Seminar focuses on how to meet gardening challenges

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Woodstock - posted Mon., Apr. 25, 2011
Paul Larsons demonstrates how to prepare garden soil. Photo by D. Coffey.
Paul Larsons demonstrates how to prepare garden soil. Photo by D. Coffey.

On April 21, Paul Larson led a “Grow it Yourself” gardening seminar at Sprucedale Gardens. Larson has a horticultural degree from the University of Connecticut and, with his wife, owns Sprucedale Gardens. His seminar covered different kinds of vegetables, their planting and growing seasons, feeding, pest control and garden maintenance.

“Everything starts with the soil,” Larson said. Nutrient levels and pH levels are important information to have to optimize a garden's productivity, he said. Larson offered information on root crops and leafy vegetables and the pros and cons of growing plants from seed, and he covered a variety of popular crops like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and beans.

Larson is comfortable working the land. He used his hand to plow a furrow in a cartload of soil to show how deep to plant seeds. He held a tomato plant like he knew he wouldn't destroy it. “Plant it up to the cotyledon leaves,” he said, “this first set of seed leaves,” and he tussled the leaves to show them what he meant.

Marty Marszalkowski came from Jewett City for the seminar. He and his wife plant a garden every year, but last year the vegetables didn't do well. “She came up last week,” he said. “I decided to come with her this time.” They are going to try again this year.

“Something is going to fail each year,” Larson said, “but that's the challenge of gardening. Every year has its own challenges.”

Some of Larson's tips for vegetable gardeners:

• If you want tomatoes, start with a 6-inch tomato plant from a nursery.

• Radishes and carrots can be grown easily from seed.

• The top 1.25 inches of soil is the germination zone.

• Mail-order garlic works great and is best planted in the fall.

• When you treat plants with insecticides or pesticides, repeat applications are usually called for.

• Plastic culture works well to control weeds when you grow vine crops like butternut squash.

• When you hoe, just scuff up the top inch of soil where the weeds have germinated. Let them dry out and die in the hot summer sun.

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