Falling in Love with your Garden ~ Again!
Regroup, re-energize before Spring Fever hits...
Take this quiet seasonal pause to reflect…regroup, re-energize before Spring Fever hits!
The first year of any garden, veggie or flowers, is driven by adrenalin fueled Passion with a capitol P. It may only last a few weeks, usually just past planting and before the mundane maintenance weeding. Or fades by late summer when you choose to push yourself for fall clean up, or not! This can start the following spring off with regret/dread…even before you visualize the fun bits again.
For the enduring gardener, this is always the time of renewed hope for better results with less work and a splash of the unexpected, some excitement of perhaps a small new project or new plant choice to play with. There must be something to play with to keep light fingered and light heartedness!
So grab your morning coffee or tea and let’s stroll into your garden.
Honestly look at your garden canvas and then your “energy bucket”, beyond any garden daydreams…
If you have not done it in a while, before you go mad on Tomato seeds or drool over the newest variety of frilled Hellebore coming out this month: please do a real, professional soil test. They cost about $55~ yet this scientific window evaluates your basic garden needs in the nutrition department. Sadly, it is all too common to bulk up on half “ripened” compost, believing you are doing the absolutely best amendment, only to find out your “pure gold” is robbing your plants of critical nitrogen to finish its composting first. The other common accident is to take any extra top dressing material, rough yummy “Fish ‘n Forest” you treated yourself to for your shrubbery AND dig the left overs into your veggie patch with the same sad results. Mulch belongs on the top of your perennial borders for a reason; to supress weeds & be NOT nutritious for anything in the growing zone. It is heartbreaking the extra work needed now to bring your veggie garden back up to speck…Does this sound like I personally have done either one of these “boo-boos”?!
Nitrogen aside, every 4 or 5 years, I treat my veggie patch to an amendment of minerals: greensand or granite dust before I begin spring planting. The resulting boost in my greens, and especially Mr. Basil, are nothing short of amazing! And I’d like to think my body benefits nutritionally from this too, starting with a green finger boost!
I never used to add old potting soil with a perlite base to my pristine veggie patch, yet after a lecture by one of Vancouver’s green gurus a few seasons ago, I have seen firsthand the difference to our wet soggy spring soil. It lights the soil texture, fluffing more air spaces, stopping new seedlings from suffocating and drowning. A good trick is to buy one of those Sunshine soilless bales ($35/$40); and as you direct sow, make a furrow maybe 2 inches deep, fill it with this brand new potting mix for your seeds, their roots digging down as they mature through into your nutritious heavier garden soil beneath. Bonus: less advantageous weeds seeds sprout as well!
For patio gardeners, flowers or veggies, do take the time now to replace a minimum of 8-10 inches of the top soil in any pots. This is especially critical for patio Tomatoes to stop any lingering soil diseases AND removes bug eggs, like slugs for your Dahlia pots. Tip this used potting soil into your veggie area where you might be planting early eating or sweet peas…
I know, we are already making a list on the first “Date” of the year with your garden! Effortlessness and gardening are oxymoron’s which every seasoned gardener or “Spouse of THE Garden” will confess but also laugh, reassure you, it is an ever learning journey with great rewards to egg us on. The basic garden graces are sun, soil and water. Like real-estate: it is location, location, location. Short of moving: work with what you have and at times think “inside a box” if you are on rock or clay. A common soil blend to fill boxbeds with is 50% top soil/ 50% Seasoil. At the very least, fill the top foot with a very good new soil to give a head start to success. Now is the month to do any “hard landscaping” so when planting time rolls round. Voilà~ there is your boxbed ready for your Spring Fever planting!
Starting a new garden block on an old lawn now, uses the same principles. Remembering the principle of less hard work: don’t dig down… build up! Layer cardboard first, then 4-6 inches of alternating compost, leaves, and manure in 4-6 inch layers. It is critical to have a sterile topsoil/Seasoil blend for the surface layer as the first growing medium your flowers or veggies feed in. (Any rototilling for new veggie blocks, will be the fall changeover or clean up time...)
When planting perennials like a Rosebush in this situation, push layers aside, cut out a cardboard circle, dig down as needed in that spot only. Positioning the Rose level with the new soil height, finishing with a good layer of Seasoil around its neck. Be careful to not plant too deep, look for the root flare especially on the trunk area on new trees: soil against bark will kill trees…a common mistake when mulching around established trees or potting into bigger pots.
Timing: if you plan to be distracted all summer; plant winter squashes, potatoes, even corn, to be harvested at the end of summer. Set up a simple timer for absente watering…School veggies gardens can plant over wintering veggies in September to eat late the following spring!
Wait…the post just arrived with another dream seed catalogue: my work lists can wait!
PS Remember February is the month for tempting “Seedy Saturday” events~
See you there, remember to choose one new seed package/ plant for PLAY!
Originally published in the February 2015 edition of the Metchosin Muse