Homeyer: Green Thumbs

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(Host) Commentator Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and educator,
who claims that his success in the garden isn’t due to having a green
thumb. He says anyone can have a green thumb – because a healthy garden is
mostly about the soil.

(Homeyer) Some folks say I have a green
thumb. I don’t. I have a pretty ordinary thumb, often with some good
garden dirt under the nail. I tell people there’s no such thing as a
green thumb. There’s only good soil or bad soil.

Actually it’s a
little more complicated than that. Good gardeners do have good soil.
Even so, every year we add compost to replace nutrients that get used up
by our plants. Pull a sweet orange carrot or snack on a crisp green
cuke and you’re using up soil nutrients – minerals that were in the soil
before being taken up by your plants. They need to be replaced on a
regular basis, or your soil will get tired.

By adding compost,
good gardeners do more than just add nutrients. We improve the ability
of our soil to hold water and to allow excess water to drain off. Plants
do best in fluffy soil – so they can extend their roots, and so they
can get oxygen. Plants need oxygen, but can’t get it from their leaves.
They only get it from their roots, which is why compacted soil or
water-logged soil isn’t good for our garden plants. Weeds, on the other
hand do pretty well in compacted soil and crummy soil in general.

of weeds, good gardeners, those with the proverbial green thumbs, don’t
have as many weeds as gardeners struggling to succeed. Good gardeners
try hard to pull weeds before they blossom and produce seeds.
Consistency is the name of the game. Pull weeds for a few minutes every
day and you’ll never be plagued by them.

It’s also important to
put the right plant in the right place. Yes, I can grow a sun-loving
rose bush in deep shade. But it won’t grow much, and probably won’t
produce many blossoms. That same rose planted in full sun and rich,
dark, well drained soil will bloom its fool head off.

If you
have the time and really want to be a good gardener, I recommend going
through the Master Gardener program. It involves class time and
volunteer time afterwards, but it’s a good solid base of knowledge.

your university extension program to find out when the next classes
begin. Vermont has an excellent program that uses interconnected video
conferencing, so that you should have a program near your home.

you want a green thumb, do your homework. Read gardening books. Talk to
your neighbors. Go on garden tours and ask questions. Things like, "How
in the world did you get that ladyslipper orchid to bloom in your
garden?" Good gardeners love to answer questions like that, and love
sharing their knowledge.

Green thumb or not, I lose a few plants
each year, so don’t get discouraged if you do, too. After all, no one
has a green thumb all the time.

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