Author Linda Cobb
Master Gardener Linda Cobb

Linda Cobb is a garden writer and certified Master Gardener who lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She is the author of My Gardener's Guide: Easy Steps to a Better Garden.

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Our Garden by Linda Cobb

Our Garden in the Spring

Spring is on the way! Find out how to get ready for Spring and organize your garden...

I have heard it said many times.  Anyone can do Spring.  There is a certain truth to that statement.  Spring makes everyone want to garden, and it looks so easy, too.  But let’s face it, gardening is hard work, good physical labor, and it certainly enriches your soul.  After the long winter months, we are all ready to burst forth into bloom. To get started, promise to keep a gardening dairy this year.  It will record all of the successes and all of the failures.  I have kept one for 12 years, and what a history it is.  I can tell you when my first rose bloomed last year. 

All of a sudden it is spring!  I can tell because the birds are just outside chirping their brains out, going crazy.  When I hear their increased activity, I know that it is time to get ready for spring.  They are looking for places to build their bird nests.  I have always supplied all of nature with a lot of bird houses.  Kick off spring by cleaning out all of your birdhouses here and there.  Birds like to roost in clean places.  Keep the birdfeeders full of birdseed and the baths full of water.  Once you start feeding the birds, they depend on it, so keep it up.  Consider adding some new birdhouses.  I have some of the stick on the window clear Lucite type bird feeders.  I keep them clean and full of bird seed.  My favorite bird seed is the Supreme Birdseed mix that is sold at Wild Birds Unlimited.  It costs a little bit more than regular seed, but wow!  I get ten times the amount of birds visiting my feeders.  And that is a good thing.  This morning sparrows, tit mice, and woodpeckers were eating breakfast at my window, and I was watching.  Those woodpeckers are big birds!

By now, I hope you have cleaned up all of the dead foliage debris in all of your garden beds.  It is time to consider mulch.  Mulch is the most important thing you can do for your soil and plants.  Mulch keeps the roots cool, the weeds out, and the moisture in.  By now you know that I use soil conditioner as my mulch.  This stuff is tiny pieces of bark no bigger than my little fingernail.  It is very neat and clean.  I put down two inches of it every spring over all of my beds.  There are many brands of soil conditioner available to you, but by far the best brand is made by Fafard (www.fafard.com) .  Check your garden centers to see who sells it. Check it out.  It is great stuff to use as mulch.  It conditions your soil, as the name suggests.  But over the course of the year, it breaks down and goes into my soil, helping me to create excellent soil.  I have tons of earthworms that live in my soil, as a result.  Pine needles may be cheaper, but they add no value whatsoever to my soil.  I am not a fan of gravel as mulch or the large pieces of chunk mulch.  Do some research and see what works best for you.  Your soil and protecting it is the most important thing you can do for your garden. 

All my roses have been pruned, all 350 of them!!  I have bulbs peaking up out of the ground.  I cannot wait to see all of them.  I have planted bergenia and have under planted them with apricot tulips.  They are coming up. 

I am still ordering new perennials like a mad woman and am waiting for them to come in.  Remember, I try to grow at least ten new things every year, so that I can broaden my horizon.  This year I am going to plant a lot of different types of verbascum.  I love this plant as it sends up a tall flower spike.  It is pretty hardy and will last above the ground through winter.

I want to give everyone my feed formula that I use on all my perennials, peonies, and hydrangeas.  All plants need to be fed to grow.  I use this formula only once a year.  I find it to be the most effective thing I do each year other than mulching, but we will get to that in a minute.  I get out a big wheel barrel and in it I mix the following:  1/3 peat moss, 1/3 cottonseed meal, and 1/3 10-10-10 with trace elements (Not all 10-10-10 contains trace elements.  It is usually more expensive than regular fertilizer but contains important micro-nutrients needed for excellent growth).  I use a shovel to mix it all up.  I then apply anywhere from a 1/3 of a cup to 3/4 of a cup of the mix around each plant.  I usually apply this feed formula, as I said, only once a year and early in the springtime when the plants are just coming up out of the ground.  The time to apply can vary from mid March to late April, depending on where you live.

Remember, do not get any of this feed formula on the plant or leaves of the plant, as it is a very strong formula and will kill the leaves that it comes in contact with. You would not throw regular fertilizer on your plant leaves would you?  As I said earlier, I use this feed formula on all of my peonies and hydrangeas, as well as my perennials.  This formula is very strong and is a good one.  Use it this season and you will see a big difference in your plant growth.  After feeding your perennials this feeding program, you should dig in the mix.  But I like to mulch over it.  Then I do not have to dig it in.

Be sure to try some of the new plants out this year.  Try the new foxglove called ‘Candy Mountain’ from Thompson and Morgan.  The blooms on a normal foxglove hang downward, but on ‘Candy Mountain’ they face upward.  The effect is dazzling and the color is raspberry.  I also like the new pure white zinnia called ‘White Wedding’ from Burpee.  It is big and the petals do not get brown spots on them as most white flowers do from water spots. 

Posted by Linda on Jan 24, 2007

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