AROUND THE GARDEN
A Simple Plan
By Chris Cohan
“Yo,” as Tony Soprano said, “fuggedaboutit.” If it was only that easy. Well, it just might be. This is the year to narrow your focus and commit to simplification. Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify.” Tony Soprano and Henry David Thoreau together in the same paragraph. Talk about strange garden-fellows. One never knows where inspiration may come from, whether the rough streets of New Jersey or the gentle woods of Massachusetts. Take whatever works and use it.
Gardening should be pleasurable, relaxing, and offer happiness. Here is a 12-step plan toward finding Namaste, the divine in the garden and yourself.
- Choose wisely: Select plants that are known to be reliable and problem-free for your garden. Also, right plant, right place. This will save you a lot of effort pruning or transplanting when plants outgrow where you placed them.
- Reduction: Cut back on the size of your lawn — or eliminate it entirely.
- Preparation: First thing you want to do is loosen the soil, which tends to become compacted in winter, to a depth of 12 inches by tilling or turning it. Any mulch or leaf litter that is well-composted should be mixed right in. Feed the soil, not the plants. It is especially important to add a healthy layer of compost to improve the soil’s texture, nutrient content, and moisture-retention. Then rake the soil level and water lightly to help it settle and release air pockets.
- Compost area: If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to set up a compost area in your garden. This could be as simple as buying a ready-made compost bin, building your own using spare wood, or creating a spot to just dump garden and kitchen organic waste, mix with soil, repeat, and watch the earthworms appear.
- Watering: If a necessity, install an automatic sprinkler system or drip line.
- Tea party: Watering your plants with chamomile tea is a great way to help ward off bacterial and fungal infections that come with springtime. Spraying your plants with a chamomile tea mix a few times a week early will help stop seedling from damping off.
- Simplify: Again? Yes, reduce the variety of plants. Use masses to create a calm unified design. Then you only need to learn how to take care of a few plants.
- Division: Some perennials tend to crowd each other out, causing their performance to deteriorate year over year. Daylilies, Shasta Daisies, and hostas benefit from being divided in early spring. Before the growing season takes off, give these plants room to spread out.
- Eggshells: Toss some in holes that you are planting vegetables in to help plants avoid “blossom end rot,” which is often cause by a calcium deficiency. Grind up the eggshells as much as possible.
- To the Moat: Always create a ring of soil around trees or shrubs a bit wider than the original hole. It will act like a berm, allowing deep water saturation without turning the whole area into a mud pit.
- Mulch: Spread it wherever you can to reduce weeds, conserve soil moisture, improve plant health, and make your garden look tidy. Mulch is most effective at keeping weeds from becoming established if you get it in place before the weeds start sprouting. Don’t wait too long to mulch an area, or the weeds will beat you there.
- Plan: Maybe this should be first. Planning is essential so that you get color blooming throughout the season, by mixing perennials with annuals. It’s also good to plant according to height, making sure that taller plants don’t block the sun from shorter ones. Planning will help you not overplant the vegetable patch and provide opportunities for reseeding later in season.
There you go. A 12-step approach to a divine gardening season. If it does not work, well then fuggedaboutit.