Are you a come-by-late gardener or one who is always wanting to improve on horticultural practices or like merely reading what others are suggesting? If so, here are a few tips that can enhance your experience and stuck at home-life balance. These handy ideas come to you from Josie Pazdzior, a long-time Canadensis Botanical Garden Society member. Josie is a well-respected Garden Designer and Coach, as well as a recognized Master Gardener.
Mindful Gardening Outdoors and Inside
We all know now that gardens and gardening enhance the wellbeing and happiness of people. That includes enjoying not only the beauty and the fruits of gardens, but also the satisfying work that creates this bounty. These basic general tips and reminders reflect only my personal approach and ideas about what is most important in successful gardening. These brief suggestions can be supplemented by the wealth of free information available on the internet and elsewhere.
Spring warning: STAY OFF the grass and garden beds until they are thawed and quite well dried out. We are all anxious to get out (especially this year!) and do the clean-up, but compacting saturated soil and possibly ripping tender shoots can do more harm than good. Also, many beneficial insects and their eggs are still sheltering there, and may not be ready to venture into the wide world just yet. I like to use a plastic “shrub rake” to gently pull out the top layer of matted leaves and debris; the bottom layer can usually be left to decompose and enrich the soil.
SOIL: Most important is to nurture your soil. Try to avoid stepping on it, especially when wet; roots need oxygen and squishing out the air spaces is bad! Keep it covered with mulch or ground cover plants, not left exposed to the pounding rain and temperature extremes. (Google no-till method of gardening.) Add compost or other organic material periodically to improve water retention, aeration and provide some nutrients.
MULCH: Mulch on perennial or annual garden beds should be no more than 5-7 cm deep, as a rule, though some veggie growers like to use special techniques involving deep mulches. Apply on ground that is moist, and water afterward if dry. Keep it a few cm away from the crowns of plants. Your choice of mulch type depends on your purposes, its availability to you, and price.
WATERING: You’ve probably heard it before: a good deep soak once or twice a week is better than a sprinkling every day. That’s true for lawns and garden beds, but annual containers, depending on size and weather, may need water every day. HOW we water is important. I prefer to use a long wand with an adjustable nozzle, on a gentle shower setting, going back and forth, letting it sink in. Avoid blasting a strong jet of water onto the ground surface.
FEEDING PLANTS: Once established in the ground, most perennials and shrubs don’t need much food. Ideally, leave an organic mulch (such as composted pine bark mulch or leaf mold) in place and spread some compost occasionally. If problems persist, there may be a deficiency of some nutrient, which you can usually add. Vegetables and most annuals do need fertilizer; annuals in containers, several times in the season. Native plants don’t need extra food as a rule. Do not fertilize plants, e.g. roses, after mid-August.
COMPOST: Yes, do it if you can – good for the environment, the economy and your garden. Figure out the best solution for your space, as there are many ways of composting. Even a small one can produce useful compost if maintained right – or try vermicomposting.
YOUR HEALTH: The outdoor exercise is great, but be careful not to overdo it, as gardening injuries can be as bad as sports injuries. Change tasks every hour at least, so that you are using different muscles, and not staying in one position. Stretch a little (calves, hamstrings, shoulders, back,) before and after, and during a long session. Use tools suited to your strength and size. Learn your limits – what you can do, and what you shouldn’t do, and stop before it hurts.
Part 2 covering topics as diverse as composting, tools, containers and much more will be posted next weekend.