Shake up your soil: Green thumb tips for a better garden

You've watered, weeded, and provided more than enough sunlight to your garden, so why don't your plants look as healthy as you'd expected? Whether you're new to gardening or consider yourself an old pro, the simple tips below can help you create a greener, more fruitful garden.

Test Your Soil

Get your garden tested to determine the levels of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus present in the soil. Testing your soil will also reveal the soil’s pH and organic-matter levels. Soil testing can be accomplished by contacting your provincial agriculture office or by hiring a private service that provides such testing. Of course, if you don’t mind doing the job yourself, there are many soil-testing kits available at your local gardening centre that can help take the guesswork out of your gardening.

Choose the Best Plants for Your Soil

The secret to a great garden is choosing the right types of plants. Particularly in the case of ornamentals, you’ll want to make sure the plants you select will grow well in your soil. Certain root crops, such as carrots, can be difficult to grow in soil that contains rocks or heavy clay. Whenever possible, choose plants that are native to your region — these plants are the most likely to flower properly, as they are acclimatized to your area. Your provincial agriculture office can provide you with a list of plant types that will grow well in your garden.

Use the Right Nutrients

Adding nutrients to your soil and pots will help you grow stronger, healthier, and more productive plants. The simplest way to “feed” your plants the nutrients they need in order to thrive is to use a chemical fertilizer, which can be purchased at your local gardening center. These fertilizers add nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus — three key elements that are known to promote healthier roots and better sized fruits — to your soil. A good alternative to using store-bought fertilizer is to add compost to your garden soil. While composting requires a bit of extra planning ahead of the planting season, the result of using this type of D-I-Y fertilizer is a garden that’s toxin-free and truly “green.”

Harness the Magic of Mulching

The key to a lush, beautiful garden? Mulch. Mulching helps create a barrier between the soil and the air, thereby decreasing your garden’s need for water by up to 30 percent. Mulching also discourages weed growth, repels insects and pests, and helps the soil maintain a more consistent temperature. Best of all, mulching greatly reduces your gardening workload, so you can relax and actually enjoy your garden. To get the most out of mulching, stick to biodegradable mulches such as grass clippings, straw, leaves, or bark chips. These natural mulches will add extra nutrients to the soil as they decompose, ensuring healthy plant roots.

Prune Your Garden

Pruning your garden regularly by removing branches, dead leaves, and unproductive plants is crucial to maintaining a healthy garden. not only will pruning your fruit and vegetable assist the plants in producing higher yields, but taking the time to remove non-blooming branches will keep the overall size of your garden under control. To prune your garden, use a pair of clean, sharp shears to remove any dead or dying foliage. The idea is to only keep growth that is green and healthy. At the same time, you’ll want to ensure that you keep enough foliage to protect growing fruits and vegetables from the sun.

Proper plant care requires more than watering and weeding. The above tips will give your soil the kick-start it needs to produce better fruit and healthier, more vibrant plants. Happy gardening!

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