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Breaking Out

Techniques for first time gardeners and some great tips for veterans

June 23, 2008
By KATHLEEN EVANOFF Tribune Chronicle

First time gardeners are often overwhelmed when it comes to making decisions about the landscaping around their homes. One of the most common questions posed by those with a developing interest in gardening is where to start? New homeowners or apartment dwellers just setting up housekeeping seem to want it all right from the beginning, including ever-blooming flower beds as well as a huge vegetable garden. It is common for first-time gardeners to start too much too soon, only to find they don't know where to go once the plants (and weeds) start taking over. Well, take a deep breath and stand back, because this season, How Does Your Garden Grow will show you, from start to finish, how to get started in the gardening world. If you are a seasoned gardener, keep reading as well. You may relearn some things you've forgotten over the years and perhaps will pick up a few new tips for keeping your garden in the best possible shape it can be. Before you begin picking out plants and digging in the soil, you will need to learn one simple fact about your landscape, directions. Determining north, south, east and west is still the best possible indicator in finding the correct site for plants. Nothing is more distressing than sinking several hundred dollars into plants only to have them die before the season is out. One common mistake that new gardeners make is not choosing the correct site for a particular garden. Plants listed as shade-lovers should be out of the sun during mid-day, while sun-loving plants should get at least five to seven hours of bright sunlight each morning and afternoon. Mixing shade-lovers with sun worshipers in the wrong site can produce devastating effects, not just to the plants, but to your pocket as well. A rule of thumb while choosing plants is foliage plants are likely shade lovers. They still bloom, although the flowers are not usually showy and in some cases, barely noticeable. Flowers with bright colors are sun worshippers and need the heat and the light to give them the strength to bloom. Annuals, which bloom continuously throughout the summer and complete their life cycle in one season, are often brighter than perennials, which may bloom only once per season but return each year for several years. New gardens are generally sparse at first. It takes three to five years for a garden to mature and for plants to fill out their spaces. One mistake often made by new gardeners is to plant without taking into consideration the mature size of the plants. That little thing that looks lonely standing by itself in its space will fill it quickly over a few seasons. Some plants, particularly trees and shrubs, never stop growing, although some grow so slowly that you may not notice. Fill in those empty spaces with annuals or pretty containers spilling over with flowering and foliage plants. Containers also give a third dimension to the garden, breaking up the monotonous flow when garden plants are still immature. This also is true in the vegetable garden, where potted herbs and patio tomatoes can be container grown, yet still setting them among other plants. Growing up is a way to utilize space in both the vegetable and the flower garden. Trailing vines on a trellis, fence or arbor, growing tomatoes on stakes or cucumbers on an upright wire fence can make a small garden seem much larger. If there isn't time or space to designate a space for a vegetable garden, simply tuck a few vegetable plants among the flowers. Most vegetables have attractive foliage and fruit that will blend well in the flower garden, particularly foliage vegetables such as rhubarb, lettuce, spinach, kale and a number of green mixes that include mesclun and endive. Don't limit yourself to only growing flowers or vegetables either. Any number of shrubs, both flowering and foliage varieties, as well as trees that grow in all shapes and sizes, will bring the landscape together by providing shade where needed or as a focal point to the entire garden design. And speaking of garden design, throughout the series, we will be looking at various design techniques of both flower and vegetable gardens this season in How Does Your Garden Grow. Each week we will offer a plant that is currently blooming in Trumbull County for tips on how to have continuous bloom all summer, as well as our popular Weed of the Week. To kick off the growing season, we also are continuing the Amateur Garden Contest. Those who feel your flower garden is worth showing off are invited to enter the contest. Entry forms will be available in this section each week until the deadline date of June 27 for entries. The contest is open only to amateur gardeners who are not Master Gardeners, employees or relatives of employees of the Tribune Chronicle. Gardens will be judged by certified Trumbull County Master Gardeners between July 14 and Aug. 1. The contest winner will be announced in this section at the end of the season on Aug. 27. Evanoff is a Master Gardener with The Ohio State University Extension of Trumbull County. She can be reached at



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