Green thumbers have a little time left in the season to change up their gardens and plan for the summer. Ponoka News met with some local experts to get their advice on ways to spruce up the garden.
For Conny’s Greenhouse owner Cornelia Bossart, the first step in changing a garden is the quality of the soil. “The soil has to have good minerals in it.”
If a person is going to have a vegetable garden, Bossart recommends it be on the south side of the yard, as most vegetables grow better when it is warm.
“Most — not all — vegetables like the heat,” she stated.
Flower gardens are a little different; many gardeners ask Bossart where they should place a flower garden in their yard, but the location depends on the species. Some thrive in the heat, and some are better left in the shade, which is why she recommends taking some time to consider the location before starting.
“They’re just like people. When we don’t have the right location, we don’t do so well either,” she joked.
Spacing out the flowers will also help them thrive as it gives them room to grow. Bossart advises the use of a slow-release fertilizer for the flower garden as it needs to be used only once.
Gail Pugh, owner of Rock Lake Garden Centre, feels it is best to start small when creating a garden. “People sometimes want to plant too much. Let the garden grow with you.”
Her experience has shown aspiring gardeners often take on too much, especially for those with younger children. She thinks it is better to get a few items and let the garden evolve over time, which also gives children a chance to enjoy the yard for romping around.
Compost for the yard is also a way to make a healthy garden.
“It puts nutrients back into your soil. Within a few months it will go to nice black dirt,” she explained.
Pugh suggests building the garden in stages “as it’s tough with a full-time job to maintain it.”
Carmen Sim of Country Gardens and Greenhouse said different combinations of plants will complement each other.
Companion planting is a way for some plants to “bring in the good bugs.” There are many types of pairing and Sim offered a couple of examples for those looking at planting trees.
“Planting chives underneath the apple tree will help deter a certain bug,” she explained.
The book Roses Love Garlic: Companion Planting and Other Secrets of Flowers, by Louise Riotte is a handy reference guide to have different plants in a garden, said Sim.
Proper landscape planning of the yard will also help with issues such as water runoff and prevailing winds.
“Shrubs are important to prevent wind,” she stated.
The ivory halo dogwood is a decent sized shrub with a red bark, which is not too large and can go in Tips to change or rejuvenate your garden sun or shade, she explained.
“I would say anything that has colour on it that produces fruit,” suggested Sim of trees that could beautify the garden.
She feels the first step a person should take before designing a garden is to “talk to an expert. Have a well thought out plan.”
Research will ensure the investment of time and money will not go to waste.
Arbutus Nursery owner Debby Hameluk said soil is one of the most important aspects to a garden. “You want to have nice, loose soil.”
If it is a specific area planned to be a garden, she feels it best to use a rototiller on the soil; it helps put air in the earth and gives roots an easier time to grow.
“You don’t really want it to be packed,” stated Hameluk.
She often receives questions on how much water a tree or plant takes, which can be difficult to answer as there are several factors involved. Hameluk feels it is a good idea to fill up the hole — where a tree will be planted — with water, and then monitor how quickly it seeps into the earth. If the hole empties quickly, then a gardener will know they might need to water the tree more often and vice versa. This enables the soil to be ready when you plant a tree the next day.
“People do way more damage over watering than under watering, because the water will eventually rot out the roots,” she explained.
The best way to grow a healthy flower is to read the label, Hameluk suggested, which contains pertinent information on sunlight, care and watering, “more for perennials it should say what zone they for.”
In Alberta, zones 1 to 3 require hardy plants. Plants in zone 4 would need special attention, trying to grow plants suitable for zones 5 through 8 “is probably not a good idea.”
“One of the most important things is to put plants where they like to be, not where you want to see them,” Hameluk stated.
Tine Roelofsen owns Bobtail Nursery and feels for those with little time to maintain their garden, prepared planters could be a viable solution.
“You can have an instant garden in spring,” Roelofsen said.
It is a way to spruce up the deck or even the house when entertaining guests and “the other benefit is you don’t have weed issues.”
Roelofsen has seen an increase in requests this year for planters with vegetables for the kitchens such as tomatoes, beets, celery, cabbage and peppers. For people who live in condos or apartments that don’t have a yard, they will still have the chance to cook their own vegetables and “it adds colour to the kitchen.”
Bees and gardeners will be seen helping their gardens grow. These tips and tricks will be something to add to the toolbox. Whether just starting out, or looking to revamp the garden it might be better to give gardeners a chance to try out their new found knowledge rather than expatiate on the subject.