Raised Row Garden

Would you like to have a low-maintenance garden with no tilling each spring, very few weeds to spend hours pulling, and growing beds that only need a topping with compost to be ready to plant?

Building the Rows

If you said yes to a low maintenance garden, then you are in for a treat.  Instead of tilling this spring, start building your raised row garden by determining how much garden you need. Typical rows are 18 inches wide by whatever length you want, usually 10-20 ft long.
Start building up your rows by putting down 10-20 sheets of newspaper 18-20 inches wide and wet it down.

Layering the Material

On top of the newspaper, start adding green and brown materials with a layer of soil on each layer. You can use shredded paper, grass clippings, old straw, coffee grounds, well-aged manure or any organic material that will break down over time. Wet down everything as you add your layers. Top with a layer of soil and compost mixed together. Your rows should be 18-24 inches high as they will shrink as the materials breaks down.

Cover Pathways

Now after you remove all the weeds for the last time, cover your pathways with a thick layer of straw. This helps prevent new weeds from taking hold. You may have to pull a few weeds for the first year or two, but as the straw breaks down and forms a mat (you’ll add more as needed) the weeds won’t be able to find soil.

Plant Vegetables

After planting your vegetables, mulch all your raised rows with a good deep layer of straw and water in well. Never walk on your raised rows as you don’t want to compact the soil or step on the roots.

Walk through your garden just 15 minutes a day looking at your plants and scouting for and pulling any stray weeds that had the gall to grow in your low maintenance garden. It will be well worth the stroll through the garden to enjoy your efforts and head off any problems.

For an excellent planting plan and more information on the raised row garden, check out https://oldworldgardenfarms.com/2012/11/27/preparing-and-planting-the-raised-row-bed-garden

 

 

Summer Lawn Care

Bare Patches

Any patches of your lawn that have not survived the winter, or the family dogs, may need to be reseeded.  Remove any dead grass from the spot, rake the dirt gently to allow seeds to settle into the soil, spread your seed, water well, and cover with straw to keep birds out of the seed.

Weeding

Weeds can take over a lawn if not nipped in the bud.  Checking your lawn daily to remove any new weeds will keep them from spreading to other areas of the lawn.  You may want to apply a commercial weed and feed product that kills weeds and feeds the grass at the same time.

Mowing

Mowing should be done at about 3-4 inches each time. Taller blades of grass get more light during the hottest part of the day and use this energy to produce more nutrients for the roots and surrounding soil.  Grass that is the right height retains more moisture throughout the hot, dry days.  Change your mowing pattern each time you mow.

Grass Clippings

If you have a mulching mower, leave a light covering of grass clippings on the lawn for nutrients as they break down.  If your mower collects the grass clippings, you can use them as mulch for your vegetable garden or put them in a compost pile.

Fertilizing

Fertilize at the beginning of summer season (or even in spring if the snow is gone). Follow your product’s recommendations on whether or not to fertilize again mid -season.  Use a slow release fertilizer after the soil reaches 55 degrees.

Watering

Best time to water is in the morning so the soil can absorb the moisture and the grass will dry off before the sun heats everything up.  Only water if you’ve not had any rain in a week.  If footprints or mower tracks remain indented in the grass for longer than 30 minutes it’s a good sign that the grass needs water.

How to Transplant Perennials

If you have perennials that have gotten too big or need to be moved to another location, here are some tips to make sure they transfer without too much trauma.

Timing

Spring is the ideal time to transplant fall-blooming perennials and ornamental grasses.  Fall is the best time to transplant spring blooming perennials.  This gives each group time to adjust to their new location before time to bloom again.  Allow at least six weeks of growing time before a hard frost.

Preparation

The day before you plan to move the plants, water them very well so they’ll have reserves to survive the shock of transplanting.  Pick a day that is cloudy and not too hot and plan to work on your perennials early in the morning or later in the afternoon.  These are the cooler parts of the day and the plants will make the move easier.

Digging

Dig the new hole where your plant will live before digging up the plant.  Make it a little wider than the root ball.  Then move the plant into its new home right after digging it.  Use a flat bladed spade and cut as deep as you can around all sides of the plant.  Stay about six inches away from the crown and dig as much of the root ball as possible. If the plants are too large, divide them into two or more clumps and move to their new location.

Deep Rooted Plants

Some plants like oriental poppies, balloon flowers, and butterfly weed, put down one deep tap root so you will have to dig deeper and get as much of the tap root as possible.  These plants need part of the taproot to survive, so be sure you include a piece of the root with each division.

Water

Water your plants well in their new location after tamping soil around them.  If they seem really dry, you can fill the hole with water before placing the plant then tamp the soil down and give it another drink.  The plants should be well watered daily for about two weeks.  Add a layer of mulch to hold in the moisture.  Don’t panic if they look a little wilted after moving them.  With plenty of water, they should perk back up in a few days.

Reference:  https://www.todayshomeowner.com/how-to-divide-and-transplant-perennials/

 

Build Great Garden Soil

The most important element of any successful garden is the soil. Soil is composed of clay, loam, sand, or a combination of all three.  Clay soil is nutrient rich but lacks easy drainage. Loamy soil is considered ideal because if retains some moisture but doesn’t let plant roots get soggy.  Sandy soil doesn’t retain water at all.

Amendments for Clay Soil

In the case of clay soil, you want to break apart the molecules that are holding it together.  You can till or dig down about 12 inches and start adding sand, well-rotted (at least 1-2 years old) manure, commercial compost, shredded leaves, grass clippings, and/or sand. Mix this in well and wait a few days to see if you’ve loosened it up enough.  Buy a few extra bags of untreated mulch, poke a few holes in the bag, and let it sit over the winter.  It will be decomposed enough to make a great amendment for clay soil.

Amendments for Sandy Soil

In the case of sandy soil, you want to add enough material so that the water is retained better and it contains enough nutrients.  Add well-rotted manure or compost (including grass clippings, humus and leaf mold to help improve the soil the fastest).  Some commercial soil mixes contain peat, so mix it sparingly in with natural materials as it can increase the salt levels in sandy soil and it can build up to levels that will be damaging to plants.

The Lasagna Method

The easiest way to work with bad soil is to ignore it and build a garden bed on top of it.  The Lasagna Method uses layers of natural green and brown material to build up the garden rows about 18-24 inches high (deep enough for most vegetables) and about 18 inches wide.  As the materials break down they form the most nutritious soil you can have and you don’t walk on the beds so they never get compacted. See this chart for a list of materials to layer. You can build up the soil in a garden bed or a raised bed.

I have built my lasagna beds and planted them right away with success. Just add some good bagged soil between the layers and on the top layer. The layers will compost quickly and plants will thrive.

Here’s how to do it.

https://www.hometalk.com/3603223/lasagna-composting-jump-start-your-garden-with-ease

 

Hardening Off Seedlings

If you’ve grown some vegetables from seed, you will need to slowly introduce them to the weather outside a couple of weeks before time to plant so they can get used to the wind, rain, and weather outside.

You may have raised your seedlings indoors under lights, in a sunny window, or in a greenhouse, and they need time to get used to heat, wind, and weather before planting in their permanent location.

Timing

Timing is important when growing vegetables from seeds.  Plant them out too early and they may have root systems too underdeveloped to survive.  Plant them too late and their roots may have become too clogged in the pot.  This is why it’s important to keep a record of when you planted each variety and when they were ready to plant out.  This way, you can plant your seeds at the optimum time to have a plant ready to go into the garden when the weather is the most favorable.  It may take a few tries to get this right.

Introducing the Outdoors

When seedlings are about two weeks away from being ready to plant out in your garden, pick a mild day with a light breeze and move your seedlings into a shady spot outdoors.  Only leave out a couple of hours the first day, gradually increasing the time over two weeks until they can stay out all day, then overnight when threat of frost is gone.  If you have a cold frame or greenhouse that you can open to the elements, these are great places to put your seedlings for gradual exposure.

Garden Center Plants

 Garden center plants have usually been outdoors for a while and shouldn’t need to be hardened off.  They may also have been in the pots a long time and may have roots curling around the root ball.  When getting ready to plant them, be sure to pull some of the roots away from the ball so they can begin spreading their roots outward. Plant with the top of the soil in the pot level with the garden soil.

https://www.growveg.com/guides/how-to-successfully-harden-off-seedlings/

 

Getting Gardens Ready for Summer

May is the perfect time to make sure your vegetable garden and flower beds are ready for summer.  Get started by inspecting your garden tools, cleaning and sharpening them as needed.  You may already need to mow grass and your mower should be in top form.

Do a Soil Test

If you’re not sure what nutrients your soil may need, do a soil test. Many cooperative extension services will test the soil for a small fee.  To gather soil for the test, take a plastic bag or container and gather samples from several places in your garden. Mix together and take this to the extension office, nursery, or lab and you will receive a report on your soil’s pH and present or missing nutrients, mainly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K). With this report, you will know what amendments may be needed to best nourish your plants.

Weeds

Even though you mulched well in the fall, there may still be some weeds that will give you problems now.  Get all those pesky nutrient robbers out of your garden and flower beds now before they start to take over. If they’ve already had a good start, you’ll need to jump on this task now.  Avoid tilling the garden whenever possible, as tilling only brings up more weed seeds.  If it will be a while before the ground is warm enough to plant vegetables, put a deep layer of straw over the clean soil. This will discourage new weeds from coming up. At planting time, you can plant right through the straw and have instant mulch.

Pruning

Prune fruit trees, vineing fruit, flowers, and shrubs that bloom on new wood.  Many shrubs such as some hydrangeas bloom on old wood and should only be trimmed for form.  Lilac and Forsythia should be finished blooming before pruning.

Perennials

Check on how your perennials fared through the winter. Some will be showing growth now, some are late coming awake.  Remove any damaged stems or leaves, remove the old mulch, give them a good dose of manure or compost, and add fresh mulch, being careful to keep mulch away from the stems.

 

How to Create Beautiful Containers

Pots of flowers incorporated into your flower beds add interest and, on a porch or patio, they create a lovely arrangement that draws the eye to the beautiful colors.  Here are some ideas for you to take with you to the 10th Annual Potting Event at the Garden Center May 10th.

Pots

Bring your own pot to the event or buy one there.  Experts will be on hand to help you select plants and fill the pots.  You have many choices from clay, ceramic, plastic lined baskets, plastic, fiberglass and more. Think outside the pot to other items than can hold soil!

When considering what kind of pot to use, consider where you will put it.  If you want to place it and not move it, a larger pot would work.  If you want something easily movable, say into or out of the sun, then choose a lighter pot. You could create a pretty vignette with a large pot, and 3-5 smaller ones in varying sizes.

Colors

Your pots can be color coordinated with your house or with the other colors in your garden. If you have some pots that don’t meet your color scheme, it’s easy to spray paint the outside of them. If they are put away out of the weather during the winter, the paint will last several seasons.  If you use a spray primer before painting them, the finish will last even longer.

Filling the Pot

Annuals in pots can be crowded much more than you would in the garden.  The secret formula for a beautiful pot is “thriller, filler, and spiller”. That is to say, you need something tall that really grabs the eye (the thriller) It can be a non-flowering plant or a spectacular blooming one.

The filler consists of those flowers that go in the middle or around the thriller to fill in the space.  These are traditionally shorter than the thriller.

The spiller is whatever spills over the edge of the pot.  With careful placement, you can have a graceful s-curve to your creation, a triangular shape, a C shape or whatever pleases your eye.  Ultimately, whatever looks great to you, is just right!

 

Garden Tool Series – Hand Tools

Pruners

Hand-held pruners are used for trimming and shaping plants, deadheading spent flowers, cutting back perennials, and removing small branches.  There are two basic kinds of garden pruners. Bypass pruners have blades that slip by each other like scissors and only one sharp blade.  Anvil pruners have a sharp blade that cuts the stem on the flat blade (anvil).  Pruners can handle stems up to about five inches, although a ratcheting anvil pruner may allow you to cut somewhat larger stems.

Loppers

Loppers have long handles and cut branches up to about 2.5 inches thick. Some grab the branch after it is cut and others have a ratcheting mechanism that allows the lopper to grab the branch while you are releasing and reengaging the handles.  Loppers require a fair amount of strength to cut through larger branches, however the ratcheting lopper allows more strength to be applied.

Clippers

Clippers have steel blades and soft rubber handles and are used like sideways scissors to cut grasses and trim bushes and hedges.

Planting Tools

 Smaller hand tools like trowels, weeders, cultivators and transplanters can often be purchased in a set or kit.  The trowel digs holes for small plants or seedlings and can scoop potting soil from bags.  The weeder has a forked end on a longer shaft that works well for digging deep rooted weeds. The cultivator has tines that help scratch fertilizer into the soil or scratch out large weed patches.  The transplanter looks like a trowel but is narrower and has depth marks on the surface to aid in planting bulbs to the right depth or planting seedlings to the same depth as they were in their pots.