Inula Royleana
Midwest Gardening
Quick Tips

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Gardening Tips from The Ordinary Gardener

Gardening in the cold climates of the North and Midwest is challenging enough without adding daily difficulties.  Make the most of the gardening time you have by working smart and efficient with some of these gardening tips.


Think big, start small. If you are doing the work yourself, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Taking shortcuts to get a large project done quickly will often create unnecessary maintenance or repair, or at the least, unsatisfactory results.


Go ahead and plant your annual geraniums early,  they will hold up to some light frost.  Petunias would be next, but when young and newly planted they will not be quite as hardy as geraniums.  Also plant your pots early to give them a head start.  You can easily move them into the garage when frost threatens.


In the spring, lay out soaker hoses weaving through your perennial beds, around new plantings, and rows of evergreens (which require soaking in dry periods). If your planting areas are large, several sections may be required. Leave them laid out all summer and hook up your hose to each section as needed, giving your plants the slow soaking right where they need it, directly into the soil.ventguard


Construct a simple 3 sided guard for your exterior dryer vent to prevent winter kill of foundation plantings. In autumn it should be placed directly in front of the vent, and just a little taller than the top of the vent. The warm moist air will be directed up to prevent constant thawing and refreezing of the plants. Use scrap decking lumber, or coat with an exterior paint to match your siding.


Use a thick layer of (free!) newspaper as a weed barrier instead of plastic or landscaping fabric under mulch (not recommended under rock).


When perennials begin to grow in early spring, sprinkle granular fertilizer throughout the bed by hand to keep the granules off leaves. One application in spring is sufficient for many perennials. Additional spot applications for heavy feeders such as delphiniums are managed quickly through the season.


Growers are sometimes generous with their zone hardiness. Be sure to ask the nursery staff at your garden center about expected hardiness, or research yourself.


Do not cut back your perennials in the fall. They will provide winter interest and help hold leaves, mulch and snow to protect the roots over winter.


When you clean out your vegetable garden, put your tomato cages over your "hardy" rose bushes, ready to accept shredded leaves when they fall. (More tender rose bushes will need to be "tipped".)


Hybrids are often bred to resist disease such as blight and mildew.


Native plants will always do well in your climate.


Use a pre emergent herbicide to prevent weeds in your gardens.


Plant geraniums, mums and asters in your vegetable garden, it is believed they deter damaging insects.


If you plant a hedge of bushes or other dense plants around or in front of your vegetable garden, leave an opening at the lowest point to allow cold air to escape. Early and late frosts will flow out, rather than settle in the garden


Group plants with similar watering and feeding needs together.  You will save on water if you are able to water only the areas in need, “neglecting” the areas with drought tolerant plants.


Prepare new garden beds in autumn, unless soil erosion over winter will be a problem.  With so much more to do in spring, it is nice to have the bed dug and soil prepared, ready to plant.

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