PROCTOR'S TIPS: Put panty hose to work and other vegetable garden tips

10:29 AM, Jun 20, 2010   |    comments
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While you're finishing planting vegetables, consider taking some of my tips.

For example, old panty hose is ideal to tie plants to stakes or trellises. Once the panty hose have finished supporting your legs, put them to use supporting your plants. Cut strips to tie up tender stems that can be cut or bruised by ordinary wire ties. Tomato stems are especially vulnerable to sharp wire ties, but you can also use panty hose strips to tie up melons, squash, vines of all sorts and even young trees. Yarn also works well as a soft but sturdy material for tying plants.

Tomatoes and other vegetables need heavy-duty support. Although ordinary wire tomato cages work reasonably well, they often can't handle the weight of the heavy plants and fruit later in the season. Then you end up using more stakes to hold up the sagging cages. An entrepreneur from Elizabeth has solved this problem. His tomato supports won't bend or tip over under a heavy load because they're made from much heavier gauge steel. They come in several different sizes; some are ideal for peonies or other perennials as well. In addition, they're painted with a heavy-duty finish in appealing colors. Check out these superior plant supports at plantapillar.com.

While on the topic of support, I also recommend growing vine-type vegetables such as squash, cucumbers and melons in tomato cages as well. Usually these plants wander aimlessly on the ground and the fruits are hidden under the leaves. Before you know it, you discover zucchini the size of footballs under the leaves. If you grow these plants in cages, you can see the fruit better and they can be more easily harvested at a smaller size before they get pithy and seedy.

Another key to a productive vegetable garden is proper fertilization. When I plant, I work in a slow-release fertilizer formulated for vegetables, such as Osmocote. If you've already planted, work in some of the granules around the base of peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and other vegetables.

There's an old expression that corn should be "knee high by the Fourth of July." If your corn seems to be lagging, feed it with a fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as standard, all-purpose Miracle-Gro. Corn is a grass and, like all grasses, thrives on nitrogen.

The vegetable plot tends to be the weediest part of my garden. That's because each spring, when the earth is turned, weed seeds come to the surface. Some may have been lying dormant for years (perhaps the Jurassic period, it seems). A great tool for mastering them is a shuffle hose. It's a low tech, very ingenious tool. The blade is shaped like a square horseshoe. As you shuffle along, you rake the blade across the soil--just below the surface. It cuts off the weeds just below ground. You can also reach deep into the vegetable beds with it, avoiding trampling the soil. I also use it on the paths. I highly recommend it.

If you have a bit of extra space in your vegetable garden--perhaps as cool season vegetables such as radishes, lettuce and spinach bolt--consider planting gladiolus bulbs. They can still be planted and take up very little space. These pretty flowers are great for cutting later in the summer. Best of all, they're likely on sale at your local garden center.

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