Trouble Shooting your Garden
Plant temptations, tools & troubles...
Temptations and seductions abound in Garden Centers to Big box stores to your humble Grocery Stores…all those alluring plants and of course the newest bicolour or ruffle. It is like shopping for groceries on an empty stomach! And that is not all; add in the early availability of your summer time favourites like Mr Basil, before the true seasonal weather can support them. Be truthful: how many Basils have you killed in your understandable yearning for full on summer now, and it’s remembered yummy tastes? Truthfully we have all tried with some plant or another to push the envelope of Mother Nature and at times we do win this weather lottery! At other times, we diligently reseed or purchase a replacement, again… There seems to be no shortage of goodies in pots everywhere you look and soon orphaned June Tomato plants will turn up on your doorstep like surplus August Zucchini!
It can be insightful and thrifty to keep a small notebook on what you grew last year, how many you really needed and later at the end of the season, what grew well. I am changing patio bedding now for clients and keep one tag from their current favourite geranium colour and then a handful of tags from the accessorizing fillers. I toss them in a Ziploc bag with their address. At times, the combinations are so stunning; I will do them again~ maybe even on the farm! It is a twice time or maybe 3 times entry “diary” that can become a bare bones shopping list for next year with an idea of budget too. One good cost saving trick here is to try and purchase your “basket stuffers” in the 2 inch size in the beginning of May before the size and price goes up for the fat 4 inch size…ditto for the smaller sized Osteos or fancy Geraniums. Or procrastinate on purpose and catch the early June sales!
Plants are the first temptation. Yet, Soil is what truly allows any plant choice to thrive. Do not misunderstand the promise of magical Seasoil to make your gardens look like Butcharts. Seasoil is fantastic, used correctly. It is too rich for seedlings, too heavy to be solely used in patio pots… Seasoil is best as icing on the cake of your planted gardens. For seeding; stick with sterile light “Sunshine” type bales with a peat moss, vermiculite, perlite plus a ph adjuster. I call them a spaceman’s diet “soil”! You can customize the fertilizer for your babies; extra Epsom salts for minerals for your Tomatoes & Sunflowers…extra Dolomite Lime for your Brassicas, or extra Rock Phosphate for your Lavenders bloom. Use Seasoil “Container mix” …Seasoil lightened with a blend of Sunshine type base so your patio pot plants get the best of both products. Do add a fertilizer like 6-8-6, a common Tomato formula that is also great for Herbs and Veggies too. You do not need a picture box selection of fertilizers lined up on your gardening bench shelf like an array of breakfast cereals: costly too. You want most plants to be short and fat plus bloom or produce lots; bigger fertilizer numbers can simply get your plants to grow faster but necessarily keep their taste and grace. And organic fertilizer products abound these days… For maintenance, remember your grandmothers’ advice: “weakly weekly”. This is especially important for your patio pots as they get watered so frequently and nutrients get flushed away.
To take it one level even deeper: do get a soil test now and again for your in-ground gardens. You can have the best intentions and get carried away…Soil tests keep an eye on the balance you literally can’t see. Too much of a good thing can cause problems. I nearly added too many years of wood ash from autumn fires to my veggie garden. The ph was so high, I needed a small amount of sulphur to rebalance and keep my potatoes from not getting scab and keep other veggies from weird distortions. Another common mistake is to take mulch materials and turn them into your veggie patch in the spring prep. This can be as simple as rough compost or too many leaves…thereby robbing anything planted as the nitrogen rushes to break these down, leaving your baby Lettuce or Swiss chard starving. It is amazing when you think about it how anything grows as we blunder along with half truths and myths in our heads. Keep it simple and please do your homework when you get a new plant or especially a tree. Look up its likes and requirements: you only want to buy it once yet enjoy it for years!
Tools. Ahhhh…Lee Valley. Fantastic selection of everything you need and desire. Look in your grandfathers shed, and see what are his favourites from over the years? Be practical, if you only need it once a year: rent it. Or better yet, have someone in to do your hedging and they maintain the machines!
The bottom line: gardening is an addictive and demanding at times hobby. Remember, we are doing it for fun and feasts, for the eye and the belly… Be gentle with your self and yes, sit and smell the Roses this June!
Originally published in the June 2013 edition of the Metchosin Muse