Gardening doesn’t have to be a time-consuming chore. By giving your plants, trees and shrubs a little attention each week, you can avoid problems before they crop up. Here are a few tips for maintaining a healthy garden:
Weeding…Keep the area around your plants free of weeds and debris. Weeds compete with plants for food, water and light. Walk around your garden weekly and pull weeds, including their roots, as soon as you see them. A top dressing of mulch helps greatly to reduce weeding.
Watering…Plants need moist soil to thrive, especially during their first season. Any week when natural rainfall is less than 1”, water your plants with a gentle spray until the ground around them is thoroughly soaked, but not soggy. In hot, dry areas, watering twice a week is recommended. Water thoroughly early in the day so leaves can dry before nightfall. Plants located under trees or eaves and those planted in containers will require more frequent watering. Consider the use of a soaker hose to conserve water and keep foliage dry. These special hoses have tiny pores that leak water slowly and directly into the soil. Some can even be buried. Soaker hoses are generally available from most garden centers.
Hedge Shearing…Sheared hedges need clipping whenever new growth is long enough to make the hedge look “fuzzy.” Drive stakes into the ground at the ends of your hedge, attach strings as guides for pruning. With sheared hedges, the top should be narrower than the bottom, with sides slanting gently toward the top. This helps provide equal light from top to bottom so leaves will continue to thrive on the lower branches. Even loose, unsheared hedges should be pruned so the lower branches are slightly longer than those above them.
Winterizing…At the end of the growing season, cut back dead or withered growth and remove it from the garden. The time to protect plants, trees and shrubs is in the fall after the ground has frozen. Then, apply a winter mulch of shredded leaves evergreen boughs or straw to prevent lifting of the roots during periods of alternate freezing and thawing.
Spring Care…As soon as the weather warms and new growth begins in the spring, carefully loosen the mulch around your plants. Add a dressing of Spring Hill’s Advanced Formula Plant Food and apply a fresh 4” layer of moisture-retaining mulch.
Dividing…When perennial clumps become crowded, it’s time to divide them for additional plantings. Early spring is the best time to divide most perennials. (Plants that bloom in spring to early summer, however, should be divided in late summer.) Using a garden fork, dig the entire clump from the garden, making sure as many roots as possible remain intact. If the clump is very dense, shake or wash out as much soil as you can so you can see the roots. Pull plants out of the clump carefully so that each piece has plenty of roots and top growth. Take care not to break stems or main roots. Keep the healthiest divisions moist and cool until replanting.
Lifting Bulbs…Some bulbs (begonias, gladiolas, dahlias, etc.) must be lifted before a hard freeze in the fall. After the foliage has died back, lift the bulbs gently with a garden fork, taking care not to damage them. Let them dry a few days in a frost-free place. Gently remove clinging soil and withered foliage. Dust the bulbs with fungicide powder, and place them in dry peat moss or vermiculite in unsealed paper bags or nylon stockings. Store them in a cool (35°-45° F is ideal), dry location, such as a basement.