How much sun does your garden really need?
Vegetables prefer a full day of sun, but if you live in a shady suburb you don't have to give up the idea of growing vegetables. Here are some minimum sunlight requirements:
Fruiting Vegetables - 8 hours of sun This includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and vine crops such as cucumbers, melons, and squash.
Root Vegetables - 6 hours of sun Carrots, beets, etc.
Leafy Vegetables - 4 hours of sun These are your "greens" such as lettuce, spinach and collards.
*Keep in mind that these are minimums. Increasing the amount of sunlight your vegetables receive will increase the yield and quality of your crop.
*Even though your vegetables may get enough light when planted near a tree, they will not get enough nourishment and water. Vegetables can't compete with an established tree for essential nutrients and moisture.
Early spring is a great time for transplanting trees and shrubs, but you must do so before they wake up. Transplanting a plant is a very traumatic experience for the plant if it is awake. It’s like doing surgery on a person while they are awake. Dormancy starts in the fall as soon as you experience a good hard freeze, and the plants remain dormant until the weather warms up in the spring. This is when you should transplant, while the plants are dormant.
You can transplant in the spring up until the plants leaf out. When the buds are green and swollen you are usually safe to still transplant, but once the leaf develops, you should wait until fall. When transplanting you can dig the shrubs out bare root, just make sure they are out of the ground for as short a time as possible, and keep the roots damp while out of the ground.
Make sure there are no air pockets around the roots when you replant them. When possible, it is always better to dig a ball of earth with the plants when you transplant them. The rule of thumb is 12” of root ball for every 1” of stem caliper. If the diameter of the stem of a tree is 2”, then you should dig a root ball 24” in diameter.
Don’t be afraid of cutting a few roots when you transplant. Just try not to cut them any shorter than the above guidelines allow. Cutting the roots will actually help to reinvigorate the plant. It’s a process simply known as root pruning. When the roots are severed, the plant then develops lateral roots to make up for what is lost. These lateral roots are more fibrous in nature, and have more ability to pick up water and nutrients.
Some nurseries drive tractors over the plants in the field with a device that under cuts the roots of the plant just to force the plant to develop more fibrous roots. This make transplanting the plant the following year much more successful, and makes for a stronger and healthier plant.
The old timers root pruned by hand by forcing a spade in the ground around their plants. If you have a plant in your landscape that is doing poorly, a little root pruning while the plant is dormant could bring it around. It’s worth the effort.
Garden Projects for Kids
This is a fun project that's easy enough for the kids to do, and it can be as elegant or as simple as you like. All you need is a small jar, such as a baby food or small jelly jar with a lid, and some cotton.
1. Make a small hole in the lid of the jar.
2. Fill the jar with butterfly food.
3. Screw the lid tightly onto the jar and poke a small piece of cotton into the hole.
4. Invert the jar and hang it in the garden.
That's all there is to it! Of course, you'll probably want to decorate your jar with paint or decoupage. Butterflies locate their food sources by sight, so the more your feeder looks like a plant or flower, the better your chances of attracting butterflies. It may also help to cut out some fabric or plastic 'petals' and fasten them to the lid of your feeder. To make butterfly food, simply dissolve one part sugar in nine parts of water. No coloring or other additive is needed.
Gardener's Tool Box
Another fun project is to make a gardener's toolbox from a standard mailbox. Decorate the mailbox any way you like, and fasten it to a fencepost near the garden. A mailbox is the perfect size for a spare pair of gloves and a few hand tool. This is a great rainy day project for the kids, and it makes a terrific personalized gift.
Using Manure In The Garden
Animal manure is not only a good fertilizer, but also helps to condition the soil. Here are some guidelines for using manure in the garden:
Don't use dog or cat manure. These manures often carry diseases that can be spread to children.
Never use fresh manure, since it contains soluble nitrogen compounds and ammonia that can burn plants and interfere with seed germination. Manure that is well composted or has aged for about six months is best. When added to the compost pile, manure will speed the composting process.
Manure tea can be used for periodic feedings or diluted and used every time you water. Do not allow undiluted manure tea to come into direct contact with foliage. To make manure tea, simply place a shovel or two of manure in a large container filled with water, and after a week or so, strain out the manure. To make the straining process a little easier, you can tie the manure in a burlap bag before placing it in the water.
Horse manure may contain a good many weed seeds, so compost it in a hot compost pile before adding it to your garden