Thursday, June 23, 2016

Get Growing Mansfield! .

Living and Growing in Mansfield, Texas?
These are the TOP TEN TOPICS for cultivating beautiful gardens here in the #BestLilHometown -
taken from ze annual Garden Class notes for the Farmer's Market over the past few years :) 

Ten Mansfield Gardening Considerations: 
1-1-      There is going to be blood, sweat and tears: yours … the only way to learn is to get your hands dirty.  All the knowledge in the world won’t substitute for trial and error.  Even though I studied Botany, nearly all I have learned was through mistakes.  Sharing successes and failures in this class can help you avoid same mistakes.
2-2-      Subset of 1: arm yourself with best knowledge possible.
a.       Locals, especially elders
b.      Two local authors, Howard Garrett and Neil Sperry
c.       Even with good local advice, remember that what works next door may not work for you.
3-3-      Start Small.  All relative depending on where you live.  This is first thing I learned by error…
a.       Think in zones – work outwards from the main access to your yard
                                                               i.      Save your energy
                                                             ii.      Build confidence and knowledge of your space then expand
                                                            iii.      Avoid urge to expand to fast or bite off too much.  
4-4-      Which way is north? KNOW your property.  Watch sun and shade patterns. Get in touch with your soil.  Watch to see which way water moves/drains.  Are there any low spots?

Four above are things I can’t really coach you on.  They are fundamentals true to gardening whether you live in Mansfield or Kathmandu.  But the following 6 rules ARE things that bits of learning that I have built up both through education, research, and 30 years of gardening in a variety of climates – but applied specifically for our Mansfield area conditions.
-5-     Soil is your friend! Life begins in the soil and it is the MOST important part of your garden!  Homework (other than making sure you know which way is north) is to poke around in the dirt.  In June we will take a close look at soil and discuss it in depth.  Nutshell:
a.       5$ plant 50$ hole
b.      Another reason to start small
c.       Primary soil type in our area is clay – especially if you live in a newer home/subdivision
                                                               i.      Clay not inherently bad – lots of minerals.  Minerals same for plants as us. List
                                                             ii.      Problems with clay:
1.       Doesn’t drain – root rot
2.       Nutrient poor, low organic matter
                                                            iii.      How to remedy:
1.       ADD ORGANIC MATTER – compost, mulch, worms, microbes
2.       Dig ugly holes
3.       The gypsum debate
d.      Also tends to be alkaline.  Most plants – not all! – prefer mild acidic soil.
                                                               i.      Remedy:
1.       Coffee grounds, sulfur, molasses, microbes – magic mix
2.       Compost
e.      Next month I will bring soil samples with me and we will go into depth about soil and composting.
6-6-      Right Plant Right Place.  July we will go in depth about plant selection and planting practices
a.       Tough! Heat and dry and then freezing and wet. 
b.      Xeriscaping recommended, which is great, but can be frustrating in clay soil. 
c.       After determining best plant for location (sun, shade, moist, dry, clay,, etc) Look at roots when buying a plant!
d.      Problems with nursery stock
e.      Seeds vs seedlings
7-7-    August – pest and pest control.  Used to have a great list of books that helped ID pests, but now internet has replaced it.  Type in description and wala!
a.       Pests are weeds, diseases (bacterial, fungal and viral) and insects.  Few others like mammals and birds…
b.      We can go in depth about most common pests in Mansfield area, BUT, best defense is a healthy plant in healthy soil.  Just like us, plants are most resistant when they are stress free and eating right!
c.       Organic vs Chemical control.  LOOK at your plants as often as possible.  Pull weeds by hand.  General rule is earlier you see issue, less chemical control you will need.  Types of controls include physical, biological and chemical. 
8-8-      Grow your own! Remember that the first rule of diversity is that diversity rules!  Less competition… so use edibles! The more 'uses' the plants in your garden, have (drought tolerant, pollinator friendly, medicinal, EDIBLE) the more awesome you feel J September we will look in depth at Home Harvest ideas, best edibles (just a fancy word for fruits and veggies) for our area (hit: learn to love chard) and planting schedules.
9-9-      Feed your plants properly: plants need water, nutrients and air and sun.  October  
a.       Right plant right place can save a fortune in water bills…
b.      Most plants suffer too much water rather than not enough.
c.       In depth look at some water conservation ideas
d.      Nutrient deficiencies.  What are micro and micro nutrients and how do you identify the symptoms
e.      Recipes for fixing deficiencies.

1-10-   Design concepts.  First focus on function … form follows function. Privacy? Food? Attract butterflies? Make your neighbors jealous? Save energy? Cut flowers? All of the above? November! 

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