Hello again, everyone!
I’ve learned something important and encouraging during the past few weeks: gardening is not hard.
I know, I know, this may be shocking, but I have found it to be true. If you just throw some seeds in the ground and cover ’em up, you’ll probably find a plant poking through that spot eventually.
There is an addendum, however — it is rather hard to garden perfectly. There are so many variables and chance occurrences that can influence the overall health and productivity of your plants, and unless you’ve been doing this your whole life, it can take a long time to figure out exactly what you’re doing right or wrong.
That being said, it is this very factor of unpredictability that makes gardening exciting! It becomes a fun little game to experiment with different methods of planting and general maintenance. Over the course of my travels through the hollers of Eastern Kentucky, I have discovered several seemingly bizarre horticultural techniques that the local farmers swear by. I’d like to share some of them with you, with the necessary disclaimer that I have not tried any of these myself and can not vouch for their efficacy. Try them at your own risk, or simply be amused by these “folk garden remedies”:
1. Matchsticks, Powdered Milk and Eggshells
This method, as explained to me by two different sources, is used primarily for the planting of tomatoes. Before transplanting a tomato plant into the ground, sprinkle in some powdered milk, crushed eggshells and used matchsticks. I was told that this produces larger and juicier tomatoes. I don’t know the science behind it, although one lady said the milk was for calcium and the matchsticks are for sulfur.
2. Baby Oil
This method is used to prevent worms from feasting on your corn. My source tells me that if you simply apply two drops of baby oil to each individual corn plant when they are only a couple inches out of the ground, you will never have to worry about worms. He claims to have never had a single worm in his corn since he discovered this method and has noticed no adverse affects from this application, though he admits it is a bit of an arduous task when you have several rows of corn.
It seems a bit counter-intuitive to me, but I met a man who told me that when planting beets, you should sow the seeds with salt. “Just sprinkle in a few fistfuls as you go” he said. While this bit of advice was only to be used with beets, I also met a lady who specified that she used Epsom salt all over her garden. Again, not sure if there is any scientific reasoning behind this or not, and I’m a little scared to test this one myself, but they both swear by this method.
4. Growing Giant Produce
I met a man who told me he grew mush-melons (cantaloupe) that couldn’t fit in a 5 gallon bucket. I didn’t believe him until he showed me the pictures on his cell phone. While I didn’t see any more photos, I believed him when he told me about 8 pound sweet potatoes and 2 foot long cucumbers and a watermelon that weighed over 125 pounds. His secret was to set off the plant from the others by several feet while making sure that each day the soil around it was loose and that the plant got plenty of air, water, sunlight, and fertilizer. Now I’m sure he wasn’t using the organic fertilizer I like to use and I can’t guarantee the overall health of the soil after all of that super-charged synthetic fertilizer, but it was pretty cool to hear how he managed to grow vegetables of legendary proportions.
That’s all for now. If I come across any other cool techniques I’ll be sure to share them with you. If you know of any that I haven’t mentioned, share them in the comments!