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Gardening Tips

Gardening Tips began in September 2020 as a weekly collaboration with OnRichmondHill.com. Email recommendations for future gardening tips to GardeningTipsRHGHS@gmail.com. 

Society members may click Add Comment following any article, and post comments such as adding more retrospective, agreeing with the contributor, or even suggesting a correction. 

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  • May 13, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Things to consider before you head out to your gardens to plant seedlings!

    PLANT EARLIER IN PROTECTED AREAS: If you have protected areas of your garden – say it is surrounded by large trees or shrubs or has perennials around the garden’s edges protecting lower-lying plants. This may protect new plants that you grow in the protected area allowing you to plant a little earlier (1 to 2 weeks) than in other parts of your garden where the harsh winds may blow through the early part of May.  

    HOLE SIZE:  When planting seedlings – large or small - always dig a bigger hole than seems necessary for your plant. Make the hole wider than the size of the pot it is in, but no need to make it deeper than that pot. You can tap or squeeze the sides of the pot to release it.  You may want to consider trying to loosen its roots if they are tightly bound together.  But before you place the seedling into the ground, we need to test the drainage of the soil.  See below.  Once the soil is ready, then place the plant into the soiling adding more around the plant as needed and ensuring its above-ground body is still at ground level.

    DRAINAGE:  Once you pour some water into the hole you’ve made for this plant, watch how fast the water drains away. If it drains quickly then it may not stay near your plants’ roots long enough for them to absorb the water and needed nutrients. In this case, you will need to amend the soil by adding compost and manure to what is already there. When amending the soil, you may need to dig slightly deeper to ensure there is sufficient room for the plant given the compost you’ll be adding.  Once you’ve planted the seedlings, you may also want to “top dress” the ground around the plants which many feel will allow the plants to settle immediately in your conditioned soil.

    On the other hand, if there is very little drainage and the water puddles, then your plants’ roots may root.  In this case, you should really dig up the whole area and amend the soil to correct the drainage.  To amend really poor soil, you should remove some of that earth then add both compost and manure in the entire area you’ve dug up. Again, top dressing the soil is useful as well. More manure on the surface of the soil means the soil is going to be fed and worms are going to work their way around the plants to pull in leaf mould which will further breakdown and feed the plant as its roots grow deeper

    WATERING:  It is still recommended that you water a plant well for the first few weeks until you see new growth beginning.  At that point, you can reduce watering to what's normal for that area of the garden and for that plant.

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    References:
    Friends and other members of our Horticultural Society
    -
     "Favourite Gardening Tips” by Marjorie Harris

  • May 06, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It’s time to ensure that you are ready to plant later this month!  So, I have gathered several tips for you.  Some came from friends, others from club members, and a few from an older book titled “Favourite Gardening Tips” by Marjorie Harris. Hope you can use them when you start to plant.

    HELP WITH GERMINATION: Jennifer reminds us that for good germination of parsley seeds you need to pour boiling water over the seeds after you place them in the ground. Once done, you can cover the trench with soil.

    WATERING:  It is recommended that you water a plant well for the first few weeks until you see new growth beginning.  At that point, you can reduce watering to what's normal for that area of your garden and for that plant.

    PLANTING ROWS OF SEEDS:  Rather than staking each row and measuring out the spacing required for planting seeds, try this idea.  Get a few bamboo poles which of course, are usually evenly notched with rings along their length.  You could even mark them with permanent marker if you want to be sure of the spacing.  These are readily available at Canadian Tire, Walmart, Amazon, garden centres and nurseries.  Lay down the long bamboo pole on the ground in the garden where you want to plant a row of seeds and press it into the soil.  The impression it leaves makes a perfect planting guide.  If you  want to be fancy, you could drill a hole the size of your larger seeds every inch or two along the length of your bamboo. Better yet, check how far apart your seeds should be to decide how far apart to make the holes.  Now after putting the stick down and pressing on it, you simply put a seed in every hole or every other one, depending on your required spacing for a specific seed. Now lift the bamboo stick and do the next row. Or having outlined the hole, simply place a seed along the length of the row.

    PLANTING TINY SEEDS:  Seeds such as lettuce and carrots are so small it is easier to simply wet a piece of cotton string or needlepoint thread then drag it through the seeds. The seeds will stick to string and you can place the string right in the planting row.  Cover the row with the  amount of soil specified on the seed packet. Done.

    PLANTING RADISHES:  My dad always had me plant radishes in a two foot square area. He’d say, “Take a small palmful of seed and then scatter those seeds with your fingers throughout the square”. As they grew and were harvested, a few didn’t make it and a few had to be pulled to let others grow.  But it was quick.  After most were harvested, you could reseed the area for a second and even a third harvest during the summer.  And did you know that radishes taste delicious roasted with other root vegetables! Try it. I typically roast mine with parsnips, brussel sprouts, carrots, and a few mini potatoes.  Roasting them changes their taste but they are simply great to eat that way. You can also freeze radishes in a few easy steps. Wash them, scrubbing off all the dirt, then slice thinly or in wedges. Place those in a large pot of boiling water, blanching them for 2–3 minutes. Cool them in an ice bath, then place in freezer bags or containers removing most of the excess water and air.

    FLOWERS: Many flowers can also be started as seeds in the ground. I’ve planted nasturtiums that way and they’ve grown well.  Indeed in the fall, when they “go to seed”, I now simply shake their heads to disperse those seeds in the soil for next year. Other flowers that can be planted as seeds outdoors later this month include: pansies, violas, marigolds, sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, and four o'clocks.

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • April 29, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Recently, I received a gift certificate for Lee Valley which led me to start looking at their website to see what they had available.  What a great time I had looking over all the tools one could buy for gardening.  Of course, I already had a few on hand but I found some new items (at least they were new to me) that I could take advantage of.

    Most of us have some commonly used tools like a garden hose, a spray nozzle for the hose, a garden rake, etc.  I even had a set of handheld tools which were very affordable but which also seemed to break every year or two – at least when I used them.  The set included a rounded trowel, a transplanter, and a cultivator which looked like a small rake.  I’ll be replacing them with more durable, higher-quality versions.  Below is a list of tools that I find most helpful while gardening including those that after reading about them and asking friends if they used them, I now want to buy.

    Long-handled Watering Wand  
    Get one that is made of a sturdy aluminum wand that will last. It also needs a good trigger valve that gives water on demand for the jobs you have to do.  I use mine for watering hanging baskets of plants so I need at least a 26" or longer length for the wand which attaches to your garden hose.  Others may find this useful if they are watering large groups of seedlings or plants in the ground or a greenhouse.

    Hand Trowel
    These are great for digging holes for bulbs and seedlings.  I mention it as now you can get ergonomic ones that are built to allow your stronger arm muscles to do the work. With arthritis in my fingers, palms, and wrist, this is now a prerequisite.

    Dutch Hoe
    These apparently came from Holland and have found their place in many gardeners' tool kits and hearts.  Mine is long-handled and it makes quick work of clearing weeds from garden beds without bending over all the time. Its blade is double-sided so you can push it under the stem of the weed, or pull it from the opposite side of the weed.  Simply put, it cuts on both the forward and backward strokes, slicing off weeds just below the surface of the soil. The blade is held to the handle with prongs on each end of the blade portion making it easy to see your weeds and plants and avoid damaging the plants you want to keep. It is commonly believed that if you cut off the head of a weed, it will be less likely to regrow given you are depriving its roots of sunlight.  Pulling weeds used to be more common for me but if the plant has runners underground, then pulling them just excites the roots to grow even more!  And my back appreciates this easier way to remove weeds in the garden.

    Weed torch
    This is another must-have for making light work of weeds that are growing in between patio stones, interlocking stones, or cracks in your driveway or sidewalks.  Do not use this near the lawn as some weeds have roots underground and you don’t want to start a lawn fire!  It looks rather like a long cane and on the handle behind where you hold it, you attach a small portable propane tank.  Mine has a simple button that lights the torch at the “ground” end of the cane – much like a BBQ lighter. Then you simply burn off the heads of those pesky weeds.  A very satisfying way to remove weeds.  Be sure you wear good protective shoes when you do this!  There is an alternate version for which you need to light at the base of the cane with a BBQ lighter.  You may like that one but I am leery of burning myself while bending over to light it. Mine has the starter button on the handle so keeps me, by hair and my fingers away from the flame.

    Hose Guides
    Why do I want these?  I have a pool and every week from mid-May to mid-October I need to add water to the pool.  Yes, the water evaporates! The garden hose hooks to the side of the house about 50 feet from the pool.  So, I drag the hose out to the pool every week, add the water which takes an hour or so, then I drag the hose back again.  A lot of repetitive work that I should be able to reduce!

    I want to get a shorter hose from the outdoor water hook-up to the fence and then up and across the top of the fence and its gate to the portion that then travels towards the pool. At that point is where I'd hook up that hose to the current longer hose so it would go all the way to pull along the fence. I’d place the older hose in these nifty hose guides every 8 to 10 feet or so.  When I get to the pool near the spot where I want the hose to go into the pool, then I'd add one or two more guides to ensure the hose stayed put and leave the hose coiled with enough length to go across the pool deck and 4 to 6 feet into the pool. 

    Maybe I’d even place a small hose reel in the garden near the pool deck to store the end of the hose when it is not in the pool.  Once done, then each week, I can walk out to the pool, place the end of the hose into the pool then walk back to the house and turn on the water.  Later I just have to go and turn off the water! Maybe I can even leave the hose in the pool most of the time!  Much easier. 

    I’ll likely change the attachment at the side of the house to one that can accommodate 2 hoses at once – a hose splitter.  Or I may add the splitter on the other side of the fence in the backyard.  Or both!! So exciting to consider! This would allow me to feed the hose to the pool but also to attach another hose for other backyard or front yard usage.

    If you have a favourite tool for gardening or lawn care, please let me know by emailing gardeningtipsrhghs@gmail.com! Thank you!

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

    Photos by Doreen using SnagIt from the Canadian Tire and Lee Valley websites.

  • April 22, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This week, I simply want to direct you to a solid guide for vegetable gardening for those new to gardening.  It goes through each step providing easy to follow, read, and understand information which makes it easier to decide what, where, and how to plant your garden.  And this weekend isn’t too late to start a few seedlings indoors.  If you prefer, simply read the article and prepare a list of the seeds and seedlings you’ll buy to plant outdoors starting May 21st or the following weekend.  

    You can buy seeds and vegetable seedlings at many big box stores and nurseries. Or join our Society’s Spring Plant Sale on May 7th at the McConaghy Centre where there will be lots of seedlings for tomatoes, green peppers and other veggies and herbs. 

    For the Beginner’s Guide, I’ve provided a link to go to the Old Farmer’s Almanac website and read how to start your new vegetable garden.  To read, prepare and start your veggie garden! Use this link.

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • April 15, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Did you make too much for the Holidays?  It sure happened to me at Christmas and now with the multiple holidays coming this weekend and throughout April, I want to be prepared for the avalanche of leftovers!

    Last week we looked at making TV Dinners and this week from the leftovers soon to be in your fridge. I’ve named my leftover technique that I’ll discuss this week, MIX and MATCH meals!

    Mix & Match Meals: Although I still make TV dinners, I tend to make more of what I call Mix & Match Meals. That means I freeze each food item I want in a meal separately.  That way, I can mix and match every meal. 

    For the meats: When I cook my infamous Thai chicken thighs, I’ll cook 12 to 16 of them!  Then after I eat my initial meal, I freeze 2 of them in each freezer bag as 1 meal for myself. Chicken thighs work well as they don’t tend to dry out as the white meat does. Tonight, I pulled out a package of chicken wings from the freezer for my main.  I had cooked a complete tray of 26 wings originally ensuring they were not overly cooked. I used some for the first dinner and then froze the rest in a small tray from which I took 7 for tonight’s dinner. Simply defrost for 3 minutes at 30% power in the microwave, then put in the toaster oven at 3500F for 10 minutes.

    For the vegetables:  I already have multiple vegetables individually frozen from my garden’s harvest last fall so I can take out what I need for 1 meal. Right now, I have 1 large bag each of green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower. My brussel sprouts just didn’t do well enough this year else, I’d have a bag of those on hand as well. I also have about 20 bags of squash for 2 in the freezer, 20 bags of zucchini cut in 3 ways, and 20 or so bags of pasta sauce for 2.  Of course, you can buy bags of frozen veggies if you don’t have a garden. They taste good if frozen and don’t have the added salt found in canned veggies. Since I like mashed potatoes, I can make a lot and freeze them into 1 or 2 meal pouches with my handy-dandy vacuum sealer for freezer usage. Potatoes can take some time to cook so if you have to make them get the water boiling on the stove to boil before you start to peel them. By the time you’ve peeled, the water will be boiling and you are on your way. Be sure to cut the potatoes into smaller pieces, or use those wonderful ‘baby” potatoes by boiling them for 10 to 15 minutes.  Having a bag of French fries, onion rings, or deep-fried zucchini sticks in the freezer is also a good idea for a quick dinner.

    Here are some mix and match meals, I might “pull out and heat up” for a quick dinner:
    - Chicken thighs, roasted potatoes, squash
    Chicken wings, baked wedges (or fries) of potatoes, and some raw veggie sticks.
    - Chicken parmesan, pasta with homemade sauce on it
    Roast beef, mashed potatoes, zucchini
    Ham slices, scalloped potatoes, honey glazed carrots
    A chicken breast, boiled potatoes halved, broccoli, and cauliflower
    Pasta with homemade sauce then quickly fried hamburger. Mix all together and sprinkle shredded parmesan on top.

    This list can be as long as your imagination.  Taking some time to sit down and consider what you’d want on your plate at a deli or home, allows those combinations to come to mind.  Then next shopping trip, make sure you buy some of those desired sides and the main course!

    Note: This article is part of a series on Freezing Foods.  Below are links to other articles in this series.
    - Too Many Vegetables from your Garden? Read this article
    - More Veggies to Freeze.  Read the article
    - What else can you freeze? Baked Goods! Read the article
    - Cooking with Intent to Freeze: Read the article.
    - Be Prepared for Holiday Leftovers:  TV Dinners. Read the article.

    Article by Doreen Coyne, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • April 08, 2022 8:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Another set of Holidays is fast approaching and many of us will be making large family dinners again. This past December when we celebrated, many friends reported to me that they’d made far too much food and had “tons of ham, lamb, and turkey leftovers.” This can happen to any of us and not just at holidays. Family birthdays and getting together with friends can also be a source of too many leftovers.  It sure happened to me at Christmas and now with Easter coming, I am prepared for the avalanche of leftovers!

    Maybe these ideas will help you deal with all your leftovers as well. Today we will consider TV Dinners and next week, we’ll look at “MIX and MATCH meals”!

    TV Dinners:  Large meals prepared with the idea of many relatives and friends joining you for the holiday is a prime time to think about TV dinners.  And when it isn’t a holiday, cooking for one or two people isn’t much fun so I tend to make food for the “family” and then freeze the remaining portions for future meals!  Besides, the “dinner for one” meals in most grocery aisles are mainly pasta. I can buy larger trays of fresh meat at a lower cost and then use them to make nutritious, less costly frozen TV Dinners. 

    When I was a kid, my mom would save aluminum food trays. She’d even ask her friends to save them for her. Today you can actually buy these trays for 1 usage or as reusable trays.  These each typically had 4 spots in them. Some had 5 with one of those for desserts; but, I prefer the 4 spot trays. Nowadays you can buy those kind of trays!  And in a pinch, I use the rectangular black plastic dishes that most Chinese take-out restaurants use. They can even be put into your dishwaster although not in recycling.  So why not give them a more useful life.

    Mom made TV dinners so she’d have a quick, healthy meal for us kids when Dad was working the afternoon shift and wouldn’t be home for dinner.  In one spot would go mashed potatoes with gravy; in the next, slices of meat sometimes with gravy on them as well.  The two others were typically used for vegetables.  My sister and I helped prep the cooked food to use as individual servings and then formed an assembly line in the kitchen to fill the dinner trays. Once they were filled, we’d simply wrap them in tin foil, label them with a date and the contents, and place them in stacks in the freezer. Sometimes I got to make the labels by writing on masking tape. Here are some examples of meals that we’d build and freeze:

    • Turkey slices, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, and green beans (or corn or peas or mixed veggies.)
    • Ham slices topped with a slice of pineapple, scalloped potatoes, roasted Brussel sprouts, and a mix of carrots and peas.
    • Chicken pieces, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and a mix of cauliflower & broccoli.

    Enjoy your larger family meals and make great use of the leftovers for healthy, less expensive meals in the following months!

    Note: This article is part of a series on Freezing Foods.  Below are links to other articles in this series.
    - Too Many Vegetables from your Garden? Read this article
    - More Veggies to Freeze.  Read the article
    - What else can you freeze? Baked Goods! Read the article
    - Cooking with Intent to Freeze: Read the article.

    Article by Doreen Coyne, a member of Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society. Photos from Amazon.ca shipping browser.

  • April 01, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If your backyard has become your dog’s potty place then you likely have lots of yellow or brown spots in it. This is both annoying but also doesn’t let your yard look BBQ nor party ready!  One colleague ended up replacing her lawn due to this issue.

    Why does the lawn turn yellow or brown?
    Dogs instinctually do their business in the same area each time, and repeated exposure to dog urine kills the grass. Dog’s urine is naturally slightly acidic (6 to 6.5). However, the dry kibble most dogs eat alters the pH of their urine, causing it to become alkaline.  This shift in pH is one reason why dog urine can cause brown spots in your yard.  Another contributing factor is that dog urine contains a lot of nitrogen, which fertilizes plants in small amounts. However, in large or concentrated amounts, excess nitrogen chemically burns plants including grass turning them yellow or brown.

    This is why it’s not uncommon to find yellowish-brown dog urine spots ringed by lush, green grass: the grass that got hit directly with urine died, while the grass that only received a little exposure got fertilized.  Salts and trace minerals from dog urine can also build up in the soil over time, contributing to dead spots.

    How to fix the problem.  There are several ideas which you can read below but if you do more than one, you can multiply their effectiveness.

    1. A new way to stop the PH effect from your dog’s urine. DOG ROCKS is a relatively new product and is available at Pet Value, PetSmart, and Amazon. I’ve included a photo so you know what you are looking for. 

    Dog Rocks are made from naturally occurring paramagnetic igneous rock mined in Australia, and provide a 100% natural solution to urine burn patches on the lawn, shrubs, and box hedge. Dog Rocks do not affect the pH balance of your dog's urine and are safe for all household pets. Rather, Dog Rocks work like a sponge, absorbing excess nitrates and other trace elements from your dog’s water that causes urine to burn the grass.  You just place 200 grams of Dog Rocks into a half-gallon of water, then use that to fill your pet’s water bowl.  They’ve been laboratory tested and are safe for your pets. Within 3-5 weeks, you should start to notice a change in your lawn’s appearance and new urine patches should not appear. If they do, verify that your pet’s water bowl is their primary source of water!  This is being used with great success by our member Debbie.

    2.  Change your dog’s diet.  Dogs are naturally carnivores, and their bodies are designed to subsist primarily on meat which makes their urine acidic.  But if the pH is normal, dog urine will fertilize the lawn and shouldn’t cause any problems. However, if a dog is fed a diet with more grains or carbohydrates (found in many brands of dry dog food), the pH balance shifts and the urine becomes alkaline which will harm your grass. 

    Feeding your dog a diet of fresh or canned food and reducing or eliminating dry dog food with potatoes, grains, or other carbohydrates should ensure their urine is more acidic and less likely to cause burn spots.

    3. Dilute the nitrogen. Spray water on the dog’s special potty areas. By washing down the lawn after your dog does her business, you will dilute the nitrogen and salts in the urine, preserving the life of your lawn.

    4. Train Your Dog to use one specific spot! Although it does take some time and effort, dogs can be trained to do their business in a specific part of the yard, away from the grass.  Another dog-loving friend, made a special area in an in-ground planter edged with 6x6s just for his dog. The dog loved it as it had some nice plants in it providing him with some shade and a little privacy. 

    5.  Take your dog for a walk every time he needs to use the facilities. At least it keeps him away from the yard more and it could help improve your fitness level as well

    6. Increase your dog’s water intake.  By encouraging your dog to drink more water, you can dilute the potency of the nitrogen in the urine.  This will make the pee less damaging to your grass. It won’t stop the brownish-yellow spots but can help if used in conjunction with some of the other methods mentioned.

    In summary, if you get desperate you could install a dog run (or even an entire yard) with artificial grass. Same attractive appearance as grass but is not affected by dog urine. This allows you to let the dog out to run or play or just to get fresh air – all within an area in which he can’t ruin real grass!  My friend used this with suggestion three after a few years making his designated dog potty area stain resistant.  By the way, nowadays artificial grass or turf has a 100% permeable backing allowing the urine to pass through into the soil so no concern re puddling unless you are putting it over an area of clay soil that already has puddling issues. 

    Submitted by Debbie Coleman and Doreen Coyne, members of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • March 25, 2022 8:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Coffee grounds are a good source of micronutrients such as nitrogen, magnesium, copper, calcium zinc, manganese and iron for your soil.  
    A good way to use used ground coffee is as a mulch around plants.  Do not throw the grounds onto the garden soil in thick clumps or layers; as they will clump and form a surface that is hard for water to penetrate.  Best to sprinkle the grounds over the surface in combination with other mulches to stop it from forming a crust and allowing the nitrogen to be worked on by microbes in your soil.  In this way, the nitrogen will gradually be converted into a form that plants can take up and use.  You may consider coffee grounds, another effective slow-release organic fertilizer.

    Coffee grounds are not overly acidic as most of their acid is lost while the coffee is brewed. Their acidity is about 6.6, which is good for most vegetables.

    Be aware some plants don’t do well with coffee grounds – especially tomatoes, peppers, eggplants – for them, use powdered eggshells. (See the article on Saving Eggshells)  

    You can also add the coffee grounds to a compost heap where their relatively high nitrogen content can add to your compost.  Coffee grounds can be used to help balance out other compost such as fallen leaves, straw or shredded paper.  Its small particle size means it’ll start to get to work immediately.  The microbes will break down the nitrogen into the plant-available form you need while generating heat to speed up the whole decomposition process and quicken your compost goods to be ready as compost sooner.

    Worms love coffee grounds too—it aids their digestion.  If you have a worm bin, this is also a great ingredient to add along with your other ingredients.

    Not a coffee person?  You can use tea leaves or tag bags as well. But beware, some teabags contain plastic particulates, so if you’re going to add the whole bag to your compost, switch to a brand with fully biodegradable bags. Or simply remove the grounds from the bag before adding it to your compost.

    BTW: You can also recycle banana peels for your gardening.
     Read the article


    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.  Base photo without words
     by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

  • March 18, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This article discusses how banana peels can help your plants grow.  Banana peels are a relatively good source of potassium, as well as some other micronutrients such as calcium. But the value of these nutrients is often exaggerated. Some recommend soaking banana peels in water for several days to make a nutrient-rich tea for usage on plants. But it won’t be as strong or effective as you might hope.  Even drying out banana peels and turning them into a powder doesn’t make a great soil additive.

    The best thing you can do with banana peels is to add them to your compost heap, where they will—like other compost ingredients—rot down to release their nutrients into the final, crumbly compost.

    When adding banana peels, make sure to remove any labels. And to speed things up, cut them up into smaller pieces. Banana peels are a good addition to the compost heap because they do rot down fairly quickly typically in a matter of weeks.

    Submitted by Doreen Coyne, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society

  • March 14, 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As gardeners prepare their gardens for the winter, they are also thinking and planning for next year. If you are planting tomatoes or similar veggies such as peppers, eggplant, summer squashes, and melons, you must remember that they need Calcium!

    Some people who have planted tomatoes might have seen some of their harvest with blackened and rotted bottoms. The distinctive appearance of affected fruits and veggies is that of a circular blackened, slightly sunken rotten spot on the bottom (blossom end) of the fruits. The top of the tomato looks completely normal, but when you pluck it from the vine and turn it over, the black lesion is visible. This is referred to as “Blossom End Rot.” It means certain vegetables, including tomatoes have been both slightly stressed and have a lack of calcium. You can help its stress by properly watering and weeding. And you can avoid it not having enough calcium, by supplementing the soil naturally. Try these steps which I do in my garden every year.

    • During the winter months, I have a container under the kitchen sink and collect eggshells. Now and again, I crush them a bit.
    • In the spring, I take those eggshells that I put into the container and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I then cook that at low heat in the oven for a few minutes, or in a microwave on high power for at least 10 seconds. This will sterilize the eggshells; thus, killing any salmonella that may be there.  I do not rinse the eggshells as this will wash away some of the organic matter from the shell which you want to keep.
    • In the spring before I use the eggshells, it is best to crush them thoroughly. This increases their surface area. Or for even better results, it is best to grind the eggshells into a fine powder using a pestle and mortar, a high-speed blender or a coffee grinder. Get one just for this purpose from a thrift store or garage sale.  Calcium within an eggshell is locked up as calcium carbonate, making it unavailable to plants as it is. Grinding it up into a powder turns it into a form that plants can more readily use.  So now your eggshell powder is a slow-release source of calcium - released over several months.
    • When I’m planting my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, I toss some eggshell powder into the hole that I’ve dug for the new plant.
    • I then plant the vegetables in the hole, deep up to the first leaves, pressing firmly on the soil.
    • Finally, I sprinkle more eggshell powder over the surface of the beds and then I water the new plants or seedlings.

    If you are planting tomatoes and don’t have many eggshells saved, make a quiche or breakfast strata this weekend!

    An afterthought – other good uses for calcium ladened powdered eggshells:
    Calcium helps promote the production of healthy cell walls, so this eggshell powder will help your next season’s crops. Its high calcium content will also be great for leafy greens like kale and cabbage.
    If you have a wormery, worms can easily ingest powdered eggshells, and it serves as a grit to aid their digestion and general health. And what do healthy worms mean? Better compost and better soil. 
    -
     If you don’t have a worm composter, add them to your general compost pile to help the worms that have moved into it.  They’ll enjoy the eggshells and produce better compost for you.

    Submitted by Rahe Richards, a member of the Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society
    Photo credit: SavvyGardening.com

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