You bet. Great gardening is 99 percent preparation, one percent inspiration!
At Bos, late winter and early spring is like getting ready for Opening Night on Broadway. We’re staging and rotating, preparing soil and checking the PH, starting seeds and otherwise coaxing our seedlings into starlets to dazzle your garden in spring, summer and fall.
For your part, here are tips on getting your beds whipped into shape to become a good home for our plantings.
1. Plan your additions — Think of where you’d like to add some color in your garden, or plan a new bed. Make sure you allocate enough space for the plant’s mature size, and that you consider companion planting for pest and disease reduction. For example, chives and garlic will reduce aphids in a rose garden, while nastursiums, are a good, overall planting to reduce this pest. Euphorbia planted throughout your garden will dissuade gophers from coming around. You’ll also need to assess the available light and select your plants according to their light preferences. Mark on a map the areas where you need good shade growers, and where you can plant for full sun.
Also, you will want to consider bloom times to ensure that there is a continual bloom afoot in your flowerbed. Cool colors such as red, blue and pink will create a soft effect, while orange and yellow flowers create a brightening effect.
Another consideration is what types of plants you plan to use. Perennials come back every year, while annuals make a single season showing. Biennials are often confused with perennials because they self see. A good plan is a balanced use of the different types to ensure a season-long showcase. A little research at the planning stage will bring you delights this summer.
2. Prepare your beds — In early April, use a high phosphorous or balanced nitrogen fertilizer on your existing perennials and bulbs to promote strong root growth. Dig and divide any perennials before new growth is four inches high. Move any landscape plants now while they’re still dormant to give them time to reestablish. And prune any blooming vines (such as Clematis) to promote vigorous new growth.
3. Prepare your soil— It’s best to improve your soil before planting in order to promote strong, healthy transplants. Add organic material such as straw, grass clippings and leaves throughout the seasons or when it’s time to overwinter. In spring, till compost (and possibly fertilize with nitrogen) into the soil to a depth of 16 inches to ensure strong root development. You will also want to weed your garden thoroughly before growing season is in full force. You may protect your soil with a thick layer of mulch, which helps prevent weeds and retain moisture.
4. Solarize to kill disease — In a bed where disease has struck previously, you may wish to use a technique called solarizing to destroy remnant disease. Purchase a sheet of black landscape plastic, cover the suspect area, and secure with rocks or soil. Leave the plastic on for at least two weeks and no more than two months. The heat from the sun will sterilize the soil and destroy disease. Now your soil in this area is good as new!
5. Know your soil type — Sour or Sweet? If you don’t know your soil type, this is also a good time to have a soil analysis done at a private lab or using a home test kit. To get a good sample, dig several holes 6″ deep and take a thin slice from each wall. Mix the samples together and let the soil dry. Now it’s ready for testing.
The most important thing is the pH level, and the nutrient level such as nitrogen and phosphorous. If your soil is acidic or “sour”, the readings will be lower than 7. When the pH level is higher than 7, the soil is considered to be alkaline, or “sweet.” Some plants have preferences;, so try to either match the plant to the soil type or condition your soil with products such as lime and bone meal.