Garden Maintenance for Native Gardens is Not Complicated! Here are a few tips to help you along.
• Watering new plants is critical during their first season of establishment. If sited appropriately, newly installed garden plants should not need supplemental watering or ongoing irrigation after a year in the ground.
• Needs for watering frequency depends on rainfall and soil type (well-draining soil = more frequent watering than clay soils). Supplemental watering should occur often enough to prevent the soil from drying out – but don’t water if the soil is already wet! Overwatering can be fatal to plants as well as underwatering.
• Observation is the best way to determine whether plants need watering. Stick your finger several inches down into the soil! Water the root zone thoroughly if dry. Watering deeply, allowing moisture to penetrate 2-3” into the root zone and surrounding soil will encourage well established root systems.
• To discourage foliage diseases, keep water near the root zone – not on the foliage, and water in the morning, if possible.
• Use rainwater as opposed to water from a well or public water system whenever possible.
• Avoid watering with ‘softened’ water – this can cause burning in sensitive species.
• Identify seedlings. Seek help if you need it.
• A weed is a plant out of place! We encourage a gardening style where plants occupy as many niches as possible. Nature abhors a vacuum!
• Native plants do not require fertilization if sited properly; many have evolved in poor soils and become overgrown and floppy if fertilized. Excessive growth is also more appealing to garden pests.
• A soil test can help when selecting plants. Existing healthy vegetation can help indicate soil type/condition. Our philosophy is to ‘plant to the site’, rather than amending soils to suit a plant species. This practice is more sustainable over time. Exception: acid-loving plants (ex. Blueberries, mountain laurel, rhododendrons, azaleas), if planted in soils near the upper limit of their pH range, can benefit from supplementing the soil with an acidic fertilizer, such as Holly Tone.
We offer Penn State Soil Test kits for sale in the nursery. Stop in and learn more today.
• Mulch is beneficial to establishing plants and gardens: it helps to conserve soil moisture and temporarily suppresses weeds.
• A gardening style where plants occupy all niches, spreading via roots or seeds, will reduce the need for mulching. This allows for greater plant diversity and less maintenance.
• Hardwood, cedar, or bark mulches are preferable to dyed mulches or ground-up garden debris. They have better water holding and soil-cooling properties, and are artillery fungus-free (Sphaerobolus stellatus). Leaves are also excellent, highly sustainable mulch. They are ideal in areas where strong winds won’t blow them away.
• Mulch should not exceed 2”, thicker mulch can harbor pest populations.
• Mulch should not cover the crowns of perennial plants or the root flare of trees. This is an obsolete landscaping practice that is detrimental to plant health.