SKIP RICHTER: Smart tips for successful gardening | The life of Brazos

This is the time of year when we are most inspired to create a new garden or beautify the landscape. To help you get this year’s garden off to a good start, I offer the following advice in the form of old familiar sayings.

“Building on good foundations.”

Start with a soil test to find out what specific nutrients are needed and in what amounts. Build up your soil with a few inches of compost and any missing nutrients. Once a year, mix in another inch of compost. A new garden may struggle at first, but with each spade turn it will continue to improve as you build soil worthy of Eden.

“When it rains, it pours.”

Plant roots need oxygen and hate sitting in waterlogged soil. Alden Colsten, a 92-year-old gardener I had the privilege of knowing, said, “You can always add water, but you can’t take it away. He built his raised beds in late summer when the ground wasn’t too wet. So when planting time arrived, her beds were already prepared for planting, regardless of the weather. Raised beds also warm up more quickly in early spring for a little head start on the season.

“Let the Sun in.”

Crops grown for their fruits (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons) or their roots (carrots, turnips, radishes) must benefit from at least six hours of sunshine for an optimal yield. Light shade or dappled shade will not suffice. Crops that are grown for leaves (lettuce, cabbage, spinach, chard) will tolerate some shade.

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