Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Start a New Garden!

1. Choosing a Site.
• Start Small. We are all busy these days and the easiest way to turn yourself off gardening is to take on too much. You can start with just a patio garden with a few containers of herbs and vegetables. Or a small flowerbed size garden.
• Choose a sunny location. Vegetables need at least 6 hours of sun exposure a day.
• Remember, that afternoon sun will be hotter and more drying than morning sun. Windy areas will also dry out your garden more quickly.
• Choose a site close to a water source or with in easy hose distance.
• Don’t establish your site too close to a row of trees and the trees deep roots may draw moisture and nutrients away from your garden.

2. How's the Soil? Prepare the Site.

• Soil texture refers to whether it is sandy, heavy clay, rocky or the ideal, a sandy loam. Whatever the texture, it can be improved with the addition of organic matter such as compost or peat moss.
• Plants cannot take up nutrients unless the soil's pH is within a certain range. Most plants like a fairly neutral pH, 5.0 – 7.0, but other are more particular. If no pH preference is listed, a neutral range is fine. You can buy an inexpensive pH test kit at most hardware stores. The kits generally consist of a test tube, some testing solution and a color chart. You put a sample of your soil in the tube, add a few drops of test solution, shake it up and leave it for an hour or so to settle. The solution in the tube changes color according to the pH of your soil. Compare the color of the sample with the color chart that came with the kit.
• To increasing soil pH try adding hardwood ash, bone meal, crushed marble, or crushed oyster shells will help to raise the soil pH. To increase your pH by 1.0 point and make your soil more alkaline:
• Add 4 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in sandy soils.
• Add 8 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in loamy soils.
• Add 12 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in clay soils.
• Add 25 ounces of hydrated lime per square yard in peaty soils.
• To lower soil pH try adding sawdust, composted leaves, wood chips, cottonseed meal, leaf mold and especially peat moss. To reduce the soil pH by 1.0 point and make your soil more acidic:
• Add mix in 1.2 oz of ground rock sulfur per square yard if the soil is sandy or 3.6 oz per square yard for all other soils. The sulfur should be thoroughly mixed into the soil before planting.
• Remember!!! Always read and follow the manufactures recommendations when using chemical products. Use a dust mask and gloves. The best way to adjust pH is gradually, over several seasons. Lime should be applied only when tests show it to be necessary. If the soil is too alkaline, you may be better off to build a raised bed using topsoil purchased from a garden center.

3. What Would You Like to Grow? Planting Tips

• In Lloydminster, we typically have about 110 growing days.
• If you have your heart set on growing a specific plant, check to see what growing conditions it requires. To begin choose only a few varieties with similar growing habits. You can plant most vegetables and some herbs by seed, such as carrots, radishes, potatoes, you may choose to buy established plants to jump-start your garden and ensure that it grows and produces with in the growing season. Plants that you may consider transplanting include most herbs, tomatoes, peppers, corn, cucumbers,
• The ideal time to plant is on a still, overcast day. This will put the least stress on your new plants.
• Water the plants in their pots the day before you intend to plant.
• Remove the plants individually from their pots as you plant so that the roots don’t dry out.
• If the roots are densely packed or growing in a circle, tease them apart so they will stretch out and grow into the surrounding soil.
• Bury the plant to the depth it was in the pot. Too deep and the stem will rot. Too high and the roots will dry out.
• Don't press down too hard on the plants as you cover them. Watering will settle them into the ground.
• Water your newly planted garden as soon as it is planted and make sure it gets at least one inch of water per week. You may have to water more often in hot dry summers. Let your plants tell you how much water they need. Some wilting in noonday sun is normal. Wilting in the evening is stress.

4. Pinching, Pruning and Pulling

• Weeds are inevitable and come from wind, birds, soil on shoes... Weeding can be a Zen activity but too much is just plain hard work.
• One of the best ways to prevent a lot of weeding is to mulch. It truly can make a major difference in a garden. Mulch conserves water, blocks weeds and cools the soil. Further, organic mulches like shredded or chipped bark, compost, straw and shredded leaves, will also improve the soil quality.
• You can also try plastic mulches to heat the soil around warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, melons and squash. Red plastic mulch can even improve tomato production.
• Apply mulch soon after planting, before new weeds sprout. Apply a 2-4 inch thick layer of mulch, avoiding direct contact with the plant stems. Piling mulch around the stem can lead to rotting and can provide cover for munching mice and slugs.
• Deadheading or removing the spent blossoms from your flowers, will keep them blooming longer and looking fresher. Vegetables will produce more if you keep harvesting while young.
• Taller plants and those that grow on vines may need to be staked, to keep from falling over.
• If something dies, don’t worry that is gardening! Move on, replace it with something else and try again next year.

5. Enjoy!

• Gardeners can get so busy pinching, pruning and pulling every weed, that we often don't appreciate what we've created. Step back and enjoy what you've accomplished.
• Give your garden a theme or add some garden accessories to make it a fun and pretty place to visit.
• Start a garden journal if you are into that. It is a great way to remember what worked and what didn’t and will help you plans to expand next year.
• Enjoy your harvest.

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