KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.
It’s May; It’s May, the lusty month of May…………………
Lyrics of one of the many featured songs from Camelot. More than fitting as it is May and aren’t we all trying to create our own Camelot at home.
It is at this time of year we bring our focus to the out of doors. May is perennial planting month. Each day it seems another desired perennial appears on the shelves of our favorite garden centers. Annuals, other than violas and pansies are still too tender to be subject to our night chills. With so much work yet to do, appreciate that there is still time enough to fill containers and blank spaces with the never-ending parade of annuals.
Having never been known for self-control in any aspect of my life, I find patience with gardening the most difficult of willpowers. I not only have to demonstrate for myself but the many gardens I tend to. My own and my client’s urgency must be kept in check. Those who have been with me for a while will slowly shake their head and agree.
Many of us are still in the prepare mode as suggested in the kcb approach to gardening. Plan comes before prepare which comes before plant. In reality with me the planning never ends. As I cut, prune, amend the soil I visualize the garden in spring, early, mid and late summer. I envision an autumn full of blazing orange, voluptuous red and seductive burgundy. My goal? A landscape that offers interest throughout the year. Planning and prepping before purchasing and planting will perpetuate a picturesque palette that is personally yours. How? Glad you asked.
Planning—‘nough said. We all know how to plan. Following through on a plan is another thing. This lesson will have to wait.
Prep? The least glamorous part of gardening, that is if I do not include slug or beetle picking. Some highly recommended suggestions; Aerate compacted soil. Amend with organic material. Coast of Maine Penobscot and Quoddy Blends are 2 of my faves.
Slow release fertilizers may also be worked into the soil. For those who desire mulch CoM also offers a Fundy Blend, which combines seashell compost and peat with an aged fine dark bark mulch. Mulch need not only be bark. I know of successful gardens that use seaweed, pine needles or grass clippings. For new beds or beds in need of a much needed overhaul, newspapers topped with a planting mix (Jolly -Gardener’s Tree and Shrub or CoM Penobscot Blend get the kcb thumbs up-more on newspapers later).
In an effort not to interfere with the love affair that most have with bark mulch, too much is well, just too much mulch. 2 inches is all that is really needed. Remove old much that has not begun to compost. Layers of mulch often compact and form a barrier not allowing water to penetrate totally defeating one of the benefits. Additionally, when planting assure that the roots are actually in the soil. Digging too deep to get to the soil does not promote growth. Organic mulches alone do not add the nutrients that your soil requires to produce healthy plants. Keep in mind, feed your soil and your soil will feed your plants. Prior to top dressing with mulch, incorporate a slow release fertilizer. Espoma Plant Tone is one of my staples and this year I have used Organica’s Plant Booster Plus. Before applying any amendment read and follow label instructions. As you incorporate your fertilizer into your soil, look for ‘worm action’. Earth worms……….ah a gardener’s friend.
Earthworms improve the physical structure of the soil by aerating when they tunnel allowing better drainage thus less runoff. Their ‘castings’ absorb water. Less runoff+ water absorption = less watering and erosion. Yes, I so admire the lowly earthworm. If you should ever come upon me in a garden and I am talking softly with a hint of baby talk I am thanking a worm. Or speaking with a garden gnome or fairy. All are beneficial for the garden and soul.
No earthworms? No problem. Invite them. Do not insult them by asking them to an environment not worm worthy. There is a reason they do not flourish in poor soil—they don’t like it. One jump-start is to add earthworm castings. This does not mean you have to collect worms, feed them, and then allow nature to take its course. Wiggleworm is an excellent product sold locally. 2 thumbs up from me. EXCEPTIONAL for container grown vegetables…………
One earthworm enhancer that is a puzzlement to me, at least, are newspapers. When I install a new bed or completely revamp, I layer newspaper, sometimes shredded, often not and cover with at least 2 inches of soil/compost mixture, then water in. When I return to plant, I am overjoyed with a plethora of earthworms. Perhaps they are starving for world and local news. Whatever the reason, it works. It is best to avoid the glossy ads, as they do not break down easily. Preferably, I would opt for the purely black & white pages, though I have begun to use color, as it is more available.
With these basics, out of the way we are all just burning with the desire to buy, buy, buy. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, the M & M company is no longer satisfied with the basic colors for their melt in your mouth product. While they continue to prod us to buy with a never-ending array of available colors, this pales in comparison to what Mother Nature and creative horticulturists have to offer. Blooms that were once offered only in perhaps a pink or white variety are now available in varieties referred to as ‘sunrise’ or ‘sunset’, ‘paprika’; ‘wine with dinner’ as noted on the plant tags. The latter name I not only love the color but consider it as an instruction.
Next, we will work our plan…………..