HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

Weather wisdom such as "March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb," or "April showers bring May flowers," may sometimes seem like old wives’ tales; but they are only the beginning when it comes to gardening. Keep your plants productive and blooming all spring and summer long with these tips.

Start with a Plan

It’s important to choose the proper site for the plants you wish to grow. Knowing the soil type, the amount of sunlight, and wind or water run-off patterns go a long way to make a successful garden.

What, where and how to plant comes next. Sketch out a plan and have it handy throughout your endeavor along with proper planting instructions. Your sketch not only adds to the aesthetics of the finished garden, it’s the basis for a healthy one!

Plan according to the growing characteristics and space needs of plants. Consider that some vegetables and flowers make good neighbors when planted side by side. Allow for paths and dividers that outline plots to hold water and nutritients in soil. These ideas also help make it easier to cultivate and maintain your garden in tip top shape all season long.

Learn the Basics

The Internet and your bookstore or library are valuable resources. Consult a local gardening directory, talk to someone at your local garden center -- or better yet -- pair up with a friend or family member accustomed to gardening. How can they help? They’ll help take the guesswork out and alleviate some of the issues novice gardeners encounter.

For instance if you plant near trees with excessive roots, they may rob the soil of essential nutrients and moisture. Open areas can be too windy. The bottom of slopes may get too much water run-off. Better safe than sorry, you certainly wouldn’t want your hard work to go to waste!

Can you Dig It?

It’s home sweet home for the plantings -- your soil! Find out how to analyze the ground for nutritional deficiencies and pH. Again, other gardeners in your neighborhood, or someone at your local nursery are a big help. Heavy clay or light sandy soil may need organic materials like compost, peat moss, or bone meal added.

You should rototill (AKA "turn over the soil") thoroughly, in the spring after the ground has thawed. Rototilling uproots hibernating insects and weeds; consider it housecleaning for the garden. Clean the soil of any debris and add organic materials or a fertilizer as recommended . Then smooth the bed, water it deeply and allow it to settle a few days before planting.

Recipe for Success

Just as you wouldn’t tackle the makings of a gourmet meal without a recipe, you can cultivate the perfect garden from seeds or plants provided you follow directions. Too shallow or too deep planting can be a problem, but overcome this by reading and noting the instructions on the seed packets or with the plants.

Press the soil down gently with a trowel and label each section so you know what is growing where.

Plant bulbs as soon as possible after purchasing them. Summer flowering ones can be planted after the ground is thawed (March in many locations such as ours). Be sure to add organic material each time you replant to keep your soil in good condition.

Keeping Things Tidy

The maintenance work, like watering, weeding, fertilizing and pest control aren’t much fun but are critical to a healthy garden. It’s important to water carefully -- but not too much or young seeds and plants can get washed away. Morning is considered the best time to water because the afternoon can be too hot and watering at sunset may encourage fungus growth. Weed as often as possible to keep the garden in shape since weeds attract pests and disease. Remove dead plants, leaves and other debris that accumulates. Mulching can make weeding easier while improving soil.

It’s Easy Being Green

Kermit the Frog may say otherwise -- and I hesitate to question the knowledge of the Muppets! But you can maintain a healthy lawn and garden organically. Again, the Internet and your local bookstore or library are valuable resources. Use compost made of decomposed leaves, grass clippings, animal manure, and kitchen vegetable trimmings to fertilize plants and enrich garden soil. Pull out weeds instead of using herbicides. And practice companion planting to keep insects at bay rather than pesticides. There’s plenty you can do, or don’t do, when it comes to a "green" AKA eco-friendly lawn care. For instance, use a reel push mower and manual yard tools whenever possible. If a reel mower is not practical, keep your power mower in shape by changing the oil and replacing the air filter regularly, maintaining sharp blades, and performing periodic tune-ups.

Today’s weather forecast might be cold and icy (at least it is where I am) but before you know it spring will be here. Something to look forward to in spring is the beauties of a garden, and it’s not hard if you know how to begin!

Lisa Sherwood, an independent communications consultant and writer, is strongly motivated to create stories that educate readers. With 20+ years experience and a life-long love of learning, she confidently explores a wide variety of subjects in unique ways. Lisa’s specialties are interviews, human interest and feature pieces, although she also has a strong background writing for sales and marketing within the business and non-profit sectors. When not pursuing her freelance career, she works as the Marketing Coordinator and in the Outreach/Children’s Programming department at a local public library. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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