Garden Clippings

| May 2008

Soaring fuel prices affect just about everything we do, from travel to grocery bills. This year, I predict that the backyard vegetable garden will be important to even more people than in years past, in an effort to offset some of the grocery tab.

Vegetable gardening can seem like a daunting task to novices and veterans alike when confronted with terms at garden stores that are not part of most people's everyday vocabulary. To thwart this tough part of gardening, I have compiled a list of the most frequently questioned terms I hear from year to year.

An allelopathic plant is a plant that produces a chemical during the growth cycle that disrupts the growth of other plants around it. Black walnuts are notorious for wreaking havoc on tomatoes and peppers planted too closely. Other plants that have an allelopathic nature are asparagus and fennel.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a naturally occurring bacterium that is used to rid the garden of some insects. It is most effective on foliar-feeding insects. However, applications of Bt are not long-lasting, so it requires repeated applications, preferably in the evening hours for the longest effect before it is degraded by sunlight.

Determinate growth is a term that is important to tomato gardeners. When a variety is listed as having this type of habit, it means that it is most likely a smaller plant that will set and mature the majority of the fruit within one window of time. The 'paste' type tomato will generally fall into this growth habit, giving you a large amount of produce ready for use all at once.

Green manure is not fresh animal manure, but it can provide nitrogen to vegetable garden plants. This term refers to green plants, such as ryegrass, that are planted to protect the soil from erosion during the time when the garden is not growing vegetables. These plants are tilled into the soil before planting vegetables to provide nutrients and organic matter.

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