This afternoon was the April meeting of the Moriarty Garden Club. We decided to go ahead with our club plant swap. It is where members of the club can get plants that they have always wanted to try, or to share starts of some plant that has been successful in their gardens. We also decided to include seed this year.

Preliminary planning for the Torrance County Fair Flower Show was begun! It may seem incredibly premature, but it’s actually a good time for it. There are all the boring things to prepare for, like building clean-up, and scheduling people to monitor the exhibit, and finding an assistant for the judge, etc, but there are also more fun aspects that require a certain amount of planning too.

Since most of us use at least some of our own flowers for the design aspect of the flower show, we have to start now. There is also a horticultural class that we can show in, and those flowers MUST be examples of what the gardener has actually grown themselves. Anything from a simple cosmo, to the most elaborate dahlia or gladiolus have specific characteristics. If those are not met, the gardener may not place well, or even be disqualified.

There are some things we as gardeners can do to optimize the quality of each blossom. Things like disbudding. That involves taking all the flower buds off of a particular plant except one with the idea of forcing all of the plant’s energy into that one outstanding blossom.

Another is providing diligent pest and disease management. Some go as far as to put the prospective flower in a protective tent type barrier that will exclude any insects. No tooth marks on our flower petals! Some spray the area with a very dilute solution of mouthwash to prevent any disease problems. The mouth wash does not contribute to the dental health of bugs however.

Some—more expert gardeners—can precisely plan for the flowers they want to display to be in full bloom at the time of the flower show. That takes a lot of experience and experimentation. While I might be able to do that some day, for now, I stick to the “plant a ton of seeds and pick whatever looks good at the time of the show” strategy.

There are classes available through the National Gardening Club that can qualify a person to be a judge in the horticultural classes and there are different classes and qualifications to be a judge in the design arena. Who knew there were so many guidelines for judging flowers?!

Proper fertilization is key when trying to grow a prize-winning specimen. As many of you know there are three numbers on any kind of fertilizer. They are telling us what amount of the three main nutrients are.

Nitrogen is the first number. It’s primary purpose is for lush green growth. If you want big, beautiful foliage on your plant, or you want to have your grass a lovely deep green, with vigorous healthy growth, this is the nutrient you want to look at. Corn is one exception. It requires all the nitrogen you can give it.

Phosphorous is next. We think of it when we think of developing a strong root system with a lot of flowers. This one is important for vegetable gardening as it promotes stronger blooming and fruit. Ever have a tomato that has the most luxurious dark green vine and no tomatoes? A deficiency I potassium could be the culprit. (Although there are others to consider too.)

Potassium is the third number. It affects plant metabolism, water movement from the soil to the plant and also improves root development. It can help increase the plant’s tolerance to environmental stressors, of which we have plenty!

That is why we try to use a well-balanced fertilizer in our garden. If you are buying it, it’s easy to see right on the label. If you are trying to amend your soil it is a little trickier. At this point, suffice it to say, different amendments can provide different amounts of any particular nutrient. I generally cheat and use both. Compost or rotted cow manure and a commercial slow-release fertilizer it helps cover anything I might be missing in the compost.

The Moriarty Garden Club supports the flower show at the County Fair, but anyone is encouraged to participate.

PS This afternoon when my very patient and long-suffering husband came in to lunch, he said, “If you have grit in your lunch, you may be married to a gardener!” George Elliott. Husband of the year.