Fabulous or Fractured Lilies: Gardening Tips from Master Gardener, Patti Slavin

Patti-SlavinOne thing about gardening is that you never stop learning. Once upon a time, I shared my trial-and-error knowledge with anyone who would listen. Now that I’m a Master Gardener, even my husband wants my opinion.

LAWN CARE
The lawn is a wonderful thing if maintained and cared for properly. Never cut the lawn shorter than three inches: the dew is a natural watering system, but the blades need to be long enough to accommodate the moisture. A good soaking rain works best to water deep into the roots. However, if you use a watering system, always water early in the day. Also, it’s a good idea to change the blade on your lawnmower every second cutting. A dull blade tears the blades of grass and damages them, which invites bugs. If all else fails, do what some do in California: cement the area over and paint it green.

GET IN THE ZONE
All plants do not do well in all zones, so find out what zone you live in and go from there.

SOIL
What type of soil do you have? It might be sandy, clay, loam or whatever is native to your area. The best thing to do is get a soil testing kit to see if you need to add more nutrients. It is sandy where live, which promotes good drainage, but no nutrients. When I first started to garden I just dug up a spot, plunked down a plant and hoped for the best. We learn from our mistakes.

NUTRIENTS
I have found that cow manure and peat moss added to the soil when you first dig up a plot works the best.  You may add recommended fertilizers for each plant type as you go along, but a little poo in the soil makes those plants take off! Both green peppers and rose bushes like Epsom salts (yes, like you buy in the drugstore). Garden centers sell horticultural Epsom salts. I’ve used both and found no difference.

bleeding-heart-flowerKNOW YOUR PLANTS
I had no idea bleeding hearts are deciduous, meaning they die back in the fall and return the following year. I dug up and threw out two of them before I learned that lesson. Tomato plants may be indeterminate or determinate – the indeterminate ones usually grow tall and should not be in a container, but staked in the garden. There are vegetable, herb, perennial, container, butterfly, hummingbird and fruit tree gardens to name a few. Read up on the type of plants you  intend to use, as well what diseases and bugs affect them. Start small, but once you’ve achieved your desired results, go crazy!

BUYING SUPPLIES
Home improvement centers aren’t garden centers, but do sell garden plants and supplies. They carry plants from all over the country, so some will not thrive in your zone. Be sure to look the plants over well to be sure there are no yellow leaves or little critters on them or in the soil. If you purchase garden soil, be sure to soil test it. And, don’t get me started on mulch. There are red, brown and black as well as old recycled tires. Avoid red mulch – there are concerns that what is leaking into the soil may be bad for the environment. I follow the Amish gardeners and use the black, which blends in and looks natural. It also breaks down well and doesn’t promote weed growth as some do. In order to keep disease at bay, wash your tools after every use by wiping them down with rubbing alcohol.

SIZE
Start small – if you like to garden, you can always add more next season.
My land is about a ¼ acre and I have nine garden plots with various varieties of plants, shrubs, grasses, and perennials, accented with annuals.

SUMMING UP
Gardening is good exercise, and gives us food as well as a nature-filled landscape to enjoy. It’s a long process that takes patience.
Garden earlier in the day, when it’s cooler.
Be careful handling garden tools.
Lastly, remember these words of wisdom: “You can put a ten cent plant in a five dollar hole, but you can’t put a five dollar plant in a ten cent hole.”

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