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Larry O’Malia suggests holding on to your Easter flower bulbs until fall, and then planting them in your garden.
After a long cold winter, spring is finally here, and my thoughts have turned to gardening. I promised myself that I would get an early start this year in planning for a more flourishing garden. I started clearing leaves and other debris from areas where my spring bulbs will bloom.
To better prepare, I spoke to my go-to gardening expert, Larry O’Malia of Larry O’Malia’s Farm and Greenhouses. If you’re just a hobby gardener like me, his tips might help you enjoy a lusher summer garden. I learned I was doing several things wrong, including overwatering. Here are some of Larry’s recommendations.
• Weed control. Weeds were my worst enemy last year. I’d weed on the weekend only to find new weeds popping up by mid-week. Larry suggested that I act now to prevent weeds from taking over my garden. He recommended using Roundup now before things start blooming. Although Roundup is controversial and has gotten a lot of bad press, he said that it is an invaluable tool for farmers. I think it’s a personal preference on whether you choose to use Roundup or something more natural for weed control, such as a homemade herbicide. If you do opt for Roundup, he said to spray your mix on the soil in unplanted gardens now and let it sit untouched for a few weeks. He told me if I did this now, I would have a noticeable reduction in weeds this spring and summer.
• Tilling your garden. Tilling is simply turning over and breaking up the soil. Larry suggested I till one to two weeks before I starting to plant. Because I’m in Bear Creek, I won’t till for another month or so. Start by adding compost or fertilizer to your soil. Then till the soil, getting in pretty deep. I’m going to start my own compost pile this spring. We’ll see how that goes. For those of you who don’t know, organic composting is a natural process where a pile or bin of yard waste and kitchen scraps is broken down and then added to the soil to enrich it. Examples of items to put in a compost pile include dry leaves, branches, tree bark, pine needles, fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, eggshells, shredded newspaper, and grass clippings. When all of the waste has been broken down, the resulting material will like and feel like dark, rich soil with an earthy smell. The end result is supposed to be fantastic for your soil.
• Pick the right plants for the season. It’s important to space out your vegetable garden planting based on weather. There are certain things you can plant now while the weather is cooler. Others are better planted in April, May, and June. Larry told me that gardening is a process that requires patience and weather watching. I don’t have any patience, so I better develop some quickly. Certain vegetables, such as cabbage, kale, peas, radishes, and spinach can tolerate colder temperatures, so can be planted earlier.
You need to make a plan based on what you are planting. You can start seeds indoors for items such as basil, bell peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes before eventually planting the seedlings in your garden. You can find a complete planting calendar for various vegetables, herbs, and fruits on the Farmer’s Almanac website at almanac.com. Hover on Gardening on the menu bar and then tap Planting Calendar. From there you can enter your zip code and get planting dates based on the weather in our area. It’s very helpful.
• Easter Flowers. I always thought I could simply transplant tulips and daffodils outside as soon as Easter was over. I was wrong. No wonder they never bloomed the following year. Larry explained the bulbs shed baby bulbs over the warmer summer months that leech off the mother bulb, often leaving the original bulb incapable of blooming the next year. He explained that many gardeners with impressive tulip displays, such as Longwood Gardens, pull up their bulbs each year in mid to late spring and then replant the bulbs in the fall. This year I’ll be sure to save the bulbs from my Easter flowers for fall planting. In addition to many traditional Easter flowers, O’Malia’s also has pansies available now. Larry said that pansies are one flower that can be planted outside now because they can tolerate very cold temperatures.
• Use annuals to add color all season long. Although I have many perennials in my garden, it’s annuals that provide it with vibrant color from late spring into September. My perennials bloom at different times, many with a very short bloom period. I spend most of my gardening budget on annuals to fill in the gaps and really brighten the landscape. The other thing I love about annuals, I can change up the look of my garden whenever I like. If you have perennials, be sure to dig them up and divide them every few years. They multiply and can overtake everything around them. I do this in the fall, transplanting them to different areas of my garden to spread the beauty.
• Watering and feeding. Don’t overwater and never water in the late afternoon or early evening. This was our biggest mistake. I’m in charge of planting and my husband is in charge of watering, so I can blame him. He watered at night after work, usually after dinner, which is exactly what you shouldn’t do. He was watering almost every day, which is another mistake. Larry said a thorough watering twice a week at the base is all plants in a garden need, unless we have a hot, dry spell. If we get a soaking rain, you can cut down even more. All watering should be done at the root. Container plants are a different story and need more frequent watering. Feed plants regularly. It’s important if you want your plants to thrive. If you’re watering twice a week, use Miracle Grow with your watering once per week.
If you’d like to learn more about gardening, the Penn State Extension offers many gardening webinars, some free and some for a nominal fee. A complete list of upcoming webinars can be found at https://extension.psu.edu/programs/mastergardener/counties/luzerne/becoming-a-master-gardener-in-luzerne-county. Click on events for the general public in the lower left corner of the page.
If you are concerned about the quality of your soil, you can also obtain soil-testing kids from the local Penn State Extension office.
Ruth Corcoran is a professional marketer, former restaurant owner, and community advocate. She resides in Bear Creek. Readers can reach Ruth by emailing [email protected]
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