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Old-time gardening wisdom alive and well

Pinching out the centers of clematis vines doubles the growth as shown by the new sprouts. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 3
Don Kinzler, Growing Together gardening columnist. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service2 / 3
Pinching out the central growing point of bedding plants like salvia causes multiple side shoots to form that increase flowering. David Samson / Forum News Service3 / 3

Being sixty-something is a fun age. Young people think you're old and old people think you're young. You now have an excuse for wandering the Walmart parking lot trying to remember where you parked, while acting nonchalant.

The ways we receive gardening information have changed greatly over the years, yet plant care itself remains timeless as plants are oblivious to Pinterest, Facebook and the only tweets come from birds perched close by. The same gardening guidelines of past generations serve us well today, as we keep long-time gardening wisdom alive.

1. When buying bedding plants and vegetable transplants earlier than needed, keep them in a wind-sheltered spot outdoors and monitor watering closely. Don't keep plants in the garage, as low light quickly drains their energy.

2. Bedding plants such as petunia, salvia, snapdragon and marigold benefit from pinching back the central growing point, which stimulates 'breaks' along the lower stem, doubling the number of shoots and flower potential.

3. Removing blossoms when planting annual flowers grown in cell packs is a time-honored way of letting the plants focus energy on robust plant growth. Sacrificing a few weak early blossoms develops a larger, sturdier plant capable of greater flowering and increased satisfaction in the long run.

4. Water packs and pots of bedding plants and vegetable transplants before planting if their soil is dry, as plants can suffer quickly if transplanted dry.

5. If possible, water the planting bed after transplanting flower and vegetable plants to ensure good soil-to-rootball contact.

6. Newly planted asparagus and rhubarb should grow two full years before harvesting the third year.

7. When seeding vegetables, mark both ends of every row. Well-marked rows make weeding easier when vegetable seedlings are barely visible.

8. Cultivate or hoe garden soil when weeds are barely sprouting. Staying ahead of weeds is a key to their control, and in only a few days weeds can go from easily cultivated to difficult, overgrown and time-consuming.

9. Thinning vegetables like carrots, lettuce, beets, parsnip and radish to about one inch or more apart gives them space to develop.

10. Tomato plants benefit from mulching but wait until soil has warmed in mid-to-late June.

11. Weed-and-feed lawn products don't provide as effective weed control as judicious spot-spraying with liquid herbicide.

12. Clematis vines double in size by pinching out the centers of each growing point as they develop in spring and early summer.

13. Clematis vines prefer their face in the sun and their feet in the shade. Mulch soil with a five-inch thick layer of straw, wood products or dried grass clippings.

14. Perennial mum plants become more robust if pinched until July 4.

15. Watering deeply and less often is more effective than frequent shallow sprinklings on gardens, flowerbeds and lawns.

16. Warm April weather can trick us into planting too early, leading to disappointment if the pattern rotates back to occasional frosty nights, common until mid-May for most of the region.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at

He also blogs at " target="_blank">