Sunday, April 18, 2010

It's all about the soil

In this spring-not-spring sputtering start to the gardening season, it's worth repeating that to paraphrase the real estate maxim, the three most important elements to a successful garden are: soil, soil & soil. Time to add nutrients to your vegetable beds, be that homemade compost, chicken manure, earthworm castings or juice or commercial soil amendments. Everyone seems to be growing vegetables these days and while it may have been for economic reasons for some initially, the joy of harvesting one's own veggies, not to mention the superior taste and freshness, often converts the casual gardener to the pleasurable yearly habit. Mind you, insects and small animals & birds sometimes think you're growing those veggies for them and thus the battle is renewed! I maintain that it's hard being an animal lover AND a devoted gardener.
You can pretty much plant all your veggies now, though the cooler nights may damage warm weather plants like cukes, peppers, squash and tomatoes. It has to warm up at some point, right? Right?
For us flower gardeners, we're in heaven these days, as new spring plants flood our favorite nurseries. "Too many choices" becomes the lament, pronounced with a big smile of course. Old favorites return plus new discoveries. Perennials in the garden return to life, even as the winter shrubs hang on for some last blooming.
Now is a good time to dig out that bed you've been wanting to redo. We get people coming into our Ace nursery who have a plant that's clearly on its last legs. While this is sad, we tell them that sometimes you just have to pull it out and start over. The same can be true for an area in your garden that has been unchanged for awhile. It can be invigorating to start over, where you have the satisfaction of designing a new layout and the joy of a fresh new look in your garden. If you're taking out any healthy plants, don't forget to share them with a neighbor or bring them to a plant exchange.
Here's a tip for those flower gardeners who have limited space and a big appetite for plants. Plant mainly perennials in your planting beds, augmented with a few new annuals each year, and put your favorite annuals in pots. That way you maximize the available bed space and still get to bring new and fun annuals into your "little bit of heaven."

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