Gardening Tips and Advice
You may have just decided to start growing a garden or you may be an expert. While it seems simple - just put a seed in the ground and give it water - actually growing plants can be quite tricky. You'll quickly find there are many types of fertilizers, soils, herbicides, and other necessary equipment. Read on to learn how to prepare your garden for planting.
Terms to Know
Amendment - Organic matter like compost or manure that you add to soil to improve its fertility, water retention, drainage, or structure.
Germination - The moment when a seed begins to grow to a sprout.
Medium - This is the substance that your plants grow in. This is usually soil but can also be sand, gravel, pumice, or a bunch of different materials.
Transplanting - Transferring a plant to a different growing space. Many people start plants indoors and transplant them to the garden when the weather warms.
Garden Soil Essentials
The first step in growing a garden is making sure you have good soil. If you are starting a garden bed, you can fill it with a premade garden soil mix. These soil mixes come with a blend of soil and amendments that are ideal for gardens. New seeds need a germination mix which is finer so seedlings can grow easier. Older plants do well in an all purpose soil mix.
If you already have a soil base you will want to add compost to your soil. Compost is just decomposed organic matter. This rich matter supplies many nutrients for your plants that may not be found in your soil.
You can make your own compost using leaves, twigs, kitchen scraps and other items. Make sure not to use meats, dairy products or grease in your composting. Or you can buy premade compost such as Mountain West Organic Compost.
Potting Soil Essentials
If you are doing container gardening you will want to use potting soil. Most potting soils are made up of three basic ingredients: peat moss, pine bark, and either vermiculite or perlite (to provide air space). The type of soil blend for you will vary depending on your soil type and gardening goals.
Peat Moss is an acidic fibrous material that forms from decomposed moss. It is used for retaining moisture and holding onto nutrients in soil.
Pine Bark is an organic mulch that provides some fertilizer and moisture retention, as well as a bit more air space. It helps to add to the life of the potting mix by being somewhat slow to break down.
Perlite allows excess water to drain and provides oxygen access to your plants roots. It is best for plants that need to dry out before being watered again.
Vermiculite will mix with soil and help to retain water. It is best for plants that need to be kept moist.
Plants need good food to thrive, which is where fertilizer comes in. While fertilizer bags may look complicated, they are actually quite simple. Fertilizers are made up of three main ingredients - Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium - or NPK for short. These bags have numbers representing the contents of the fertilizer. For example, a bag of fertilizer that reads 20-5-10 contains 20% available nitrogen, 5% available phosphorous and 10% available potassium.
Nitrogen aids the plant in greening up and provides top growth by helping the plant create more chlorophyll. Be prepared to have your plants and lawn grow faster!
Phosphorous helps roots grow thick and deep, plus it assists with flowering and fruiting. Without the right amount of phosphorous, a plant will have a hard time staying healthy. Its roots will be weak as a result of less nutrients and water being absorbed by the plant.
Potassium is a basic nutrient for plants and maintains the plants overall health and vigor. Plants can’t perform their usual functions to flourish and survive without potassium.
Using a proper herbicide is critical to kill unwanted plants. Make sure you choose an herbicide that removes targeted weeds while leaving your desired plant unharmed. Follow all instructions to limit the side effects of using an herbicide.
Killing weeds in your garden is trickier since you can't use as many different herbicides. Once your seedlings are 2-3 inches tall you can apply the preemergent Trifluralin (same as Preen) to keep weeds from starting up in your garden. Later in the season you can spot spray weeds with Killzall (make sure to not get it directly on any of your crops) or spray with Hi Yield Grass Killer after weeds have started growing.
When to Plant
While this varies depending on what you are planting and where you live, there are certain guidelines to follow. In Utah and Idaho, about a third of your vegetables should be planted in March and another third in April. For your most frost-sensitive plants, you should wait until May. If you have a greenhouse you can get your plants started then move them outside when the weather warms up. Many people wait until after Mother's Day to plant outside. If you have questions about when or what to plant give us a call at 800-888-4545 and one of our gardening specialists can help you out!