Monthly Archives: May 2022

Growing Vegetables in Pots

You don’t need expansive acreage to grow a thriving vegetable garden. In fact, growing vegetables in pots can be very productive and can bring a delicious, healthy harvest to your home no matter what type of garden space you may – or may not – have to work with.

Why Grow Vegetables in Pots?

Whether you have a balcony, fire escape, small patio, narrow stoop, or windowsill for your gardening efforts, there is always room for a pot or two of vegetables. Yet vegetable container gardening is about more than just saving space, and there are many benefits to using pots for your garden plot.

When using pots, for example, your garden space is much less likely to be overtaken by weeds, saving you time and effort. Pots are also easier to move around your space in order to take advantage of the best positioning for sun, rainfall, and weather protection. Pots and containers can also be more comfortable for you to tend without needing to bend down or kneel as much to reach your plants and harvest your vegetables.

Easiest Vegetables for the Urban Garden

There are many options for container garden vegetables. Ideally, choose cultivars that are dwarf, miniature, or compact whenever possible, as they will be better adapted to lush growth in pots and small spaces. Popular choices include:

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Chilies
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes

Because you may have less growing space than a traditional garden, choose vegetables you love and that you will use to make the most of your gardening space. Also be aware of how much sunlight your pots will receive, how deep the pots are for roots or root vegetables, and whether the plants will need vertical space for climbing before you plant them. The more familiar you are with each vegetable’s growing needs, the better choices you can make for vegetables that will flourish in your urban garden.

Tips for Growing Vegetables in Pots

No matter which vegetables you choose to grow in pots, they will need proper care to reach their full potential for a bountiful harvest. To help your container vegetables thrive…

  • Choose the Proper Pot – Consider the root system of your favorite vegetables and choose a pot deep enough to allow the roots to flourish. If you are planting root vegetables, you will need a deeper pot that allows more space for veggie growth. Bear in mind that ceramic or clay pots can be very heavy, so plastic pots may be a more convenient and easier option.
  • Position the Pot for Good Sunlight – Many leafy vegetables do well in part-shade conditions, while other vegetables need greater amounts of sunlight for the best harvest. Putting pots on a plant caddy or stands with casters can make it easy to move each container for maximum sunlight throughout the growing season.
  • Provide Necessary Support – Vining and tall vegetables may need stakes, cages, netting, or trellises to support the plant and help it stay healthy. Using proper supports will also maximize your vertical growing space. It is best to have that support in place when the plant is young, so you do not accidentally damage roots when adding a support later.
  • Use the Best Soil – Because container vegetables don’t have as much soil to draw nutrition from, it is critical to use a high-quality potting mix when growing veggies in pots. Choose a mix that will maximize water retention to help with watering and mix in compost or appropriate fertilizer with the soil before you add your vegetable plants.
  • Water Adequately – All vegetables need adequate water for lush growth and veggie production. Depending on the pot size, plant type, and climate conditions, you may need to water vegetable pots daily or even twice per day to ensure they have good moisture. Consider self-watering containers to make this garden task even easier.
  • Feed Plants Properly – The right fertilization and feeding schedule can improve your plants’ health and increase the yield of even small vegetable pots. Choose a liquid fertilizer that will meet your plants’ needs and apply it according to the label directions for the best results that maximize the productivity of your vegetable plants.
  • Consider Combination Planting – It’s easy to plant different vegetables in the same pot, but take care to group plants with similar water, fertilization, and sunlight needs so each pot can get the proper care. Themed pots can be a fun way to add flair to your vegetable garden as well – try a salad pot, a pizza pot, or even a pot for pickles, each one with related herbs and veggies.
  • Stay Alert to Pests – Unwanted pests can invade even container gardens. Inspect your pots weekly for pests such as slugs, aphids, and leaf hoppers. It is best to use the safest solution available to control insect infestations. Also, in urban gardens, animals such as stray cats, dogs, or even rats can also be a problem and you should use cages or other techniques to protect your plants if necessary.

Growing vegetables in pots can bring you a delicious, nutritious harvest no matter what the size or location of your gardening space. By choosing vegetables adapted to containers and giving your pots the best of care, you’ll soon have an amazing crop to enjoy.



Dianthus ‘Firewitch’

Are you looking for new perennials to add to your landscape but are tired of the same old plants with dull blooms, predictable foliage and raggedy forms? Dianthus ‘Firewitch’ can be the answer that will bring unique texture, brilliant color and clean lines to your flowerbeds.

About the Plant

Dianthus plants – also called sweet williams or pinks – are well known in landscaping, but ‘Firewitch’ is even more spectacular than most of these familiar perennials.

Dianthus ‘Firewitch’ (sometimes called cheddar pink) is a low growing, mat-forming plant with evergreen, narrow, bluish-gray foliage with a spikey texture that adds a bold statement to the landscape. Growing 3-4 inches tall, this perennial forms a mature clump at 6-12 inches wide. Brilliant purplish-pink flowers reach 6-8 inches high and cover the plant at bloom time. The petals are also spiked, which gives this plant an even more stunning, sharp appearance.

Described as hot pink, purple red or magenta, the flowers provide a striking contrast with the foliage during peak bloom in early spring. The flowers perfume the air with a spicy, clove-like fragrance that is even more noticeable in large beds or borders. ‘Firewitch’ is also tops in offering a re-bloom throughout the season, bringing brilliant color to the landscape for far longer than many other cultivars, even into mid-summer.

Growing Dianthus ‘Firewitch’

This perennial does best in full sun in well-drained, slightly alkaline soils, and can even thrive in sandy soils and is tolerant of moderate humidity as well as occasional drought conditions. Dianthus ‘Firewitch’ is excellent as a border edger, in a rock garden, planted in wall crevices or as a ground cover on a sunny slope. It is at home in the herb garden, a formal border or a cottage garden, where butterflies will also welcome the beautiful blooms. Because this plant is deer-resistant, it is also a good option for landscapes that may be visited by unwelcome wildlife. Deadheading the plant after blooms fade will help encourage reblooming, and blooms may be produced up to 4-5 weeks in optimal conditions. ‘Firewitch’ is not typically plagued by pests or diseases, but crown rot can be a problem if the plants are too moist or planted in poorly-drained areas.

Low maintenance, easy-to-grow and brilliantly colorful, what’s not to love about Dianthus ‘Firewitch’? Add some to your landscape today and you’ll love the sparkle it brings to your yard!

Scented Geraniums

Unmatched for fragrance and beauty in the garden, scented geraniums are undoubtedly showstoppers. With many to choose from, each with its own distinctive habit and fragrance, scented geraniums are also great for hanging baskets, window boxes or any type of container. Although the colorful flowers are small, the leaves of the scented geranium are the most spectacular part of this unusual herb.

A Bouquet of Scents

Scented geraniums come in a wide range of distinctive aromas. Some of the most popular varieties include…

  • Rose Geranium: This cultivar has spicy rose-scented foliage with small clusters of pink flowers among the dark green leaves.
  • Peppermint Geranium: This is a fast growing geranium that spreads to a 4-6 foot mound with clusters of white flowers appearing in summer. Leaves are lobed and medium green. This is a particularly good one for hanging baskets.
  • Lime Geranium: This geranium shows off beautiful lavender flowers in summer and its leaves are serrated, round and light green. These can become quite bushy.
  • Apple Geranium: Apple-scented geranium is another good one for a hanging basket. Clusters of white flowers appear on trailing stems and leaves are round and ruffled.
  • Lemon Geranium: This geranium has tiny purplish flowers and small wrinkled leaves. This one features a nice clean lemon scent that freshens a room quickly.
  • Coconut Geranium: This plant has a trailing habit that works nicely as a ground cover or in a hanging basket. Its flowers are in small clusters and its leaves are round and dark green.

Other popular scented geraniums include chocolate, nutmeg, orange, apricot and almond.

Growing Tips

Scented geraniums are not particular about soil, as long as it is drained – they do not tolerate wet roots well. These plants enjoy full sun and cool climates, with partial shade in warm areas. Pinching off end leaves will encourage bushiness to help keep a fuller, more compact form.

The leaves can be harvested any time and used fresh or dried.

Harvesting and Use

One of the real joys of scented geraniums is harvesting the leaves and using their fragrance in a variety of ways. The leaves can be harvested at any time, and they may be used fresh or dried, though the fragrance may change somewhat or its potency may change as it is dried. Experiment with both fresh and dried leaves to find the aromas you like best.

Scented geraniums can be used in some jellies, puddings, stuffing, punches, teas and vinegars. The oils in leaves are often distilled to make perfume, and the leaves make a sweet addition to sachets and potpourris. No matter how you use them, or even if you simply enjoy them in the garden, these lovely plants are sure to be a welcome addition to your garden and landscaping.

Cold-Tolerant Flowering Plants

Cold doesn’t have to kill your dreams for beautiful flowerbeds overflowing with vibrant color and stupendous blooms. While the deepest freezes of winter will put a stop to any flowering plant, there are beautiful plants that can chill out without damage or difficulty. The trick is recognizing which of these cold-tolerant flowering plants will work best in your climate and garden, and we’re here to help with that.

Freeze Tolerant Annuals

These are annuals that can withstand freezing temperatures and hard frosts for short periods with little or no injury. The best options include…

  • Marguerite Daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens)
  • Swan River Daisy (Brachycomb iberidifolia)
  • Million Bells (Calibrachoa x hybrida)
  • Dracaena Spike (Cordyline australis)
  • Dusty Miller (Scenecio cineraria)
  • Gazania (Gazania rigens)
  • Nemesia (Nemesia fruticans)
  • Cape Daisy (Osteospermum spp.)
  • Petunia (Petunia x hybrida)
  • Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus)
  • Verbena (Verbena x hybrida)

Semi-Hardy Annuals

These are annuals that are perennials in warmer zones and can actually overwinter in cooler areas during mild winters of if they are located in a warm, sunny, protected spot. These are very frost and freeze tolerant annuals…

  • Annual Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)
  • Annual Pinks (Dianthus chinensis)
  • Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana)
  • Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’)
  • Mealycup Sage (Salvia farinacea)
  • Variegated Vinca Vine (Vinca major ‘Variegata’)

Perennials

Perennials are plants with roots that survive through the winter months, sending out new growth each spring. Appearing in your garden year after year, they become old and treasured friends. Perennials come in many sizes, shapes and colors with various bloom times and periods. It is best to plan your garden by the bloom time of the plant along with its cultural needs (sun/shade and drought-tolerant/water-lovers, etc.) to be sure you have a good, healthy balance of plants that will keep your garden and landscaping lush for months. Because these plants have evolved to survive the winter’s cold, they are all cold-tolerant to at least some measure. Popular favorites include…

  • Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’ – No garden is complete without a patch of Bleeding Hearts. This fringed variety is longer blooming than the old-fashioned selections. Rose-pink flowers are borne gracefully above soft green foliage with a slight blue cast that looks fresh all summer. 18-24” tall. Plant in part shade.
  • Bergenia – Spikes of delicate pink blooms soften the bold evergreen foliage of this early blooming perennial in March or April.
  • Armeria (Sea Pink) – Another evergreen perennial, this bloomer sends out masses of papery pink or white flowers above grass-like clumps of foliage.
  • Basket of Gold (Aurinia) – Charming yellow flowers float above dense mats of attractive gray foliage on this old-fashioned favorite. Plant in full sun. Excellent for a rock garden.
  • Candytuft (Iberis) – Flat-topped clusters of white flowers cover this evergreen perennial in early spring. Excellent as an edging in a border or to use in a rock garden.
  • Columbine (Aquilegia) – Beloved by hummingbirds and butterflies, columbine is also a great cut flower. Available in many color shades and bi-color combinations, columbine is perfect in any border or landscape situation.
  • Coralbell (Heuchera) – Tiny bell flowers on 1-2’ slender stems bloom from spring into summer. Shades of foliage vary from green to pink to deep burgundy. Plant in sun or shade.

Not sure which plants are best for the cold in your yard? Stop in and see our landscaping experts today for help choosing just which blooms will heat up even on cold days!




Herbs As Companion Plants

Practiced by organic gardeners for years, companion planting has become very popular for all gardeners. The concept is to plant together species that will benefit each other, to help prevent disease and insect infestation without the use of chemicals. In general, herbs and other aromatic plants like tomatoes, marigolds and onions are helpful in warding off insects. Certain colors, like the orange of nasturtium flowers, are thought to repel flying insects. While these practices have not been scientifically proven, many gardeners have been using them for years with positive results. Try it – and see if it works for you!

Best Companion Herbs

The exact herbs you choose to pair with other plants will depend on what you want to grow and what problems you want to eradicate. The most common herbs and their purported benefits include…

  • Basil – Enhances the growth of tomatoes and peppers. Dislikes rue. Repels flies and mosquitoes.
  • Borage – Companion to tomatoes, squash and strawberries. Deters tomato worm.
  • Chamomile – Companion to cabbages and onions. Improves the growth of all garden plants.
  • Chervil – Companion to radishes.
  • Chives – Companion to carrots. Deters Japanese beetles, blackspot on roses, scab on apples and mildew on cucurbits.
  • Dill – Improves the growth of lettuce, cabbage and onions. Dislikes carrots.
  • Fennel – Most plants dislike it – avoid using it as a companion herb and instead plant it away from the garden.
  • Garlic – Plant near roses and raspberries. Deters Japanese beetles.
  • Horseradish – Plant at the corners of your potato patch; deters potato bug.
  • Hyssop – Companion to cabbage and grapes. Deters flea beetles and cabbage moths. Dislikes radishes.
  • Marigolds – Plant throughout the garden as they discourage nematodes and other insects.
  • Mints (esp. Spearmint and Peppermint) – Companion to cabbages and tomatoes. Deters aphids, flea beetles and many types of cabbage pests.
  • Nasturtium – Companion to radishes, cabbage and cucurbits. Plant under fruit trees. Deters aphids and squash bugs.
  • Onion – Repels cabbage loopers, potato beetles, carrot flies and imported cabbage moths.
  • Oregano – Improves the growth of beans.
  • Parsley – Enhances the growth of roses. Repels asparagus beetles.
  • Pot Marigold – Companion to tomatoes, but plant elsewhere, too. Deters tomato worm, asparagus beetles and other pests.
  • Rosemary – Companion to cabbage, bean, carrots and sage. Deters cabbage moth, bean beetles and carrot fly.
  • Rue – Companion to roses and raspberries, dislikes sweet basil. Deters Japanese beetles.
  • Sage – Plant with rosemary, tomatoes, strawberries, cabbage and carrots. Dislikes cucumbers. Deters cabbage moth and carrot fly.
  • Summer Savory – Companion to beans and onions. Deters bean beetles.
  • Tansy – Plant under fruit trees. Companion to roses and raspberries. Deters flying insects, Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs and ants.
  • Tarragon (French) – Enhances the growth of all vegetables.
  • Thyme – Improves the growth of tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant. Repels whiteflies and cabbageworms.
  • Wormwood – Use as a border, keeps animals from the garden.
  • Yarrow – Plant along borders, paths and near aromatic herbs. Enhances production of essential oils. Attracts beneficial insects including ladybugs and predatory wasps.

Exactly how much benefit companion plants give to one another will vary; be sure to choose varieties to group that have similar soil, light, water and fertilization needs. Even if their companion benefits may not pan out, you’re sure to enjoy a more diverse and vibrant garden filled with delicious vegetables and herbs!



A Feast for the Eyes

Traditionally, when planning a vegetable garden, the focus has been primarily on function with aesthetics as an afterthought. This year, why not try a new approach? Thoughtfully combine beauty and performance to create an edible garden that will explode with a riot of color and an abundance of produce. A feast for the eyes!

Color, texture and form are characteristics we keep in mind when designing our ornamental beds. We plan our gardens so that plants complement each other. We repeat colors and shapes for continuity and flow. We work in plenty of texture for interest. Vegetables, herbs and fruits can be just as vibrant, exciting, diverse and easy to combine as annual and perennial flowering plants are.

To begin, provide structure. Placing a picket fence around your garden offers instant structure and visually sets it apart from the rest of the landscape. If you plan on planting along the outside of the perimeter, you will create the allure of a garden within a garden. Place a straight pathway through the center, starting at the entrance. Divide the larger garden into smaller square planting beds using pathways to separate the beds. This will enhance the structure of, and provide easy access to, the garden beds as well as lead your eye through the garden.

Next, focus on plant selection. Begin with a plant plan or layout. Initially, base your selections on what is pleasing to your pallet. Consider unusual varieties of vegetables and herbs that come in unique colors. Repeat colors, both horizontally and vertically, to add depth and dimension to the garden. Don’t forget to add brightly flowering annuals such as zinnias and marigolds to mingle amongst the edibles. Another consideration is edible flowers like nasturtium and calendula. Contrast colors for a striking, eye-catching effect. Keep in mind, also, texture and form. Bold textures add drama to the garden and are often combined with fine foliaged plants for a softening contrast. Short, stout plants anchor the garden bed while tall, willowy plants raise the eye and lead you farther down the garden path. Take all these characteristics into account when planning and place plants in geometric patterns to create a quilt-like garden tapestry.

Finally, your spring edible garden will emerge invoking a feeling of calm, displaying a variety of cool greens, purples and blues found in peas, lettuce, cabbage and broccoli. Shortly after, the summer edible garden will be completely transformed at harvest time with an explosion of vibrant shades of red, purple, orange, yellow and the like. A feast for the eyes!



Acid Loving Plants

Soil pH is a critical factor for gardening success. Some plants thrive in neutral soil while other plants prefer soil that is on the acidic side. The difference lies in the plant’s ability to use nutrients present in the soil. For plants that prefer an acidic soil a critical nutrient is iron. Iron is most available in soil with a pH of around 5.5. Without iron, acid-loving plants will turn yellow and suffer stunted growth.

Testing and Adjusting Soil pH
Before planting any plant it is best to know the optimum pH range that the plant will thrive in and the pH of the soil in which you will be planting. “The right plant in the right place” is always the best policy. Purchase a pH test kit or meter. This will give you a more in-depth soil analysis along with the pH. To correct soil pH it is imperative that you know the soil pH before you attempt to change it. Adding shredded pine needles, composted oak leaves, or peat moss will all assist in lowering soil pH over time. A quicker fix is the addition of two materials commonly used for this purpose: aluminum sulfate or garden sulfur. Aluminum sulfate will change the soil pH instantly because the aluminum produces the acidity as soon as it dissolves in the soil. Garden sulfur requires some time for the conversion to sulfuric acid with the aid of soil bacteria. The conversion rate is based on the fineness of the sulfur, the amount of soil moisture, soil temperature, and the presence of bacteria. Based on these factors, the conversion rate of sulfur may be very slow. It may take several months, if the conditions are not ideal, to react. Acidifiers should be worked into the soil after application in order to be effective. Do not apply to the surface of plant leaves or burning may result. Read and abide by manufacturer instructions when applying acidifiers. Keep in mind that it takes time to alter soil pH and your soil will tend to revert to its old pH over time, necessitating repeat treatment. Attempting to change soil pH too quickly may shock and kill a plant. A good rule of thumb is to adjust to no more than one point per season. Fertilizers recommended for acid loving plants do not assist in adjusting the soil pH.

Acid Loving Trees & Shrubs
Azalea
Bayberry
Blueberry
Camelia
Dogwood
Fothergilla
Gardenia
Heath
Heather
Holly
Hydrangea
Itea
Leucothoe
Magnolia
Mountain Laurel
Oak
Pieris
Pine
Raspberry
Rhododendron
Spruce



Hurry Up the Harvest – Ways to Extend the Growing Season

Have a hankering for homegrown tomatoes?  Even though it’s early spring, you can extend the growing season and hurry up your harvest by trying some of these tips and products:

  • Gain 3 weeks on the growing season by pre-warming the soil with black, porous plastic landscape fabric. This product can be laid over your prepared garden soil and secured with landscape pins.  Allow at least 5 days of sunny weather to warm the soil.  When ready, cut x’s in the plastic and plant through them.  As the season progresses and the air and the soil temperatures increase, you may mulch directly on top of the this porous material with salt hay to keep the soil moist and cool.
  • Warm the soil around your plants with a floating row covers or garden cloche (mini greenhouse). Lay row cover fabric over your newly planted seedlings to hold in the warmth and protect them from frost.  Anchor loosely with landscape pins so the plants have room to grow – or, even better, attach it to wire hoops.  Place cloches directly over individual plants for frost protection. Remember to remove them on warm or sunny day to prevent overheating your seedlings.
  • Another way to extend the growing season is by using a cold frame. Place it in the garden at least 10 days before you wish to plant.  Orient the frame so it runs east to west. This allows for a Southern exposure and more sun to reach the plants.  If the soil has been prepared, you may plant directly into the frame.  Remove the cold frame when temperatures are no longer a threat to young plants. Venting is important to keep seedlings from getting too hot.


Fire Escape Gardening

Is it possible to nurture a thriving urban garden when your garden space is simply just a narrow passage, stunted landing, and metal railings of a fire escape? Indeed, it is! Fire escape gardening can be fare more pleasant and productive than you may realize, if you adapt your gardening techniques to the unique challenges of the space.

Before You Begin

Before you plan an elaborate garden setup on your fire escape, check your building’s restrictions and local regulations about fire escape gardening. In many areas, storing items – including gardening supplies and plants – on a fire escape is not allowed, and you could be subject to fines, loss of insurance coverage, and other penalties for violating those restrictions, even up to facing eviction. If minimal use of the space is permitted, always be certain to leave an obvious aisle clear and do nothing to impede movement through the space or the functioning of any gates, hatches, ladders, or other equipment that is part of the fire escape’s main function. Different buildings and municipalities may have different codes covering fire escape use and gardening, and always follow the appropriate laws and guidelines.

Tips for Fire Escape Gardening

After doing your homework, if you are permitted to use your fire escape for a garden space, it can be a creative and unique challenge to stretch your gardening skills. To make the most of your fire escape and nurture a thriving garden…

  • Keep It Light – You don’t want to fill your fire escape with large, heavy concrete or ceramic pots. Not only can they be difficult to work with, but if one should fall, it could create not only a mess, but significant damage as well. Instead, consider lighter plastic pots, cloth pots, or other unique containers, such as wellingtons, woven baskets, or mesh structures with lightweight liners.
  • Be a Minimalist – Avoid overcrowding your fire escape with a burgeoning jungle, and instead opt for compact plants that will do well in small spaces. Ultimately, you should still see more metal than green in a fire escape garden, ensuring that that space remains safe and usable in case of an emergency.
  • Embrace Mobility – Opt for containers and plants that you can move quickly if necessary, not just in case of emergency, but to maximize the efficiency of your garden. Movable pots or plant stands with casters can be rearranged to make the best use of seasonally shifting sunlight or can be moved indoors during storms or the colder winter months.
  • Make the Most of the Railing – Your fire escape railing can be prime real estate for gardening efforts. Use planters mounted on the railing or that can hang over the side. You may also use macramé hangers to hang small pots between support rails. Take care not to block essential handrail space, however, which can be necessary for a safe descent in an emergency.
  • Be Aware of Neighbors – Be mindful of the neighbors who share your fire escape, especially those directly below, when you water your plants. Either bring your plants inside to water them in a sink or be sure to water at time when it will not bother others.
  • Keep Away Unwanted Guests – Even gardens in the most urbanized areas can attract squirrels, as well as other tenacious wildlife such as mice, pigeons, and rats. Takes steps to keep these unwanted visitors away from your garden with mesh barriers and other deterrents, such as using organic bloodmeal fertilizers to discourage visits.

Best Plants for a Fire Escape Garden

Ultimately, you can grow anything in a fire escape garden that you would grow in any urban garden space, provided you have the sunlight levels and suitable size growing area to accommodate the plants. Because fire escape gardens can be so small, however, you may want to concentrate your efforts on the plants you will eat and enjoy the most, particularly small cultivars that are well adapted to urban conditions. Leafy greens such as kale, lettuce, and spinach are top choices, as are bush varieties of beans, peppers, and tomatoes. Different berries can add a sweet touch to your fire escape garden, and flavorful herbs are always a favorite to add tantalizing tastes to everything you grow.

Moving Your Garden

Regardless of the size of your fire escape garden or what you’ve chosen to grow, always be aware that you may need to move your plants on short notice. This could be due to changes in building codes or fire regulations, or you may simply be moving and want to transport your garden as you relocate, hopefully to a new residence that will provide even more growing space. Move your plants gently and thoughtfully, and they will be happy to relocate along with you.



Soil 101

How well do you understand your soil? It’s more than just dirt, and the more you learn about soil, the better you’ll be able to care for it to ensure a stunning landscape, healthy lawn and productive garden.

All About Soil

The four elements of soil are minerals, water, air and organic matter. Different combinations of the four elements create the four main categories of soil: sand, silt, clay and loam. Of course, we all want loam – that rich, vibrant soil thriving with beneficial bacteria and with a smooth but crumbly texture ideal for root growth. Unfortunately, true loam soils are rare, especially around homes where topsoil was removed and heavy machines compacted the remaining soil during construction or renovation. Most of us have clay soil, which has finer particles that compact easily into a dense mass. Clay soils also retain more water and can easily become too soggy or waterlogged for healthy plants. But just because your soil may be clay, it doesn’t have to stay that way!

Improving Soil

Improving soil is actually quite easy. All soils are improved by adding minerals and organic material that help balance out the overall components of the soil’s structure.

Before adding minerals, test the soil to determine its pH (acidity or alkalinity) and determine any mineral deficiencies. Lime decreases soil acidity, gypsum adds calcium and helps break up heavy clay and sulfur increases acidity. Other soil amendments to add to a clay soil include sand, cottonseed meal and peat moss, all of which will help improve the drainage and structure.

Organic matter refers to plant or animal materials decomposed into compost or “humus.” This residue comes from leaves and other plant materials, as well as certain animal wastes. Grass clippings, paper and certain types of decomposing food can also be ideal compost. The quality depends on the origin of the original biodegradable matter. Many people make their own compost using bins in which materials are mixed until they decompose. Others purchase finished compost. When compost is added to soil, it releases nutrients that are vital for healthy plants, and healthy bacteria and microbes will thrive in organically-rich soil.

The Magic of Mulch

Mulching is a simple way to add biodegradable materials to the soil. Evergreen needles, tree leaves, lawn clippings, chicken manure, etc., can be worked into the soil to decompose. This process improves the air spaces between the soil particles and rearranges the sand, silt and clay to produce optimum soil structure, improving the water retention and drainage balance and making nutrients available to plants.

When soil has proper structure and sufficient nutrients for healthy plants, optimum health has been achieved, and great soil will lead to great landscaping, turf and gardens. Congratulations and keep on growing!