How to make a garden we are proud to show off.
Mankind has been planting and tending gardens for hundreds of years. For centuries it has been a necessity to grow food for sustenance.
Nowadays most of us buy food that is produced by the large commercial farms. We are spoiled by all of the available foods at the supermarkets.
But there is something very fulfilling about planting and tending our own garden. It may be vegetables, flowers or landscape plants. Gardening is fun and rewarding.
Any type of garden starts the same and is maintained the same way. There are five things that make and keep a garden beautiful.
The best way to prepare the soil is to add organic matter.
It doesn't matter if we have clay, sand or a good loam, add organic matter. Compost is great. We can get different types of composts at the garden centers.
If we have a clay soil the compost breaks apart the clay particles, so the soil will drain and not remain soggy.
When we have sandy soil, it drains so fast that the plants have difficult time getting water. The organic matter helps retain water so the plants can get enough moisture.
If we have a nice loam soil we are very lucky, but it is always good to add some compost.
When we are preparing a large area for a flower bed, vegetables or even a lawn, cultivate the organic matter into the entire area. At the same time, cultivate some fertilizer into the area.
When we are planting a tree, shrub or any individual plant, mix the organic matter into the planting hole.
Don't buy a tree or shrub when we see roots bulging up above the soil. These things are an indication of a root-bound or pot-bound plant.
We can't tip the plant out of the pot and look at the roots. Although sometimes I wish I could.
If the plant is root-bound, it is already under stress and it is best not to buy it.
A tree or shrub that is root-bound will have roots going around and around in the pot. If we plant it that way the roots will continue to grow around and around in the planting hole.
They won't straighten out by themselves and they will eventually strangle themselves. So don't buy them to start with.
Also, don't buy a tree or shrub that seems to wiggle in the pot.
It might have just been potted up or some reason have a lack of roots. If we pick it up by grasping the trunk near the soil and it starts to come out of the pot; leave it there. Don't buy it.
Dig the hole first before taking the plant out of its container. We don't want to expose the fine feeder roots to the air any longer than necessary.
If the roots dry out too much, they will die. It's not the big fat roots that pick up the moisture and nutrients out of the soil. The fine feeder roots do that job. The bigger roots are just for support and transport systems up and down the plant.
Dig the sides of the hole straight up and down vertically. Don't have the hole wider at the top and narrow at the bottom. If we do, the roots will just grow around and around in the narrow bottom of the hole.
Dig the hole wider than the container the plant came in. We want to give the roots plenty of room to grow, especially if we have hard soil. A tip on how to make a garden; a small hole won't grow good roots.
When we are planting a bare root tree
or shrub make a mound in the bottom of the planting hole and spread the roots
down over the mound of soil. Then they will continue to grow down and out.
Plant the plants at the same depth they were in the containers.
Some plants are very sensitive to being planted too deep. Strawberries are an example of sensitive. When they are planted too deep, they will die.
Tomatoes are an exception to this rule. A good garden tip is to put a lot of the tomato stem underground. They like it. They will grow new roots along the stem that is under the soil.
That makes a
stronger plant because it has a bigger root system. Then they can produce more
tomatoes. Grow more tomatoes
What if we get a plant with roots going around in the container? Straighten them out before planting. No, don't take the soil off of the roots.
If they won’t straighten, make two or three vertical cuts down the outside of the root ball. Cut just deep enough to sever the circling roots. Don't cut too deep and try not to knock the soil off of the roots.
Put the plant into the planting hole and fill soil around it. Firm the soil down around the plant. For small plants we firm the soil with our hands. For large plants we can firm the soil with our foot.
Make sure there is good contact between the roots and the soil. This is an important tip on how to make a garden.
That way the plants will be able to pick up the water and nutrients out of the soil. If they have air around their roots, they can't get anything.
Water immediately after planting.
If the soil is particularly dry, fill the hole with water a couple of times. Then fill the hole the rest of the way up with soil and water again.
But with a tree it takes a lot of water to get it down to the bottom of their roots. That's why I like to water them in the hole while I am planting.
Newly planted plants should be watered about two to three times a week. It depends on where you live and your climate.
Do not water every day. The exception would be if it is very hot or windy.
Watering every day encourages the roots to stay close to the surface of the soil. Then they have to be watered every day and if we miss a few days they are in trouble.
Leaving time between watering encourages the roots to grow deeper looking for water. This results in a stronger root system.
Feeding plants is simple. When we put compost into the planting hole this gave the plants nutrients to start with. Most fertilizer containers give instructions for the general category of plants we are growing. They will tell how often and how much to give them.
Use a balanced fertilizer that has its number all the same like a 6-6-6. The numbers stand for nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium.
A high nitrogen fertilizer (a high first number) is the good for the lawn.
If we use high nitrogen on our flowers or vegetables, all we will get is a bunch of pretty leaves and not many flowers or veggies.
Use a low nitrogen fertilizer for fruit, vegetables and flowers.
We may plant bulbs in the fall at their recommended planting time. Put bone meal (a high phosphorus supplement) into their planting hole for robust bulbs. This is how to make a garden with lots of spring flowers.
For large trees and shrubs we can get tablets of time-released fertilizer that will last a year. Then each year just bore a hole and put new tablets in the ground at the drip line.
Water and fertilizer need to go into the soil at the drip line of the large plants. That is where the feeder roots are.
Smaller plants may be fed with a liquid fertilizer applied through a hose. Or put time-released granules around the plant.
We may put some fertilizer into the hole when we plant medium to large plants.
Just make sure the fertilizer does not touch the roots. Cover the fertilizer with just little bit of soil. Then as the new roots grow, they will find the fertilizer.
We may also use composted manure
around the plants. This is what people have done for centuries. Or we can put
fish into the ground where the garden will be.
We did this a couple of years when we were commercial fishing. We brought some trash fish home and put them in the garden. Boy did we get some wonderful crops!
The Indians really knew what they were doing. They knew how to make a garden. If you don't have fish you can use fish emulsion or manure tea. They all work.
Fertilize several times during the growing season. Check the fertilizer container and see what they recommend. How often will depend on the strength of the fertilizer.
No fertilizing is needed during the winter.
Never fertilize a dry plant. It will pick up too much fertilizer and burn the plant. Water one day and then fertilize the next day or two while there is still moisture in the soil around the roots.
Oh my! I could write a whole page on each one of these garden tips subjects. Maybe I already have.
Pruning will keep the plant safe and healthy. Let's keep it simple. Here are some pruning tips on how to keep a good garden.
If they are a onetime bloomer like daffodils or day lilies cut off the old stems and/or leaves when they turn yellow. As long as the leaves are still green leave them on.
They are feeding the plant so it can store nutrients for the next year's flowers. Water and minerals come up from the roots, but leaves make carbohydrates for the plant’s growth.
Spring blooming shrubs are pruned after they bloom.
Don't prune them in the fall or winter or there won't be any flowers the next year. The flower buds for next year are set in this year's growth.
If wee prune in the fall or winter, we are cutting off next
year's flowers. Next year's flower buds are generally set by August.
Summer blooming shrubs like Crape Myrtle are pruned in the late fall to winter.
We can do this because they set their flower buds on the current season's growth. Then they bloom from those buds during the same season.
Trees are pruned in the late fall after the leaves have fallen. Then the sap has gone down and they have gone dormant.
Thinning makes an informal garden. Heading cuts create a formal look.
Thinning is cutting the entire branch off.
Thinning is where the entire branch is cut off all the way back to where it joins onto the main branch. It will never grow or sprout again.
Thinning makes a natural looking plant and a gentle, natural landscape. This is my preferred method of pruning.
Heading is cuts part of the branch off.
When a heading cut is made the
remaining part of the branch will normally sprout and grow again.
If the branch does not grow, there is a chance it will die. It may carry rot or disease back into the main branch where it is attached.
If there were some leaves on the branch below the heading cut, it will most likely sprout and grow again. Many times it will grow multiple sprouts.
This is what happens when a hedge is pruned with hedge clippers. The plant makes multiple sprouts and produces a smooth green exterior on the sheared plant.
But, if you look in the interior of the plant, you won't see as many leaves. The dense leaves on the outside shade out the interior of the plant and the interior leaves die.
Some plants never grow sprouts from a headed branch, like many coniferous plants.
Some fruit trees require heading or other specialized pruning, but I am not going to cover that here, nor grapes or berries at this time.
I dislike seeing lollipop looking trees and shrubs. Why not just leave them natural looking. Why torture the plants?
Thank you for letting me share how to make a garden.