Spring: the quickening of rebirth
by Don Trotter PhD
ello fellow Earthlings! She's coming alive. We can see signs of Nature's rebirth everywhere we look. Warm weather, flowers, garden-fresh vegetables, and lemonade on the porch will soon be part of our lives once again. Aren't you excited? This month we will be focusing our discussion on how we can assist nature in keeping the garden "spring fresh," even during the dog days of summer.
Spring is evidence of the natural process of rebirth. The days get longer and, as our planet revolves around the sun, we are treated to a more northern attitude of the sun. This warms northern climates as southern climates of similar latitude get their fall and winter seasons. So now it is our turn to be warm, and nature's turn to show off her gifts. We will be treated to sights that seem dim in our memories -- of blooming fruit trees, promising their succulent bounty, and our roses showing off their amazing fragrance and color. Now is the time to make sure that we have done our part in making this beauty last as long as the warmth of the sun lingers.
The rebirth of nature shows us that our own lives are capable of this same rebirth. This is the time of year to get out into the garden and participate in that life force. So enough romanticizing, let's take a walk into the garden
One of the things that we can do to assist in the growth of our gardens is to feed them. Early spring is a very good time to get down to the garden center and pick up a few items that will ensure lush growth of our precious plants during the growing season. One of my favorite subjects is the lawn. As the ground warms, our lawns begin to come back. This is a critical time for the overall health of turf grasses. If there is too much available nitrogen -- as is often provided by commercial chemical fertilizers -- the lawn will grow too fast and will be weak after the "espresso rush" wears off. Feed your lawn in early spring with a slow-release fertilizer, preferably from a natural source that will also feed the soil and those beneficial organisms that inhabit the soil. There is a wide choice of natural lawn fertilizers available today at most garden centers. I prefer to use a lawn food that contains a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium along with some trace minerals that work to equalize the nutrition available to the turf. A good ratio for the three numbers that you find on a fertilizer package is a 3-2-1 ratio. If you are able to find a pre-made lawn food that has a 6-4-2 N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) value, derived from natural/ organic sources, use it! Your lawn will respond at an even pace and use the available nutrition as needed. You won't have to feed a lawn that is in some kind chemical-induced narcosis every three to five weeks. Natural lawn foods often last for longer than two months. This sounds to me like a way to save some money as well. Your pocket book and your lawn will love you for it, not to mention the benefits to the environment by using nonpolluting products.
The overall garden will also respond in a positive way from the use of balanced natural/organic plant foods. This type of nutrition will improve every plant in your garden that grows during the warm season. A good ratio to look for in a natural fertilizer for general garden application is 1-1-1. This N-P-K ratio should be useful. A very good N-P-K value on the package of an all-purpose fertilizer is 5-5-5, or triple five, with some trace minerals. For acid-loving plants like hydrangeas, azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias, use a little extra cottonseed meal when feeding. This will assist in keeping the soil environment at the right pH (a measurement of acidity and alkalinity) to ensure that plants with these specific needs are happy.
One of the most important things to remember when getting the garden in shape for a successful growing season is the addition of organic matter to the soil. A nice, thick layer of mulch or compost will insulate the soil from the elements while offering the beneficial organisms in the soil something to eat. Earthworms love to be covered by food, and they will work to improve your garden 24/7 with this abundance of food. Many sources are available at low cost for organic matter. The City of San Diego gives away recycled, compostedmulch at thethe the Miramar landfill facility. If you live outside San Diego, check to see if your municipality offers this material. Garden centers also carry a good selection of very good organic materials that will serve your needs. Nothing works better at saving you money on irrigation water than a layer of mulch.
As spring unfolds and the Earth is reborn, I ask you this question. Aren't we all reborn this time of the year when we are surrounded by reminders of how we are changed as the planet that nurtures us comes alive again.
Next time we will be discussing the rose garden and our flowers during the spring and summer months. I wish for you the knowledge that as we tread a little more lightly on this Earth, she will reward us more than we can imagine. See you in the garden!
|Got questions? Fax the Doc at (760) 632-8175 or Email him at Curlymill.net. Don Trotter's Natural Gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications. Look for Don's book Natural Gardening A-Z and his new book The Complete Natural Gardener, both from Hay House, at bookstores everywhere and at all online booksellers. Check out Don's columns in Hearst's Healthy Living Magazine.|