By Ed Runyan

Expert offers tips

on proper gardening

Some people don’t realize you can leave the plants right in the pots through the entire growing season.

WARREN — One of the finer points of growing your own fruits and vegetables — something more people have decided to do this year because of the high cost of food and gasoline — is how much to water them.

The way to measure the water in the soil is to stick a finger near the roots each day, said Steve Hudkins, an assistant professor at Ohio State University and the Trumbull County extension service master gardener coordinator.

The key word for the soil is moist, but not wet, Hudkins told about 20 people at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Warren.

The roots have to breathe, Hudkins said. “If you can squeeze the water out of [the roots], that’s too much,” he explained.

Another important component is sun. Fruits and vegetables require direct sun, which means they need six hours of sunlight per day.

For his lesson, Hudkins brought a variety of starter plants in plastic flats, which he instructed his students to put into pots of any color. He used 3-gallon pots for tomatoes and 2-gallon pots for the other starter plants, such as cabbage, green beans, okra and radishes.

He said people starting a garden by about mid-June will be able to use starter plants for peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, cantaloupe — either in pots or in the ground.

Jackie Napier, a Warren resident who took the class, said she finds the prices in the supermarket for tomatoes and cabbage to be outrageous, and she hopes her potted vegetables will help her get more of the things she likes this summer.

Some people don’t realize you can leave the plants right in the pots through the entire growing season, Hudkins said.

It’s OK to start watermelon, radishes, snap beans and leaf lettuce from seeds, but it’s best to wait until late July to start radishes or collard greens from seeds, he said.

A potting soil is used inside pots as the dirt.

Hudkins said many people today are putting starter plants right in their flower beds, and that is a fine alternative to creating a plot elsewhere in the yard.

For tomatoes, Hudkins advised: Fill the pot two-thirds full with potting soil. Remove the starter plants from the flats by turning the flat over and pinching the bottom of the container to push a plant out. Don’t pull on the plant from the top.

Put the plant low in the soil, with soil an inch or so above the top of the plant’s root system. Put one tomato plant into each pot. Tomatoes and some types of beans need to be staked, which means holding the plant up out of the dirt with a stake or wire cage.

As the plant grows, pinch off or cut the bottom leaves so the plant doesn’t become too bushy.

Hudkins demonstrated planting snap beans in a 2-gallon pot using seeds. He put about five seeds in the pot just barely under the dirt. To put the seeds in the flower garden, put them about 1 to 2 inches apart just below the dirt and pat the dirt down a little.

When planting leaf lettuce seeds, Hudkins says to sprinkle the seeds around the pot, pat them down and use only a little soil on top.

For radishes, make a shallow row down in the middle of the pot and cover up about 10 seeds with dirt. Later, thin out the plants to five or six.

Seeds planted in a flower bed or garden should be thinned to about 1 or 2 inches apart.

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