Gardeners' Dirt: Seasonal tips for a successful spring garden
By Marcia Kauffman - Victoria County Master GardenerEdited by Charla Borchers Leon
May 29, 2014 at 12:29 a.m.
You would think I were the owner of a manor the way I survey my yard - planning, scanning and rearranging my plants. With my children grown, my plants have become my new "babies," and I treat them as such. When the weather warms, I find it's very hard for me to restrain myself and not buy everything off the shelf. Yes, I have a cold, calculated plan of what will look good and what will work, but the impulsive me wants everything now.
The first-time gardener needs to remember that an attractive garden doesn't happen overnight. There are many things you could do to have a lovely garden if you continue your work throughout the year. These tips are for the spring time of the year with summer not actually on the calendar until later next month.
Consult professional advice
When I am making choices for my garden, one of the items I consult is one of the various publications developed by Texas A&M AgriLife, which lists the "Texas Superstars." Plants that receive the designation of a Texas Superstar have been extensively tested at several locations in Texas by AgriLife Research and Extension personnel to determine their suitability for the harsh Texas environment. Some of the choices, among others, are cuphea, fall aster or firebush. Also consulting with the local nurseries will give you information to help in your yard.
Deadhead to extend blooming life
My flowers by now have been long established, and so it is the time to deadhead flowers to encourage and enhance better growth in the plant. If you don't deadhead the flower, the plant will be tricked into thinking it still has a bloom and will not bloom another.
I move about my garden weekly and deadhead (remove spent blooms) to produce a bounty of flowers. As we move into the hotter months, take a close look at the flowers you are growing. Some plants, for example, like pansies and snapdragons, don't tolerate the heat well and will need to be replaced with flowers that do tolerate the heat - such as lantana or perennial phlox.
I planted my spring vegetable garden, according to the schedule I review at the Texas AgriLife website.
Feeding and thinning
Now it is May, and a suggested feeding should be done once a month just like for the flowers. Adequate feeding promotes healthy and tasty vegetables. Some of my vegetables need thinning such as my green bean plants. The purpose of thinning the existing plants is so the ones left behind have enough sunlight and nutrients as well as room to grow.
Amendments and mulching
I add nutrients to the soil before planting and continue doing so throughout the season. Mulching is also a necessity when gardening. Whether a gardener uses an organic mulch such as dried leaves or manufactured mulch, it helps the soil retain the moisture, keeps the weeds at a minimum and also encourages the development of the organisms living in the soil promoting better plant development
Keep a vigilant eye for any pests that can stress your plants. If I find an insect on my plants, I will first research to identify if it is beneficial or detrimental to the plant. Then I treat as needed.
I have learned from Master Gardener Lupe Cook how to properly take care of garden tools after spending time in the greenhouse at Victoria Educational Gardens. After working in the garden whether you are trimming, transplanting or snipping plants for propagation, take proper care of your tools.
First, wash your tools in warm, soapy water and then dry them. Next, spray your scissors with a solution of 10 percent bleach. This hopefully will prevent the spread of diseases to other areas of your garden. Also, spray the hinges of tools with a lubricant to prevent rusting.
Care for the gardener
Maintain your own health by using lots of sunscreen and drinking plenty of water. I wear a hat and sunglasses to add further protection. Working in your garden in the cool of the morning or the shade of the evening is also beneficial to your health.
The gardener that I am, I make note of the things I would like to change for the following year: where I would like to add more color or more texture from the leaves to go here or there.
And last of all, my suggestion to you is to just take time to stroll through your garden and enjoy the rewards from the hard work you have put forth.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.