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Types of Soil
Garden soils and potting mixes differ and should not be used interchangeably. Any soil can be improved, so customize to create a plant-perfect blend. Here's the lowdown on common types of soils and potting mixes.
1. Clay: Heavy, sticky clay holds water and compacts easily.
2. Sand: Gritty sand drains quickly and doesn't hold nutrients.
3. Silt: Crumbly silt holds nutrients and moisture, but it packs down.
4. Cacti and Succulent Mix: Equal parts sand, perlite, and potting soil provide the drainage these plants need.
5. Premium Mix: Jazz up potting soil by adding perlite, composted manure, vermiculite, and peat moss.
6. All-Purpose Mix: A blend of peat moss, vermiculite, and composted bark works well for most plants.
Get to know the types of plants. Then learn how specific plants typically behave and what they can add to your garden. For instance, trees and shrubs form the foundation of a garden. Choose plants for disease and pest resistance, extreme-weather tolerance, and other desirable traits. Familiarize yourself with these general plant types:
Annuals: Flowering or foliage-only plants live colorfully for a single growing season.
Perennials: These mainstays fill beds with shape, colors, textures, and fragrances year after year.
Bulbs: Plant cold-hardy bulbs in the fall for spring blooms in most regions.
Climbers or Vines: Annual or perennial, these versatile plants cover vertical space with foliage and flowers.
Shrubs: Flowering or evergreen shrubs work as accents or hedges and for seasonal interest.
Trees: With large-scale form and beauty, trees add long-lived shade and shelter.
Turfgrass: Good lawns include a blend of grass types that suit the climate and light conditions.
Compost = Free Fertilzer
To start a compost pile, layer organic waste from the yard and kitchen in a pile—that's all! Sunshine, rain, and nature do the rest. Don't add meat, bones, fat, animal waste, or diseased plants. If you prefer, pile only leaves in autumn and make leaf mold instead. Consider these sources for compost.
Yard Waste: This includes plant stalks, leaves, and pine needles.
Kitchen Scraps: Mix in fruit and veggie waste, coffee grounds, and eggshells.
Soil: Starting with a bag of earth introduces good bugs.
Grass Clippings: Gather them as you mow, or rake them up after mowing.
Leaves and Twigs: Shredded or mowed-over materials break down faster.
Defend Against Pests and Diseases
Deter Unwelcome Guests
Discouraging deer, rabbits, mice, and other hungry critters requires gardeners to be proactive. A combination of barrier and repellent often produces the best results. Try one of these barrier methods.
Tall fencing. Stake garden mesh to make an 8-foot-tall enclosure for a vegetable garden and to prevent deer from browsing.
Wire wrap. Cut a length of hardware cloth (stiff, gridded wire) and form a simple wrap to keep rabbits and other creatures from munching on young plants.
Tree wrap. Wrap a sturdy plastic shield around the base of a young tree, from below soil level to above the potential snow line to deter rodents and rabbits.
Grow Your Own Food
Whether you plan a utilitarian plot of veggies or a few pots on the patio, meeting plants' basic needs helps parlay their growth into bountiful harvests. Shrubs, trees, and perennials, such as apples, blueberries, and strawberries, need plenty of room. Dwarf and compact plant varieties suit container gardens. Most crops need full sun, but late-afternoon shade prevents soil from drying too quickly. A convenient water source is vital.
Productive and pretty. Plant to taste the best of the seasons. Understanding your region's climate and the length of your growing season helps you decide what to grow and when to plant and harvest. Plant cool-season crops (leafy greens, peas, and beets) early and late in the growing season. Plant warm-season crops (tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants) for summer harvests. Mix edible and ornamental plants to create beautiful and bountiful results in any size space.
Seeds or plants? Seeds present more options than you'll find available as seedlings. It's easier to grow some crops—lettuce, radishes, beans, squash—from seeds. Where the growing season is short, start seeds indoors in advance. Opt for nursery-grown seedlings if you plan to grow only a few plants.
Grow up. Using vertical space creates opportunities for plants that vine and climb. You might think your garden lacks room for sprawling melons or beans, but give the plants sturdy supports and they'll reach for the sky. Tomatoes and other tall-growing plants benefit when supported upright: They get more sun and air circulation and suffer less from disease, injury, and pests.
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