A recipe for growing a garden

Growing a garden is like baking a cake or a batch of cookies. The right amount of nutrients in the soil will produce the most useable garden produce. This is the same as a recipe. If you follow the recipe, the end product will be what you set out to bake. But, if you add too much of one ingredient, or too little of another ingredient, your cake or cookies will not turn out as you want. They may end being so bad that your efforts will be useless! The same can happen in a garden.

A common complaint is that plants grew very large, but produced very few tomatoes, or potatoes or whatever vegetable or fruit was being grown. This usually is a symptom of high amounts of nitrogen in the soil. Or it might be an imbalance between nitrogen and phosphorous. Nitrogen is important for the top, green growth of the plant. Phosphorous is important for a couple of important plant needs. The first is good root development. This aids the plant in growing a root system to gather moisture and nutrients for growth and fruit/vegetable production. The second is for flowering, successful pollination and fruit/vegetable set. Without sufficient phosphorous plants will not produce many flowers and even those that are produced don’t pollinate as they should and there is less produced.

The first step to getting your recipe right for your garden is a soil test. This will tell a number of things, including your soil pH, the amount of organic matter (humus) in it, as well as the amount of the three main nutrients needed for plants to grow. After the tests are complete, the Soils Lab will send a printout showing the amounts of nutrients and more in your garden. It will also advise if any fertilizer is needed, and the amount needed.

All NDSU Extension Offices have the soil sample bags and information sheets to complete and submit to the NDSU Soil Testing lab. The information sheets give instructions on how to sample your soil as well as where to submit the sample(s).

To pick up the soil test bags and sheets, visit the Ward County Extension Office in the Ward County Administration Building, 225 3rd Street SE, in Minot or call 857-6444 to request them and they will be mailed out to you.

Vinegar for Weed Control

The use of vinegar for garden weed control is one of limited value. Vinegar kills plant tissue by rupturing the cell wall and the plant dries out. If this is used on tiny, annual weeds just after they emerge from the soil, it will work. But on large annual plant and perennials, it will dry the leaf tissue, but re-sprouting and re-growing will take place.

Some have suggested using the stronger vinegar concentrates which are NOT food grade. This concentration still will not kill perennial weeds. It will only affect the top growth. It is also more of a hazard to the user as it is caustic to eyes and sensitive skin. It may kill slightly larger annual seedlings, but it is questionable if the expense and risk is worth the result. And it will also damage or kill desirable flower or vegetable plants if it drifts on to them.

A hoe is still the original organic weed control! It is non-toxic and there has never been a weed that developed a resistance to a hoe or tiller. In this case old fashioned and simple is better.


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