By Andrea Justus
As the weather improves a good number of us are looking at our gardens and landscaping and thinking, where do I start? Here are some easy tips for preparing your garden.
–Remove all dead garden debris as it may harbor pests or disease from last year. After the debris is removed it is time to weed.
–Remove all growing weeds by the root using a hand weeder – tilling can break apart and spread roots resulting in more weeds down the road. It is tempting to use technology to get things done faster. I prefer not to use weed spray in my vegetable garden and find that pulling by the roots lasts longer. My favorite hand weeder is the type that telescopes with a claw on one side and a hoe on the other. A weed hoe is also helpful in soft soil to loosen the plants so you can pull them by the roots.
–Prepare the soil – Incorporate compost by digging in with a garden fork. Refresh soil in raised beds, talk with your local gardening supply store or Master Gardener for soil amendment recommendations. Incorporate appropriately labeled dry vegetable fertilizer before planting vegetables. Time release fertilizer is best as the plant can absorb it over time.
–Know the appropriate planting dates for summer vegetables. There are many resources available including the library, plant labels, local plant nurseries, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners. See http://loudouncountymastergardeners.org/ for the Master Gardeners events calendar for planting information and to learn where in the county they are holding lectures or Garden Clinics in season.
–Have stakes, trellises, twine, hoses and other garden tools ready for when the vegetables are ready to be planted. Pay attention to planting depth, for tomatoes plant them up to the first set of leaves to establish strong roots and plants. After planting it is helpful to sprinkle some Preen between the rows to minimize summer weeding, (do not use Preen in beds if you are going to plant seeds for a second harvest).
–Water in all plantings. Consider covering the rows and walkways in straw to keep weeds down and help plants retain moisture. Hand watering works well for many people, remember that what you water grows whether it is weeds or vegetables. You can avoid watering weeds by using a garden watering system of hoses with water holes every 12 inches. These systems are relatively inexpensive, convenient, and last a long time especially when covered in straw.
–Get started! Rediscover the fun of growing things and share the hobby.
To talk to Andrea about gardening, or finding the farm of your dreams, click here!