Ten Ideas for Your Spring Garden

Gardening is more than simply maintaining what we already have in our gardens. Let's take a look at some new ideas for this year's season.

Think vertically! Our eyes automatically follow lines. Wouldn't this be a great year to add vines or climbers to fences, arbors, trellises or walls? Feel free to experiment. Try annuals such as morning glories, scarlet runner beans, sweet pea, trailing nasturtium, gourds (which you can harvest) or moon flowers, which bloom in the evening.

Annuals grow fast, so you get flowers and coverage the year you plant them. They die at the end of the season, so you can rip them out for composting at the end of the season. If you don't like the results you've only made a small investment.

Some examples of perennial vines that you might consider are clematis, honeysuckle, climbing roses, ivies and trumpet vines. These are an investment, so be sure to learn about the soil, sun requirements and needed cultivation practices before you make your purchase. Since perennial vines take time to get established, combine them with annual vines.

Think new! Try planting some decorative greens, which you can harvest for the table. Examples might be Northern Lights Sweet Chard (I just bought the seeds for this), Melody Spinach and Red Fire Lettuce.

Think ahead! Did the barren look of your landscape bother you this winter? How about planting a Harry Lauder Walking Stick? This filbert plant is named after the vaudeville comedian who used a bent gnarled cane. Its curly branches are dramatic in the winter landscape. Just make sure you purchase one that is not grafted or you will have to deal with suckers.

Test your soil! I am constantly amazed by the stuff people dump in their gardens without taking the time to ask, "Why?" Don't guess about the needs of your garden soil. Either purchase a soil test kit or take a soil sample to one of the several soil testing clinics offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Purchase or make a rain gauge! The garden needs about one to two inches of water weekly from mid- April until autumn. Now you will take the guessing out of watering.

Educate yourself! Use integrated pest management techniques in your garden this year. This means identifying the disease or insect that may or may not be damaging your plants, deciding whether aggressive steps need to be taken, and finally using the least environmentally disturbing method of dealing with the problem.

Plant a tree! I sincerely believe that tree planting offers something beautiful to future generations. Trees absorb pollution, add oxygen, block wind, can add organic material to the soil, hold soil in place, add beauty and provide shade.

Plan to mulch and compost! Compost is the single best thing you can add to your garden. It feeds the critters that live in the soil, improves soil texture, and helps make nutrients available to plants. Mulch can be either organic or inorganic. It is used to keep down weed growth and to prevent water loss. Examples of mulch include compost, recycled rubber tires and tree bark. Just don't put mulch too close to the plants you are trying to protect.

Plan to share! Plant a row for the needy and take the produce to a local food bank. Also, share your garden in other ways by inviting other people to enjoy it as much as you do.

Enjoy! This is what gardening is all about. Working, sowing, pruning, reaping and weeding add the most wonderful satisfaction to one's life.

Forever Young Magazine April 2008