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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

For Love of My Garden

Nothing beats back the stress of urban life than picking roses, planting flowers and veggies. Even weeding. When I need to center myself, it’s the garden that feeds my soul. Gardening compels my sense of womanhood by creating something beautiful. It increases my sense of peace and order to see plants nourished by earth and sun and water. Gardening connects me to life and many times my garden reflects my life. It has gone through fluctuations of grandeur and humility, order and chaos, illness and vitality flowing through seasons.

With buds appearing and temperatures warming it’s time to embrace all that spring offers and head to the garden once more and plant flowers, vegetables, fertilize, acidify the soil and prune off frost damage.



I love the tremendous variety of flowers that we can plant now: wild flowers from seed and spring and summer annual flowers like Geranium, Lantana, Marigolds, Petunias, Vinca (just to name a few).

When planting, I like to use a three- to four-inch layer of mulch and one pound per 100 square feet of soil acidifier and a well-balanced fertilizer like Flower Power 15-15-15, which has equal amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus to feed emerging leaves, roots and flowers. Then, spade to a depth of 10 inches. For potted annuals, I use B-2 potting mix, a formulated blend of acidified mulch, sand, soil and major and minor nutrients.

Most spring annuals are sold in 3.5- or four-inch pots or color six-packs. After you have carefully removed the plant from the container, gently loosen the roots, place the plant in a hole and firmly pack soil around the root ball. Water in thoroughly with a solution of Great Big Plants to minimize transplant shock and promote a vigorous and healthy root system.

Check plants in three to four days for additional watering.  As they grow larger and the weather warms, change watering frequency to once or twice per week. For Vincas and Celosia, deep watering once a week after they are established is sufficient.  Over-watering will cause root rot and the plant will look like it needs water but is actually drowning.  Also, overhead sprinklers can damage petals.  Adding a half-inch top layer of mulch during the summer months will help retain moisture, keep soil cool and prevent weeds.



It’s time to plant spring vegetables now too. My favorite spring-veggie sandwich is a home-grown tomato and cucumber with mayo on cracker bread; so simple and delicious. Tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, eggplant, melons, herbs, okra, peas, beans and peppers are standards in the spring garden.

Again, start with the soil. Because our soils lack the organic matter, acidity and nutrients that produce the truly tasty vegetables and prolific blooms that we love, we recommend using soil amendments.  If you are an organic grower, amend the vegetable garden with a one-inch layer of acidified, nitrolized mulch, and one pound each per 100 square feet of soil acidifier, blood meal, bone meal and greensand.  Then, spade to a depth of about eight inches. In my opinion, a less costly, faster and more effective approach also uses a one-inch layer of mulch, but instead uses one pound each per 100 square feet of soil acidifier and 6-24-24 fertilizer, then spade to a depth of eight inches as before.

If you have a dedicated area for your vegetable garden, raised or otherwise, make furrows about two feet apart. Of course you can also plant vegetables throughout your garden interspersed with your perennial shrubs and annual flowers. Just keep in mind how much space the plant needs and that all vegetables need 8+hours of sun daily.

You can still plant some vegetables from seeds. Other slower growers are best to plant out four-inch pots or six-packs to enjoy the benefits longer before summer heat sets in. Dig holes big enough for the plant’s root ball. Carefully remove the plant from the container and gently loosen the roots. Place the plant in a hole, being careful not to bury the stem any deeper than it was in the pot, and firmly pack the soil around the root ball.  Spacing between holes depends on what is being planted. Then, water the plants thoroughly. I also recommend using a liquid compost that begins reinvigorating tired soil within 24 hours.



I’ve been patiently waiting to prune off the ugly frost damage from this winter’s deep freezes. The warming trend we’re seeing early this month gives encouragement that the frost season is behind us and to get out the gloves and pruning tools.

Essentially, this task involves pruning-out dead branches, cross-branching and diseased wood.  When pruning twigs and small branches, cut back to a vigorous bud or an intersecting branch. Choose a bud that is pointing in the direction you wish the new growth to take. Be sure not to leave a stub over the bud or cut too close to the bud.

Proper Pruning Angle

When cutting back to an intersecting (lateral) branch, choose a branch that forms an angle of no more than 45 degrees with the branch to be removed. Also, the branch that you cut back to should have a diameter at least half that of the branch to be removed.

Make slanting cuts when removing limbs that grow upward; this prevents water from collecting in the cut and expedites healing.

 Remove large branches flush with the collar at the base of the branch, not flush with the trunk. The collar is an area of tissue that contains a chemically protective zone. In the natural decay of a dead branch, when the decay advancing downward meets the internal protected zone, an area of very strong wood meets an area of very weak wood. The branch then falls away at this point, leaving a small zone of decayed wood within the collar. The decay is stopped in the collar. This is the natural shedding process when all goes according to nature’s plan. When the collar is removed, the protective zone is removed, causing a serious trunk wound. Wood-decay fungi can then easily infect the trunk. Even if the pruned branch is living, removal of the collar at the base still causes injury to the tree.


It sounds like a lot, but with these tips and a little planting, fertilizing, and pruning my garden is beautiful for spring and ready to enjoy.


Written by Kari Petterson


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