When I was at junior school we were taught about the pH scale, a scale which determines the level of acidity or alkalinity of the garden soil. I never realised then how important it was to become later on in my life. A soil with a neutral pH was 7. Anything that had a lower pH was acid soil and anything higher was alkaline. Most plants prefer to grow in a soil with a pH of about 6.5. Soils which have a higher pH (more alkaline) are likely to have problems absorbing trace elements such as iron or manganese which are identified by the peculiar effect they have on the look of the veins on the leaves. Soils which are really acidic create problems as well, but not quite so severe. Deficiency diseases can be corrected by reducing the lime level and this enables trace elements to be absorbed. Deficiency diseases can include the stunting of the growth of plants, poor fruit and flower production and premature death. However, most gardeners can go through their entire lives and never come across any of these problems, and good maintenance techniques like mulching, and the occasional addition of lime to heavier soils will ensure these problems don’t occur. A very simple check is to test the soil pH level using a universal pH indicator normally available from a good pharmacy. One thing in particular which Guyanese have to remember is that the heavy rains you have are likely to wash out of the ground a great deal of fertilizer, including the more important trace elements, and so you are likely to have to give your gardens regular dressings of well-balanced fertilizer to make sure that all remains alright.

Maize was introduced to the United States when the first settlers arrived to plant up their first twenty-five acres. Thus was born the corn flakes industry.

Maize still is one of the world’s most important cereals and for thousands of years has fed millions of people from Canada down to Brazil. Maize is wind pollinated, and greater crops are likely to be obtained if the wind blows pollen through plants which are grown in large blocks rather than singly or in single rows. It is an interesting point to note that female flowers develop extra long styles called silks, which seem to hang in the breeze as if waiting to catch pollen. Maize seems to attract large numbers of rats and mice which love the cobs, and you’ll need to protect the plants from their attentions.

Most of you will have noticed when there is any evidence of light showers which last for just a few hours how this can evaporate completely in a very short space of time leaving the ground as parched as it ever was. Every acre of land growing plants such as sugar cane will use up to ten tons of water each day. It is very important that you try as much as you can to reduce water usage to the absolute minimum, as this can be costly when one is being metered for water usage. I seem to be always urging readers to mulch their gardens throughout the year to conserve water and fertilizer, especially the all important trace elements. Mulching will keep your plants in top class condition throughout the year and prevent them drowning in heavy ground during the wet by assisting drainage, and help in water retention during the dry. Mulches if worked into the ground will act as a sponge and encourage roots to grow deeper.  Until next week may your God go with you.

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