One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, gardening remains a bright spot for many, with seed companies never busier and people inspired to start growing. Our collection of gardening advice will help you whether you’re just starting out with flowers in pots or planning on growing vegetables. For more inspiration, check out these roundups of classic and new gardening books. Happy growing!
How to get your garden ready for spring
Want to move indoor plants outside, or build a yard that attracts butterflies? Marjorie Harris offers expert tips on getting ready for spring, along with advice on how to deal with common gardening challenges such as weeds or perennials that have overgrown their space.
What can I prune and when?
The rule of thumb is that if it blooms in spring, prune after the flowers are spent; it if blooms in autumn, cut it down in late winter and early spring. This generally works for vines and shrubs, but when it comes to the latter, don’t take out more than about one-third of the stems from the base. As for trees, it’s safe to prune them now, since they’re mature enough to form calluses in order to heal themselves after being cut. But again, don’t remove more than you have to – it’s really only about shape and safety. That said, many old evergreens – especially very old yews – can get a whole new lease on life if you whack them right back. They’ll come back looking almost like new. − Marjorie Harris
How much and how often should I water?
Give big trees and large shrubs three buckets of water twice a week – that’s about the same as letting the hose or watering system run gently for 45 minutes. Avoid mini-watering – letting the water run every day for 20 minutes – as it produces plants with a shallow rooting system. As for plants in containers, water them almost every day depending on size and rainfall. When in doubt, use the knuckle test: Stick your finger into the container and if it’s dry above the first knuckle, water slowly until it runs out the bottom of the pot. − Marjorie Harris
The edible garden
How to grow your own kitchen garden
Get started with this primer on creating high-yield food plots that are also attractive (plus learn what to do with all that bounty).
When planning her container garden, Nathalie Atkinson wanted three things: a decorative array to brighten the terrace, edible flowers to use as informally as fresh herbs and plants to attract pollinators.
Tending to his vegetable garden – with all of its glorious frustrations – left Beppi Crosariol with more than a green thumb.
What to grow
Grasses are relatively inexpensive, difficult to kill and add a lovely soft movement to the garden, but also take most of the summer to come to maturity. Placed with skill, they will enhance the tiniest of gardens.
Native plants can look “weedy” to a non-expert eye because they aren’t always neat, tidy and picture perfect. But these plants are crucial to every garden. Many people believe the rewilding movement is essential to mitigating the climate crisis and keeping our planet livable.
Natural, native and sustainable gardens are being nurtured in more creative ways by professionals and amateurs alike.
Xeriscaping is a low-maintenance gardening trend where plants with similar needs – all sun, all shade, etc. – are grouped together. Xeriscapes are also drought-tolerant, which means that after a good watering they can survive for about a week before needing more hydration.
Curious about growing cannabis? It’s safer and easier to grow outdoors rather than an expensive hydroponic indoor grow-op.
I’m confused about mass planting versus a mixed bed. How do I avoid a haphazard look?
A good mixed bed isn’t easy to achieve – and it can take years of gardening experience to get there. A mass planting usually means having a large area covered with one kind of plant (as in all the same hosta); a mixed bed, which is one I prefer myself, has many different kinds of plants, often with similar colours blending into the next. Try planting three of the same kind of plant in a triangle. This will prevent anything from looking too spotty. Then add the next threesome in a complementary colour, texture or contrasting foliage (pointy with fluffy). To my eye, it is a much healthier, more interesting way to plant than dozens of the same plant in huge drifts, unless you are dealing with acres of land. − Marjorie Harris
How do I figure out whether I have alkaline or acidic soil?
That is always something useful to know. Many plants really like acidic soil. To make a test of your own, mix soil from one part of the garden and add it to a jar of water. Pour some baking soda over it; if it bubbles, it’s acidic. In another container pour ordinary vinegar over the muddy water; if it fizzes it’s alkaline. If nothing happens, you’ve got neutral soil, which is what most gardens like to grow in. This is, of course, a crude method. Another way to figure out what you’re working with: Look around. Are there lots of cedars and other evergreens? Any healthy-looking rhododendrons? If so, you can bet the soil is acidic. − Marjorie Harris
The gardening life
- I’m ready to restart my garden (and escape the news of the world)
- I take pride in my anti-COVID garden
- Working in my pandemic garden gives me hope
- Grandma needed to see vegetables, not flowers, in our garden
- I thought I was a nature lover. Then raccoons started tearing up my lawn
- Why hasn’t the gardening industry been disrupted yet?
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