Tips for spring gardening abound. There is information on anything from soil augmentation to buying seed starters. Lost in this sheer wealth of data is some help for those of us who have followed all the advice and ended up with gnawed off plants, dying vegetables and ailing flowers — until now.
Over-fertilizing With Nutrients the Soil Does Not Need
You dig, you rake and then you fertilize — and then your plants die. What went wrong? The odds are good that you augmented the soil with a nutrient that is already there while not supplying one that is missing. As noted by Eutech, a strongly acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0, already has plenty of iron and zinc. Conversely, a strongly alkaline soil with a pH between 8.0 and 9.0 has enough phosphorus and potassium.
Solution: Before you add fertilizer, do a pH test. Know what is missing.
Planting the Wrong Plants in the Wrong Soil
Your artichoke plants like a pH level that ranges from 6.5 to 7.5. This puts it on par with lavender. Your sweet potato will tolerate a pH between 5.5 and 6.0. A regular potato might be able to handle 4.5, but do not push it. The watermelon prefers a soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Mismatch the soil and the plants and you will not have thriving flora.
Solution: If you have not yet done a pH test, do so now. Group together the plants that like similar pH levels. Granted, this might mean mixing ornamental flowers and vegetables — and why not?
Watering to the Point of Root Rot
When you over-water, you are not doing your plants any favors. In the best-case scenario, the roots will be shallow and the plant eventually collapses under its own weight. In the worst case, the roots will rot, mold will attack the leaves and the plant dies.
Solution: Less is more. The University of Florida explains that “two deep soakings per week” are better than the more frequent light watering sessions that may find you out in the yard every evening.
Crowding to the Point of Stem Rot
Did you find a huge wagonload of must-have veggie starter plants, annuals and colorful perennials at the big box home improvement store? Did you check the spatial requirements of the plants? When you overcrowd the flowerbeds and cram the plants one right next to the other, you will likely notice blackening stems and withering leaves. Before long, you have holes in your flowerbeds.
Solution: Go easy on the big weekend plant sale. In addition to having well-drained soil that you water judiciously, the plants need some air circulation in between them. The little tags inside the pots usually tell you how much space you should leave between seedlings and plants; follow this advice to the letter!
Spreading Plant Disease and Garden Pests
You notice that some of your plants have become diseased or infested with pests. You cut, you clip, you maintain and you remove the affected pieces. Then you continue with your regular gardening tasks. In a few days, the disease and pests have spread everywhere. What happened? The answer is simple: You spread the disease with your gardening tools.
Solution: Not only should you sharpen your cutting tools frequently, but you also need to clean them in between uses. Never use the same tool for cutting diseased plants and healthy ones.
When you follow these five spring gardening tips for avoiding the pitfalls in the flowerbed, you have a better than average chance of finally getting a bumper crop of veggies this fall and enjoying gorgeous blooms all summer.