Important steps in gardening
Gardening can be tricky as it is but we can help out our odds by raising plants that work well with our growing conditions. We first have to consider what growing zone we are in (Zone 4 or 4b for our area) and go from there. There are some folks who have microclimates in their backyards and can sometimes grow Zone 5 plants. These are the lucky gardening folks in our area. We sometimes can raise plants in a certain area until the growing conditions change, like the soil stays super saturated with water, then we end up losing those plants.
It is also important to match plants to what kind of soil you have. I have seen several soil samples taken around our area and based just on that, I can see that we have some pretty variable garden soils. There are those who have a huge need for nitrogen and no need at all for phosphorus or potassium while others are sort of a mixed bag of what types of fertilizers that are needed in our area gardens. It would be pretty hard to guess just looking at soil what your garden needs the most. I am suggesting a soil sample if you have not had one in the past year or two. These are available at your local Extension office. If you are not sure what to grow, the U of M, can match plants to your soil conditions to help you out. The website is located at http://www.landscapeplants.extension.umn.edu/
Gardeners also need to give enough space for plants to grow and mature. We know this already when we plant trees or shrubs but this also the case for annuals and perennials too. You may not have as much of a show when it comes to bloom time if you plant your plants too closely together. The plant tags that come with each plant give the mature size spacing and not the beginning growing stages of size. This is important to note because you may end up placing too many annuals in any one given area and then you will have crowding issues.
The last step to consider is to make sure plants are being considered for the area that they will be growing in and also to remember pollinators too. There are quite a few plants that can be mixed up with other plants just based on what their name is. A good example is the lilac trees/shrubs/bushes. An actual lilac tree can grow up to 25 feet in height. A lilac bush is usually planted on the edges of properties and is often used for a wind break. Another form of the lilac tree is actually called the Korean or Japanese lilac tree. These will grow to about 12 feet. They are generally pruned to show off a rounded shape for the canopy. You can see the difference in this example, of accidentally growing the wrong tree in the wrong place!
We are doing such a great job growing plants for our pollinators. Just recently in the metro area, gardeners are now allowed to raise a pollinator lawn and receive some funding for it too. If you are able to do this without having to seek approval from your building association, you can also do this simply by allowing some plants such as white clover to grow in parts of your lawn and not mowing it. You can see a small example of this in our current fairgrounds garden renovation project at the Lyon County Fairgrounds. The garden is a mix of native and non-native plants, specifically growing for pollinators. We are looking for donations for this garden of daylilies and grasses and will gladly accept other plants as well. We are patiently waiting for a large number of seeds to come up in the garden soon.
For more information on gardening, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org