Common Questions About Gardening
Many new incoming gardeners ask a lot of questions, and I mean a lot. The best thing ever is to ask questions because that can only help us gain information. I, myself, still do ask a lot of questions. Follow along in this post for more of the common questions that are asked in the gardening, botany, and horticulture world.
One of the most memorable quotes in my mind can be stated as follows: "the only stupid questions are the ones you do not ask." I still have a lot of questions about gardening that I cannot answer, and some that I may never get to answer. This quote is so true. There is really no such thing as a stupid question. The only way that we can gain information is by asking and seeking forth that information. Oftentimes, in fact all the time, we must put forth effort in order to have our questions answered. By asking a question we often help other people find their answers as well.
Based on the research that I have been conducting for years, the experience I have gained from gardening, and previous classes I have organized this question and answer post regarding gardening.
What is protected cropping, and why is it important to horticulture?
Protected cropping is when plants are specifically grown in greenhouses or polyethylene tunnels. Some of the most common names for these tunnels are also high tunnels, plastic tunnels, or a glasshouse. These structures offer a protection against the weather. Depending on what zones the crops are being grown in can determine whether or not a polyethylene tunnel would be a huge benefit. Again, some plants want the heat and some want the cold. There are several factors that play a part in the need for these structures. Protected cropping is very important to horticulture because it allows plants to be grown out of season, thus allowing horticulturalists to continue observing, growing, and modifying the plants. When we travel into the grocery stores there are several crops present that could not be grown out of season without the use of high tunnels. One example of this is tomatoes. These plants need the heat, not the cold. In order to sustain the tomato population there needs to be something that will protect these plants from the cold. The solution was, well, polyethylene tunnels.
Why is it better to choose plants that have not yet flowered when purchasing them for a garden?
This was a common question that arose in some of my gardening classes. At first I thought it had something specific that had to do with the concept of photosynthesis. However, that is wrong. The reason behind this has to do with the energy that the plant stores and creates. Where is the plant focusing on putting the energy when it is in full bloom? Let's think of a rose bush. When the rose bush is in full bloom the plant is solely putting the major majority of the energy to the flowers. Where is the plant putting the majority of the energy when the plant is not blooming at all? The answer is just the opposite: the roots. When a gardener chooses plants from a nursery that does not have blooms it allows for a much easier transplant. We can also use the analogy of a foundation. How firm is the foundation? Think about a house for a second. If the house has a firm foundation, then the house will not crumble and fall. What happens if the building has a weak foundation? It crumbles. With that example set the same goes for plants. When the plant gets top heavy and it does not have strong roots, then it will fall over. A strong root system is necessary to ensure a happy, healthy, and strong plant.
What is the difference between plant reproduction and plant propagation?
Plant reproduction is when the plant naturally produces a seed through pollination. The pollinator (bee, hummingbird, etc.) has to specifically pollinate these plants. A pollen transfer may also be necessary through the movement of wind such as what happens with corn. After the seed is produced, it falls to the ground and germinates into a new plant. This is the most natural way to get more plants. Now, propagation is taking an already established plant, taking a cutting, rooting it, and creating an exact replica. The new plant is an exact DNA replica of the 'motherplant.' Of course both have its own pros and cons. Propagation is seen a lot more with plants such as pothos, succulents, and the ZZ plant. Oftentimes in agriculture, in fact a lot more often than we think, propagation is used as well. It also takes a lot less time to just simply take a cutting versus beginning fresh from a seed.
What do all seeds need to germinate? Which needs vary by type of plant?
There is not just one simple answer to this question. Each seed has its own needs so it can thrive. However, there are about four different things that the general seed needs in order to survive. They are as follows: water, light, heat, and oxygen. Seeds and plants are picky and unique, just like how each of us has our own specific needs to thrive. For example, the marigold does not need any light in order to germinate. In fact, they prefer total darkness. On the other hand, lettuce seeds do need sunlight to germinate. All plants need water, however the needs based on the type and species varies. Every plant needs oxygen regardless of species, and same thing with heat. They do not need too much heat though. Make sure to read the seed package and do a little research before adding to the garden.
As a gardener, would you rather purchase a hybrid plant or a plant created by natural pollination? Why?
We all have personal preferences, but here is my opinion on this one. The difference between a hybrid and a plant created by natural pollination is quite simple. The hybrids are created by breading two different plants together in a laboratory. Essentially these plants are not as natural as the ones created by open pollination. Natural pollination sounds just like what it means: naturally pollinated plants. These are pollinated by bees, birds, and even other insects. Hybrid seeds cannot be saved for the next years growing season. This is a con towards that side of things. On the other hand, the plants created by natural pollination can have their seeds saved for the next year. When looking at this aspect I would for sure pick the natural pollinated plant, which is also known as an heirloom variety in some instances. Again, it is all about personal preferences.
What are some characteristics of high-quality soil?
In order to answer this question effectively I need to paint a photo in your mind for a second. What do you think of when you hear the word soil? Picture that for a moment, then picture your opinion of a healthy meal. In my opinion, a healthy meal is a big green salad with a variety of different types of lettuce as the base. There needs to be some chopped carrots, cucumbers, and a few kernels of corn. There may also be some fruit either on top or served on the side. I also can't forget about that delicious kale smoothie either. Now my description may be different than what your description of a healthy meal is. With soil there is really only one solid answer to that question: what creates or what are some characteristics of high quality soil? The soil must be a rich brown color. Soil should not be compact or too rocky, sandy, or packed full of clay. There is that in between point where the soil allows your hand to ease into the ground. This is the perfect texture for growing any crop, but more specifically carrots, turnips, and even beats. The roots need room to expand underneath the soil. The roots cannot push through and establish properly if the soil is too compact. Good soil must contain earthworms as well as other aggregates. These organisms and nutrients allow the plants to thrive within the soil. What part of the plant takes in the nutrients? The roots. The roots are the most vital part of the plant, and good roots and a healthy plant starts with good soil quality.
How does crop rotation help maintain high soil quality?
Crop rotation is one of those highly important, but neglected things within gardening. This process should occur season to season in order to improve soil quality. One definition that is important to understand is that of the word depletion. In the long run, depletion is taking from, running out, or to use up. If the soil is depleted from its nutrients, then that means that the soil has had its nutrients used up or taken out. What is taken out must be replaced. By rotating crops it will ensure a better nutrient balance for the soil and the plants, thus allowing a balanced system. Let's look at a simple example here for a second. A crop that depletes the nitrogen from the soil needs to be switched with a plant that replenishes the nitrogen in the next season. Another reason why crop rotation helps with soil quality is because it lessens possible pest issues. Keeping a constant eye out for the garden will also help, but in the long run crop rotation is a huge help in this as well. By switching crops it allows for a better, happier, and healthier environment.
What are some alternatives to soil as a growing medium?
Most people do not know that soil is not the only growing medium that can be used. Soil is just the general planting medium. Plants can actually grow in water, rocks, and even peat. When looking at the bigger picture when it comes to nature we can learn that nature always adapts. Plants will always find the most creative places to root out and succeed. Really all plants need to thrive are nutrients, sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. Plants are simple -yet complex. It is important to select the right growing medium for the right plants. I have had success growing plants in soil, water, and even plain pearlite. Again, this one also depends on how strong or fragile the root system of the particular variety of plant is.
Is the soil considered an ecosystem?
Yes, the soil is without a doubt considered an ecosystem. Ecosystems contain both biotic and abiotic nouns. In the soil there are plenty of rocks, organic material, as well as particles. There are organisms in the soil that call it home. Some of these include worms, nematodes, and mites. The biodiversity is not even limited to those mentioned. The soil is a huge biodiverse community wherever we go.
Why should I garden when I don't have any experience?
I often wondered that myself until I tried to experiment with plants. See, the positives outweigh the negatives here. I have been able to gain a better knowledge of the earth as a whole. Sure it is a very daunting task at the beginning, but I can assure you that it is purely one of the mot amazing things ever. I personally love the connection that I have gained with myself and the earth. Experience only comes with effort and trying. If someone does not try, then there will be no success. It never hurts to try.
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My name is Jetta, and I am a student pilot currently attending Southern Utah University to become an airline pilot. Join me on my journey from zero to the left seat.