More you know, less you need

While driving in Medford a few days ago, I spotted a bumper sticker that read, "The more you know, the less you need."

"Hmmm," I thought, "that's strange." As the day went along, I found myself recalling the message, wondering what it meant. Then I began to apply it to gardening. No surprise there, since it's my passion. Soon it began to make sense — for example:

The more you know about insects and their life cycles, the less time and money you'll need to fight them. You'll know, for example, that a strong stream of water from your garden hose will deal with aphids just as well as most insecticides.

The more you know about wasps, the less you will need to fear and try to destroy them. That's because some kinds of wasps lay their eggs right in the body of the petunia budworm, and as the wasp eggs hatch, bye bye to the budworm that eats holes in your petunia blossoms.

The more you know about growing tomatoes, the less you'll need to pull your hair over that nasty black spot that sometimes develops on the end of your tomatoes. And you'll know that the black spot is not a disease that needs to be sprayed, but instead is the result of poor watering practices.

"Wow!" I thought, "I'm on a roll now!" Let's see what else fits the bumper sticker.

The more you know about how to have fresh tomatoes from your garden to eat for Thanksgiving, the less you'll need to buy from the supermarket produce department.

The more you know about making healthy soil, which is the most important thing for making healthy plants, the less fertilizer you'll need to purchase.

The more you know about when and how to prune spring-flowering shrubs, the less you'll be disappointed in the performance of those plants.

The more you know about composting your own yard-and-garden waste, the less commercial compost and soil conditioner you'll need to buy.

The more you know about what grows well in this climate, the less frustration you'll experience when trying to grow plants that really are not suited to the Rogue Valley, even if you used to grow them in California, or Connecticut or Indiana.

The more you know about how to get lots of vegetables from a small plot of ground — including containers — the less you'll need to lament having "just a small backyard".

Now comes the tough question: Where and how does a person learn about all of this? Easy answer: start by attending the Jackson County Master Gardeners' Winter Dreams, Summer Gardens Symposium on Nov. 1. For just $50, ($25 for full-time students) you can take four classes during the all-day event, taught by experts in their fields. A great buffet lunch is included at the symposium, which is held on the SOU campus in Ashland. Pre-register by Wednesday. You can pick up a list of classes at your local nursery, or go to the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center Web site at For more information, call the Extension at 776-7371.

You can register at the door, but you run the risk of the class(es) you want being full, and you may need to bring your own lunch.

See you there.

Maybe, in the future, we'll talk about creating a new bumper sticker that reads "The more you think you need, the less you know!"

Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. E-mail her at

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