With spring comes rebirth and new beginnings, and our thoughts turn to gardening. What’s your gardening pleasure?
Do you simply want to be outside to enjoy the weather and plant a few flowers and shrubs that are easy to care for? Perhaps you aspire to a themed garden, such as an English cottage garden with a boxwood hedge trimmed to frame your roses and lavender. If you want to create a serene space, plant a Japanese garden with stones, a Koi pond and Japanese maples. There‘s a rising trend towards planting pollinator gardens filled with native plants that come alive with butterflies and birds and bees. Or, how about planting a vegetable garden – raised beds, a square foot garden divided into grids, or traditional rows – to feed your family homegrown tomatoes and peppers?
Whatever your objective, here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when creating a healthy garden.
Remember, you can’t fool Mother Nature.
The right plant in the right place makes a difference! Take a representative sampling of the soil where you plan to garden and have it tested to determine the health of your soil and if added nutrients are needed for what you aspire to plant. Check the light requirements of the plants as well. Tomatoes need sun, not shade.
Find a convenient water source.
You can’t rely solely on rainfall so determine how much water your plantings will need and consider options to supplement when necessary. There’s a wide variety of choices, ranging from traditional manual watering wands to smart Wi-Fi plant watering systems.
Use integrated pest management techniques.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices, according to the EPA. IPM means different things for different crops and gardens, but any pest control methods used should have the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
What’s your point?
A focal spot can anchor your garden and make it more interesting. Whether it’s a bench, a piece of statuary, a birdbath, a single eye-catching plant or a grouping, a water feature or a wall, it draws the eye. Think of it as your “ahh” moment.
Avoid invasive plants.
The best way to stop invasive plants from spreading is never to plant them in the first place. Among some of the invasives from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s plant watch list are English ivy, Kudzu, Japanese honeysuckle, and multiflora rose.
Don’t be discouraged.
Gardening should be fun! Think of it as a learning process that never stops. As gardener Janet Kilburn Philips once said, “There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.”
- Plants grow best within a range of optimum temperatures. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map lets users enter a ZIP Code and find the hardiness zone for an area. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has compiled a comprehensive Native Plants Database for North America. Additionally, the North American Native Plant Society is a great resource, as well as has a listing of local societies.
- “Planting a Home Vegetable Garden” is an excellent resource from Iowa State University Extension at: https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/4134.
- For more information, Master Gardener Extension Volunteers (MGEV) in each state are affiliated with a state land-grant university or its Cooperative Extension Service. These volunteers offer gardening information, programs and are happy to answer questions.
Finally, are you ready for some inspiration? Take a virtual tour of the gardens at Mt. Cuba located in Delaware, near Wilmington.
The earth laughs in flowers —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’ —Robin Williams