Ensure vigorous veggies with gardening tips from the pros of Northeastern Ohio


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Warmer temperatures have caused many residents of northeastern Ohio to search for their gardening gloves. And professionals in the area – fresh out of an unprecedented 2020 gardening boom – are providing a number of easy-to-follow guidelines that will ensure a bountiful fall harvest for novices and elders alike.

The popularity of gardening increased with the coronavirus pandemic, as people across the country sought a sense of self-reliance, as well as the physical, emotional and spiritual rewards of interacting with the land.

An estimated 16 million new gardeners have led the way in 2020, and the trend is expected to continue.

Although raised beds take a little planning and effort, they are an effective remedy for difficult soils. Well-designed beds improve drainage, heat up earlier in the season, virtually eliminate compaction issues, and are easily fitted with barriers against unwanted diners. (Photo courtesy of Petitti Garden Centers)

“I can’t believe how many people I learned to garden in 2020, and we’re seeing it again this year,” commented Dale Heyink, owner of Puritas Nursery in the West Park neighborhood of Cleveland.

Noelle Akin, Head of Training and Education at Petitti garden centerssaid the northeastern Ohio favorite, now celebrating 50 years in business, also saw a surge in gardeners last year, and the trend continued this spring.

“It seems that vegetable and herb gardening is increasing slowly, but steadily, every year, although the last year has probably been the biggest jump in a while, and the warm temperatures in March have really motivated the locals. from northeastern Ohio and others, “Akin observed.

First of all

Broccoli plants

Rustic broccoli is another vegetable that can be planted during the colder months. (Photo courtesy of Petitti Garden Centers)

Heyink and Akin emphasize land preparation as an essential first step in ensuring a healthy return on investment.

“It all comes down to the preparation of the soil,” said Akin.

Fall is a great time to start such preparations, although the improvements in spring are nothing short of envy. Akin advises adding amendments a few weeks before planting. Akin also recommends doing a soil pH test, although she notes that additions like compost, peat, and manure are generally safe bets for increasing production.

Since the soils of northeastern Ohio are prone to compaction, Akin directs customers to Estoma’s Soil Perfector, Petitti’s preferred solution. The natural baked material creates a space in the ground for air and water to infiltrate.

Annual crop rotation is also high on Akin’s garden priority list.

Flowers at the Puritas Nursery

Puritas Nursery not only offers plants for the vegetable garden, but also a wide variety of flowers, as well as gardening supplies. (Photo courtesy of Joe Outlaw)

Heyink usually adds composted manure, although he said worm droppings, mushroom compost and other items are popular with gardeners as well. The real key, according to Heyink, is adding nutrients every year.

“Every year, vegetables take a lot of nutrients out of the soil. “

When to plant

Cold crops like broccoli, potatoes, carrots, and radishes can be planted as early as St. Patrick’s Day, although plants that prefer heat – including tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers – shouldn’t be. rushed.

“We cultivate for the calendar, not the weather at one time or another,” Heyink explained.

Tomato plants

Petitti garden centers offer a wide variety of tomato plants. (Chris M. Worrell, special for cleveland.com)

Heyink, owner of Puritas Nursery for 38 years, recommends planting warm-season crops outside after Mother’s Day. In fact, cold temperatures and low light mean that heat-loving plants put outside before mid-May will reap little benefit and risk experiencing a late frost.

Akin noted that northeast Ohio is still sensitive to winter conditions in May, offering snowfall on May 11, 2020 as evidence. She advises waiting until at least mid-May to avoid snowfall. kill the much-maligned jellies and white stuff.

Let there be sun

Once the plants are in the ground, sunlight is essential for production. At a minimum, plants should get at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.

We all need our space

Flowering pea plants

The flowering pea plants will be followed by tasty, nutrient-dense pods. (Photo courtesy of Petitti Garden Centers)

Proper spacing is also essential, although most gardeners have felt the need to cram into a few more plants.

“Keep it simple,” Akin advised. “More is not always better.”

When plants compete for light, water, and other resources, yields per plant are lower. The same productivity can usually be achieved with fewer specimens, which will help reduce the spread of pests and fungal problems that can make a season’s work worthless.

Heyink tells his customers to space the tomatoes at least 2 feet apart and plant the peppers at 18-inch intervals.

The importance of hydrating

Watering is perhaps the most obvious aspect of plant care, although following certain guidelines will help keep crops healthy. An inch of water per week is a good rule of thumb for Northeast Ohio gardeners.

Pepper plants

Pepper plants at the Petitti Garden Center look ready for the ground in this photo from last spring. (Chris M. Worrell, special for cleveland.com)

Watering abundantly every seven days or so encourages plants to root deeply, but only when water is allowed to seep slowly – so put watering cans and buckets away.

Adding water to the base of the plants is better than watering from the top. Soak pipes and drip systems don’t just work from the bottom, they also release water over an extended period of time.

In addition, watering earlier in the day helps prevent certain problems with fungi and pests.

Dissuade unwanted guests

Few things are as frustrating as spending time and money in the garden, only to see the rewards consumed by local wildlife.

Heyink swears by “feather meal” – processed chicken feathers – as a deer deterrent and uses blood meal to hunt small mammals. Both products also add nitrogen to the soil.

Akin is an advocate for natural sprays that use essential oils to ward off hungry creatures.

Granular repellents, chemical sprays, fencing and netting are just a few of the other options available. DIY enthusiasts can even whip up a batch of cayenne pepper spray.

For insects, Akin recommends trying simple solutions like spraying cold water or removing infested parts of the plant first.

Products with essential oils, including NEEM and various insecticidal soaps, are also in Akin’s bag of Bug Tips. She suggests “Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew,” which uses natural bacteria, for lingering pest problems.

Heyink advises to use various garden dust before the arrival of the insects. He also relies on sprays, although he urges consumers to follow the directions for these products carefully.

There is more than I thought

Yes, but a few unexpected hurdles shouldn’t stop you from pursuing a stress-relieving, life-enhancing, and relatively inexpensive hobby. Garden centers and nurseries in the area are more than willing to discuss everything from fertilizers to different types of mushrooms, as well as the items detailed above.

In gardening, as in life, perseverance pays off, but be careful, products on store shelves will never taste the same again.


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