Gardeners should make resolutions, too
Have you made your New Year's resolutions?
The annual gesture of self-improvement and moderation often fails quickly with the new year. Below are some resolutions that will improve the horticultural skills for home gardeners in Rowan County.
Have your soil testedSoil testing is the most often overlooked service that can save time, money and undue stress to the environment. Most homeowners guess as to how much fertilizer and lime to put on lawns, shrubs and vegetable gardens. Soil sampling is a free service provided by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. Soil sampling kits are available at the Extension Center. A soil samples can be mailed to Raleigh for less than $1.
Have a plan
Impulse buying and planting without a plan can produce nightmares later as the landscape develops. Overgrown plants, improperly spaced plant material, diseased, or non adapted plant material are typical problems associated with impulse planting. Solicit the help of reputable and qualified nurserymen or landscapers before initiation of a landscape planting.
Try different varieties
Home vegetable gardeners and flower gardeners often plant the same varieties each season. While it makes sense to "stick with a winner," there are new varieties of vegetable and flowers that warrant a homeowner test. All-America Selections are usually a good choice, whether it's a vegetable, fruit or flower selection. Be sure to correctly label new varieties and make notes about growth, development and other pertinent characteristics during the growing season. These notes will be instrumental in selection of next season's crop.
Take time this winter to maintain power equipment with an oil change or tune-up if needed. Sharpen mower blades. Sharp blades reduce engine wear and will improve the turf's appearance, reducing the incidence of disease. Jagged leaf blades look bad and increase incidence of foliar disease problems. Replace all seals and gaskets in hand pump sprayers now so you will be ready when the pests of Spring arrive.
Watch the calendar
Label the calendar for gardening chores that must be done and follow them. Bulbs must be planted in October, pre-emergence weed control must be applied before March 15, the lawn is to be fertilized in February and September, etc. Some of "the windows" for these activities are quite narrow and must be followed in order to have a successful growing season. Keep this calendar handy for quick reference.
Carry out an IPM program
Integrated pest management programs mean you should scout for insects and diseases on a routine basis. Can you live with the problem? Use pesticides only when needed.
Prune for a reason
Many homeowners prune fruit trees, vines and shrubs because "it's the season to prune" and for no other reason. Know why apple trees are pruned to a central leader and peach trees are pruned to an open vase shape. Correct pruning techniques can increase yields, produce better quality fruit and reduce pesticide sprays. Correctly pruned shrubs will produce more flowers and berries. Judicious pruning is mandatory for quality fruits and healthy shrubs.
Start a file of garden tips and informationFile away bits and pieces of useful information. My neighbor has a file of information on successful rose pruning and bulb forcing techniques.
This is information she will need to be successful with these annual endeavors. Make the file readily accessible to periodically update or delete out-of-date information. Have it near the "to do" list.
Darrell Blackwelder is an Extension Agent in horticulture at the Rowan County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension.Call 704-216-8970.