Featured Flower Gardening Article
Flower Gardening Tips
Flower gardening can be an extremely rewarding hobby. But it is a hobby that requires work and dedication. Following a few flower gardening tips will ensure that you enjoy yourself, product a healthy flower garden, and that you avoid any harm to natural ecosystems.
The most important first step in starting your flower garden is to figure out where you want to do your planting. If you decide to plant in a container, then you can pretty much create the soil conditions you need for the majority of plants, though there will always be some plants that will not be able to grow in your area because of temperature or sun exposure conditions.
If you choose to plant in your yard, you should first do a soil test, which you can pick up at many gardening supply stores; even if your local store doesn't have a soil test kit, someone on the staff will be able to tell you where to get one. A quick way to test what kind of soil you have is to pick up a handful from your yard and rub it back and forth in your hand; if it sticks together, that means that your soil is composed of a large quantity of clay, while if it comes apart, there is a large presence of sand. Too much of either isn't good because clay doesn't drain well and roots find it hard to penetrate, while sand doesn't retain nutrients well. A good soil has equal parts sand and clay and is called loam.
Among their flower gardening tips, many expert gardeners recommend keeping a gardening journal, in which the first entry is a sketch or diagram of your new gardening project; where you're going to place your garden, the shape of your garden, and a rough idea of what flowers you're going to plant and in what arrangement. Then, as time goes by, you can write down how successful (or unsuccessful) you were with certain flowers and include pictures of your garden and any individual flowers.
Once you've decided your garden spot, dig down into the soil around 8 inches to a foot and remove all rocks and extraneous materials. Break up clods and level the ground with a rake and add one or more inches of compost or manure, more if the soil is poor. Add peat moss or grass cuttings to increase water capacity (especially if the soil is sandy) and add lime is too acidic (most plants don't too well in very acidic soil). Mix all the soil and organic matter together, turning it a few times; this is called tilling the soil. Again, apply the rake to level the bed. Add soil amendments like compost into the top six inches of soil and mix with a general purpose fertilizer like 10-20-10.
Let's talk a little bit about organic matter. Organic matter is made up of the remains of living things, animals and plants, which decompose and return to the soil, giving up their nutrients and vitamins. A good amount of organic matter in the soil makes a soil fertile and nutrient-rich, a great medium for plants. If your soil doesn't have much organic matter, not to worry, you can always add compost or manure to "amend" the soil (but don't add too much; too much of a good thing can be bad). Compost is the partially decayed remains of plants and animals and is an excellent source of organic matter; what's more, you can make it yourself and keep it handy for all your gardening needs. Indeed, it's relatively easy to make your own compost pile and it will help save you money and trips to your local gardening supply store if you have a ready supply of organic matter.
Compost provides nutrients and enriches soil; as an amendment to soils rich in clay, compost helps drainage, while as an amendent to soils rich in sand, compost helps hold more moisture. Also, by maintaining a compost pile, you are helping out the environment by decreasing the amount of material piling up in landfills.
Follow yet another of the important flower gardening tips and start a compost pile; get a six inch layer of chopped leaves, grass clippings and waste from your kitchen like banana peels, lettuce leaves, coffee grounds or tea leaves (don't use bones or meat), and you can also use shredded branches, garden plants whose time has come (make sure they're not diseased), shredded paper, weeds (make sure they haven't gone to see), straw or hay, or newspaper. Cover this layer with three to six inches of soil, manure, or finished compost. Alternate layers of organic matter and soil/manure to reach a pile about three feet tall; the heat generated by this pile will function to sterilize your compost and you will be able to use it for potting soil, mulch, or as a soil amendment.
Keep the pile in an area that is shady and sprinkle it with water when it seems dry; keep it moist (but avoid it being soggy). Turn the pile to circulate oxygen. When it's ready (usually when there's no heat), you can mix it with soil before planting your flowers or use it as mulch; but use it quickly or the nutrients will dissipate. Make sure the stuff you put in the pile is small, either use a shredder or run your lawn mover over them.
After that brief interlude about decaying matter, let's get back to our some more flower gardening tips. So you've dug up your garden, tilled the soil, and added amendments. You should wait a few weeks before you actually start planting so that the amendments have the time to seep into the soil and diffuse across your little plot of soon-to-be vibrant life. While you're waiting, hit the books again and figure out which plants you'd like to plant and what their requirements are.
Figure out what kind of garden you'd like to have; what colors would you like to see, what fragrances would you like to smell? Some nice additions to a flower garden are the foxtail lily, the lily of the Nile (also known as the African lily) and some delphinium. If you'd like to attract butterflies, get some butterfly weed, lantana, or butterfly bush.
You'll be astonished at how far a little planning can go. If you do your homework, and follow some useful flower gardening tips found in garden catalogs and guides, you can have a garden displaying color in all seasons; all you have to do is mix and match early-season bloomers, mid-season bloomers and late bloomers. Plant early blooming perennials in a group next to a group of later bloomers; between groups of perennials, plant groups of bulbs. The leaves of perennials can also be used to give color to your garden, once all flowers have finished blooming. Indeed, green is not the only color leaves come in; pay attention to those plants whose leaves are burgundy or silver-like, and use them as "space fillers" when flowers are not in bloom.
Make sure you know what hardiness zone you're in; the USDA has divided the US and lower Canada into hardiness zones based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in average minimum temperature. Certain plants can only be grown in certain hardiness zones; this information is usually located on seed packets or flower guides. Make sure you buy appropriate plants for your zone.
You can actually start your gardening a little earlier than when you should if you start plants from seeds in the house. Jiffy pots made of compressed peat moss are handy. You put starting mix or potting soil, let the plants grow for a few weeks in sunlight (until they reach about 4 inches) and then put outside. The jiffy pots will rot and the plant roots will grow into the soil. Also check the back of seed packages for flower gardening tips and information on when to plant seeds in your area, how to plant them and how close to sow the seeds. If you get seedlings, be prepared to have to put them in the ground as soon as possible.
You've done your research, you've written in your journal, you've bought your plants. When planting, it's a good idea to place smaller plants up front and the larger ones in the back. Make sure your flowers are about 3 feet away from any buildings or fences, 20 feet away from large trees and 5 feet away from any large bush. Also make sure to avoid shallow, rocky soil, any areas where water tends to stand, and steep slopes.
After you've planted your flowers, lay down some mulch (compost that isn't completely decayed) over the soil but make sure it doesn't touch the stems of your plants. As with all organic matter, mulch adds nutrients to the soil, blocks the growth of weeds, maintains a stable soil temperature and increases the soil's water retaining capacity. Keeping a constant 2 to 3 inches of mulch around your plants in the growing season is a good idea. As an added bonus, you could place layers of damp newspaper under the mulch to block the growth of weeds, which could be very detrimental to your flowers.
Some gardeners will use chemical pesticides and other highly synthetic substances to create a successful garden. The majority of gardeners, however, will tell you that organic gardening is the way to go. No chemical pesticides, just a focus on improving soil quality and using plants wisely. Indeed, there are some plants that, when grown in combination, can actually benefit the garden (like rose and garlic).