Ask the Expert: Can grocery-store potatoes be planted in my garden?

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Q: Can I plant potatoes purchased at the grocery store in my garden instead of seed potatoes?

A: You would not want to plant grocery-store potatoes in the garden for two reasons. First, potatoes at the grocery store are not certified disease-free. This means that you would be taking a risk introducing disease organisms into the soil in your garden.

Some diseases, which affect potatoes, also infect other plants in the Solanaceae family, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Also, some potatoes may be treated with a sprout retardant, which will prevent them from growing.

Q: I have dumped ashes from our fireplace in a container in the garage all winter and I’m wondering if they can be added to my vegetable-garden soil. I have heard conflicting recommendations.

A: Ashes can definitely be added to garden soil. The nutrient content of wood ash is low, around 0-2-6 of N-P-K, so they would add very minute amounts of nutrients to the soil. Wood ashes will act similarly to lime in the soil, raising the soil pH and making it less acidic.

The real question is whether you need to raise the pH of your soil. Many native soils in Greater Columbus, are naturally very high in pH, and do not need an application of lime or wood ashes. So take a look at the pH level of the soil in your garden before applying the ashes.

Q: We have noticed a lot more moss growing in our lawn this spring than we have seen before. What is the best way to control this moss?

A: The best way to control moss in turf grass is to never let it get started! Moss is an opportunistic invader, typically flourishing in thin, sparse stands of turf grass. Moss grows well in areas with at least some shade.

Moss is a symptom of a lawn which lacks a dense healthy stand of grass, caused by shade, a lack of airflow, poor fertility, poor drainage or a combination of these factors. Contrary to popular belief, low soil pH is seldom a primary cause of a moss infestation.

The best way to control moss in a lawn is to evaluate the health of the stand and take corrective action. Test the soil for fertility and add fertilizer and lime as prescribed by the test. If the area is shaded, trim tree branches and shrubs where possible to allow more sunlight to reach the lawn and improve airflow.

If drainage is an issue, consider core aeration to improve drainage. You can remove moss with a bow rake and then reseed bare areas in the lawn with a sun/shade grass seed mixture.