The Sturdivant Hall garden features many different kinds of flowers, including roses. Many other flowers will continue to bloom in the coming weeks, as summer gardening season gets into full swing. -- Taylor Holland

Tips for creating and maintaining summer gardens

Published 9:01pm Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer gardening season, so whether residents plan to produce fresh vegetables or a garden full of flowers, there are many factors to consider to ensure the garden grows to its maximum potential.

When preparing to grow this summer, The Alabama Vegetable Gardener, a publication provided by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, recommends gardeners keep the following variables in mind when creating and maintaining their gardens:

Site: The first key to success is the site picked to house the garden. Many flowers, and most all vegetables, cannot grow to their fullest in the shade. The garden’s soil should be well drained and free of harmful chemicals or debris.

Soil Management: By adding organic matter — compost, leaf mold or well-rotted sawdust — gardeners can improve the soil in their gardens while maximizing plant growth.

Planting: It’s important to ensure that, when planting, seeds aren’t lumped together thickly. Pay attention to the labels on each plant’s individual packaging to ensure they’re placed the correct distance apart from one another. Oftentimes, the proper depths, usually between one-quarter-inch to one inch deep, are also listed on the packages. By following these suggestions, the plants have a better chance of thriving in the environment that you are creating for them.

Cultivation: One of the best way to control weeds is to cultivate your garden frequently. Because chemical weeds killers are not usually recommended for use in home gardens, frequently cultivation is key to ensuring weeds don’t overtake the garden.

Irrigation: If temperatures remain as high as they’ve been throughout much of Alabama this week, water will become even more important to foster a successful environment for the plants. During longer-than-usual droughts, soak the garden thoroughly once a week.

Insect Control: Controlling the number of insects on and around the plants is also an important factor in harboring a successful garden. Early planting will miss some insects, but the use of insecticides is often still necessary at some point during planting season. The Alabama Vegetable Gardener recommends the use of Malathion for aphids, red spidermites and even some worms. It also suggests Carbaryl for earworms, beetles and pickleworms.

Harvesting: Those interested in growing vegetables should harvest often to ensure they get the vegetables from their gardens at the proper stage of maturity. Early-morning harvests are best for most vegetables, and if they grow in excess, freeze them to enjoy at a later date.

Source: The Alabama Vegetable Gardener

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