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Gary Garner



Garden news, thoughts, tips, musings, rumors, gossip and occasional good advice
from Gary Garner, the Guru of Grass.

Different Tastes In Food - November 20th 2020



Do you ever wonder why you plant a certain variety of tomato one year, then plant the same one the next year, but the tastes don’t seem to be the same as the ones you grew the previous year? We'll use tomatoes for our example but the same is true for all of your garden vegetables! You might think all Big Boy tomatoes should taste the same. But the truth is they don’t all taste alike. There are many factors that determine the taste of produce. Some are minor, some are major. some we can control; some we have no control over.

A few we can control are variety, soil and fertilization. Make certain when you buy plants, they are the same ones you planted last year. It’s easy to confuse Big Boy, Big Boy hybrids or even Big Girl. They all look pretty much the same but each has some different features in times to harvest and in taste.

Soil may be the single most important factor in taste determination outside of variety. The crop picks up taste from the soil. The soil in your garden is going to be different from the soil in my garden. One of us may compost leaves and add it to the garden. Someone else may throw firewood ash on the garden. You may add grass clippings, you could grow a cover crop. You could add horse or chicken manure. All of these things are good for the garden but they all slightly alter the taste of what you are growing.

The type of fertilizer you apply also factors into the taste. They may not have a profound effect but they will have some. An organic grown tomato is going to taste different than the same tomato grown with 10-10-10.

Then there are the things we have very little control over. Water, sunlight and temperature being the three-prime ones. You obviously have some control over water. You can decide to irrigate or not to irrigate. Mother Nature, on the other hand, rains as much or little as she chooses. In a year like 2020 she has decided to apply entirely too much water. I can’t imagine anyone growing a garden in the ground who has irrigated at all this year.

I know I have mentioned this before but my son grows a large garden in plain old red soil. In all the years he has planted this garden he has never watered and he always has an abundant harvest.

Anyway, the type of water and the amount of water the crop receives has an effect on the taste of the produce. Rain water, well water or city water all taste different when we drink and they all change the taste of the crop to which they are applied.

The amount of light the crop receives also will have some effect on the taste of the crop. Sunlight and temperature can usually be tied together. Most vegetable crops grown through the summer like plenty of sunlight and warm temperatures. A cool cloudy spring and summer generally does not make for a good garden season. We have little or no control over these two factors.

So next time you bite into a tomato or other produce this might offer some insight on why it tastes as it does.


Let me know if this was helpful. I would love to hear from you.

Interesting Plant Facts



In looking for something to blog about today I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around garden tasks that were suitable for the weather and time of the year. Maybe, it was because I felt lazy and not like doing much. Therefore, I didn’t want to suggest work for someone else.

I decided to shift gears a little and throw a few or more facts about plants that you may not know. Let me know if you find them interesting.

- An average size tree can provide enough wood to make 170,100 pencils.

- The first type of aspirin, painkiller and fever reducer came from the tree bark of a willow tree.

- 85% of plant life is found in the ocean.

- Bananas contain a natural chemical which can make people feel happy.

- Brazil is named after a tree.

- The Amazon rainforest produces half the world’s oxygen supply.

- Cricket bats are made of a tree called Willow and baseball bats are made out of the wood of the Hickory tree.

- Dendrochronology is the science of calculating a tree’s age by its rings.

- Caffeine serves the function of a pesticide in a coffee plant.

- Apple is 25% air, that is why it floats on water.

- Peaches, Pears, apricots, quinces, strawberries, and apples are members of the rose family.

- Apples, potatoes and onions have the same taste, to test this eat them with your nose closed.

- The tears during cutting an onion are caused by sulfuric acid present in them.

- The tallest tree ever was an Australian eucalyptus-in 1872 it was measured at 435 feet tall.

- The first potatoes were cultivated in Peru about 7000 years ago.

These are just a few, there are plenty more where these came from. Another day when I feel lazy and my brain is only functioning at about 40% (no snide remarks please) I will put out a few more of these.

More Fall Planting - October 18th, 2020


I recently wrote a piece on fall planting mostly the planting of trees and shrubs. In that piece I suggested that I would wait and plant bulbs a little later.

I think it is safe now to start planting spring blooming bulbs. Looking at the long-range weather forecasts I don’t see any forecasts of warm days that are predicted to last more than a few days. If I saw a forecast of say ten days in a row I might wait to plant. I want to avoid any weather that cause the bulbs to start to grow. If that happens then a sudden cold snap might burn the new growth.

Any spring blooming bulbs should be planted in the fall. They can be planted even in mid-winter if the soil is not frozen. Bulbs that bloom in the summer or early fall should not be planted until next spring.

Not only flower bulbs but edible bulbs such as onion and garlic can be planted at this time. Onion planted now should be ready to use by the end of February or early March depending on the severity of the winter. Garlic being a long season crop is best if planted in the fall.

Herbs that will over winter outside can also be planted now. This will give them time to root in over the winter, thus giving you a head start in the spring. When I say over winter, I mean herbs that are normally grown all year outside such as lavender or rosemary.

Shrubs and trees can be planted any time of the year that you can work the soil. Roses are safe to plant at this time. I have seen some great prices on roses, fruit trees and other plants that nurseries would like to clear out and not have to over winter. Look around at different garden centers, they may have just the plant you need, or want, at a bargain price. Also, check out mail order sources. I have seen some good deals by some of the mail order companies.

As always if you are not certain about the safety of planting something you see for sale ask a clerk for advice. If they can't help you buy somewhere else.

Fall Planting - October 6th, 2020


This morning while taking care of some things outside I got to thinking what a great day this would be to plant something. A tree, a shrub, a rose, divide and replant some perennials, maybe some spring blooming bulbs, even some onion or garlic.


Actually, for me I might rather wait a few more weeks on the bulbs, onion and garlic. If we got a few days of warm temperatures they might start to grow which probably wouldn’t hurt them but why take a chance.


The point of this is that fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. Trees and shrubs are preparing themselves for winter. They are getting ready to hibernate from now until spring. All top growth has ceased. Deciduous plants are changing color and getting ready to drop leaves. Once top growth ceases and the sap is down, then the roots of the plant start to grow. In other words, the roots grow during cold weather and the top of the plant grows in warm weather.


I will prune trees and shrubs that I am fixing to plant as much as I think they can stand and still look good in the spring. By pruning when you plant you make the plant need less water when new growth emerges in the spring. Also, when you plant in the fall the soil has more moisture and you have very little watering to do. Usually, when I plant a plant in the fall, I water good at the time I plant and I may never water the plant again. The roots of the plant will grow all winter producing a strong plant in the spring.


Now there is one drawback to fall planting, particularly trees and shrubs. The major drawback to fall planting is availability. Having owned and operated a retail garden center I know how difficult and expensive it is to overwinter plant inventory. We wanted to reduce inventory as much as we could. Thus, if you want to plant in the fall you will likely not find nearly the selection to choose from that you would find in the spring. A plus is that in order to reduce inventory prices may also be reduced. If you are planting a quantity of plants make the nursery an offer. Who knows they make take you up on the offer. Carry cash that might sweeten the offer.

Fall Is Here - September 22nd, 2020


I have the feeling that I missed summer altogether. I have stayed close to home since the China virus hit in early spring. According to the so-called experts because of my age I am in the high-risk category. Not certain that is true but that’s what they say. My wife being diabetic and some other issues probably is so common sense dictates we stay in, like it or not.

Staying close to home it seems I should have got a lot done but I didn’t. Now fall is here and there are fall things to be done.

First, if you have houseplants that have been outside for the summer there are somethings that you should do before you bring them inside. I want to remove dead leave and twigs. Then do any pruning that is needed. I then lay the plant on its side and give it a good washing with the garden hose. After the foliage is dry, I then spray with an all-purpose insecticide.

If possible, I then like to set the plant, pot and all, in a tub of water that covers the root ball. I leave it in the water until it ceases to bubble. This removes insects that might be in the soil. I once brought in a plant that had a nest of ants in the soil. The ants didn’t hurt the plant but they did upset my wife when they emerged.

Now the plant is ready to bring inside before the first frost.

Fall pruning of trees and shrubs can now be done safely. I don’t want to prune in late summer. Early pruning might allow new growth on the plant that would be killed by early frost.

Remember you do not prune spring blooming plants or trees in the fall. Their bloom was set a few weeks after they dropped bloom in the spring. If you prune now you will be cutting off next spring's blooms. Evergreens are safe to prune now. Deciduous trees and shrubs I prefer to prune in late winter before spring growth emerges.

All dead leaves, twigs and such should be removed from beds and borders as soon as possible. Left in the beds they harbor disease and insects over the winter. Clean the beds and spray with an all-purpose insecticide will help when spring arrives.

Last now is a good time to edge and mulch beds to have them looking good for the winter. If there is a chance of much leaf drop, I would postpone the mulching until later in the winter.

Just a few tips to help with safely bringing in your plants for the winter and preparing your outside to look its best for the winter.

Wet Fall - September 2nd, 2020


All signs point to a wet fall. The weather forecasters call for the next couple of months being wet and the signs from Mother Nature seem to agree. I would hope that along with a rainy fall that the weather turns cool early.


My reason for wanting it to turn cool early is simple. I like seasonal weather. I usually get tired of a particular seasons weather two to three weeks before the season is over. I am now tired of summer weather and am ready for cool fall weather.


Anyway, back to a wet fall. It is now time to plant fall crops. Fall flowers and vegetables should already be in the ground or be planted soon. Be aware, that if we continue to have cloudy, rainy weather there will be problems with fall plantings.


Plantings not under cover will have lots of black spots on the leaves. If the plantings are thick you may see rot where the plants stay wet. Bloom may be lighter than usual. When plants bloom the blooms may be knocked off the plants by rain and wind.


What can you do about the problems? The answer is probably not much. You need for the plants to dry out quickly after rain. I would make certain my containers were well drained. If it was possible, I might even set containers under cover until the sun came out. I would place my in-ground plantings just a little further apart. This gives more air circulation which helps the plants to dry. Row crops could be planted on beds, which would help with drying.


All of the above are just tips. In the long run we can only guess at the weather, whether it's me or a trained forecaster. The weather can always change in a moment.


If you see some of the above problems at least you will have an idea as to the cause.

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