Sally Mullins

This is not a time for a lot of extended visits to the garden, but when you’re there, pick a few extra to give a friend or to leave at the senior center.

Since we’re still staying home a lot, it will give you an excuse to get out, social distancing of course, and do something for others. We need to support each other because we are all in this together.

It’s time to gather your canning materials together. Many more folks planted gardens this spring and some years the local stores have run out of jars and lids, so it might be a good idea to get yours early.

If you didn’t plant your own tomatoes this year, it’s not too early to place an order for your canning tomatoes at Spring Valley. No one knows what the next year will bring and doing some planning for the future is always prudent.

For whatever reason, several folks have recently asked me about fertilizer and fertilizer has many nuances that can make major differences in your garden. Knowing what they are and how to utilize them is a step in the right direction.

There are 3 numbers (in bold) listed on the fertilizer container and they represent the percentage ratio of the three primary nutrients, N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus) and K (potassium/potash) relative to each other. In other words, they aren’t going to add up to 100 percent, but that doesn’t matter at all to you.

You just need to use the information to find the one with the nutrients you need for your garden. This is a national standard and always refers to the same nutrient and always in the same order.

The first number is nitrogen and it promotes foliage growth. Second comes phosphorus. It helps establish healthy root systems and encourages fruit and flower production. The last number stands for potassium and it aids in the overall health and stability of the plant, including enabling it to withstand extremes of hot and cold weather and to resist pests and diseases.

Potassium is like a plant multivitamin.

I have found using liquid fertilizer works better than spreading dry granulated ones. Basic Miracle Gro is 10-10-10. It has some of everything your plants need and is a good all-around fertilizer.

But when it comes to flowers, fruit or vegetables like tomatoes, a fertilizer with a higher phosphorus content, like 10-30-10 may be in order. For greens such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard and even grass, more nitrogen is needed.

The right fertilizer can be the difference between a great garden and one that’s just OK. Choose the one that suits your purposes, bearing in mind 2 things.

First of all, more is not better. Too strong or too often can bum your plants and also damage the soil. If you’re in doubt how much to use, it’s always better to dilute it more than what’s listed on the package rather than making it stronger.

Second, do not apply fertilizer on dry soil. Always water first, then add your fertilizer, or again, you can bum your plants and damage the roots.

That being said, if you have really good compost, you may not need any fertilizer at all.

Crocus and Colchicum can be planted now for fall bloom. Colchicum are deer resistant, but not all crocus are, so check the package.

Coreopsis will benefit from a good haircut after they’ve begun to wane. We have several varieties and while one is in need of good “after-blooming” trim, most of the others are still going strong and we’ll leave those flowers go to seed.

A reader recently emailed me to say she has had very good luck with coreopsis not being eaten by the deer and so have we. It has amazing yellow flowers throughout summer with very little care. A perfect plant.

Allow the flowers to stay on any plants you want to self-sow this year. We had dozens of volunteers from last year’s hanging baskets on the deck. They dropped their seeds down and it’s amazing how many sprouted and bloomed.

They were all hybrids, and since so many revert to a parent color, we had a new group of colors this year. We had a really dark petunia this summer that we never had before.

You can begin collecting seeds from your annuals and perennials when the blooms are finished. Allow them to dry completely and then put them in an envelope or closed container.

We use a lot of pill containers. And, just as it is with pills, they need stored in a dry dark place. Don’t forget the labels or you’ll be unpleasantly surprised by how much they all look alike when next spring rolls around.

Your amaryllis should be enjoying the summer sunshine. Not full sun all day, but some morning sun is good. For blooms at Christmas, fertilize every other week until mid-September and then allow the soil to dry completely.

Cut it back and place it in a dry dark place for at least 8 weeks. If you bring it out a week or 2 before Thanksgiving, give it plenty of water and sun, you should have blooms by Christmas.


Questions can be left at the Hampshire Review office or emailed to me at Please put “gardening” in the subject box and leave a phone number so I can get back to you if necessary.

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