CLEVELAND, Ohio – Warmer temperatures are causing many residents of northeastern Ohio to look for their gardening gloves. And professionals in the area – fresh out of an unprecedented gardening boom in 2020 – are providing a number of easy-to-follow guidelines that will ensure a bountiful fall harvest for newbies and old alike.
The popularity of gardening increased with the coronavirus pandemic, as people across the country sought a sense of self-sufficiency, as well as the physical, emotional and spiritual rewards of interacting with the land.
It is estimated that 16 million new gardeners have innovated in 2020 and the trend is expected to continue.
“I can’t believe how many people I’ve learned to garden in 2020, and we’re seeing it again this year,” commented Dale Heyink, owner of Puritas Nursery in the West Park neighborhood of Cleveland.
Noelle Akin, head of training and education at Petitti Garden Centers, said the Northeastern Ohio favorite, now celebrating 50 years in business, has also seen an increase in the number of gardeners last year, and the trend continued this spring.
“It seems that vegetable and herbal gardening is increasing slowly, but steadily, every year, although last year was probably the biggest jump in quite some time, and the warm temperatures in March really motivated the early adopters. residents of northeastern Ohio and others, ”Akin observed.
First of all
Heyink and Akin emphasize land preparation as an essential first step in ensuring a healthy return on investment.
“It all comes down to the preparation of the soil,” said Akin.
Fall is a great time to start these preparations, although the improvements in spring haven’t beaten at all. Akin advises adding amendments a few weeks before planting. Akin also recommends doing a soil pH test, although she notes that additions such as compost, peat, and manure are generally safe bets for boosting production.
Since the soils of northeastern Ohio are prone to compaction, Akin directs customers to Espoma’s Soil Perfector, Petitti’s preferred solution. The natural baked material creates space in the ground for air and water to infiltrate.
Annual rotation crops are also high on Akin’s garden priority list.
Heyink usually adds composted manure, although he said worm casts, mushroom compost and other items are popular with gardeners as well. The real key, according to Heyink, is adding nutrients every year.
“Every year, vegetables take up a lot of nutrients from the soil.”
When to plant
Cold crops like broccoli, potatoes, carrots, and radishes can be planted as early as St. Patrick’s Day, although plants that prefer heat – including tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers – should not be rushed.
“We are growing for the schedule, not the weather at one time or another,” Heyink explained.
Heyink, who has owned Puritas Nursery for 38 years, recommends planting warm-season crops outside after Mother’s Day. In fact, cold temperatures and low light mean that heat-loving plants put outside before mid-May will reap little benefit and risk experiencing a late frost.
Akin noted that northeast Ohio is still sensitive to winter conditions in May, offering snowfall on May 11, 2020 as evidence. She advises to wait until at least mid-May to avoid killing off the much-maligned frosts and white stuff.
Let there be sunlight
Once the plants are in the ground, sunlight is essential for production. At a minimum, plants should have at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
We all need our space
Proper spacing is also essential, although most gardeners have felt the need to cram a few more plants.
“Keep it simple,” Akin advised. “More is not always better.”
When plants compete for light, water, and other resources, yields per plant are lower. The same productivity can usually be achieved with fewer specimens, which will help reduce the spread of pests and fungal problems that can make a season’s work worthless.
Heyink tells his customers to space the tomatoes at least 2 feet apart and plant peppers at 18-inch intervals.
The importance of staying hydrated
Watering is perhaps the most obvious aspect of plant care, although following certain guidelines will help keep crops healthy. One inch of water per week is a good rule of thumb for Northeast Ohio gardeners.
Watering abundantly every seven days or so encourages plants to root deeply, but only when the water is seeping in slowly – so put watering cans and buckets away.
Adding water to the base of the plants is better than watering from the top. Soaking hoses and drip systems don’t just work from the bottom, they also release water over a long period of time.
In addition, watering earlier in the day helps prevent certain problems with fungi and pests.
Dissuade unwanted guests
Few things are as frustrating as spending time and money in the garden, only to see the rewards consumed by local wildlife.
Heyink swears by “feather meal” – processed chicken feathers – as a deer deterrent and uses blood meal to hunt small mammals. Both products also add nitrogen to the soil.
Akin is an advocate for natural sprays that use essential oils to ward off hungry creatures.
Granular repellents, chemical sprays, fencing and netting are just a few of the other options available. DIY enthusiasts can even mix up a batch of cayenne pepper spray.
For insects, Akin recommends trying simple solutions like spraying cold water or removing infested parts of the plant first.
Products containing essential oils, including NEEM and various insecticidal soaps, are also in Akin’s Bug Tricks Bag. She suggests “Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew,” which uses a naturally occurring bacteria, for persistent pest problems.
Heyink advises to use various garden dust before the arrival of the insects. He also relies on sprays, although he urges consumers to follow directions for these products carefully.
There is more to this than I thought
Yes, but a few unexpected hurdles shouldn’t stop you from pursuing a stress-relieving, life-affirming, and relatively inexpensive hobby. Garden centers and nurseries in the area are more than willing to discuss everything from fertilizers to different types of fungi, as well as the items detailed above.
In gardening as in life, perseverance pays off, but beware: products on store shelves will never taste the same again.