Plant a Garden and Reap the Delights

Start with a Plan

First, make out a gardening calendar to organize the tasks ahead of you in manageable chunks. Here’s an example:

  • March: clear debris from the garden and prepare the soil by adding compost, fresh soil and fertilizer.
  • April: gently rake your lawn to rid it of sticks, dead plants and other debris. Spread seed in bare spots, stamping the seed into the ground with your shoe.
  • May: thin out plants such as Iris and Poppies by dividing them. Use a shovel to divide the root system into two separate plants; if the plant has bulbs, carefully separate the bulbs to divide. If you’re unsure about how to do this, consult a local plant nursery for more advice.

Tune Up Garden Tools and Buy Plants

Visit your local plant store and choose what you want to plant. Annuals are plants that die out every year, while perennials will come back in the spring, so you’ll want to choose mostly perennials for the flower bed and annuals for planters and pots. Follow the instructions for each plant you buy (usually on a tag stuck in the dirt) as to how far apart to plant them, where to plant them and how to fertilize.

This is also a good time to clean up garden tools, check hoses for holes and repair any breaks in handles. Pick up a pair of garden gloves and a kneeling pad or tractor scoot while you’re at it.

You might also want to consider picking up some companion plants. Companion plants are those that, when planted alongside other plants, can help protect them from insects and disease, and enhance their growth. You can research companion plants on the Internet, but we’ve listed a few below. Bear in mind that what works for some areas may not work for others. In any event, it’s worth a try:

  1. Catnip deters flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants and weevils. Some people even claim success in repelling mice from garden sheds and kitchen pantries!
  2. Four-O’Clocks draw Japanese beetles like a magnet. The beetles eat the foliage and then die, because the foliage is pure poison to them.
  3. Geraniums repel cabbage worms and Japanese beetles. Plant them around grapes, roses, corn and cabbage.
  4. Lavender repels fleas and moths. Lavenders can protect nearby plants from insects such as whitefly, and lavender planted under and near fruit trees can deter codling moths. Dried sprigs of lavender also repel moths. (Now you know why great-grandmother put sprigs of lavender in her hope chest! )
  5. Marigolds generally a good pest deterrent; however, be sure to use a scented variety for this to work.
  6. Peas fix nitrogen in the soil. Plant peas next to corn, and they’ll provide extra nitrogen (corn loves nitrogen).

Tip: Soon after planting your garden, lay down sheets of landscaping barrier around the plants/rows (buy it at your local hardware store) and top it off natural mulch. The mulch will help keep the barrier in place; together they’ll help keep the weeds from even getting started. Don’t use sheets of plastic under the mulch. Plastic will “pool” water and fertilizer, and prevent them from penetrating into the ground to reach the plants’ roots.

Water Wisely and Weed Regularly

Once your garden is planted, it’s important to water your garden on every day it doesn’t rain, especially during the warmest part of the season. Use an old-fashioned watering can or the gentlest spray on your hose to avoid damaging tender plants or washing them away entirely with a harsh stream of water.

And keep after the weeds! They hog water and nutrients from the soil, and your garden will suffer. If you don’t like to crawl around on your knees pulling weeds, use a good garden hoe with a sharp edge. Avoid using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, because they’re not good for the environment. There are some good organic products out there. See what you can find locally, or go online for recommendations.

Decorate Your Garden

Much more than an afterthought, outdoor garden decor can guide how you shape and use your outdoor space, and affect how it feels when you’re in it. Dress up your yard and attract beautiful songbirds with decorative a birdbath. Use solar lights to accent your garden at night. Add colorful, fun seating and a swingin’ place to hang out.