Gardening Basics

Surviving the West

Knowing the soil and climatic conditions and how to choose the plants that can tolerate those conditions is critical for successful gardening in our region. Being mindful of weather patterns, humidity levels and soil properties can help you embark on a positive gardening experience. Thus, plants grown within your region offer a safe and reliable product.

Watering your Plants

Like people, a plant’s number one resource is water. Water enables a plant to take in soil nutrients and also determines how deep a plant sends its roots, thus contributing to how well the plant can withstand drought.  Saturation of water deep within the soil, especially for new plants, helps to create strong and healthy roots.

Testing your soil before planting to check for adequate drainage can save you time and money. By digging a hole and checking the rate at which water filters through, you can indicate whether or not that soil is suited for planting and how much water it will need to thrive. An optimal filtering rate ranges from one to two hours. Check your soil often; black soil is a sign of too much watering while dry soil means you need to increase watering.

Soil Amendments and Mulches

Soil is a key component in the success and healthy growth of your plants. By adding amendments and mulches to your soil, you are providing additional water and nutrients while also improving the physical properties of the soil. Amendments are mixed into the soil to aid in drainage, water retention, aeration and to provide a healthy environment for roots to flourish within. Mulches are spread across the surface of the soil and are used to prevent weed growth and maintain the temperature of the soil throughout the changing seasons. Use of both amendments and mulches to enhance your soil will ensure a healthy, happy and attractive plant.


Most plants can use small healthy cuts throughout the year. When pruning it is important to keep an eye on your plants and remove any branches or twigs that look dead or diseased. For branches that are touching or crossed, removal of the smaller branch is also recommended. Without timely removal, pests and disease can cause unhealthy conditions to affect your plants.

When it comes to making extensive pruning cuts, timing is critical. It is best to prune during a dormant period, typically in late winter to early spring.  This helps you avoid pests, prevent disease and, since many trees and shrubs have already dropped their leaves, it is easier to see the areas that need pruning.

Pest Removal

Taking a second look at pest removal options before choosing a pesticide has benefits for both you and your plants. Physical removal and home remedies may do the trick in getting rid of plant invaders and should always be the initial answer to pests. Organic pesticides can also be useful in pest removal; these include insecticidal soaps, botanical insecticides, garlic and horticultural oils. Spectrum pesticides are toxic to plant nuisances, however, they can also be toxic to important insects and microorganisms that are needed for plant growth and development, and therefore should be avoided whenever possible.

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