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Springtime Gardening Tips

Springtime Gardening Tips
by Danielle M. Angeline

As the temperature rises and the days grow longer, now is the time to start preparing, planning, and planting for the spring season. Tips provided are for the Mid-Atlantic region and can be accomplished in the next few months.
According to the regional garden guide on, early spring is the time to repot and reintroduce plant food for indoor houseplants. For example, Miraclegro hosts a variety of plant food from all-purpose to specialized products, such as food for African Violets. Indoor plants, like philodendrons and ivy, have a tendency to grow toward sunlight. To give potted plants balanced sunlight, simply rotate the pot 180 degrees every other month. Those not requiring direct sunlight, place them in a bright but not too sunny location.
Inventory gardening tools is the first step to successful gardening preparation. Basic tools such as a shovel, rake, sprinkler, and hose should be rust-free, debris-free, and the handles should be secure. Replace any tools that are not in excellent working condition.
Filling a 5-gallon bucket or large basket with hand tools (hand trowel and hand rake), several sets of garden gloves, fertilizer, and kneepads, allows for easy movement around the garden and keeps everything organized in the shed or garage. suggests checking your lawnmower for defects. Check the blades, oil bearings, cables, and gas tank. Always clear the yard of any debris, such as rocks and twigs before mowing the lawn.
Outdoor gardening preparation may include testing the soil. The importance of soil testing is, knowing the soil type and its acidity or alkalinity (pH) levels to determine what plants will thrive. Avoid walking on wet gardening soil because this compacts the ground and does not allow it to breathe properly. To navigate moist soil, place boards on the ground to establish walking and kneeling areas for planting.'s Regional Garden Guide for the Mid-Atlantic offers these tips:
* Sketch out a gardening plan.
* Research the plants and shrubbery that will grow sufficiently in the soil type.
* Annuals are a one-time planting, whereas perennials come back every season - like tulips, crocus, and forsythia bushes.
* Consider tier planting; with flowers in the foreground of the garden, taller shrubbery and trees should be planted in the back, according to maximum height growth.
* Plant shrubs when the ground is continuously warm.
* If the night temperature stays above 55 degrees, that is the time to direct sow and transplant hardy annuals.
* Perennial vegetables and fruits can be planted once the ground is workable and the threat of frost has passed.
* Prune roses before the buds break.
* Wait until the soil warms and dries before planting summer bulbs.
Even if the sun is not shining, but the temperature is comfortable for working outdoors, plants will need pruning, feeding, and weeding. Many home improvement stores and gardening centers supply weed-eating products that are environmentally friendly. This year, consider composting. Here is's quick guide to composting:
* Kitchen scraps - egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels - are outstanding materials that are high in nitrogen, which helps heat up the compost pile and speed up the composting process.
* A large compost pile causes heat to build up but a compost pile should be no bigger than about 3 feet by 3 feet.
* Keep the compost ventilated. A tumbling composter allows for materials to be turned when new materials are added. With a pile, or static (non-tumbling) compost bin, mix up the contents so that the pile gets oxygen and can break down effectively. A compost turning/aerating tool will make this an easy task.
* A compost pile needs moisture to keep the composting process active, so do not let it dry out.
* A too wet compost pile will cause a very unpleasant odor.
* Too much of one material will slow down the composting process. If it's all leaves, grass clippings or an overload of one single material, it throws off the balance of the pile. Keep a balanced mixture of green and brown materials.
Trees will flourish with composting mulch. recommends the following for planting trees in the yard or garden:
* Dig a hole twice as wide as and slightly shallower than the root ball.
* Roughen the sides and bottom of your planting hole with a pick or shovel so that root tips can penetrate the native soil.
* Be gentle but firm when removing the container. Protect the foliage when laying the tree on its side with the container end near the planting hole. Tap the bottom and sides of the container until the root ball is loosened. If the container is metal, use cutters to snip it from top to bottom.
* Gently separate circling roots and shorten exceptionally long roots, then guide them downward and outward in the planting hole. If the roots are too tightly kinked, return and replace the specimen.
* The crown is the place where the roots end and the trunk begins. Do not cover the crown with soil or it could lead to root rot. The root ball should be about 1/2 to 1 inch above the surrounding soil.
* Orient the tree so that it is level. If adjustments are necessary, lift the tree from the root ball and not the trunk.
* If adding soil amendment, always mix it with soil from the planting site. One part amendment to three parts native soil is a good proportion for backfill soil.
* Use the backfill soil to fill the hole, moving it around to cover the roots.
* Press the backfill soil with every few soil load, using the heel of your foot, press down firmly to collapse any large air pockets in the soil. This will stabilize the tree in the hole. Do not tamp too hard for excessive pressure will reduce the soil porosity.
* Water the tree as backfill soil is returned to the hole. This encourages root ball water penetration.
* Stake the tree loosely for protection or support if needed. Provide two stakes per tree. Use non-abrasive ties in figure-eight pattern. Plan to remove stakes in six to twelve months, or until the tree can support itself.
* Except for a small circle at the base of the trunk, mulch the tree with two to four inches of composting, bark, wood chips, old sawdust, or pine needles. Mulch keeps the topsoil temperate for root growth, reduces surface evaporation of water, provides nutrients to feed the tree, and slows grass and weed growth around the trunk.
As the March winds subside, and the April rains brings May flowers, gardening with the proper planning and preparation, will yield a successful planting season. Attending gardening workshops at a local home improvement store can also benefit the process. With a lot of patience and TLC, the leaves will bud and the flowers will blossom, and this pleasant and fruitful endeavor will flourish in color and aroma.

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