Saturday, March 12, 2011

Know Thy Garden

IMG_0026Perhaps you are creating a garden out of lawn or wilderness. Maybe you have inherited a garden that needs renovation. Spring is upon you and you are bursting with ideas and ready to go into gardening overdrive.

Take some deep breaths.

Invest some time learning about the specifics of gardening where you live: soil issues, hardiness zone, rainfall, pests. General gardening information is useful, but local information is invaluable. Avail yourself of your county Master Gardener program. This volunteer organization is the offspring of your state land-grant university and the County Agricultural Extension office. image

Even then, remember that no garden is exactly like another. Every property is likely to have microclimates. Shade, for example, strongly impacts growing conditions. Shade can suppress bloom, cause lanky growth or reduce need for water. Frost pockets can form in depressions or at the bottom of a slope that freezes early and thaws late. Altitude or proximity to the ocean is important to consider in some regions. Areas against a south facing wall or surrounded by concrete may foster higher temperatures. So, make use of all the local resources available, but study your own garden over time to see how to adapt that information for your situation.

To be successful in the shortest time possible, it is important to know your property before you plant. Many experts recommend observing for a yeaimager but that can be super frustrating. The last thing I want to do is discourage your enthusiasm. Most of what I’ve learned about gardening is a result of mistakes I’ve made. So, get out there and make some of your own. After all, perennials are sturdy and easy to move; annuals are great for testing since they are inexpensive and then disappear. But do your best to wait on more expensive plants until you have a solid working knowledge of your garden. Some things you need to consider and record are: image

· How many hours of sun to you get each season in different parts of your property? Some plants, such as most roses and vegetables require a minimum of six hours of sun daily. Some plants, such as Hostas, require shade in most regions. Take photos to substantiate your notes.

· What are the temperature extremes? What kinds of microclimates are present? Record your first freeze and your last frost; also, the lowest and the highest temperatures.

· What is the drainage like through all the seasons? You may move in and think you have great drainage. Then the rainy season starts and your house is a boat.

· Are there borrowed views worthy of preservation? You may not be imageaware of them until the leaves drop in winter. Sometimes, the view that stretches outside your property is worth defending from encroaching growth.

· What are the intended uses and established traffic patterns? Do you want to grow edibles? Have a play area for kids or dogs? A nursery bed? A potting bench? Make your own compost? All these things take space. Designing walkways to follow existing paths will save aggravation.

· How much time, money and space can be devoted to your garden? Realistically, how much time do you have to maintain your garden? What is your budget?Photo0015

· What areas invite lingering? Make note of perspectives from your windows.

Do you hope for year round interest in their garden or prefer to focus on a particular season? Most gardeners try to extend garden interest as long as possible. However, if you do not go into or look out at your garden in the winter, why bother? Also, if your space is limited,remember that plants which provide a succession of bloom throughout the seasons take up room in the garden even when they are déshabilléAlors!

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