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2009-04-16 digital edition

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2009-04-16 / Community News

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Jim Gober The Big Lump Gardener Jim Gober The Big Lump Gardener Q. I heard that it's best to water the garden when you see the plants begin to wilt. Is that correct?

A. No. By the time a plant is wilted it is pulling water from the emergency reserve and you will have growth interruption as well as other effects of plant stress. Some plants never recover. That's why it's important to provide mulch over the surface of the soil to keep the soil evenly moist but not wet. Wet soil will create just as much stress on a plant as dry soil.

Q. I can't grow big onions. What's the secret?

A. buying healthy starts is the first step. Onion sets can quickly dry out and if you buy them that way, it takes a while to make them happy again. Buy sets no bigger than the width of a pencil. Larger sets won't do as well. Onions like rich garden soil and even moisture. Letting the soil dry out for even one day can set them back. Be sure the soil is moist at least 3 inches deep. Use a fertilizer containing nitrogen and plant in the cooler parts of the year. Remember that onions are not a root crop like beets, but a leaf crop like corn. Every new leaf is a layer on the onion, so you want lots of leaf production, that means take it easy on the phosphorous. Never plant onions in the same bed two years in a row.

Q. When should I pick corn?

A. There are lots of opinions about the best time to pick sweet corn. Generally the corn is ready to pick when there is greenish silk at the top of the husk and dry, brownish silk at the ends. You may have to pick a few immature ones to get a sense of the right time to pick. If earworms are in the end of the husk simply break off that part of the ear and throw it away. Corn earworms are practically impossible to control. Corn has the highest sugar content in the morning, but some folks like to pick it just before it goes in the pot at dinnertime. I've found that the best time to pick is in the morning, put it in the refrigerator until time for dinner.

Q. My Amaryllis is in a great fertile and moist spot in the garden but never blooms. There is lots of nice foliage, but no blooms. What am I doing wrong?

A. We are lucky to have the perfect climate for Amaryllis; wet in the spring and dry in late summer into fall. Dig your bulbs and plant in a part of the garden you rarely water. Amaryllis need to dry out in late summer in order to bloom in the spring. Only water if we have an unusually dry spring. They do like a little mulch to keep things evenly moist during the wet season and to keep the top of the bulbs from scorching in August if they are close to the surface.

Q. Every summer I get so many vegetables that I end up throwing too much into the compost. Where can I get information on canning or a place to bring them for someone in need?

A. That is a good problem to have. You can get information on preserving your harvest from your County Agricultural Extension office. Also, most towns have a local food pantry that would be happy to take some extra veggies off your hands. The price of food has gone up so much recently that there are lots of folks who are choosing between gas and food right now, so it would be great if everyone grew a little bit extra this year. Just be sure you donate vegetables that you would eat and not stuff that is old or inedible.

Jim Gober, The Big Lump Gardener, has discontinued writing his column because he is too busy gardening. Thanks for all the advice over the years. Keep in touch at www.biglump.com.

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