Organic Gardening

Planning for a Beautiful 2021

Hello My Fellow Gardening Enthusiasts,

After dealing with weeks of minimal sunshine, ice storms and power outages, it feels good to know that spring is around the corner! I have received several calls regarding whether I would be offering ‘Hands-on” Gardening Classes again in 2021. Please know how much I appreciate your interest!

2021 Classes & Consulting

I would love to invite you to classes this spring, however I believe it is prudent to wait until more of us are vaccinated against Covid. Experiencing a garden “Hands-on” is so much more joyful than via Zoom!  I DO plan to invite you join me in my garden this summer. Please stay tuned.

For now, I am offering one-on-one consulting in YOUR garden. This can include design help, plant recommendations and acquisition, education on soil preparation, pruning, plant care, pest control, and more. Reach me via my “Contact Ellen” page: https://www.learntogarden.net/contact-ellen/

My hot summer border: Crocosmia, Glads, Dahlia ‘Sun Explosion’, Red Cannas, Barberry ‘Orange Rocket’ & Yucca ‘Gold Sword’

Helpful Gardening Resources

There are many helpful gardening blogs I have enjoyed and would recommend for honing your green thumb. Among my favorites is www.joegardener.com blog and podcasts.  Episode 153 “The Science Behind Great Soil” is particularly timely reading as you prep your beds for spring planting:  https://joegardener.com/podcast/understanding-the-soil-food-web/.

I definitely espouse “No-Till” gardening, as Joe writes about here:  https://joegardener.com/video/no-till-gardening-if-you-love-your-soil-ditch-the-tiller/  However when it comes to starting a brand new garden, it is clear that Joe has never met our North Carolina red clay!  If you are planting in NC virgin soil or soil around new construction for the first time, it may take you years to build good soil if you do not break up our NC red clay FIRST. I prefer turning our hard pan with a shovel as most tillers will not achieve the 12” depth you need.

If you are not trying to plant right away, leave the newly turned clay looking rough and add the organic layers Joe recommends along with some lime. Your soil should improve greatly over the warm summer months as good soil microbes do their thing. If you are anxious to plant a vegetable garden this season, tilling is a good tool for loosening your soil your soil. Till in compost (it’s hard to have too much!) and cover with mulch (I prefer shredded leaves or pine needles.)  If you are planning to turn an area full of Burmuda grass to garden, you must completely KILL the grass first (spray in summer while it is actively growing) or accept that you will have grass taking over your sunny beds forever.

What to Shop for Now

Deer-resistant Dahlias

Plant, bulb and seed catalogs have been arriving in the mail for over a month with gorgeous full color photos to inspire us.

Bulbs are the easiest plants for making your spring/summer/fall garden pop with color!  My blog post on summer bulbs is a good introduction to summer flowering bulbs that will bring you years of joy. https://www.learntogarden.net/the-magic-of-summer-bulbs/

You will find great choices in online catalogs by Breck’s,  Van Bourgondien(www.dutchbulbs.com) and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, Gloucester, Va.  https://brentandbeckysbulbs.com/?v=7516fd43adaa   I am a loyal fan of Brent & Becky’s because of their fair prices, their experience growing bulbs in our climate, and their generosity to Piedmont Triad’s public gardens. Brent Heath, a 4th generation bulb grower and hybridizer, spoke to our garden club this month. Here are some of his helpful tips:

  • Deer resistant bulb choices: Alocasia (elephant ears), Alliums, Crocosmia (montbretia), Dahlias, Daffodils, Eucomis (pineapple lily), Hedychium (ginger lily), Hyacinths, and Liatris.

    Pink Gladiolas with Celosia and perennial grasses.

  • Amaryllis bulbs are perennial in his zone 7 garden. Mine too, especially with extra mulch and good drainage.
  • The general rule for planting bulbs is 3 times as deep as the bulb is high. Plant gladiolas 6-8” deep to keep them from falling over.
  • Tuck bulbs into your perennial beds to extend the bloom times of your borders.
  • Brent particularly recommended the dwarf “Gallery” dahlias for a consistently blooming perennial border. The “Karma” dahlias are choice cut flowers.
  • “Bulbs like to sleep (when dormant) in dry beds”.
  • Order ASAP as summer bloomers often sell out by spring!

I hope this finds you Well!  Happy Gardening!

Warm wishes,

Ellen Ashley
Landscape Designer, Garden Consultant, Educator