The Secret to a Successful Garden -- Have a Plan

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

(ARA) - The catalogues are starting to pile up and the list of landscape improvements grows longer each day. Don't let this overwhelm or discourage you. Instead spend a bit of time planning now for better results in your garden. You will be amazed how much fun you can have while achieving your landscape goals under budget and within your schedule.

* Get inspiration from catalogues.

Take some time to look through those catalogues. It is a great way to gather ideas and get some feedback from everyone who uses or enjoys the landscape. You might find if they are invited to help with the planning they might just help with weeding. And no one is too young.

* Sketch a plan.

"Break out the crayons, paper, pencils, ruler, old catalogues and make garden planning a family event," says nationally known gardening expert and author Melinda Myers. "Younger children can glue pictures of their favorite plants on a piece of paper while older ones can do the measuring, sketch the garden and help with the planting diagram." And if you are the sole gardener and caretaker, don't worry. The same process works and you get to make all the decisions.

* Get the right plants.

Once the family has had their input or you created your wish list of plants it is time to make sure your plan is realistic. Check to see if the plants selected will grow in the heat and cold of your region. Make sure they can also tolerate the soil, wind and moisture conditions. Matching the plant to the growing conditions means an attractive landscape and productive gardens with less work. Catalogues, your local Extension service and the Internet are great sources of information.

* Prepare the soil.

Now it's time to focus on the foundation of the garden, the soil under your feet. Preparing the soil with proper fertilization helps the plants you select grow and thrive. Start with a soil test to find out what type and how much fertilizer and soil amendments you need to add. The soil test results can save you time, money and insure you do the best for your plants and the environment. Over fertilizing wastes money, damages plants and can harm the environment.

* Fun learning for kids.

While waiting for the results you can keep everyone involved with garden planning. Gather a cup of soil from your garden. Remove any sticks and stones and place it in a clean quart straight sided jar. Fill the jar 3/4 full and add a teaspoon of non-foaming detergent and shake. This is a great way to burn calories or use excess energy our young gardeners often have. Then allow the soil to settle.

You will begin to see layers of the different particles. Check the jar again in two days. The bottom layer is the heavier sand particles, followed by the medium sized silt and last the clay. This exercise will give you an idea of your soil structure. Compare what you found to the university lab results. "I have used this with young gardeners and it is amazing how excited they get about the soil in their garden. Even the more seasoned gardeners seem to enjoy this activity," says Myers.

* Select the right fertilizer.

Now select a fertilizer suited to your plants. "I prefer low-nitrogen slow-release fertilizers like Milorganite," says Melinda. "It is goof proof and safe for gardeners of all ages and experience to use. The organic source of nitrogen does not promote excess growth at the expense of flowers and helps to build stress tolerant plants. The non-leaching phosphorous is good for the environment and non-staining iron encourages a deep green color. Plus one product is good for all your gardening needs."

Incorporate Milorganite into the soil before planting your flower and vegetable gardens as well as landscape plants. The slow release nitrogen won't burn the developing roots or interfere with flowering.

Give flower and vegetable plants a mid season boost. The organic source of nitrogen in Milorganite will not burn heat and drought stressed plants. And be sure to water thoroughly and only as needed to keep your plants looking good throughout the season.

Courtesy of ARAcontent