7 great gardening tips | Living the Country Life
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7 great gardening tips

This 6-acre test plot can help you master low-maintenance gardening.
  • Get the weeds

    The gardeners try to use the least toxicity possible when controlling weeds. Organic herbicides (such as plant extracts plus acetic and citric acid) are tested for weed control in turf plots. For flowerbeds, the gardeners often use preemergent herbicides once the plants are established, and then they follow with mulch immediately.

    1. Testing things out
    2. Again.

    But mulch doesn't work everywhere, Stendahl notes, pointing to a bed of 1,400 irises, which need their crowns above the surface. "We've managed to grow exhibition-size dandelions in there," she laughs. "We're still looking for the perfect solution."

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: July 25, 2013
    Tags: Tips, Gardening
  • Water them right

    Dragging hoses to water the garden the first year was not fun, Stendahl recalls. Since then, donated underground sprinklers have been installed in most beds. Watering is done in the morning so leaves can dry and avoid foliar diseases. <br>Water one inch per weak and place tuna cans around the garden, Stendahl suggests, to make sure you're watering enough. Pay attention to each variety's needs, she adds. Full sun means sun all day, not just morning sun. Make sure plants have good air circulation around them.<br>"Follow good cultural practices," she says. "Put the right plant in the right place in the right cultural conditions."<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: July 25, 2013
    Tags: Tips, Gardening
  • Watch for wildlife

    Planting gold and maroon flowers in an M shape (for the university) has been a tradition since the garden started in 2000. Gardeners have replanted the 2,500 flowers more than once because of deer.<br>"We ended up putting clear fish line 12 inches from the ground around the bed to deter them," Stendahl says.<br>In the bird garden, which also attracts deer, gardeners place fist-size nylon bags of Milorganite organic fertilizer on 24-inch stakes camouflaged in the plants. Deer stay away.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: July 25, 2013
    Tags: Tips, Gardening
  • Go native

    In the wide-open site, the garden's conditions can be harsh. "We don't fuss with things," Stendahl says. "These plants are rugged," Instead of tea roses, the rose garden has hard shrub roses.<br>"We try to show visitors that for really low maintenance, native plants are good additions," she says. "But you always need to research before you plant, especially with natives and grasses. Some can become invasive." In Minnesota, little bluestem, grayheaded coneflower, and blue gentian have worked well. Buy locally grown plants when possible, Stendahl suggests.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: July 25, 2013
    Tags: Tips, Gardening
  • Get creative

    Though most beds are in rectangular spaces, gardeners are creative. For example, 76 peony bushes are planted in the shape of a flower. <br>Joyce Clarin and Sharon Moline add flowers for color and design to their heirloom vegetable garden. In 2006, they planted a 25x50-foot quilt design with a diamond in a square pattern. Bull's blood beets framed triangles of green drumhead cabbage, which surrounded white alyssum and purple basil with a lemon tomato center.<br>Clarin likes the challenge of heirlooms. Her team built a peaked arbor out of dead elm next to the garden for a summer kitchen. Roses and trumpet vine climb the walls and create a natural roof. They also planted a living willow fence.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: July 25, 2013
    Tags: Tips, Gardening
  • Go with the flow

    Everyone loves the butterfly garden, Stendahl says. Visitors and volunteers relax on a bench to watch the show. There are plants for all the butterflies' life stages. Parsley, dill, and shrubs support the larvae stage; milkweed, butterfly weed, and other flowering plants sustain mature butterflies.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: July 25, 2013
    Tags: Tips, Gardening
  • Water gardens

    Another popular area is the water garden. Two small ponds connected by a stream follow the garden's low-maintenance principle. Water is pumped from the lower pond to the upper pond, which is a bog garden. Bog plants filter the water to keep it clean. Use native plants and elements from your area, says Stendahl. Rocks for the water garden came from nearby fields, for example.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: July 25, 2013
    Tags: Tips, Gardening
  • Share the joy

    Share time in your garden with others, Clarin suggests. "I still think it's magic to put this seed into the ground and it grows."<br>She encourages people intimidated by gardening to try it anyway. "Don't worry about doing everything correctly the first time. Just give it a try. You will be rewarded for your efforts: a bouquet or fresh vegetables to share with someone. You just may get hooked."<br>"Gardening is therapeutic and helps people relax," Stendahl adds, warning not to take on too much. Even master gardeners have their limits.<br>

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: July 25, 2013
    Tags: Tips, Gardening

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