Managing your Flowerbed 101





     Flowerbeds are easier to manage for the entire summer if they are given a good spring cleaning. Early spring, after the frost is out, is the ideal time to prepare your garden for a successful summer. 

     Digging in your flowerbed and turning over the soil is great for your garden's health and the exercise is great for the gardener's health too! Soil, hand dug with a garden fork preserves the life of soil dwelling good guys like earth worms and loosens deeply instead of creating tiller pan (hard, concrete-like soil where the bottom of the tiller tines rotate is likely to occur in soils with high clay content.) Deep digging with a fork not only loosens the soil and makes it easier to plant in later in spring, it provides a chance to remove those stubborn, deeply rooted weeds. Dig to at least a shovel or garden fork depth replacing all the earth worms if they are accidentally dug out.  Deep digging provides a fantastic opportunity to mix in fertilizer and organic material for your soon-to-be flowers!  Here are some amendments that to consider  when improving a flowerbed:

  •     Peat Moss: Helps to keep your garden soil fluffy and retain moisture while providing an acidifying amendment to the soil. With our high alkalinity soils in the West Interlake this helps to bring balance to the soil. Peat moss, as any  amendment high in carbon that hasn't decomposed yet, creates a buffering action in the soil to store excess fertilizer. Over time the peat moss decomposes giving back the fertilizer for use by the plants.
  •     Well Rotted Manure: This provides a food source for your plants as well as amending the texture of the soil, providing drainage. Be sure that its well rotted,  if it is not you will risk 'burning' your plants." Burning" your plants refers to  an excess of fertilizer or too rich a source of fertilizer which can cause damage to plant tissue. Also too much manure, even if it is well rotted, can create a difficult to keep moist garden. Another downside of manure, depending on where it came from, is that it harbours quantities of weed seeds.
  •     Slow Release Fertilizer: This usually comes in a pelleted form and will release fertilizer throughout the summer every time your garden is watered. Although expensive to do large gardens, it makes a lot of sense to create a chore-free garden.
  •     Basket Gel Mix or other Container Mix: This potting media helps preserve soil moisture and reduces the need to water. Made primarily of peat moss with the addition of ph balancing lime, wetting agents and water retaining gel. It costs more than peat moss but adds water retaining ability to a flower bed that is in a hot dry area. Consider using a container mix that is high in chopped coir for water retention. Coir, the outer fibre of a coconut husk is hyper-renewable and retains moisture in the soil while still providing drainage. Eventually coir decomposes, providing nutrition to the soil unlike the gel in the basket gel mix which doesn't  break down. This is the type of container mix we use in all of our plants in the greenhouse. 
  •    Compost: Created by the gardener for the garden, this stuff is perfect plant food. Amends the soil texture, drainage and nutrition.  Utilizes leftover waste plant material, yard waste like leaves and grass cuttings and kitchen vegetable scraps, every gardener should have a compost pile going.   A planet friendly solution to sending organic matter to the dump, it is also free to the gardener and great plant nutrition. win-win!

       If you have the time, leave the flowerbed for a couple of weeks after deeply digging and a new crop of weed seeds will germinate. Lightly turn the soil again when you plant the flowers and this will destroy the newly sprouted weeds, reducing significantly the amount of later weeding required.

Applying a mulch over the soil after it has been planted will help to conserve moisture and keep weeds under control. Mulch also helps to keep soil from splashing up on the bottom of plants during watering or heavy rains. This helps to keep fungal  or bacterialdiseases from getting a foothold in your flowerbed.