|Lisa Cook Master Gardener. 4/28/09 (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune) |
Master gardeners were not experts when they first started digging in the soil.
In addition to the classes they have taken to earn the title, they have spent and continue to spend countless hours of trial and error to stay on top of their gardens.
They also volunteer countless hours of community service to give back to the community and learn more from other master gardeners.
Lisa Cook, a Perrysburg Township resident and master gardener, notes even the best of gardeners, despite all their knowledge and experience will get frustrated.
She recently had to abandon hopes on a holly bush which she had, as it turns out, "spent four years wasting time on." She now has realized the bush was never going to flourish and it will be sacrificed to the compost pile.
"Gardening can be very frustrating if you're striving for perfection," Cook says. "Sometimes you just have to roll with it no matter what you think should happen"
Every gardener should remember they are at the mercy of nature, which includes the elements, animals, etc.
"Nature has its own plan, and you just have to work with it and not fight against it," Cook suggests. "Don't try to make it into something its not going to be."
If you don't work with nature she says you will end up very frustrated, and even begin to lose confidence in your gardening ability.
To avoid some of that frustration, she advises gaining knowledge and taking time to plan what type of flowers, colors, bloom times, etc.
Cook suggests planting in groups for best visual interest, rather than one plant here or there. The grouping of identical or similar flowers will create a greater visual impact to those who see your flower garden.
To borrow a phrase from realtors, the most important factor is "location, location, location."
Cook suggests to study your home and garden areas to see how much sun reaches the area you wish to plant. For example the east side of her home is great for flowers that take "part sun" as they get a lot of morning sun, and shade in the afternoons. The remainder of her garden area would be classified as "full sun" so shade-loving flowers and plants are not for her garden.
Information on what plants thrive in what conditions is often available on the plant description which is commonly with the plant. Also the growers and greenhouse staff are an excellent source as to what to plant where.
Once you document the sun potential, Cook says another very important factor is the content and quality of the soil.
Most greenhouses and garden centers have soil test kids available. In addition, the local Extension office also provides soil testing at a nominal fee.
While the test can be very beneficial in determining the quality of your soil, Cook suggests using lots of organic matter in your garden, for example, compost or manure. This is especially necessary if you have clay soil as she does.
"Compost helps loosen up the soil and helps your garden get the nutrients it needs," she said.
She is also a fan of time-release fertilizers, which are also available at area greenhouses and garden centers. By using the slow release type, it provides a dose of nutrients at each watering and is more convenient than mixing up liquid fertilizer.
Cook does not like to use liquid fertilizers as it often does not really add anything to the soil. Many name brand products are not her first choices.
"Feed your soil along with your plant, and as years go on it will give you healthy soil," she added.
Other choices involve whether to plant annuals, which only last for one growing season; or perennials, which should come back every year.
There are endless choices of varieties, colors, blooming seasons, etc.
Experiment, have fun, and enjoy your time in the garden.
Helpful hints in plant selection and planting
There are an endless list of things to consider when planting flowers to spruce up your surroundings.
Master gardener Lisa Cook offered some tips for planting flowers in the garden.
In addition to considerations of sun and shade, she suggested gardeners make a plan based on the purpose of the garden. Plant selection will differ when planing to beautify your landscape, or simply to crow flowers to be cut and displayed in vases.
Once you decide which flowers who wish to have in your garden, most gardeners will select plants and flowers which are already growing at your local nursery or greenhouse. Though some gardeners will try and grow them from seeds. Wildflowers will often be the most successful to produce from seeds for the novice gardener.
Pick flowers at the nursery that look healthy and compact with no insect damage. Cook suggests that taller plants could mean they're overgrown and won't fill out the space as well. "Make sure not a lot of roots are coming out of the bottom of container," the master gardener says as that plant could be "pot-bound" and will have less chance to flourish in your garden.
Once chosen, Cook suggests to loosen the soil to six inches in depth for annuals and deeper for perennials which have a deeper root system. She also says to make sure soil is moist when planting. If its too dry, the water will "wick away;" and if its too wet it will be hard to dig. A general rule of thumb is to plant at the same soil depth as it is in the container.
One practical tip offered, which also serves as a beauty tip, is to use annuals around the area of your flowering bulbs.
Cook says when the foliage from spent bulbs is green, but beginning to die, it may not be as attractive. However, you can't cut back the foliage as it is providing the energy back into the bulb for it to bloom next season.
Instead plant the annuals around the dying foliage to attractively hide the dying foliage, while still allowing the bulb to re-energize for next year.
She also recommends keeping good records of where your bulbs are planted. Photographs can assist in this process.
"The flowers from the bulbs are beautiful when they are up, but you have to let them die back. You can't cut them off right away," she cautioned.