Remedies for the garden
We are still waiting for Mother Nature to get her affairs in order. The cool weather this spring has sent some of our plants into a tailspin including iris and some tulips. I have fielded many questions on why iris plants are not blooming this year. This is because about the time that they set their blooms, we were having some pretty cold, rough weather. This damaged the bloom buds so this is why your iris may not have given you pretty flowers this spring. The same goes for tulips. I have a couple of gardens that the tulips flowered while in other gardens, they did not. It is best to make sure to allow leaves to stay intact to allow them to fill up the bulbs with energy so they can hopefully bloom next year.
There are more questions about the use of common products in the vegetable garden and if they really will work in a garden setting. Anne Sawyer, U of M Extension educator, On-Farm Food Safety writes about some interesting old fashioned tales of using things in the garden to help out certain problems. It seems that we have many remedies for different things in our life. These are sometimes handed down through generations and seems to also be true when it comes with advice from grandma and great-grandma. The U of M recently tackled a few of these remedies and they give us some clues on what these items can really do for our gardens.
The first is coffee grounds. First, coffee grounds are compostable. So, if you have a compost pile, feel free to add them in. Coffee grounds, however, do not lower the pH of soil. They can help feed the good organisms that live in soil and they also, to a certain extent, also have the ability to combat some diseases in the soil.
Eggshells are another item that is often placed into the garden for the specific reason to help take care of blossom end rot in tomatoes and peppers. This is because eggshells are full of calcium. And yes, it is true, that blossom end rot is caused by a deficiency of calcium. However, the soils in our area have adequate amount of calcium so adding more will not help the situation. The real problem in soils that have adequate calcium in it is that for some reason or other, your plants are not taking up enough water from the soil, which in turn causes the plants to be deficient in calcium or maybe there has been root damage, which can cause this same situation to happen. This is generally a problem if we have accidentally weeded to close to the roots of the plant or something similar has happened. If in doubt about the calcium level in your garden, a soil test will tell you all that you need to know.
Epsom salts also tend to be recommended by home gardeners for the use on blossom end rot problems. Epsom salts have magnesium sulfate. So, after reading about blossom end rot and that it is generally a problem of either a calcium deficiency or a water uptake problem in plants, you now know that Epsom salts will not cure your blossom end rot problems. Magnesium problems or deficiencies in Minnesota soils generally occur on sandy soils that are also low in pH. We do have instances of sandy type soils in our area but they generally are mixed with topsoil or clayey soils. Epsom salts can also lower the ability of certain plants to uptake calcium from soils so if you already have a blossom end rot problem, you are only going to make the situation worse.
These interesting facts about some old fashioned garden advice can be also accessed at the Yard and Garden blog at https://blog-yard-garden-news.extension.umn.edu/2019/05/myth-or-miracle-coffee-grounds.html
If you are looking to learn more about gardening and would like to volunteer alongside the Lyon County Master Gardeners, we are looking for individuals who would like to become a Master Gardener volunteer. If interested, please email me and we can get you information or if you know of one of the Lyon County Master Gardeners, please talk with them about becoming a Master Gardener. For these questions and for any other gardening questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org