When spring arrives, our attention turns outdoors and to great garden tips for the growing season. Maria Bronner Sutorik, vice president of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland is an avid gardener who has completed Master Gardener training. She offers these great garden tips for flower and vegetable gardeners.
Prepare with Our Great Garden Tips
- Choose the site well. After all, you need a sunny spot for vegetable gardening. The site does not need to be IN the ground. It can be in pots, window boxes, raised beds, etc. In fact, use whatever space you have available, from a balcony to a deck to a wall. By the same token, shade gardens can be lovely, too. You just need to pick plants appropriate for the conditions they will be in. (If possible, it’s helpful to have your garden beds located near a watering source for convenience)
- Add products like soil-moist granules, and slow-release fertilizer into containers when planting. If the plants growing in it were healthy, you can reuse container mix from a prior season with amendments. In this case, begin by removing large debris. Then freshen the mix with nutrients from dried organic humus or a manure mix. Last of all, moisten and fertilize the mix.
- Another great garden tip: larger containers don’t have to be filled top to bottom with soil. You can load the base of the container with anything from recycled plastic bottles, to Styrofoam peanuts (bagged so they’re less messy), to dry leaves. These light-weight fillers take up space so the containers are easier to move. Clay, ceramic, cement and terra-cotta planters have a tendency to crack from the thaw/freeze cycle in cold climates. To prevent this from happening, cover these containers with a garbage bag before the winter season. Or if they are not too heavy, move them to a protected storage location.
Great Garden Tips: Choose Your Battles
- Above all, start small. Tackle a little at a time so you are not overwhelmed. You can always add more during the season or next year. However, you can become discourages by taking on too big of a project all at once. (This is especially true for our next great garden tip.)
- Keep ahead of the weeds. They compete for plant nutrients. In short, don’t let them seed. If weeds do sprout, it’s easier to get them when they’re young and their roots are not so deep. You should pull weeds by hand, preferably after a light rain, so the roots come up easily. Pulling weeds by hand turns over the soil less than hoeing, which can expose more weed seeds to germination. For the most part, weeds are peskiest the first month or two, but will let you take a well-deserved break midsummer. Also, you can mulch to keep weeds down, but try to keep the mulch away from plant stems and crowns.
- You should choose your battles with bulbs and plants. For example, rabbits love tulips and crocus and Asiatic lilies, but don’t touch hyacinth or daffodils. Deer love hosta. And squirrels love to dig in freshly turned soil. Protect plants with chicken wire or permanent/portable fencing if you can’t deter critters with scents from other plants, granules or sprays. If you ask, most gardening centers will direct you to plants that are less likely to being eaten by critters. Also, it’s important to know which plants are safe for pets. Some house and garden plants and seeds are toxic to dogs, cats and humans.
- You don’t have to plant only annual flowers OR vegetables in a container or bed. Mix vegetables, small evergreens, strawberries, perennials and more.
We drilled holes into a PVC pipe and placed it in the center of the pot before filling it with plants. The holes provide even watering throughout the various pot levels. Work from the inside or outside of the strawberry pot to place the plants, whichever is easier on the plants. Start at the bottom and add soil mix as you work your way up.
- Another great garden tip is to take cues from nature, and time garden activities with calendar events. In Frankenmuth’s Zone 5, the adage says to plant peas St. Patrick’s Day or around Good Friday. You should fertilize roses when the forsythia bloom (also a good target date to apply crabgrass preventer). And fertilize the lawn around Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day.
- Maria recommends you have little ones help plant seeds or transplants, and tend the garden. What kid doesn’t love to water?! It’s fun to watch flowers and vegetables grow, and to pick and enjoy them. With this in mind, you can even make a sunflower teepee by tying the heads of sunflowers together.
More Great Garden Tips
- If your garden struggles and sun and water are not the issue, you should get a soil test to see if any key nutrients are missing.
- Be appreciative but also slightly wary of perennials that people want to share with you. Just know if they are shareable, they are also likely to get legs and spread. Or they may become crowded and need to be divided often. Know your plant and know the place you are putting it (right plant, right place). First-year transplants “sleep,” second-year plants “creep,” and the third year they can “leap.”
Three Pepper Dip
- 2 c. sour cream
- 3 oz. cream cheese softened
- 1 c. Mexican 4-blend cheese finely shredded
- 1/2 c. salsa your preference for heat
- 1/4 c. red, green and yellow peppers finely chopped
- 2 T. onion minced
- 1/4 tsp. chili powder
- 1/4 tsp. garlic salt
- tortilla chips
- 1 whole red pepper
- 1 whole green pepper
- 1 whole yellow pepper
- Blend cream cheese and sour cream with mixer or whisk. Add shredded cheese, salsa, chopped peppers, minced onion, chili powder and garlic salt; stir with spoon until well blended. Use whole cored and seeded peppers as serving bowls. Serve with tortilla chips.
For your next party or family night, we recommend you try our BLT Party Dip and Too Lazy to Make Ham Roll-ups Dip.
Great Gifts for Gardeners
Here’s a great garden tip that’s good all year long: Bronner’s offers great gifts to celebrate gardening, no matter the season. Pick up a pair of pretty garden gloves and a seed packet at your garden center, and match them with an ornament from Bronner’s! Since we’re feeling sunny, we matched our sunflower seed packet with our sunflower formed glass ornament.
What’s more, display or gift a display of beautiful floral ornaments. Use varying heights of stemware for our blue glass ornament with flowers (#1199793), black with blue flowers glass ornament (#1212464) and green translucent glass ornament with flowers (#1212456). Similarly, you can take a small, clear glass trifle dish and fill it with our hummingbird-on-trumpet-flower glass ornament or white Christmas flowers clip (#1218364). Indeed, this makes a beautiful mantle or tabletop display softly draped with sheer pink fabric.
By the same token, you can gift a veggie gardener with one or more of their favorites – maybe a whole pail of them! A lover of carrots? Try our carrot with greens ornament, rainbow carrots glass ornament (#1214253), and medium carrot glass ornament (#1155927). Corn on the cob? In like fashion, we offer our ear of corn ornament, partially topped with green husks, and our corn cob glass ornament. If cauliflower is top of the list, serve up our Inge Glas cauliflower ornament (#1212604) and cauliflower glass ornament (#1219774). Another great garden tip? Go green with our pea pod glass ornament (#1212755).