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Archive for March, 2013

Spring Gardening – Getting Started

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Raised beds with vegetables beginning to grow.

Do you want to have a garden?

Do you have a plot of land that needs clearing off so that you can either put in a little garden or raised bed boxes for a garden? Whether this plot of land is covered in grass or nothing but weeds, you probably don’t want to have to saturate the whole area with an herbicide and then wait till everything is dead to clear it off so you can actually plant a garden.

An easy way to get started is to till the area, either with a tiller (which you can borrow or rent) or with a shovel. A shovel takes longer but is still very effective. After the area has been turned over and tilled, take a garden rake (a leaf rake might work but not very well) and pull the weeds and grass out of the dirt. As you rake them out, just discard them in the trash and not the compost.

If the area is covered in good grass lawn, then it might be better to lift the sod and transplant it somewhere else in your yard or share it with someone else who might be able to use it.

After you’ve gotten out as many grass and weed strands and roots as possible (the more the better since it cuts down on so much work later) then it’s time to either:

Prepare the soil for the garden by turning in some composted cow or steer manure, which you can buy pretty cheap at WalMart or Lowe’s etc. If you heavy clay soil or very sandy soil, you can add some peat moss (also available at WalMart and Lowe’s). Also, it is a good idea to add a balanced fertilizer at this time. Mix all of t

OR

Build raised beds for your garden. After getting the raised beds in place and making sure they are pretty level, it’s easy to put a layer of newspaper in the bed to discourage weeds from coming up from below. The newspaper will break down and become part of the soil. It’s possible to fill the raised bed with garden soil, but much better to use a combination of other things to create a soil that is light, drains well and won’t pack down.

Some of the things you can use to create a “soil” for you raised beds is: sawdust (no, it won’t hurt the plants), washed sand, perlite, peat moss, compost, composted manure, straw (but it may have seeds), shredded newspaper, and a balanced fertilizer, (see previous post for more information on fertilizers). We also add the polymers from gently used baby diapers (wetnot dirty) as they keep moisture in the soil really well.

Raised vegetable bed with tomatoes and corn

To keep weeds from growing in the pathways between the raised bed boxes or the garden rows, it’s a good idea to lay down some layers of newspapers and then cover that with wood chips.

All done. Now you’re ready to plant. Wasn’t that easy?

Those 3 Numbers on Fertilizer

Ever wonder what those 3 numbers on the bags of fertilizer mean?

Here is a break down that might help.

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65-15-15 OR 10-10-10 Which fertilizer to use?

The three main nutrients that have been identified as absolutely necessary for plants are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These three are also known as macronutrients, and are the source of the three numbers commonly found on organic fertilizer labels.

Nitrogen (N) is responsible for above-ground vegetative growth of plants, and for overall size and vigor. It is probably best known for its ability to “green up” lawns. That’s because nitrogen is a major component of chlorophyll, the green substance in plants responsible for photosynthesis. Nitrogen can be added to your soil through composted manure, blood meal, canola meal, and fish powder. Too much nitrogen and your plants will grow extremely fast, resulting in long, spindly, weak shoots with dark green leaves. Too little nitrogen and your plants will slow or even stop their growth, and have leaves turning yellow and dropping sooner than they should.

Phosphorus (P) promotes healthy growth, strong roots, fruit and flower development, and greater resistance to disease. Rock phosphate, bone meal and some guanos are sources of phosphorous. A phosphorus deficiency is recognized by dull green leaves and purplish stems. Plants are generally unhealthy, sometimes yellowing. Lack of blooming with lush green foliage may also indicated a lack of phosphorus.

Potassium (K), also known as potash, is essential for the development of strong plants. It helps plants to resist diseases and protects them from the cold. Because potassium plays a supporting role, it can be hard to spot deficiencies. Generally, leaves will show blue, yellow or purple tints with brown blotches or discoloration within or at the edges. Plants will lack growth and have small fruit and sickly blooms. Sources of potassium include greensand, sul-po-mag (sulfate of potash magnesia, quick release) and many liquid fertilizers.

The long and short of it is that in most cases you want a balanced (8-8-8, 10-10-10 or 16-16-16 etc.) fertilizer, unless you need something specific, like Nitrogen for your grassy lawn.

Preparing For Spring Gardening

As I try my best to be patient waiting on the snow to melt so that I can finally get back out in the garden, I realize  that there is a lot to do before I get started..

One of the first things to do is to make a list of the things that need to be done, such as clearing away winter debri and checking the plants for damage.  Some of the plants (fruit trees and roses) need to be pruned and as buds begun to swell on the fruit trees, it will be time to spray with dormant oil to prevent pests like aphids from getting a start.

Before the perennials come up or annuals are planted, it’s a good time to work on things like pathways and sprinkler heads.

Early spring is a good time to evaluate your garden to see if you might want to make any changes or additions. Trips to plant nurseries can give you a lot of new garden ideas.

Check out lists above (Flowers tab) for some favorite annuals and perennials.  Don’t forget to check out the seeds available before they get all picked over and scarce. Planting seeds are a great way to get a lot of flowers (or vegetables) for very little money.

Unfortunately, planning for spring gardening makes me even more impatient to get out there and get started.

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