10 Things to Do This Year to Have a Better Garden

I was thinking about how much I love to garden and how happy spring makes me.  Playing in the garden is one of the most joyous, scientific, creative, energetic, passionate things I do.  I can, and do, garden for hours with a happy heart!  My yard is one big science experiment.  Its not always the most beautiful sight, like right now, with pots of plants all over waiting to be planted and a pile of compost next to my driveway.  The hoop house of spinach in my front yard might be unattractive to some but to me is such a source of pride and beauty.  What could be more beautiful than fresh, organic food?   

At some point  this summer, my 2 acre garden will look really, really, traditionally, great.  But it won’t stay that way for long.    The ebb and flow of the seasons will bring weeds and Japanese beetle and beds in need of clean edges, but it will also bring poppies and peonies, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, lady ferns and lemon balm.  

All in God’s time, the bitter and the sweet.  I am so thankful I have another season ahead of me to do what I love and do best – GARDEN!  Let the season begin!

  Ten things to be a better gardener this year:

1.  Start with the soil!. If soil is the soul of gardening , then organic matter is the mantra, O.M.  Organic matter, such as compost or shredded leaves or peat moss, helps loosen soil and make a light, fluffly root zone.  Make a compost pile or buy some in – just do it – #1 on my list

2. Don’t be afraid to remove plants and update your landscape often. You replacedthe avocado green refrigerator and harvest gold shag awhile ago, do the same for your landscape and update!  What was once in the sun 30 years ago is now in the shade.  Don’t be afraid to change it up!  Install a pizza oven or outdoor kitchen.  Why not, with housing values what they are, most of us are not moving anytime soon.  Make the best of what you have.  Besides you have pretty good neighbors and great schools!

3.   Call in professionals a(nd teenagers) for help.   Invest in  a good landscape plan if you aren’t a super gardener. It’s loads more efficient in terms of time and money to follow a professional planting plan than to try to figure it out yourself and make mistakes.  Most designers will work with you to identify what you can realistically do yourself and what’s best done by professionals.  Have someone come mow the lawn, plant big trees  or spray weed killer. Get friendly with your neighbors and  find a kid to help. with ‘yard work’.   Its a lot  like babysitters, they’re great from about 12 – 15 year old, but once they start driving…..  Stick to the fun stuff  like planting small plants and harvesting.  Know your limitations.

4.  Mow the grass often but keep it long.  Turfgrass is healthiest when it’s about 3-4″ long.  The longer the grass blades, the longer the roots and the healthier the turfgrass plant is.  Turfgrass blades grow super fast in spring so need to be mowed often.

5.  Don’t fertilize turfgrass in spring.  All you’re doing is creating more blades to mow.  The best time to fertilize turfgrass is in fall – Sept and October to stimulate root formation.

6.  Ok, Ok,  one last thing for the turf nuts out there – if you really want to do something great for your lawn, core aerate around Mothers Day.  Follow up with a thin 2″ layer of compost – OMMMMM.  This will feed your lawn slow release, increase oxygen to roots and help water flow

7. MULCH  It doesn’t have to be pretty but it does have to be organic.  Fir bark, coco bean hulls, pine bark are all beautiful, and the cadillacs of mulch.  If you are a resort or business this might be necessary but for most of us….plain old wood chips spread over the surface of planting beds will work just fine.  I use straw in vegetable gardens.  The City of Kenosha chips wood and will deliver it for a very reasonable price. 

 Find a teenager to spread it around and consider it a community service project!  I’ve got two teens to rent out but they need to move my pile first.!  Layer about 2-4″ of mulch under shrubs and trees to keep weeds out, and moisture in.  Listen to your tree breath a sighof relief for the extra oxygen and reduced competition they are recieving.  Remember to refresh very 2-3 years. 

 Consider reducing your turf and replacing it with mulch and perennial goundcovers wherever possible.  Turf is the least expensive groundcover to install but the most expensive to maintain

8.  Don’t be afraid to change things.  You changed the interior of your home after thirty years, why not the exterior plantings?  Hopefully you have the big things in the right place., like shade trees and some shrubs…..but if not, remove them now and start over.  Things will only get worse over time in a poorly designed landscape. Please don’t rely on pruning a.k.a. ‘shearing’ to keep thing s ‘under control’ Select plants that fit the site when mature 2o years from now.  Please stop ‘meatballing’ plants! Select plants to fit the site when mature.  Fill in with annuals and perennials in the meantime.

9.  Don’t over-fertilize!  Whatever did plants do before humans came along with their bags of fertilizers?    They depended on compost – OM – settling onto their root zone.  Some people think (myself included) that strong fertilizers actualy disrupt the microflora balance in soil. 

10.  Take time to enjoy your gareden.  Resist the urge to weed or prune or deahead constantly.  Take time to sit still on a regular basis.  Let ime suspend for just afew minutes.  Meditate in the garden to the sound of the wind in the trees, frogs, rain, sunshine, cicadas. Invite friends over to share the beauty, and your company.  Remember a garden can be several acres or just one pot. Make it the best pot ever!  Make one section of your garden beautiful today,or this year.   



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