Good Garden Sense

Beats Garden Gadgets

by Bob Fleming

Sheila Fleming

Pick up a garden catalogue, weekend newspaper, or any magazine in the spring, and you are bound to find colorful ads for garden aids - either tools to lighten the work or gadgets to help you grow bigger and better plants.

There is no doubt that sturdy properly maintained tools, make garden chores easier. But regardless of the tool, good garden sense in the long run produces the best returns. A soil test to determine your garden soil needs is one of the best and least expensive gadgets you can buy. Sampling kits are available from your local Ministry of Agriculture and Food office.

Fertilizers may be considered gadgets to many new hobby gardeners, but, once you have a soil test, fertilizers become useful tools. Contents must be listed on the container - nitrogen, phosphorus and potash in that order. For example, a turf fertilizer is usually high in nitrogen for green foliage (10-6-4, or 12-6-3), while a garden fertilizer has equal quantities (10-10-10) or more root and fruit-producing elements - phosphorus and potash (5-10-15, or 5-20-20).

Plant starter kits, self-watering planters, green thumb gloves and rubber kneelers make some garden chores more convenient, but none guarantees success. Proper soil preparation, including such organic matter as compost, leaf mould, peat or manure; the proper amount of the light fertilizers in the correct amounts; and insuring soil drainage by deep digging or raised planting beds; is a good start towards successful gardening.

Gadgets are appearing in the plant world too, and many are worth investigating. Hybrid forms of vegetables and flowers are replacing some of the old familiar cultivars. There are distinct advantages to many hybrids. The most obvious is vigor. Hybrids usually grow faster, stronger and produce more or bigger flowers than the regular cultivars. Hybrid vegetables often grow more vigorously and produce earlier or larger returns than cultivars commonly grown. Check the gadget vegetable seeds recommended for home gardens. Often these produce over a longer period of time than commercial varieties.

A healthy garden rarely suffers from disease or insect pests, but occasionally chemical control measures are needed. Choose a gadget that applies pesticides uniformly and safely. Choose your pesticide carefully. Many pesticide combinations are available, but why use a chemical to control a fungus disease, when an insect is the culprit, or why kill beneficial insects when you are trying to control a fungus disease? Select suitable pesticides - malathion, diazinon, and sevin to control insect pests; captan and benlate to prevent most plant fungus diseases. When necessary, the two products (insecticide and fungicide) can be combined to control both insect pests and diseases.

Many useful garden gadgets have been introduced in the past. No doubt, more will appear and be touted as the answer to better gardening. Successful gardeners don't rely on gadgets. Gadgets may help, but they can't make up for common sense and garden know how.