Time to make a list of spring gar­den chores

The Progress-Index - At Home - - LINDA COBB - By Linda Cobb

Now that spring is in full swing and the gar­den is breath­ing down the neck of sum­mer, it is time to make a list of gar­den chores to do.

The glow of spring can be very de­ceiv­ing and can lull you into a false sense of se­cu­rity. So take some time to stroll through your gar­den and take pa­per and pen with you. Great gar­dens all have one thing in com­mon, and that is the gar­den­ers who live there and tend the gar­den have great gar­den­ing habits.

The first thing on the list is to be sure your gar­den has a fresh layer of mulch down. This is prob­a­bly the sin­gle most im­por­tant thing I do all gar­den­ing sea­son be­cause it has the most ben­e­fit to your plants and over­all health of the gar­den.

We put down mulch ev­ery year in the spring­time be­cause it does three things: It keeps the roots cool when it is so hot; it keeps the weeds out; and fi­nally, and most im­por­tantly, it keeps the mois­ture in.

Many of us choose to use pine nee­dles be­cause they are eas­ier to put down and are less ex­pen­sive. I say it is okay to use pine nee­dles on large bed­ded ar­eas that are lo­cated far away from the house.

Why am I not a fan of pine nee­dles? Be­cause pine nee­dles have no ben­e­fit to the soil they cover. I use triple ground hard­wood mulch only. This is very finely ground up hard­wood. The pieces are small and sit on my soil all year and dis­in­te­grate down into the soil over the course of the year and im­prove it tremen­dously.

Af­ter us­ing the triple ground hard­wood mulch for the last 20 years my gar­den has very im­pres­sive soil, and all be­cause I used a prod­uct that benefits my ex­ist­ing soil. You can dig with a tea­spoon any­where in my gar­den. I mulch ev­ery year in my gar­den, con­sis­tently. You can buy this prod­uct lo­cally, just be sure to ask for triple ground hard­wood mulch and noth­ing else.

Next on the list, you need to do a men­tal re­view of what will be bloom­ing in your gar­den from June through Au­gust. Let’s face it, you know the old ex­pres­sion: “Any­one can do spring.” Well, that is par­tially true. The real test comes af­ter the show of spring blooms when the weather is hot, frus­trat­ing and just plain try­ing.

Day lilies are a sim­ple but yet very im­por­tant plant group to add to your gar­den. This plant group is so sim­ple to grow but is very re­ward­ing, as it is a long bloomer. Each flower on the mul­ti­headed flower spikes bloom one at a time and lasts for only one day, hence the name day lily.

A sun-lov­ing flower group, it even has at­trac­tive fo­liage, af­ter all the bloom spikes have flow­ered out, with its striped, slim green leaves. But what makes me love this flower is the wide range of colors it is avail­able in. I am crazy over the peach colored flow­ers with the crinkly edges to them. What makes this plant so popular is its long bloom pe­riod and that fact that it is so easy to grow.

The other must-have mid­sum­mer flower is the dahlia. Dahlias are tu­bers which look like small baked pota­toes that you can mail or­der from com­pa­nies such as Swan Is­land Dahlias (dahlias. com). They ar­rive in the mail and you plant them out into the gar­den soil some­time af­ter the soil warms up. They are planted 6 to 8 inches deep and are planted on their sides.

You should never fer­til­ize a dahlia un­til it has leaves above the ground. Af­ter you plant it, it would be wise to stake the area right around the bulb right away. If you do it later, it never works be­cause it is usu­ally too late and the plant is ly­ing on the ground by then.

Dahlias come in many colors — ex­cept blue and black — and many dif­fer­ent flower styles. They range in size from 1 inch across to 10 inches. They love full sun and are dis­ease re­sis­tant. Out of one tu­ber, you can get maybe 20 to 30 flow­ers that are drop-dead gor­geous.

They bloom re­li­ably from June through Novem­ber, with fall be­ing their main sea­son. Dahlias are one of the most valu­able plants in my gar­den, giv­ing me fo­liage, ter­rific blooms and cut flow­ers for a long time in the grow­ing sea­son.

The last thing on my list is a new weird plant I bought, mail or­dered, and am go­ing to grow it out to see what it does. You may have heard of it. It is called “Ketchup and Fries” tomato plant.

By now you are say­ing, huh? Let me ex­plain. This is a tomato plant on top and it grows pota­toes in the ground. Can you be­lieve it? The plant is a tomato plant grafted onto a potato plant. I bought mine from Ter­ri­to­rial Seed Com­pany (ter­ri­to­ri­alseed.com.)

I am plant­ing this plant in a pot that is 22 inches in di­am­e­ter. I will stake it on top, grow the tomato out, har­vest the fruit and then in mid-Septem­ber I will cut the top off the plant and let the pota­toes ripen. This is an ex­per­i­ment that seems like great fun to me. I will give you an up­date on how it per­formed. Linda Cobb is a cor­re­spon­dent for The Spar­tan­burg (S.C.) Her­ald-Jour­nal.

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