Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
April, 2010
Regional Report

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This berry produced by my Chinese Lantern will hang on for another few months, adding an element of surprise to an otherwise bare corner of the garden.

Plan Now for a Perfect Summer Garden

Now that the weather is warming and weeds are popping up all over, I'm convinced that spring has finally arrived. It's time to roll up my sleeves and decide what changes to make in my landscape. My garden is in a constant state of flux and I'm not happy unless I'm moving plants around or finding new treasures to plant.

The best way to for me to decide what changes to make is to do a "walk-through", looking carefully at what I have and remembering what performed well. I make mental notes about which plants struggled last year and which were star performers. I also note the problem areas and then formulate a plan to make improvements for the coming season. Here's the general plan:

Select Well-Adapted Plants
As I page through catalogs or wander through nurseries, l search for varieties that do well in my region. And when I have the option, I choose disease-resistant varieties or cultivars for the upcoming season. For example, there are pea varieties resistant to mosaic virus and wilt, things I've dealt with in the past and would rather avoid this year. Certain tomato varieties are bred to resist nematodes, viruses, and wilt, so choosing these resistant varieties can help me avoid these plant diseases and pest problems.

Consider Companion Planting
Some plants will discourage insects from attacking other plants. I've found that planting marigolds in the vegetable garden will reduce slug damage to lettuce, spinach, and cabbage. Dill, fennel, and Queen Anne's lace are great at attracting beneficial insects and encouraging a healthy balance of insects in the garden.

Analyze the Soil
We all know that basic nutrients in adequate quantities are the keys to healthy soil. If some of my plants performed poorly - were stunted or the flowers were small despite my good care- the soil probably needs help. Luckily, there's an easy fix. Amending problem soil with compost improves the tilth and invites beneficial soil microorganisms, which in turn encourages good root growth, which enhances the overall health of plants.

Use Good Sanitation
Finally, I use the nice spring weather as persuasion to get outdoors and do a little spring cleaning. I remove diseased plant material from the planting beds and dispose of it in sealed trash bags. If the soil isn't soggy, I turn it over to expose insect eggs and larvae. The plan is that they will die from exposure or be eaten by predators. I also remove leaves that cling to dormant rose bushes and dispose of them in the trash to reduce black spot and rust spores. Once everything is cleaned up and the soil is amended, I can plant to my heart's content, knowing that the work I do now will make my summer garden look spectacular.

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