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Gardening for the Novice: How to enhance your gardening experience by extending the growing season

Image result for Gardening for the Novice: How to enhance your gardening experience by extending the growing season“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need” — Cicero, Roman Statesman and Philosopher (106 BC-43BC)

This year has been especially hard on Montcalm area gardeners with all the weather variability they experienced trying to maintain their landscape gardens at a beautiful and productive level.

At this point, it is understandable that many gardeners are ready to shut down their gardens and wait for next year’s spring gardening season to begin. However, now is the time for gardeners to enjoy the benefits of their hard work by deciding to extend the summer growing season and continue to appreciate all the beauty their garden can still offer their family, friends, as well as themselves.

Here are some BASIC TIPS to follow for gardeners to keep their landscape gardens thriving for the next several months of good weather.

DON’T FORGET TO WATER

The weather variability we have been experiencing offers a challenge to keep your landscape gardens adequately watered.

A rule of thumb that is important to follow, is all garden areas should receive about an inch of water per week. If nature supplies the water, so much the better but in drier periods, we need to supply the water ourselves. Deep watering a couple of times a week rather than many times of light, sporadic watering, will ensure your garden plants develop strong root systems and have enough water in reserve to draw from. Watering is one of the essentials for good looking healthy plants.

MAINTAIN THE MULCH LEVEL

Unfortunately, mulch continually breaks down during the growing season and needs to be replaced regularly. Ideally, you need about two to four inches of mulch in your garden bed.

Maintaining a substantial layer of mulch around your plants in addition to throughout your landscape garden beds will help keep your garden plants healthy. The layer of mulch on the soil helps keep the soil surface from drying out by lowering evaporation, which significantly reduces the amount of water needed by the landscape garden plants. The mulch also helps prevent weeds from sprouting. As an added benefit, any weeds that manage to grow through the mulch are relatively easy to pull out.

DON’T FORGET TO WEED

You need to weed regularly or it still may get out of hand. Walking through your landscape gardens frequently is a great way to look for weeds that have just sprouted and can be more easily removed.

KEEP UP WITH CLEANUP

Don’t forget to check your plants during your walkthroughs for any signs of disease or pests. Continued removal of dead branches, diseased plant material and other garden debris, will improve your landscape appearance, as well as help, maintain its health

CARE FOR YOUR PLANTS

ANNUALS

Continue to deadhead, which is the removal of spent flower blooms from the plants. This is best done right after the flowers fade and will keep the plants re-blooming. An additional fertilizer application will keep the annuals growing through early fall before cold weather sets in. Summer annuals that are spent can be replaced with Fall annuals such as asters, mums or pansies.

PERENNIALS

Overgrown perennials can be dug up divided and transplanted to new areas of the landscape. September is also a great time to plant new and replacement perennials. This will allow plenty of time for their roots to be established before we have cold weather.

TREES AND SHRUBS

September is also a good time to plant new trees and shrubs, which will allow enough time for strong root development.

PURCHASING NEW PLANTS

In September, quality nurseries and garden centers in the Montcalm area will all have a selection of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs that you will be able to plant in your landscape gardens. I recommend buying healthy plants that were grown locally and are native to our area for planting in your landscape gardens. New plants are wonderful for adding new life to your landscape gardens.

FERTILIZE YOUR LAWN AREAS

Early September is a great time to fertilize your lawn areas. Applying a lawn fertilizer will keep your lawn healthy, dense and the weeds under control. A rule of thumb for fertilization is one pound of actual nitrogen is needed per thousand square feet of lawn. You can overseed your existing lawn with fresh seed to fill in any bare spots to help prevent weed growth. It will be necessary to water your lawn daily until the new seed has sprouted.

MAINTAIN A HIGH GRASS LEVEL

Keeping your lawn grass level at 3 to 4 inches minimum will minimize grass stress in either hot or drought conditions. The taller grass will grow deeper roots and keep the grass crowns cooler. It will have improved disease resistance, help prevent weed seeds from geminating and reduce pest damage.

BUY GARDEN BULBS

Gardening centers in our area will also be selling spring-flowering bulbs beginning in early September. Buy these bulbs early for the best selection. Keep them until the middle of October for planting in the late fall. As a general rule, spring-flowering bulbs should be planted approximately several weeks before the ground freezes.

Bob Lilenfeld is a Montcalm Master Gardener who enjoys gardening in the area. He is happy to answer any gardening questions you may have. Contact him at [email protected]

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