First time gardener or an old hand, here are four tips that can lead to success.
Start small — a container garden is a perfect way to start your gardening journey. Providing a small space where you can experiment with both flowers and vegetables. Be sure to speak with garden center staff selecting the best plants for growing in containers. Many are developed just for that purpose and will deliver the successful experience you want as you get started. If instead you want to begin in garden beds, the first step is getting your soil tested.
Test soil — this is a scientific test of the soil’s pH and soil nutrient levels. The test report will provide guidance in several ways, by indicating the soil amendments you may need to add to directing your plant selection. A soil test can be picked up and paid for ($20) at your county cooperative extension office. Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Burlington Extension is located at 2 Academy Drive, Westampton. While there, speak with a Master Gardener who can give you tips on the best plants for our local area.
Know what grows — flora and fauna vary by region. Differences in soil type, sunlight, tree canopy, and more create variables that will make it hostile or favorable for successfully growing plants. Across Burlington County, there are many unique variations from the Pine Barrens to forested and urbanized areas.
Choose wisely — study your yard noting how long the sun reaches different areas. Knowing gradients of sunlight from full sun to full shade will significantly impact your success as a gardener. When purchasing plants, the tag will indicate how much sun is required for a plant to thrive. Visually divide your yard into areas. For example, back right at woods edge or front sidewalk left of path. Study the type of light and hours in each designated area. Note if each area has:
Full sun: six or more hours of direct sun daily.
Partial sun: 3–6 hours of direct sun usually in the morning or evening.
Partial shade: 3-6 hours of indirect sun usually protected from the intense afternoon sun.
Full shade: less than 3 hours of direct sun, and may include dappled or filtered sunlight.
Always remember, the Master Gardeners are here to help. You can call or stop by Monday–Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for gardening advice.
Bobbie J. Herbs is a Rutgers Burlington County Master Gardener