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Gardening With Laurie: Good soil analysis can give lots of information

Feb. 17, 2011 at midnight
Updated Feb. 16, 2011 at 8:17 p.m.

Laurie Garretson

As gardeners, we quickly learn how dependent we actually are on the weather. There is just not much we garden people do that isn't ruled by Mother Nature. I find it interesting how some gardeners take longer to realize this fact than others. The sooner this fact is accepted, the sooner gardening becomes an enjoyable hobby and not just another job.

The past couple of weeks, Mother Nature has again reminded us just who's in charge. It has been many years since we have had such low temperatures for so many days. I must admit that I am not fond of the cold temperatures, but I am so very thankful that we at least don't have to contend with winter like so many of the northern states do.

Spring is just around the corner and that means it's time for lots of garden activities. Now is an excellent time to find out what's going on (or not going on) in your soil. A good soil analysis can give you lots of good information about the soil you use to grow in. A good soil test can tell you just what your soil is in need of.

Now let's see what to do with the vegetable garden. If you would like to grow vegetables, it's time to prepare the soil. Get rid of any old vegetation that might be left from a previous garden, and add some good compost to the area. Next, make your rows to plant in and broadcast your organic fertilizer of choice. Don't forget your Rocket Fuel (rock phosphate and a whole lot of other wonderful stuff). Now you're ready to select the types of seeds or transplants you want to plant.

Some gardeners are already planting tomato transplants at this time, knowing that they will need to protect the tender young plants from cold temperatures. Some gardeners prefer to start seeds indoors and then move these young transplants to their garden at a warmer time. Many others choose to plant their tomato transplants in larger pots and let the roots get bigger before planting in the ground. Then others just wait a few weeks to buy their transplants and plant them directly in the ground.

If planting from seeds, now is the time to plant beets, broccoli, carrots, chard, collards, kale, shallots, radishes and turnips. Pepper seeds can be started now, but only indoors.

Now is also the time to plant several types of herbs. Chives, dill, cilantro, oregano, parsley, fennel and thyme, to name a few favorites. I think it's still too cold for basil to be grown outdoors.

Strawberries can now be planted from transplants or bare roots.

Asparagus crowns, onion sets, lettuce, chard, greens, broccoli, spinach and cabbage transplants can be planted in the garden at this time.

This is a good time of the year to plant berries, grapes and fruit trees.

Now is the time to kill all weeds in your dormant lawn with a strong vinegar and orange oil mixture. If spring weeds in the lawn have presented problems for you in the past, now would be the time to apply the natural weed and feed product, corn gluten meal. Corn gluten meal will not kill existing weeds, but will prevent weed seeds, as well as any other type of seed, from germinating. Corn gluten is pricey because of the milling process to separate out just the gluten, but it does work. Keep in mind that by using natural fertilizers, that build the health of the soil, you will grow a stronger lawn that will then crowd out weeds. I am not saying this will happen overnight.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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