Five Important Garden Tips You Need
Weeds and Garden Mulch
Use mulch or even bark dust initially. The first two years in your new landscape are critical for controlling weeds. While installing your new plants, the soil has probably been disturbed and this wakes up dormant seeds causing perhaps hundreds to germinate a a time. If you are diy, cover your soil with 2″ of garden mulch. Mulch is best for your soil and plants but if you have to have low maintenance no matter what, top dress your soil yearly with a dark hemlock bark for the first two years. After you are through the worst of it start applying a garden mulch at least once a year. This mulch will feed your soil and you won’t need fertilizer. 90 percent of plants live happily and healthily with applications of garden mulch and do need commercial fertilizers. There are many exceptions to these rules: SW desert style or xeric plantings like manzanita should not be fertilized or even top dressed with garden mulch ever. Gardenias are fertilizer pigs. Edibles like tomatoes….need fertilizers to produce food.
Get rid of blackberry and ivy
Treating blackberry and ivy with Roundup at the wrong time of year (spring and early summer) is pretty much useless. In the Pacific NW late summer and early fall is the time when blackberry and ivy are most susceptible to glysophate (Roundup) herbicide. It’s a million times more effective in late summer and early fall.
In an ideal world we would not use herbicides at all; if you are going to use them, use them sparingly correctly, and at a seasonal time when they will be effective. For more information see my blog: Treating blackberry and ivy . I want acknowledge in light of recent research and court cases, we don’t know the full extent of harm Roundup and other herbicides cause. It’s still the most practical way to reclaim our native plant areas from the stranglehold of Himalayan black berry and English ivy. Digging out small areas of blackberries is also effective and better for the health of mammals and other life forms.
Learn how to water-Watering every day is not your friend
Over watering or under watering new plant material is a typical cause of plant loss. Your common sense watering will kill your plants if you don’t have the specific information for the specific plant type. You can’t water a new tree the same way you would water your petunias. I insist my garden coach clients have a written watering plan for the first two years of their new landscape. I tell them how long to water and to hand check the soil to see if their efforts are successful. Last, but not least, if you’re watering every day you are in line for losing a lot of new plant material.
Plant labels lie.
Trust me it’s not a conspiracy, but they write the label so that it makes sense for the entire country. In the Northwest we have the ideal growing conditions so plants will grow taller and wider than indicated. In addition, just because a plants mature size is 15’ tall, does not mean it will stop growing once it gets there.
Learn light requirements for your plants
It’s not so easy. Labels don’t have enough room to explain the complexities of sunlight, let alone the four different kinds of shade. Great Plant Picks is a great information resource in many ways, and has an excellent explanation about the different kinds of shade. There is no perfect solution, even checking the Web will get you four different suggestions for light requirements on a single plant. This is why experienced gardeners often move plants that don’t seem to thrive in the first location they select. Others hire designers who know these things first hand.
No hedge pruning unless it’s a hedge
Pruning. My best advice is don’t let your father-in-law prune your Japanese Maple! Do not do hedge pruning on plants that are not hedges. Too much learning already? most of my clients don’t want to become an expert gardener anymore than I want to become a computer technician!! Most just want a healthy and attractive landscape. In which case, hire someone else to prune for you. While I certainly advocate for hiring a garden coach (since I am one) you can learn from a local nursery, community college or someone who has trees and shrubs that don’t have a bunch of stubs on them. We want pruning that will enhance a plant’s natural and unique shape. Better yet, contact me to see if I have a real gardener I can refer you to. Twice a year visits or less to handle pruning will save your trees and shrubs from your good intentions.