By Jennifer E. Beaver
Every gardener is getting itchy to go out and play. Following are a few tips and tricks to help you welcome spring and get more out of your garden all year.
How to plant a tomato: Pop it out of the little nursery container and plant as deep as possible. Under the soil, the tomato will send out roots all along the stem, improving strength and vigor. I know, you hate to bury all those lovely tomato leaves. Do it anyway and pat yourself on the back when you get a great crop. Above ground, trim off any leaves that touch the soil. This discourages disease.
How to orient your garden: Place tall plants on the north side so they don’t cast shadows and hamper the growth of their neighbors. Sun shines from a southern angle.
Know your plant’s habit: In plant lingo, habit describes a characteristic mode of growth. Does it stand up straight? Will it spread? Will it spill over the side? If you’re lucky, you’ll find this information on the plastic plant tag. Keep in mind that one plant variety can have many different habits. Take the African daisy– it’s tall, it’s short, it mounds, it cascades….make sure you pick the right variety for your landscape.
When to water drought-tolerant plants: Individual species vary as to water needs, but as a general rule of thumb, give these plants regular water for their first year in the ground. Don’t skimp! By that time, they should be established with sturdy root systems that will help them retain water.
How to choose a nursery plant: Don’t be seduced by those perky flowers or itty-bitty tomatoes. What you really want is a sturdy plant that will put energy into growing a healthy root system. Pick the plant with closed buds. You’ll be happy later.
What to do with those empty nursery pots: Take them to Lowe’s for recycling.
Best vegetables to plant now: Lettuce, beans, peas, radishes, Swiss chard, turnip.
Best vegetables to plant in April/May: Tomatoes, beets, corn, cucumber, melon, pepper, eggplant.
Best instant garden: Get a big pot– 20 inches or more. Make sure it has drainage. Place it in the sun. Throw in a bag of potting soil. Throw in your favorites. Water. Voila!
Best plants to attract pollinators: Borage, lavender, marigolds, rosemary, zinnia. Mix them into your vegetable garden or place them in pots nearby.
Jennifer E. Beaver, a Wrigley resident, is a master gardener and author of Container Gardening for California.