Monday, June 4, 2012

6 Tips for Easy Gardening

Gardening can be so easy and a fun way to relax from all the stress. Gardeners create beauty and even save on buying produce. Here are 6 tips to make gardening as simple as possible:

1. Start with great soil 
Healthy plants get less diseases, attract less insect pests and require less water. Plus you won't have to fertilize every other week. Begin with an analysis of your existing soil. You can have all the essential nutrients tested or just the pH. Many professional nurseries provide this service. If your soil is deficient in any minerals or nutrients, amend the soil according to their recommendations.Then add regularly organic matter, such as compost, sea weeds (for those who live in coastal areas) or shredded leaves - done with your lawn mower in fall or spring  .

2. Compost
Slow release, organic fertilizers and compost can help supplement deficient nutrients. But feeding plants with synthetic fertilizers can actually destroy the beneficial organisms and organic matter within soil and only provide a short fix. It's like turning your garden into a drug addict. It will need regular doses of fertilizer and more and more to get the same effect. Make your own compost, just wrap your fruit or vegetable kitchen scraps into a sheet of newspaper, add dry leaves and grass clippings, sprinkle a shovel of soil over it, water - and you will have nice compost soil in no time - at least in the summer. Do the same in winter and you will have it ready when the planting season starts.

3. "Right plant for the right spot"  
You certainly want to plant sun lovers in the sun and ground covers where they can roam. But consider how efficient it would be if you put all your water hogs together so you could just drag the hose to one area and be done. Plants such as Astilbes, Hostas and Hydrangias for shade and Sedums, Yarrows or Lambs Ear for sunny gardens, will look good at all season and don't need deadheading, pinching or staking.

4. Low Maintenance Perennials 
Make the backbone of your garden perennial flowers that can take care of themselves.
And if you plant flowers that are re-seeding a lot, such as Purple Cone Flower don't forget to cut the blooms once they are spend. However don't cut down any spring flowers that grow from bulbs (Tulips, Daffodils etc.) as they need to get nutrition from the air and sun in order to store them. Just let them dry out. If you are a savvy gardener you have planted large late spring/summer flowers in front of them, such as Peonies or Hydrangeas.

5. Raised Beds & Containers
It's much easier to control your garden if it has definite boundaries. Containers provide the ultimate in control. You control the soil, water, exposure and even limit the growth of the plants in the container. Raised beds separate the garden beds from their surroundings. Ideally, lift the beds up by 6 inches or more. You'll have the benefits of controlling your borders and you'll be saving your back from some bending.

6. Mulch!  Mulch! And more Mulch!
Again, this is common sense and something you've been told a hundred times.Yet many gardeners only view mulch as decoration. Sure, mulch does make a garden look more attractive, saves weeding time, but it also keeps the soil and plant roots cool and retains moisture so you can water less often.

Think about it: When a leaf falls in the woods, no one would pick it up. Leaves, plant litter and other organic debris cover the forest floor, grass layers build up over the prairie and rocks and gravel top off the sandy soil in desert areas. No matter what the climate or topography, the soil in nature is covered with some kind of mulch. It pays for us to apply this lesson in our home gardens as well, to reap the benefits that nature has enjoyed from the beginning.

Best of all: mulching prevents weed seeds from seeing the light of day and sprouting. A mulch on top of your soil reduces weeds in two ways: First, it blocks the weed seeds that blow into the area from above by providing a less hospitable germination bed than bare soil. Second, it blocks many weed seeds already in your soil which may try to sprout up from below.

Moreover, mulch conserves moisture. Water evaporates more quickly from soil that is left naked. A mulch not only shades the soil from the hot sun, but organic mulches soften the earth and improve aeration as they slowly decompose. This softening encourages plant roots to reach down deeper, where they are more likely to find moisture on their own.Gardeners are able to cut down on watering, weeding and fertilizing time. The deeper the mulch, the more weeds you will block.

WARNING:  NEVER buy colored mulch. It is full of poisenous dyes and certainly not healthy for your plants -  it stinks like chemicals and has none of the natural Cedar benefits. And it is actually produced by chemical/paper companies.  Use only natural cedar mulch!

Gardening is fun and can be really simple if you follow these basics. Enjoying your gardening hobby, even the simple tasks and don't forget to smell the Roses.

. . . Hyper Smash