Find Your Green Thumb: Tips to Improve Your Garden This Spring
May 03, 2012 09:27AM ● Published by Erin Frisch
Find Your Green Thumb
As spring makes way for summer, and we all start spending more time outdoors, many people are excited to get back into their gardens. Whether these are vegetable gardens or flower gardens, whether you are a seasoned gardener or trying out gardening for the first time, here are seven tips to improve your experience and keep your plants at their happiest.
- Sharpen your tools. Sharp tools make your work much easier and lead to fewer blisters and backaches. An 8-inch-long flat file, available at most hardware stores, will do the job nicely. To prevent blisters, a good pair of gardening gloves (try www.foxglovesinc.com) goes a long way. And get your lawn mower serviced; sharp blades make mowing easier, plus your yard will look nicer, and you’ll use less gas.
- Clean up. Spring cleaning isn’t just for inside the house! Rake dead leaves from flower beds and from under trees and shrubs. Pick up debris. Take the time to cut back any perennials that were not pruned in the fall (and remove the clippings). Weeding is more easily tackled a little at a time, so start early and keep up with weeds as the season goes along.
- Test Soil pH. Plants can’t absorb nutrients if the soil pH is not within an acceptable range (about 6.2 to 6.8). The pH will help you determine what kind of fertilizer is right for your soil as well as what type of plants will thrive in it.
- Plan before shopping. Walk around your yard and survey the area you are planning for your garden. Is it sunny or shaded by trees? If you have bulbs that are already planted or blooming, notice where they are. Scoping out your yard will help you determine the types of plants that are right for each area and prevent you from planting annuals or perennials on top of bulbs.
- Plant. If you are starting with potted plants, water them the night before you will transfer them to the soil. When transferring, bury the plant to the same depth it was in the pot. If roots are densely packed, gently tease them apart with your fingers to allow them to stretch out and grow. To sow seeds directly into the garden, start with loose soil, then follow instructions on your seed package for spacing and depth. Be sure to keep the soil evenly moist to allow for germination.
- Water. Water as soon as you are finished planting. Most plants should get about 1 inch of water per week (more if the summer is particularly dry). To save money on your water bill, rainwater can be recycled by collecting it in a large plastic barrel and using that to fill your watering can.
- Mulch. Apply a 1 to 2 inch layer, being careful to keep mulch away from trunks and stems. Mulch provides a blanket to keep moisture in the soil and maintains a steadier soil temperature, while also helping to keep weeds out. But putting mulch too close to trunks and stems can create too much moisture, which encourages pests and plant diseases. A good choice is a quality organic mulch. There are many varieties available in different colors and made of different materials, so shop around for one you like.