Let’s face it; it doesn’t take much effort for our gardening minds to wander down imaginary garden paths. So while you’re kicked back in the warmth of the house, I want to remind you of some gardening sins – seven to be exact – to avoid. But don’t panic, as these aren’t real sins and nothing really bad is going to happen if you slip up from time to time.
1. Cabin Fever: Gardeners come down with cabin fever right about the first warm weekend. Garden centers offer over-the-counter remedies of beautiful blooming annuals, as well as tomato and pepper plants. But don’t give in to temptation. Wait until the last frost date, which varies from late March on the coast to late April in north Mississippi.
2. Gardening Fever: Closely related to cabin fever is gardening fever, which is brought on by endless garden catalogs and landscape shows on television. By the time spring really arrives, our heads are full of ideas we’ve spent months planning. “Southern Gardening TV” is worth watching, as we do our best to relieve the symptoms of gardening fever but not feed them.
3. Not dialing 411: After five months spent planning the new landscape, you still have some questions. This is not the time to follow that independent streak most humans (to be honest, mostly men) have and try to figure it out yourself. Ask questions. Your neighbors, garden clubs, Extension office, newspapers and Saturday radio shows are great resources.
4. Planting and Not Repeating: Consider planting in sequences and then repeating. For the vegetable garden, this means planting cool-season crops like carrots and salad greens in the spring, followed by warm-season tomatoes, peppers and okra in the summer. Finish the year with more cool-season plants like broccoli and cauliflower. Sequence in the flower garden with spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils and crocus, followed by summer annuals and later fall pansies, ornamental cabbage and kale.
5. Remembering: Whatever you do in the garden, write it down. Keep a pad of paper with your garden tools, use a calendar, take notes or photos with your phone, or for the really ambitious gardener, create a garden blog. One method not used nearly enough in home gardens is to simply place plastic tags in the ground by each plant.
6. Fences: Fences are a must for most vegetable and flower gardens. Wherever you live, there are varmints that want to share the garden. Building fences is the only reliable deterrent to save your salvias, and they can be an attractive element in the garden. A white picket fence is an active garden participant, while a green wire fence seems to dissolve into the foliage.
7. Forgetting this is fun: Our fast-paced lives need to reconnect with the natural world. Tending a garden brings peace and serenity. Although gardening is physical, a garden should not be a job in itself. Patience is rewarded, and you learn the ways of Mother Nature through trial and error. Don’t worry if a plant doesn’t survive. Simply take it as an opportunity to plant and learn about something else.
Gary Bachman is an associate extension research professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. His Southern Gardening column appears in the Daily Journal Home & Garden section twice a month.