Myth of the Green Thumb

You have heard people say: ‘I kill all my plants! I do not have a green thumb!’ In England they claim somebody has ‘green fingers’ if they are successful with their garden. But all that is nonsense! Nobody is born with green fingers in England or with a green thumb in the US. If somebody works a lot with plants they may get some green plant stains on their fingers, but that is only a proof of effort, the effort to do the right thing. However, effort alone will not guarantee that your plants will grow. The requirement of successfully growing plants is more like the art of cooking exotic dishes. You have to know what you are doing, you have to use the right ingredients, you need the right cooking temperature and you have to follow the recipe. If you don’t, well ……?!

Most people, who have these so called green thumbs, either have a lot of experience or just blundered into some very good soil around their newly purchased house. Soil is the main ingredient that plants need in order to thrive. It is pertinent that you make sure to start out with good soil. Unfortunately some plants need different acidity (Ph) levels in their soil. The reason that rhododendrons look so light green in established plantings is that their soil has changed over the years from acidic to alkaline. To bring up the acidity level you have to incorporate pure peat moss in the top soil around the plants and start feeding with special Azalea or Rhododendron fertilizer. You will be surprised how your plants will respond. Other acid loving plants are Vine Maples, Dogwoods, Japanese Maples, Blueberries and most Evergreens. Once the soil acidity reaches the right levels, the plants will be able to adsorb the right fertilizers without waste.

Another important ingredient is water. Without water a plant will die. But with too much water a plant also will die!! More plants die from too much water, rather than not enough! This is where experience comes in. Keep in mind that the roots of plants need to breathe air. Less during the winter, but definitely more during the growing season. If the roots of plants are submerged in water for three days or more during spring or summer, they will suffer. Make sure your plants have good drainage.

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Article as printed in Herald ad on 5/31/2007


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