Following a few basic steps aids in successful gardening. One of the things most of us want to do, as soon as we can, is turn the flower beds and vegetable garden area so we are ready to plant when the time is right. But remember, do not “work” the soil when it is too wet. Damage can occur to the soil, causing more problems than solutions, if worked at this time. You can determine if the soil is ready for tilling in your yard by taking a handful of soil and squeezing it into a ball. If the ball doesn’t crumble when applying slight pressure with your finger, it is too wet to work.
Soil conditions are really important. Enormous improvement in the growth of plants occur when ample amounts of organic matter are incorporated into marginal, clay soils like that found in our yards and gardens in the Miami Valley. Our clay soils do not like to drain quickly. Soils get very ‘hard’ when they dry out if organic matter is not present to keep the soil open and well drained. Roots of the plants have trouble developing due to a lack of oxygen at the root level and difficulty penetrating our hard clay soils. Organic matter aids in “opening” up the soil and letting oxygen get to the roots. It provides moisture storage that clay and sandy soils do not have. Good sources of organic matter are disease-free yard compost, sphagnum peat moss, or a product such as Growers Secret Pine Fines.
Do not plant too deeply. Many new gardeners feel that planting “good and deep” actually helps the plant because the roots will be “nice and deep” where they will get plenty of water and nutrients. This is one of the most detrimental things we can do to a seed or a plant. It is better to plant slightly higher. For seeds, the rule of thumb is to cover the seed with soil equaling twice the diameter of the seed. Lettuce seed, for example, is not much bigger than a grain of pepper we use at the dinner table, so it needs very little soil cover. A bean or corn seed is larger but still only needs covered with a quarter to a half an inch of soil. Why is this? The seed and plants need oxygen at the root level along with moisture to develop and grow.
This same guideline applies to plants like shrubs and trees and even annual and perennial plants. Trees and shrubs, being of a “woodier” structure, do not show the effects of poor soil conditions for many weeks or months. A more tender plant like a petunia or tomato plant will show these effects in a very short period of time. There is an old saying that is so true – “spend $10.00 on the hole (or improving the soil) and $5.00 for the plant” and you will have more success with plant performance.
Once these basic factors are understood, great improvements will be seen in your gardening skills.
Hope you enjoy these helpful tips!
Your MVG Gardening Team.