Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Fruit & Nut Trees
On Becoming a Master Gardener (page 3 of 3)
by Margery Guest
We learned to consider the finished look we want to achieve before pruning, that it is usually better to prune to thin rather than to cut back, and that pruning should begin when trees and shrubs are young. And when trying to revitalize and reshape an old or diseased tree or shrub, "Prune it until you can throw a live cat through it," one, er, lively instructor told us.
We learned about double-digging, creating maintenance paths, and adding either peat or compost but never topsoil. "Topsoil is always an unknown and might just be someone else's problems." Before planting a garden, we should ask: "What are my garden goals?" The answers will drive the selection, colors, and varieties of all the plants.
In our vegetable class, we learned that (guess what?) homegrown vegetables have better flavor. Store-bought veggies can't ever be really fresh, because grading, washing, sorting, shipping, and inspecting take at least 48 hours. Most commercial growers produce only what's practical for a mass market: uniform products that keep well, ship well, and yield consistently. So, although 'Brandywine' and 'Rutgers' tomatoes, for example, have always tested best in taste, most commercial growers won't touch them.
In our fruit-tree and small-fruit culture class, we l that some researchers are interested in the Midwest's wild strawberries because of their disease resistance, and that raspberry canes bear and die, but the plants themselves are perennial.
After the Program
Since finishing up, I've been doing many things differently. I'm growing 'Brandywine' tomatoes for the first time to see if they really taste best. I've stopped watering my tomatoes from above. I've invested in three well-made new tools: a watering wand, a Japanese pruning saw, and a pair of good pruning shears. I've thinned out an evergreen and enjoy the increased sunlight in my dining room. And I can talk climate zones and pH levels with ease.
I don't tell everyone that I've taken the Master Gardening course. It raises expectations. "I figured you'd know that," people say when I don't have an answer on a plant or soil problem. I've learned to admit I don't-and can't-know it all. "Let's look that up," I say, smoothing my green apron.
Margery Guest is a writer who gardens (masterfully) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.