Thursday, March 31, 2011

The 5 P's...

A walk through the garden center at this time of year always gets me inspired. It’s only after I get home with a truck load of new plants that I realize I haven’t done enough to prepare. Spending money on soil and mulch isn’t nearly as much fun as buying new plants – but it is critically important for landscape performance. I guess what I’m saying is “proper preparation prevents poor performance” (the 5 P's). Here are a few tips and suggestions to help you get started in the right direction. 


Soil Preparation:
Soil preparation usually requires the addition of organic matter to help hold moisture during the heat of summer while increasing aeration and drainage to avoid flooding during the “monsoon” season. There are numerous sources of organic matter for this use, ranging from compost to peat moss. A good mix of small and large particles is ideal for establishing a balance between drainage and water holding characteristics. There are several bagged soil amendments available but I prefer those that contain pine bark. Softwood bark breaks down rapidly and provides that range of particle sizes previously described.

Fertilizer:
Many gardeners prefer not to use fertilizers these days because of potential impacts on the environment. But handled, applied and stored correctly, these materials pose little threat.  Generally speaking, 1-2 pounds of nitrogen from a complete fertilizer (i.e. 20-10-10) per 1000 square feet is ideal for most planting areas. There are also numerous organic fertilizers available for landscape use. However, since the nutrient content is often low, a larger volume of organic fertilizer will be required. I recently applied approximately 10 lbs. of 20-10-20 to my small yard to help support the current flush of spring growth.

Test the Irrigation System:
There’s an old saying among Texas gardeners – we’re never more than a week away from a drought. With few exceptions, most landscapes require supplemental irrigation, especially from June – September. Be sure to perform a quick audit of the irrigation system to determine if there are leaks and to ensure that all heads, drip emitters and/or other system components are working properly. It’s much easier to make repairs before planting than after. A poorly functioning irrigation system wastes water, money and limits landscape plant performance.


Weed Control:
This time of year broad leafed weeds can be a serious challenge. Bermuda and nut sedge are also active. This is a good time to implement a control strategy that will assist in keeping weeds down the rest of the growing season. There are several different ways to go, but hand pulling is perhaps the most effective. Not everyone has the patience for this activity – so chemical herbicides may be more desirable. I’m not a big fan of weed & feed products because of potential damage to non-targeted plants in the landscape. We rely on spot applications of Glyphosate (Roundup) on seriously pesky weeds.

Mulch:
Applying mulch after planting helps hold in soil moisture, suppresses weed growth and assists in maintaining a uniform soil temperature. Organic mulches also contribute valuable organic matter and nutrients back to the soil as they decompose. A 2”- 3” layer of mulch applied in landscape beds and around the base of plant materials will help save water and money. There are lots of different types of organic mulches available. Last year I used a material made from ground up “wood.” Although it was cheap, it’s a mistake I will not make again. I’ll be looking for pine bark mulch this year.

For more timely tips on landscape gardening be sure to visit http://www.GalvestonGardening.com

1 comment:

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