An ounce of prevention…

Submitted Photo Block planting corn will give the pollen a better chance to land on the silk of an ear. This will give ears with full kernel set rather than ears with a few kernels and lots of gaps. Photo from OH!

There are some garden problems that can be solved now before they happen later in the growing season. By taking a bit of time now, it will yield benefits of more and better garden produce later. Here are a few things that can help you have a successful gardening year.

Hardening off transplants

Many of our garden vegetables as well as annual flowers are grown indoors and then transplanted as very young plants. We either grow them from seed in our homes or before planting them in the garden. Hardening Off is a term meaning to set the young plants outside, in a sheltered area each day to acclimate to the wind, sun and other environmental conditions it will encounter. Coming from indoors, they are very tender and easily damaged weather and wind. Set them out during the day for about a week before planting in the garden. They will be better able to adjust and begin growing better if you do.

Block Planting Corn

Plants must be pollinated to produce fruit and vegetables. Some have the benefit of birds and insects to assist in this. Corn depends on the pollen falling down from the tassels at the top of the plant to the silk on the tiny ear on the lower stalk. To give the pollen the best chance of landing on the silk, plant a number of short rows in a block rather than one or two long rows. The block planting will give the pollen a better chance to land on the silk of an ear. This will give you ears with full kernel set rather than the ears with a few kernels and lots of gaps.

Prevent Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot is best prevented when the plant is young, and will be the most successful over the whole growing season if it is. The cause of Blossom End Rot is a lack of calcium. It affects tomatoes, squash, peppers and other plants. Irregular water availability to the plant is the root cause of this problem. To help prevent it, mulch around the plants. Plastic, straw, hay, grass clipping, and even cardboard or newspaper can be used. If placed around the base of the plant out about 2-2 1/2 feet all around it, you will help to hold moisture around the plant roots and keep calcium available to it. It will also hold down weeds so you don’t need to hoe close to the plant. Hoeing not only kills the weeds but cuts the feeder roots of the vegetable so it isn’t able to take up enough calcium. If Plastic mulch is used it has the added advantage of warming the soil faster and speeding up fruiting and maturity.

Flower Bed Cat Box

A fairly common problem for home gardeners is having cats use their gardens and flower beds as litter boxes. Since the dirt is soft and easy to dig in, it is only natural for cats to use it as their bathroom. To keep them out of your garden and flower beds, use the old time disinfectant, Lysol concentrate. This would be the product in the small brown bottle that your mother used. Phenol is the active ingredient in Lysol. All felines are naturally allergic to it and will avoid it. Mixing Lysol in a sprinkler can and sprinkling on your beds will discourage them from getting in the beds. It will not hurt the cat as they won’t come close to the beds at all. You may need to freshen up the mixture during the growing season as it weakens with time.

Planting Tall Tomatoes

Tomatoes seedlings to be transplanted can sometimes be too tall. This is not a problem, and actually can be a benefit. If a tomato is planted with the stem under ground, it will grow roots on all of the stem that is buried. This will give the plant more roots faster, and since only the very top is not buried, it will be less prone to wind damage.

Ken Eraas is horticulture assistant with NDSU Extension Service/Ward County. He can be reached at