Speaking of goals, I’ve learned that if you don’t have a goal to shoot for, you’re more likely to miss the target. Also, if you don’t try, Mom would say, the answer is always “no.” With that, I’d like to share a collection of garden resolutions that, as loyal readers know by now, aren’t just about gardening.
• To spend as much time in the garden as I do reading, writing and talking about it.
• To donate more vegetables to the Kodiak Island Food Bank, which distributes over 220,000 meals each year. They also accept financial contributions and assistance in sorting, packaging and distributing food, at 1944 East Rezanof Drive, 486-4127 or 539-2206.
• To grow something new from seed. For instant inspiration, head over to Johnny’s Selected Seeds’ and Fedco Seeds’ online catalogs.
• To introduce at least one person to gardening. Getting your hands in the dirt is a good habit to develop in 2012.
• To plant more flowers for bees and other beneficial insects.
• To sniff more flowers with my nose and camera lens.
• To try at least one natural pest control that I’ve never used.
• To have more faith in plants. “Plants want to survive and live,” reminds Amy Pennington, author of “Apartment Gardening.” “They will go to great lengths to make sure their genetic strain lives on. They don’t need constant monitoring — they just need a helper.”
• To take better care of my indoor plants. It’s the least I can do for those who brighten my interiorscape.
• To learn the names of (and photograph) more local wildflowers. Mid-June to mid-July is the best time to get out and botanize, as Stacy Studebaker calls it. Once you’ve hung around wildflowers for a while, your garden varieties seem, well, tame.
• To set the timer when I head outside to do some weeding. It’s easy to get distracted with all that cries for attention.
• To learn or improve on some garden techniques like pruning, composting or grafting. Read on for the latest news in tomato grafting.
Improve your tomato harvest
There’s nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato, which explains why they are the most popular garden vegetable.
Tomatoes can be finicky to grow, attracting diseases that can affect all parts the plant, in spite of a gardener’s best efforts to avoid such things.
Gardeners and farmers are a stubborn lot, facing adversities with the attitude of “I’ll try harder next year,” or, “There must be a better way.” Well, when it comes to growing tomatoes, there IS a better way.
It’s called tomato grafting, a propagation technique that’s becoming more popular in the U.S., though we lag behind Asia and Europe, where it has been used in greenhouse and high tunnel (hoophouse) production for decades.
What makes tomato grafting so attractive is it increases yields, suppresses disease (which reduces the need to apply herbicides and pesticides) and lengthens the harvest.
Grafting of woody plants like fruit trees has been common for centuries, but grafting of herbaceous plants like herbs and vegetables has only been around for a few decades, starting in Korea and Japan in the 1920s, when watermelon plants were grafted onto squash rootstock. (This is not the same as plants created as genetically modified organisms or GMO plants.)
Though grafting of vegetable plants is mostly for production in greenhouses and high tunnels, the technique is extremely successful. Eighty percent of Korean and 55 percent of Japanese vegetable farming uses grafting, now considered a critical method of food production.
Typically, there are two parts to a graft: the rootstock or base stem (selected for their ability to resist infection, say, by soilborne diseases) and the scion, or top part, selected for its fruit qualities, as in tasty tomatoes and lots of ’em.
There’s no shortage of information about grafting: You can find it in extension service bulletins, books, workshops and online. For example, Johnny’s Selected Seeds (in Maine) has posted a helpful instructional video and how-to article on their website.
Tomato grafting is delicate work, requiring a steady hand and favorable growing conditions. Perhaps someone in Kodiak will give it a try and share their skills by teaching others or providing grafted seedlings for island gardeners and small-scale farmers. I suppose that could be a New Year’s resolution up for grabs.
Finally, since this is a “gardener’s dozen” of resolutions, here’s the last one:
• To keep the wonder of plants, flowers, and nature in my heart, realizing, as the saying goes, that I am not the doer; I am a mere instrument in his hand.
Marion Owen has her own Facebook page and contributes frequently to the “Kodiak Growers” group. Archived copies of her garden columns are posted at www.kodiak
dailymirror.com. Contact Marion at firstname.lastname@example.org.