Q. Why do I need to rotate my vegetable crops?
A. There are several good reasons for rotating vegetable crops, including promoting good soil tilth, disease suppression and nutrient management. The most important reason is disease suppression. Soil-borne diseases will thrive if vegetables are not rotated. When rotating, a good rule to remember is the following rotation: year one, leaf crop (like lettuce); year two, fruit (like tomato); year three, root (like carrot); and year four, legume crop (like peas).
Q. Is Russian olive toxic to horses?
A. Most online resources consider Russian olive potentially toxic. However, according to the Washington State University toxicologists, the ASPCA-Animal Poison Control Center says Russian olive is not considered toxic to horses. If horses are excessively cribbing, gastrointestinal upset may occur. Always remember that if your animals are fed appropriately, and not forced to eat less desirable plants, the risk of toxic plant problems is reduced.
Q. I notice that when I look up the best growing conditions for garden plants, most need or prefer “a well-drained soil.” How can I tell if my soil is well drained or poorly drained? I have sandy soil and have heard that all sandy soils are well drained. Is that true?
A. Because the soil particles are so large, sandy soils tend to be better draining than clay or loamy. However, even sandy soil can be tightly compacted by heavy traffic or construction, resulting in poor drainage. Whatever your type of soil, you can check for drainage by digging a foot-deep hole. Fill the hole with water and wait for all of it to disappear, then fill it again. Your soil is poorly drained if this water does not drain away within 24 hours. Drainage is important because excess soil moisture can lead to root rot and plant death.
Q. My child just joined a 4-H club. Can you tell us about the 4-H Project Book?
A. The Project Book is a catalog of information to help the member gain knowledge and skills and learn to take responsibility. As a 4-H member, you will be encouraged to choose at least one project. Choose projects that fit into your family, community and the way you want to live. Share your projects with your parents. Take only one or two projects the first year.