What do geometry and gardening have in common?

A graphic on geometry.
A graphic on geometry. Special to the Sun Herald

How many of you have a fond memory of geometry class?

No doubt at the time, you couldn’t conceive of ever having to use those lessons in real life. Well, it’s time to put those lessons to good use. It may not seem so. But, geometry and gardening go together. When you fertilize, mulch, plant or use pesticides, you need geometry.

Do you know the size of your yard? What abut the flower beds or the vegetable garden you’ve planted. These are numbers you need to know to have a successful growing season. To get these numbers, basic formulate are required. For instance, to calculate the area of a rectangle or square, you need only to multiply the length by the width.

To get the area of a triangle, you multiply its base by its height and then divide by two. For a circle, you get the area by squaring the diameter then multiplying by pi (3.14). Once you have that number, divide by four. For more complicated shapes, ask your nearest tenth grader.

Some large areas, like your lawn, may be composed of a number of smaller, differing shapes. Most lawns tend to be either a square or a rectangle. But, the shapes of flower beds, driveways, sidewalks, decks, et cetera can vary widely. To get the area of your lawn, measure the size of the yard by getting the overall footage then subtracting the square footage of all the areas that aren’t grass.

You’re probably asking yourself why you knowing the size of these areas is important. To begin with, when you’re planning a garden, you need to know how much space is available for the seeds or plants you intend to buy. If you don’t, it is quite likely that you will buy too few or too many of what you need.

The same goes for flower beds, ground covers, grass seed or sod. The proper spacing of plants and the amount of seeds needed per square foot are very important for a successful growing season.

You also need to know the area when you add amendments to your soil as well as applying fertilizer, pesticides or covering with mulch. Fertilizers for your garden are applied at rates given in pounds per 100 square feet. For your lawn, the rate is given in pounds per thousand square feet. To properly treat your plants with pesticides, you need to know how many square feet need to be covered.

Almost all of the chemicals you can purchase have very specific rates of application. Too little and you may not get the desired results. Too much, and serious side effects may occur. So, take a little time when you’re next in your yard or garden and make those measurements. Once you have those figures, jot them down so that they’re available when you need them.

Tim Lockley, a specialist in entomology, is retired from a 30-year career as a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For answers to individual questions, please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Tim Lockley, c/o Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535.