Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
May, 2011
Regional Report

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Good soil preparation before planting can alleviate future garden problems.

It's Easy Being a "Green Gardener"

If your goal is to become an "organic" gardener and going "green," don't be confused by all the misinformation that can be circulating around during the spring gardening frenzy. It's making a commitment to change your traditional gardening philosophy. Yes, weeds can be a pain in the grass or flower bed, but think before acting. Instead of reaching for the familiar weed or bug killer, consider the alternatives. There are many and they do really work!

The way you plant your garden and maintain it can help to alleviate many problems. Cultural practices can often be the culprits that cause garden issues. Proper soil preparation by adding compost helps to improve drainage and prevent water logging in heavy soils. Compost helps to retain moisture in sandy or gravelly mountain soils. I prefer to add compost or well aged manure in the autumn, since the alternate freezing and thawing helps to break down the materials and make the soil mellow by spring planting.

If you have really lousy soil, consider making raised beds in which you control the soil mix. Box gardens, raised beds, and container gardens allow you to grow your favorites no matter what kind of soil exists around your house. You can move containers equipped with plant caddies to a protected site, especially if an unexpected frost is predicted.

What about the nemesis of most gardeners? Weeds popping up in flower beds, lawns, and other areas can be easily controlled by getting them early while the weeds are still young. My Italian grandmother doused tiny weeds with boiling water. While this won't eliminate the older perennial weeds, it will slow down their growth. And then there's good old vinegar. A spray of vinegar, preferably ten percent acidity, directly on the growing shoots of weeds will burn them out. Just be careful as it will tend to kill everything, so "spot treatment" is a must. And then my favorite weed control method, "flaming." A weed flamer used carefully and properly gets to the root of the problem.

Digging and pulling weeds does work. The longer a weed has to grow and establish itself, the harder it is to remove. My old fashioned dandelion digger is still effective in popping out these pests and other perennial weeds. Then I retire the weeds to the compost pile to make "black gold" to return to the garden this fall. If weeding is not at the top of your list of gardening chores, preventing them is the next best alternative. Organic or natural products like corn gluten can be put down after planting flowers and vegetables to prevent the germination of annual weed seeds. As the corn gluten breaks down, it also adds fertilizer to the garden soil.

Considering and utilizing alternatives to pesticides may take more thought and time, yet the wise choices you make today will protect our precious earth and its inhabitants. In my next column, I'll share more simple tips for controlling the bad bugs in your garden.

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