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Top Tips for Growing Vegetables

encore date: March 12, 2015

original air date: January 29, 2015

In the ultimate hands-on guide to organic homegrown food, Trisha Shirey tackles tips to make it easy in her new book, Vegetable Gardening in the Southwest.  On tour, Lorig Hawkins, Farm Director at Farmshare Austin, explains how they keep crops healthy and why they’re teaching aspiring young farmers and filling empty dinner plates. Daphne answers: Should I foliar feed or root feed my plants? Since it’s rose planting time, check out her Plant of the Week, reblooming, fragrant David Austin rose ‘Sharifa Asma.’  John Dromgoole shows how to nourish crops with compost and amendments for clay soil.

Question of the Week

What’s the difference in foliar and root fertilizing?

Our question this week is on fertilization, and the difference between foliar and root “feeding.”

Plants require specific nutrients to grow and be healthy, and often these nutrients are lacking in the soil.  Even when nutrients are present, they may not be available for the plant to take them up, or they may be only be present in very small amounts.

So, we fertilize to help our plants along and speed up their growth spurts. If we don’t fertilize, plants will grow; they just may not be as big or robust.

Most native plants do just fine on the level of nutrients already present in the soil, but perennials, herbs, vegetables and flowering plants will all benefit from a little extra nutrition, most often applied to the soil as fertilizer. Nutrients must be dissolved in water before they can be taken up by plants, so uptake through the roots is the primary pathway for fertilizers.

But a small amount of certain nutrients may also be absorbed through the leaves, and fertilizing this way is known as foliar feeding.  Applying compost “tea,” made by soaking compost in water to make a nutrient rich solution, has become a very popular way to foliar feed. Foliar feeding works great in some situations, but isn’t the best in all.  Newly planted vegetable seedlings, lettuces, herbs, and other crops with thin, soft leaves respond best to foliar feeding.

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Plant of the Week

‘Sharifa Asma’ rose

‘Sharifa Asma’ rose

‘Sharifa Asma’ rose is one of my all-time favorite plants. ‘Sharifa Asma’ is one of a type known as English shrub roses, many of which were developed by famed rose breeder David Austin. These roses blend modern and antique characteristics, giving gardeners the best of both worlds. Many of them have flowers with so many petals that the bloom heads droop. The flowers of ‘Sharifa Asma’ are a beautiful, deep pink, turning paler, almost white as they age, and the fragrance is heavenly beyond description. Just one cut flower in my office brings colleagues from down the hall to investigate just exactly where that lovely scent is coming from. Many people shy away from roses, thinking that they’re high maintenance, and many of them are. But I’ve virtually ignored my ‘Sharifa Asma’, and it just keeps on coming. Even during our recent years of terrible drought, when the plant itself got scrawny and looked quite terrible because I hadn’t made time to water it enough, the bush has been covered in glorious blooms. Since it only grows to about 3-4’ wide and tall, you can also grow it in a large container. It does get a few aphids in the spring, but I’ve never once seen any sign of blackspot, a notorious rose disease that is a real nuisance on many cultivars. If possible, plant it in a slightly cooler area of your landscape, protected from the harshest afternoon sun, and give it a little extra water in the hottest, driest time of summer.

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