Volume 14, Issue 14 ~ April 6 - April 12, 2006

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Don’t Spade Your Garden

Save your back and your soil

We have just experienced the driest March in history. Do not spade your garden. Spading before planting not only costs soil moisture; spading dry soil is downright harmful. Become a modern farmer by planting No-Till.

Think about it: Spading primarily buries the weeds. Unless you’re incorporating lots of compost into the soil, you gain nothing from spading soil, other than exercise. To conserve soil moisture and energy, simply hoe out the weeds or kill them with either horticultural vinegar or Roundup about a week before you intend to plant.

Immediately after planting, mulch the garden with LeafGro, Chesapeake Blue or Chesapeake Green. Both of the Chesapeake products are back on the market and as good as ever.

Not only will your new No-Till gardening conserve moisture and energy, it will also help conserve the soil’s organic matter. Every time you spade or rototill the soil, you hasten the decomposition of organic matter, causing your soil to become more dense. It is easier for the roots of plants to penetrate soils rich in organic matter than to penetrate soils that are devoid of organic matter.

The roots of your new transplants will follow those worm holes deep into the soil as well as filling the voids left behind by the decayed roots of last year’s plants.

If March is any indication of what is to come, No-Till farmers will most likely harvest a larger crop than those farmers who plow and disc their soil prior to planting.

Now’s the Time to Prune Crape Myrtle

Q I am a landscape designer and one of my clients has requested info on trimming crape myrtles. Can you point me to a good reference on the how and when of this subject?

—Evan Haynes; via email

A Now’s the time, and crape myrtle is very easy to prune. Cut away all branches that are smaller than a pencil in diameter. Prune back all stems to the size of a pencil in diameter. Small twiggy branches can be brushed off with a leather glove. Start by pruning at the base, leaving only one, three, five or seven stems. Remove the rest as close to the ground as possible. Clear away all bottom side branches on these remaining stems to a minimum height of five feet to expose that beautiful bark.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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