Sickly, sad-looking plants have a chance
As I am writing this article, I have the Weather Channel on mute which is showing a downright ominous forecast of a massive storm system with Ohio right in the middle; although at this time (3 p.m. on Thursday) it is quite sunny outside. Nonetheless, after the astronomical damage of the freak derecho on June 29 I am not taking any chances. Unfortunately that day did not peak with learning a new vocabulary word — who had ever heard of a derecho anyway? — but my car was actually totaled by a 14-inch diameter oak branch that fell from about 75 feet above. Surprisingly, plants are a lot less likely to be totaled than automobiles. I also had some extensive damage to a few of my beloved Endless Summer hydrangeas and some annuals. I worried I would lose them, and was elated that in a few short days the plants were all showing signs of recovery — even the flat of sweet potato vine that was directly under the largest part of the branch that totaled my car. Perhaps the botanists who hybridize these plants should take up automotive engineering…
Anyway, one of the best nuggets of gardening advice I ever got helped me nurse these damaged plants through their storm injuries. My friend and fellow Gazette Master Gardener contributor Dianne Gelinas taught me that no matter how sickly or sad a plant may look — it still has a chance. I learned this from her not by accepting it to be true, but by being dumbfounded after watching her take plants I thought were certainly finished and suddenly bringing them back to life. Talk about a green thumb. My favorite example was a rosemary plant she got free from a nursery that had given up on it for one reason or another. It was dry, free of leaves and bare bones. I laughed as she repotted it, telling her she was wasting her time. Two weeks later, I had trouble believing it was the same plant. So, I applied Dianne’s stubborn conviction to my damaged plants. I cut back the broken branches, gave ample water and waited. Sure enough they all survived. Should you have any plants damaged by weather, I urge you to not give up on them. The first step is to prune off the damaged limbs, branches or stems. Leaving these broken can infect the whole plant as well as over-exert itself trying to repair a broken limb. Make the cut with sterilized, sharp blades — a clean cut not only lowers the risk of infection to the plant but will heal faster than a cut made with a dull blade.
After realizing what wonderful advice I had received, I wanted to hear from other gardeners on what was the best garden advice they ever got?
Another great friend of mine and Master Gardener, Susan Liechty had some wonderful tips to share, neither of which I had ever heard — and cannot wait to try.
First, she said to take photos of your garden and use those photos to edit and rework how you would like it to look. For some reason it seems in photographs we are more perceptive to small details and more likely to notice a problem.
She also shared a great tip for fertilizing — save old Parmesan cheese containers and use them to sprinkle fertilizer throughout your garden. Brilliant!
I also reached out to my absolute favorite blogger, Tamar Haspel, who writes a great blog called “Starving off the Land” (starvingofftheland.com). Her best advice: “Lower your expectations from your garden.” Although funny, she makes a great point. Maybe your first vegetable garden will not produce bushels of blue-ribbon worthy tomatoes, but do not let that discourage you. Gardening is a wonderful hobby that should, at its core, be fun. Enjoy it. Some years you might have only a few tomatoes — that is OK, next year you will have more.
Stephen Jones is an OSU Extension Master Gardner volunteer.