So what kind of advice do I like?


Since I'm complaining about overly elaborate advice in the vegetable garden of the kind offered by market growers and other "experts," you may well ask what kind of advice I do like.

  1. Actual science.  See Gillman, Jeff and Chalker-Scott, Linda for this kind of thing.
  2. No-tech common sense.  Poking around on Martha Stewart's website this week, I found a really nice example. The usual advice for planting beans and other warm-loving crops is "when the soil has warmed up."  How do you know?  Martha says, "if you can walk in a garden comfortably barefoot."  Now, that's a useful measure!


  1. There’s an old Irish saying along that the soil is ready to be worked when it doesn’t feel cool to on your bare behind. I suspect this saying came about on the way back from the privy after a morning pint. I think I prefer Martha’s method, though.

  2. Some advice I gave recently on GardenWeb when dealing with the dead zone of dry shade under mature oaks (very common in Raleigh) where the soil is shot, all nutrients and water will be sucked up by the wall to wall tree roots and there is little light except in the winter – If weeds won’t grow there, nothing you plant will survive either!

  3. Somehow I envision Martha hiring someone to take off their shoes and walk around her garden to tell her if it’s time for her gardeners to get to work! (Although I do appreciate the advice!)

  4. Gardening by the season and not the calendar is what I preach. When you can walk in the garden without getting your shoes ruined by the mud from melting snow/ice etc.

    Planting by the moon and bio-dynamic gardening farming is crap.After all if you plant root crops when there is no moon OK. But what happens two weeks later when a full moon shows up? Should you hide you carrots from the moons pull?

    The TROLL

  5. One of the hardest parts, I’d think, about being a garden writer is that everyone has a different growing conditions. I suppose there are topics that are universal.

    For me, the best advice is visiting the local gardens and seeing what they are growing in my climate. I also have a route through my neighborhood that walks past all the houses with wonderful gardens. I’ve even been known to knock on a door to ask the name of a plant. (I guess that isn’t so much as advice as where I get my garden knowledge.)

  6. I have to admit that I use the search function on my Laptop when I have a question.Even if a plant I just bought has a tag,I always verify. To me the phrase:” as soon as the soil can be worked” means as soon as my feet are not freezing in my Garden Clogs.

  7. I think checking with local gardeners is a great idea, but…I live quite near the University of Delaware, so this year when I was trying to figure out when to plant I thought I’d just check their web site. (A peeve of mine is that stores seem to start selling seedlings significantly before it seems safe to plant them.) Anyway, I downloaded a chart of planting dates, yields and prices for Delaware crops. The funny thing is (and maybe I should scan and upload this) is that the chart included planting dates for a number of vegetables, some fruits and cheese. Any of you ever plant cheese? Because it had never crossed my mind….

  8. It never occurred to me to plant cheese, either. I wonder if a cow sprouts first? Any no-tech common sense advice from the crowd?

    (I guess they don’t call ’em “dairy farmers” without a reason.)

  9. – If weeds won’t grow there, nothing you plant will survive either!

    Not always true. Sometimes, weeds aren’t growing not because of the shade but because of leaf detritus. Remove the natural mulch, and you’d be amazed what will pop up.

    My favorite advice is LOCAL advice, just because there are so many variances. I used to live in places far from where all gardening shows were filmed, and many plants that I’m now using were no more than names and pictures to me then!

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