It’s official. As of Wednesday, March 20, spring has arrived. That means enjoying the warm weather by getting outside and starting a new garden or changing up the landscape around the house.
And if you’re a beginner, a veteran, or just trying to supplement your grocery bill by growing your tomatoes and squash in your backyard, here are some tips and ideas to keep in mind when shrugging off that winter dreariness.
Bob Prophit, general manager at King’s Greenhouse in Stallings, offers up his expertise for people wanting to get growing this spring.
Getting a garden going has no shortage of benefits, and these days people get started for a number of reasons.
Sustainability, fresh produce, and stress release are all on that list, and even general health is a consideration.
“Gardening is good for you,” said Prophit. “Just in general, especially if you work in an office all the time. I mean, that’s a release, you get to go out and work. It’s healthy, you’re not sitting around, most gardeners are just happy; they’re doing something.”
While planting is not recommended until April 15, after the last frost, there is still plenty to do before that. Now is the time for preparing the site of your garden.
It’s time to turn your soil and get it ready for planting. If you don’t own a tiller, rent one. Also, the natural, red clay-heavy soil in this area needs fertilizer, compost or cow manure, and one ingredient that may not seem so obvious: lyme.
“One thing you’re going to have to do around here is when you’re tilling up a garden putting in whatever it is—compost, cow manure, sand, anything to lighten it up, red clay just isn’t any good all by itself, you always have to add lyme, the soil here is too acidic,” said Prophit.
If you are planting in a raised bed, a garden that is built from timbers or railroad ties above ground, you may not need to prepare the soil as much, but there are still the same soil considerations.
Prophit recommends an organic, slow-release fertilizer and pelletized lyme to any garden.
The next step is to know what you want to grow. Some vegetables and plants are harder to grow than others, and some need special consideration.
Most people want to start off with tomatoes, squash, peppers, and cucumbers, according to Prophit, and those things should all be planted after the first frost, but greens like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower could have been planted in mid-February and actually need the cold.
“You can do a lot of plants from seed,” said Prophit. “Things like cucumbers, melons, and squash and okra. Tomatoes and peppers, those are something you’re probably going to want to buy as a plant. They’re not the easiest things to get going.”
Once the garden is up and running, it’s time to work it. Most beginners tend to neglect the garden, thinking the plants need only be planted to grow and produce.
“When you plant this you have to water and you have to fertilize,” Prophit said. “People want to plant and just walk away. A garden is work, but it’s a lot of rewards.”
Things to keep in mind are watering and fertilization schedules, to keep a close eye on your plants, looking for signs of fungi and pests, and of course, harvesting ripe fruit.
Pests can be a real problem, especially white flies and aphids, but there’s a simple fix that doesn’t require harsh and expensive chemicals.
“An easy way to control that is you mix a little dishwashing detergent in water and spray it on them,” Prophit said. “You’ll get rid of them like that.”
Gardening isn’t the only reason people are flocking to King’s this spring, some are picking up shrubs and trees, trying to keep pace with the fresh season, changing up their landscaping.
Landscaping offers more than a fresh look to your yard, it can really help the market value of your property, which is always welcome in this unstable economy.
“Since the economy has changed, most people aren’t moving or buying new homes, so they’re redoing their landscapes or they’re adding to it,” Prophit said. “You can look at the statistics, but you get 120 percent return on whatever you put in.”
For people looking to freshen up the landscaping at their house, the best thing you can do is plan ahead. Take measurements of where you want to plant, how wide, long, and deep are your beds? How much sun does the area get? Write these things down, take a picture of the area and bring it in. That way, the experts can really help you get what you need, and get it done the right way.
“You can go online and you can research a lot of things, and there’s a lot of good websites, just to look at plant material,” said Prophit. “The problem is that a lot of that is generic, and you need to talk to somebody that knows what does well in this area.”
Japanese Maples, laurels, gardenias, and azaleas are all flying off the shelves for people’s landscapes, and a newer product that is making an impact is urban apples, a small tree that produces full-size apples, yet is no more than two feet wide.
At King’s, they will put together a package of plants that will do well in your yard or your garden, and the staff will help you get on the right track no matter what the project.
“The biggest gardening tip is just get started, and that’s the big thing, don’t over analyze, or anything else,” Prophit said. “It’s very simple, there’s tons of support out there, people to help you, and nothing makes people happier than talking about gardening.”
King’s Greenhouse has been operating in Stallings since 1971, and operate 14,000 square feet of greenhouse and 30,000 square feet of outdoor shopping area. King’s carries tons of perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs, vegetables, and non-plant gardening necessities, and also operates a wholesale growing range on 32 acres of land that supplies plants to garden centers, commercial landscapers, and fundraisers in a 180-mile radius.
One of the biggest things King’s is now getting into is Fairy Gardens, small, indoor arrangements of plants, designed in small containers like dog bowls and trash can lids that let customers have a bit of green in their house.
“The reason we’re here, as opposed to big box stores, we want you to garden, we want you to come in,” Prophit said. “If you don’t know anything, everybody here, we’re willing to spend whatever time it takes for you to be successful.”
For more information, call (704) 821-7507, visit kingsgreenhouse.com, or stop by their retail location, at 524 Stallings Rd. in Stallings.