Monday, March 15, 2010

Getting Started Gardening

With the coming of spring, I get the itching to plant!  The word around the water cooler at work shows that I'm not the only one intching to play in the dirt!  Everyone is ready to start working in the yard.
I thought I would start posting about gardening--vegetable and flower.  To start with we need to get some definitions of gardening terms straight.

Annual:  These are plants with one season of growth and maturity.  Meaning that they grow, mature, and flower all in one season.  These are plants like impatiens, begonias, tomatoes, and peppers.  Annuals are usually "show-outs" in the garden.  They are used to add extra color and continuous color for the different seasons.  Remember that annuals need to be replaced after each growing season, but that they are the easiest to get to come up from seed.

Biennual:  These are plants that spend the first year growing and then in the second season they flower and fruit.  Examples of these are foxglove, parsely, Swiss chard, carrots, lettuce, and dianthus.  Plant breeders have made many biennual plants to be annuals now.  Biennual plants usually reseed--meaning that they product seed after the second season and then new plants come up from those seeds left in the garden.

Perennial:  This is a plant that has more than two growing seasons.  All trees and shurbs are perennial.  Perennials have come a long way in resent years.  There are great new varieties that are easier to grow and have showier blooms and foliage.  Most perennials will be used in the flower garden but there are some perennial vegetable plants--asparagus, artichoke and rhubarb.  Perennials come back each year from their root stocks. Perennials are costly plants at first but end up saving you money by not having to be replaced each year.  You just have to remember to save room for growing!

Weeds:  These are plants that have ended up in the wrong place in the garden!  Not all plants are weeds, but all weeds are plants.  Remember what you may call a weed, someone else may call a beautiful garden plant.  Look at controlling weeds now, before everything gets started instead of waiting until your garden is growing really good.  Preen is a great pre-maget that will stop most unwanted plants from growing and reducing your weeding later in the season.  Also now is the time to get mulching!  Use mulch that is easy for you.  Pine straw, double ground bark, ground bark or bark nuggets are all good mulches.  You decide what you want to use.

Fertilizer:  Organic fertilizer, e.i. manue, is the best for the environment.  But not always the easiest to find or the most pleasant of smells.  The next best is liquid orgainc fertilizers.  Plants can absorb this type of fertilizer in both their roots and leaves.  Then comes liquid chemical fertilizers and gradular, slow release fertilizers.  All liquid fertilizers are applied through the watering process and need to be done once a week during the growing season.  While slow release fertilizer is placed around the plants roots and is released with each watering and with high temperatures.  Slow release is added to the growing medium once every three months in the growing season for optimal.  No matter how great your plants are when you plant them, if you forget to add fertilizer to your plants, your plants will never get to their optimum growth.

Soil: It's important to remember that most purchased soil is not earth, e.i. comes from the back yard!  Purchased soil is made up of peatmoss, bark, vermiculite, perlite, sand and starter fertilizer.  It is also sterile, meaning there is no soil borne organisms in it.  I can do a post on JUST soil.  For your pots, most purchased soil is just fine.  When you are doing a garden, it is best to get a soil sample to test for pH and for any soil borne pathogens.  Most Cooperative Extension Services can do a soil sample for you for a small fee.  This is well worth the fee that can pay you in better crops if you have a better soil.  The soil sample will also tell you how much lime or fertilizer you will need to get your soil ready to specific crops.  Soil sampling is really important if you use composted soil.  This way you can be sure that you have a good pH balance with the new soil you have applied to your garden spot.  I can't tell you how important pH is for your plants.  The wrong pH for the wrong plant, and you will kill any savings you were trying to get by growing your own plants!  Get the pH right, and your garden will reward you more times over!

I hope I have helped you with understanding some basis topics in gardening.  I will keep adding posts about different gardening topics.  Please send me any questions you have and I'll do my best to get an answer for you. 

Happy gardening--and have fun playing in the dirt!

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