A beautiful garden starts now: Memorial Day means gardening for many

    • Set out zinnias, cosmos, impatiens and begonias for lots of colorful flowers all summer long.
    • Asparagus plants should be fed with good, rich compost when you have finished cutting spears. Keep the bed mulched and weed-free all summer, and the soil moist.
    • Earwigs are out and about and hungry. Control them with the new “Sluggo Plus”, or diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the plants, or go out after dark with a flashlight and a spray bottle of insecticidal soap. One squirt will put an end to the spoiler.
    • Thin fruit trees now while fruits are still small. Thin apples to 6 inches apart and peaches to 4 inches apart. On Asian pears leave 1 fruit per spur.
    • When you plant your vegetable garden, why not grow a little extra to donate to the Willits Food Bank this summer.

A beautiful garden starts now:
Memorial Day means gardening for many

It’s Memorial Day weekend and that means gardening for many people. Spend a bit more time getting your garden off to a good start and reap the benefits all season long. Proper planting and care means less maintenance, fewer pests and more produce and beautiful flowers in your landscape.

Start by selecting healthy plants and keep in mind that bigger is not always better. Look for compact plants with sturdy stems and good green color.

Prepare the soil before planting. Using organic matter is the best way to improve soil. Compost, manures, leaf mold, sawdust, and organic amendments increase the water-holding capacity, aeration, and drainage of both sandy and clay soils. These materials are decomposed by soil organisms releasing nutrients that become available to the plants. Dig one or two inches of compost, or other organic matter and a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer into the top 8 inches of the soil.

Now slide, don’t pull, the plants out of their containers to avoid damaging their roots and stems. If they resist, gently squeeze small flexible pots or roll larger pots on their sides over the ground. This loosens the roots, releasing the pot from the container.

Gently loosen any roots that encircle the root ball. Or use a knife to slice through girdling roots. This encourages the roots to move out into the soil beyond the planting hole. And a bigger root system means healthier plants that are more productive and beautiful.

Set your plants at the same depth they were growing in their container. Tall leggy tomatoes are the exception. These can be planted deeper or in shallow trenches to encourage roots to form along the buried stem. Cover the roots with soil and gently tamp to insure good soil contact.

It’s a good idea to throw a handful of bonemeal in the bottom of the hole when you plant your tomatoes. This will help prevent blossom-end rot, a condition where the bottom side of the tomato turns black.

Plant beans in a row or wide-row planting. Bush beans take up more space but require less work planting, staking, weeding and watering. They produce most of the crop all at once, which is great for freezing. Pole beans are space savers and you don’t have to bend over to harvest them. They mature later than bush beans and bear small amounts each day but will keep producing all summer long if you keep the mature beans picked.

Plant your corn patch in a spot that receives sun all day, with good, rich soil. Corn is wind pollinated. The pollen drops from the tassels on top of the plant onto the silks on the ears of corn. Each unpollinated silk results in an undeveloped kernel. For good pollination, plant corn in blocks of at least 4 rows rather than one or two long rows.

Water new plantings thoroughly, moistening the rootball, planting hole, and beyond. Spread a thin layer of mulch over the soil to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and keep the roots cooler when hot weather arrives.

Check new plantings every other day and water enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Gradually reduce the frequency until your plants only need to be watered once a week in heavy clay soils and twice a week in loamy soils.

So get out and start planting to make this the best gardening season yet.

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