. I never buy a plant without a tag.


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