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Publication: Garden Guides
How To Start A Garden

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                   GardenGuides Newsletter 
                 Tuesday, January 30, 2007 

You can use grass clippings as a mulch, but it's better to 
compost them before applying, simply because if the clippings 
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penetrate. If you use any lawn herbicides, you should not use 
grass clippings in flower beds or vegetable gardens.


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How to Start a New Garden

Choosing What You'd Like to Grow

This is harder than you might think. If you are starting 
small, you have to limit yourself to a handful of plants. If 
you are growing vegetables start with what you like to eat and 
what you can't find fresh locally. Corn takes a lot of space 
and remains in the garden a long time before it's ready to be 
eaten. If you have corn farms nearby, you might want to use 
your small garden for vegetables that give a longer harvest, 
like tomatoes, lettuce and beans. 

Flower gardens can be even harder. Start with what colors you 
like. Rather than basing your dream on a photograph from a 
magazine, take a look at what your neighbors are growing 
successfully. They may even be able to give you a division 
or two. 

Take a walk around a couple of garden centers and read the 
plant labels. Then play with combining the plants that strike 
your eye until you find a combination of 3-5 plants that 
pleases you. Make sure all the plants have the same growing 
requirements (Sun, water, pH...) and that none of them are 
going to require more care than you can give them. 

Keep the variety of plants limited. It makes a better 
composition to have more plants of less varieties than to 
have one of this and one of that.


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Sometimes you have to plant when you have the time, even if 
that's high noon on a Saturday. But the ideal time to plant is 
on a still, overcast day. The point is, stress your new plants 
as little as possible. Water the plants in their pots the day 
before you intend to plant.

Don't remove all the plants from their pots and leave them 
sitting in the sun for the roots to dry out.

If the roots are densely packed or growing in a circle, tease 
them apart, as shown in the photo, so they will stretch out 
and grow into the surrounding soil.

Bury the plant to the depth it was in the pot. Too deep and 
the stem will rot. Too high and the roots will dry out.

Don't press down hard on the plants as you cover them. 
Watering will settle them into the ground.

Water your newly planted garden as soon as it is planted and 
make sure it gets at least one inch of water per week. You may 
have to water more often in hot dry summers. Let your plants 
tell you how much water they need. Some wilting in noonday sun 
is normal. Wilting in the evening is stress. 


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Garden Maintenance

Hopefully when you were selecting plants you did some back-
ground checking and didn't select too many prima donnas. All 
plants are going to require some maintenance. The idea that 
perennial plants require less maintenance than annuals is 

At the very least, your plants will require 1 inch of water a 
week. If it rains regularly, good for you. If not, don't let 
your plants get drought stressed. Once a plant is stressed it 
will never recover fully that growing season.

There will also be weeding to do. Weed seeds come from all 
kinds of sources: wind, birds, soil on shoes...

Deadheading or removing the spent blossoms from your flowers, 
will keep them blooming longer and looking fresher. Vegetables 
will produce more if you keep harvesting while young.

Some taller plants may need to be staked, to keep from 

It may happen that one of your choices isn't happy and dies. 
Move on and replace it with something else.


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