Your Questions About: Substitute Weed Screen

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Laura asks…

Any tips on starting a flower garden?

I’m going to start the flowers inside and then repot them outside is Miracle grow the best soil to use?

Potter answers:

Organic substitute for Cornell Mix
½ cu. Yd. Sphagnum peat
½ cu. Yd. Vermiculite
10 lbs. Bonemeal
5 lbs. Ground limestone
5 lbs. Bloodmeal

The following four recipes were found in the March-April 1989 issue of the Ozark Organic Growers Association Newsletter. The formulas are credited to the Farm and Garden Project at the University of California—Santa Cruz.

Seedling mix for styrofoam seedling flats
2 parts compost
2 parts peat moss
1 part vermiculite, pre-wet

Sowing mix
5 parts compost
4 parts soil
1–2 parts sand
1–2 parts leaf mold, if available
1 part peat moss, pre-wet and sifted

Note: All ingredients are sifted through a 1/4-inch screen. For every shovelful of peat, add two tablespoons of lime to offset the acidity.

A Sunny Spot is Best
For your first beginning flower garden, pick a spot that is in full sun. It should be sunny at least half the day including noontime. Shady gardens can be terrific, but for a first garden with lots of flowers, a sunnier spot is better.

Flat Ground is Easy to Garden
For a beginning gardener, flat ground is best because it is the easiest to work on. A slight slope will do fine, too, although the steeper it is the more difficult it is to garden on. A steep hillside is challenging.

Remove Grass, Sod or Weeds First
First, remove any existing grass or weeds including the roots. The more thoroughly you do this chore now, the better your results will be later. Smother it with cardboard or newspaper topped with mulch over several months’ time if possible. If time is short smother first then cut holes in with a shovel to plant flowers. Remember any weed seed exposed to light germinates so check in a week for weed sprouts beside any freshly turned earth.

Amend Soil: Add Organic Matter
Organic matter is a catchall term for decomposed materials such as compost, old rotten leaves, well aged stable manure/bedding, spent mushroom soil, or whatever materials you have available locally at reasonable cost. It is most beneficial in the top eight inches but does not need to be worked in unless the soil is nearly all sand or, worse, all clay.

It is possible to calculate specific water needs for xeric (low water) conditions but to begin assume 1 inch per week. Put out a rain gauge or a can and measure how much water your sprinkler has put in the can after 15 minutes.

What Size Flower Bed is Best?
Size does matter, and bigger is not always better. For a first flower garden I suggest starting on the small side. This way you are less likely to become overwhelmed by the preparation phase and won’t be swamped by the maintenance as the season progresses. You can always build on your success and expand it later! Remember you don’t want to walk on it so weeding must be done from a path or stepping stone. So limit the beds width to what you can reach or include stepping stones within the bed design. To design lay out a garden house to outline the proposed site. Then step back and check at several times during the day to see if you still like it.

Flower Garden Style
Meanwhile, think about how you want your flower garden to look. Do you like a formal or informal style? What color(s) do you like? What mood? What color of backdrop will it have? Will you want a trellis on the wall for a rose or clematis to entwine?

Selecting Flowers to Grow
You’ll have the best chance for success if you start by understanding the concept of Right Plant, Right Place and select plants accordingly. Remember annuals are great for masses of bloom over a long season but they don’t come back. While perennials might return they often have shorter bloom periods so you may need to tuck in annuals as the season progresses to cover gaps in blooming.

Reality Check
Equally important, how much time do you have weekly to spend on maintaining your flowers? (Even low maintenance plantings require regular care.) Will you have help? What is your budget?

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