Spring is officially here and with the change of seasons comes the opportunity to get back in the yard and bring the garden back to life.
On this week’s Noon Edition, our local gardening experts answered questions and gave advice on how to keep plants vibrant and healthy.
Here are 10 questions our guests answered during the show:
1. Is only tilling garden every two to three years more beneficial than every year? Why?
Tilling is important because it helps discourage perennial weeds and insect farms that spend the winter in the soil. But the frequency of tilling depends on the plant.
Helen May, retired owner of May’s Greenhouse, says some people get carried away and till until there’s no structure left in the soil.
“If you can sink a shovel into the soil without too much trouble, maybe you wouldn’t have to do it every year,” May says.
2. What are the best plants to attract pollinators?
Generally, pollinators are rather small, so they are attracted to small blooms, such as dill or Queen Ann’s Lace.
“Anything that has a cluster or plentiful supply of small flowers that are available through the summer, you might want to replant those,” May says.
3. What can be done about the mole problem in my yard?
Don Adamson, semi-retired manager of Bloomington Valley Nursery, says moles haven’t been as big of a problem the last couple years as they were in the past.
“Using the soil insecticides is still the best way to take care of the moles,” Adamson says. “In other words, get rid of what they would be eating.”
May says trapping the moles can be an alternative option if the problem is persistent or if people don’t want to use insecticides.
4. How can I improve my Rhododendrons?
Adamson advises waiting until the Rhododendrons are finished flowering before feeding them fertilizer.
They should receive a soil acidifier at the beginning of the season. an give soil acidifier before that’s also when you can do pruning. You can
“You can do drastic pruning on rhododendron and they’ll still flesh out and make a nice plant,” Adamson says. “The timing is important because if you go too late, they will not grow back next year.”
5. What are your thoughts and recommendations for greenhouse gardening?
“The amount of light is going to have a big effect on what you can grow,” May says. “If you have a regular greenhouse with glass walls and ceiling, you can grow a lot more than if it’s just a glassed in porch with a regular ceiling.”
She says it’s important to provide an atmosphere and temperature that suits the plants you want to grow. She also urges gardeners to water the plants enough, but be careful not to drown them.
“A lot of people put way too much water on things,” May says. “For most plants, the surface of the soil should feel dry before you water again.”
Pay the plants consistent care because you might have to open up the windows to ventilate or turn on a heater on cold nights.
6. What can I plant in a shady area?
“If there is a lot of shade, there’s not a lot you can grow in the way of vegetables,” May says. “Your best bet is maybe some lettuces.”
While vegetables prefer the sunlight, she says there is a whole world of shade plants.
Adamson says many annuals and perennials will grow in the shade, in addition to the plants such as shrubs and holly that require it. Azaleas and rhododendrons do well in the shade.
7. How did this past winter affect the plants?
Adamson says despite the drastically cold temperatures experienced later in the winter, he hasn’t noticed much damage to the plants.
“People don’t realize the majority of winter damage on plants is actually dehydration,” Adamson says.
When snow and moisture occur, they can actually help the plants. May says the snow also provides insulation for the plants.
8. How can I assure my hydrangeas will grow well?
Adamson says there is a wide variety of hydrangeas and they don’t
“You don’t want to prune them at this point because the flowers will come out too soon,” Adamson says.
Annabel or some lime mound and such, you can prune the dead branch itself, The traditional blue and pink hydrangeas shouldn’t be pruned now because you will cut the flowers off.
They can survive in a pot as a summer plant, but the should be planted into the ground before winter because their roots aren’t able to handle cold temperatures. Adamson also says mulch is critical to provide insulation to keep the roots warm.
9. What are some fruits to grow?
“Strawberries give you the most return for the least bother and expense,” May says.
Adamson says blueberries are another good plant for this climate. He warns they need acidic soil, but they’re an ornamental plant and easy to grow if the soil conditions are right.
10. What are some good plants for first-time gardeners to grow?
May says the vegetables most often grown in Indiana are corn and tomatoes.
Ultimately, it depends on the soil and lighting conditions, along with personal preference.
“Bulb plants are good for beginners because they’re relatively easy and give a quick return,” May says.
Adamson warns people to do their research before growing a new plant.
“Often, people plant the wrong plant in the wrong situation,” Adamson says. “They’ll plant one in sun that needs shade or plant it in the wrong soil.”
May and Adamson suggest visiting a local greenhouse or nursery to consult the experts before beginning their gardens.