This spring, my zinnias looked great, but now they are nothing but leaves. This wouldnt bother me so much except for the fact that a gardener who lives down the road from me (I dont know her) also planted zinnias this spring, and her plants still have beautiful flowers. What did I do wrong?
It is tempting for me to point toward you using a fertilizer that was high in nitrogen to feed your plants, which often results in plants both ornamental and edible channeling energy toward a fabulous display of foliage at the expense of bloom production. However, in your case, since you seemed to have had a nice spring display of flowers, I am going to suspect that you refused to abuse your zinnias. By this I mean you probably didnt go after your plants with pruners to deadhead the spring blooms when they were past their prime. After deadheading, zinnias usually respond with a second flower show, but since soil nutrients are typically at a low ebb by midsummer, these blossoms are normally smaller. However, for more petal power and bigger blooms the second time around, add a light side-dressing of a fertilizer high in phosphorus before the pruners have their way with the first wave of spent blooms.
Striking gold with potatoes
This is a picture of my final harvest of potatoes, following your This Spuds for You article March 17. I always try to plant at least one new crop I have not planted previously. Over the years, it allows me to find the most reliable crops to plant in my limited suburban growing areas.
I thought it would be interesting to give your potato method a try. This test plot was planted behind my deck in an area that was approximately 12 feet long by 2 feet wide. I cheated a little bit and placed two rows of potatoes in this area. I made sure to stagger my plantings to provide as much area for the growing potatoes as possible.
With the consistent rains and sunshine early in the season, it was all I could do to keep up with adding more straw to rows. The moisture under the straw was wonderfully consistent. But during this last month, the heat and lack of rain has taken its toll on my plants. Even with supplemental watering, I was starting to lose plants to the elements.
This picture shows my final harvest and confirms your methods success. The potatoes were very easily harvested at the surface of the soil with only one potato completely beneath the soil. The moist straw became home to a vast array of rolly pollies, ants, snails, slugs and worms. I used no pesticides and had no potatoes eaten by these animals. I appreciate the information your article provided and will now be adding potatoes to my yearly suburban garden.
Ive been using this alternate potato planting method for years. When I first heard of it, the idea seemed just weird enough to me that I thought it might work, and, as you found out, it does. Sure, its impractical for the wide open mega-fields of Idaho who has that much hay to spare? but for local growers with small gardens having to deal with stubborn red Piedmont clay, it is an easy way to reap heaping helpings of tasty spuds from the backyard.
L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine. Send your garden questions, including the city where you garden, to email@example.com.