Tuesday, April 28, 2009

KCB Minding Your P's

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 proud to tell you that KCB rules as the 2008 Maine Master Gardener of the Year. And we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family.

Allow me to introduce you to the Ps of Gardening: Plan, Prepare, Purchase, Plant. As the season progresses a 5th P will be included, Provide.

We will visit 2 of the Ps today!

I recently met with 2 different gardeners that had the same problem, their gardens just were ‘not doing anything’ for them. In each case these individuals loved to garden, have been doing so for a long time. One of these landscapes is entering its 6th summer, the other has been reformatted more times than I use to change my hair style. I was flattered each gardener asked that I coach them to improve their landscapes. So what was the problem? Impulsive purchases, sporadic planning, soil conditions or sunlight not appropriate for the plant. I can relate as this was so me. And it could be again in another time, another place. But Now is Now. We want to spend wisely.


How do you want to use your out door living space:
g Recreation
g Relaxing & Reflecting
g Dining & Entertaining
g All of the above by creating different ‘rooms’.

Determine a Budget
Envision a theme:

g Attracting butterflies, birds and other wildlife
g Moon Garden
g Waves of color or monochromatic
g Create your own theme such as a sea of succulents. A garden of grasses. Plethora of peonies.

Visit your favorite locally owned garden center; ask questions, explore, pick-up their catalogs.
Read the catalogs; they are one of my best resources when planning my purchases. A wealth of information is free for the taking from catalogs.
Make a list of desirable plants appropriate to your theme and or conditions.

PREPARE: The #1 and #2 P’s are the ping pong p’s as they fling back and forth.


Do a Soil test. All the feeding, watering and assorted “TLC” just won’t work if the base is not good. Our area tends to have acidic soil yet we can not assume that may be your scenario. pH is one thing but other nutrients must be present to produce healthy plants. This goes double if growing vegetables. Feed the soil, not the plant.

The results of your soil test most likely will determine that some amending is necessary. If you opted to test your soil utilizing the University of Maine’s resources (http://www.umext.maine.edu/gardening.htm) your results will include what elements are needed. Feel free to discuss results and specific products with the staff at your garden center. There are several great products available. As with any product, apply per manufactures directions. Work the amendments into the soil prior to planting.


Have them sharpened or purchase new. Unless you have 2 of everything you don’t want to go a day without pruners or a sharpened spade. Make sure your gloves are in good condition or again buy new. Mud gloves are especially needed this time of year. With tools and gloves, you usually get what you pay for. You don’t have to purchase the most expensive but make sure they are well made, many manufactures offer guarantees.


Ease into your garden routine by stretching and walking.

Revisit the plan. Do your plant choices meet with your predominant soil type, available sun light, drainage or other conditions. Are they within your budget? If not, revisit what it was you liked about the plant, shrub or tree. Often a substitute can be found. Think palette not plant if it is the color of spiky lavender and not necessarily the scent. Lavender doesn’t always make it through our harsh winters in some areas. Russian Sage offers it’s own, though different, fragrance but the look is strikingly similar.

Again with the plan, make a list BEFORE you venture out.

I equate plant shopping to grocery shopping when hungry-we want it all!. When grocery shopping, no list usually means you forget something, usually the least glamorous yet crucial item (toilet paper) purchased more than you should have (now you have 4 bottles of that extra spicy hot sauce only you can tolerate). In these days when every penny really counts, a plan will save you $ and time.

I almost titled this piece, the year of serious gardening. This does not mean landscapes must be severe or dour. Perhaps the more whimsical the better. What it will be is a year we rethink our landscapes. We will make an effort to get the most out of what we have. Perhaps dividing and/or transplanting will off better results. Adding new plants and other well thought out finishing touches such as statuary, a boulder or three is what is needed. Liberally sprinkle sea glass, include containers, with or without plantings, a garden gate sans fence, a bench, a gazing ball. Bring the inside out to reflect your self. Or go against type but not the elements.

The next 2 Ps, Purchase & Plant will take center stage as we get closer to their time. If you really do have the purchasing bug, knock yourself out with pansies….

Ah………..it is spring! Almost time for planting peas, not to late to mind your P’s!

Timely tips:

It is a great time to clean around your plants. Clear away the mulch that served as a winter protection as well as removing any other winter coverings.

While walking in your beds, especially when the ground is wet, be on the look out for tender seedlings or sprouts. Wet soil may be great for weeding but can wreak havoc on tender plants that can easily be stepped upon, especially in unsure footing. Think about adding stepping stones between plants in larger beds. They need not be a focal point and can be quite random. This gives you a place to step while working your gardens.

Be patient. A trait we gardeners have all but given up this time of year. Do not cut back your more tender perennials. The lavender may look all woody and dead. To cut it back now will surely do it in! Do cut back Ornamental Grasses, Sedum, Echinacea or perennials left for winter interest.

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
April 28, 2009


David said...

Excellent all-round advice!

BG said...

With all of this beautiful sunshine, a lot of empty space out there and beautiful plants to buy at Skillins, I need to quit putting "P" for purchace first on my list. I need another "P". a "P" for padlock on my billfold!!!

Great blog anyway, KCB. and I will bookmark it and read it when I can't help myself!