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Plants rarely stink, but they do smell

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By Cheryl Steenerson

I’m not a big fan of turtles right now. In one night, some
hard-shelled slow poke chopped down 60 of my tomato plants. I didn’t say anything out loud when I saw them, but I was thinking about all my relatives who like turtle soup.
OK, so I have plenty more plants, but these were already planted, dang it.
I researched methods to deter turtles and found out a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth around the plant will do the trick. Until then, I’m keeping them dusted with baby powder.
I just read a fascinating article about plants. They smell. No, they don’t have noses, but they can detect chemicals in the air that tells them all kinds of things. My first thought was question how crazy my plants get when I spray them with my Japanese beetle juice.
Smells have a chemical signature and that’s what we really smell. The plants have the same ability to pick up on those chemicals. The article described a vining weed that smells a tomato plant and leans over to attach itself to it.
They did all kinds of experiments and the vine went for the tomato over a wheat plant every time. They even put them in two different boxes with a tube attached between them so air could flow. Pretty cool, huh?
Different plants give off different odors, thereby attracting, repelling or ignoring each other. It’s the chemicals, (pheromones) that guide them. The book is called, “What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses,” by Daniel Chamovitz. I can’t wait to read it.
June is just two days away and Mother Nature has made our to-do list. It’s time to dig and divide your iris. When you replant an iris you need to leave a top portion of the root above ground. Leave the leaves, too. The leaves help the plant store energy for next year’s blooming, so no pruning until this fall.
If the frost didn’t hit your fruit trees, you should take a good look at your fruit and start thinning developing fruit from branches that are too crowded. You’ll have bigger and healthier fruit to harvest.
Take a look at your other trees, too. You may just find a bagworm or two. Pick them off and dispose in a trash bag.
It’s time to fertilize acid loving plants, like azaleas, with a fertilizer for high acid plants. You get prettier and longer lasting blooms.
Any plant that puts on a big display needs to be rewarded. They’ve used up a lot of nutrients and would really appreciate some extra food. Pick a fertilizer with the last two numbers bigger than the first, like 5-10-10.
Once your strawberry plants finish producing you can go ahead and start renovating the patch.
You can start new plants by leaning a runner over to a new row and burying the tip into the ground.
In a week or two, it should be rooted and you can snip it from the mother plant.
You can also dig up your plants to move them, but making new ones will keep them producing longer and with a bigger harvest. Do not fertilize them. Just use good soil and give them some wood ashes this winter.
Now, the dogs are barking, because they know it’s time to head for the garden and get to work. I’m hoping they can find a turtle or two for me to relocate. How far away is Texas?
Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.