Advice From The Master Gardener
Happy spring everyone! If we can see through our watery eyes and occasional sneezing fits, it is beautiful here in North Carolina with blooms in a vast array of color dotting every inch of space. The only snow we have right now is when the wind swirls those white petals around us!
In sharing this innkeeper journey with you, we often talk about the experience in the kitchen. But one of the other aspects of our home that we adore (and hope our guests do, too) is our beautiful, sprawling outdoor space. Also known as Tom’s kingdom! I’m not exaggerating (that much) when I say that his collection of pruning, gardening, and yard tools rival the size of my assortment of kitchen gadgets!
Tom is a master gardener — not just in my eyes! He got certified as a North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service Master Gardener in 2013, a process that involved classroom training, an exam, service hours, and site work. Part of the community service portion involves regular answering questions on the “Hort Line” — isn’t that a great name?! There is always a good story or two to come out of his time on the phone. You just never know what some people will call and ask; for example, ‘How do you remove squirrels from the attic?’
Tom’s love of gardening stemmed (no pun intended!) from his mother who was a top-notch gardener. He and his brothers did plenty of work in the yard on her direction, and while his younger brother swore off ever touching a pruner or trowel again, Tom developed a true fondness for growing things. He loves the process of selecting and planting to beautify and distinguish a home as well as to provide a habitat for local critters (perhaps that is the best answer for the squirrel question … grow proper plants so squirrels don’t take residence in your attic!).
I’m a very lucky chef to have a husband with a green thumb. Tom’s current herb garden yields me fresh rosemary, chives, two kinds of parsley, four kinds of basil, oregano, marjoram, mint and bay. He is going to try out several types of tomatoes this year!
Since I regularly share cooking knowledge with you, I thought it would be fun to get some master gardener tidbits from Tom to kick off the spring season. Without further ado, here are Tom’s Top 10 Tips & Tricks!
- You may not be able to raise a zoo of animals, but it is very easy to grow a plethora of plants! Aspiring gardeners should be humble, but not intimidated, and do their research on some of the more unknown flowers, shrubs, trees and vines that can grow to provide so much beauty.
- Always have a plan; never plant randomly. Plants that need sun won’t grow in shade; plants that need moisture won’t grow a midst the roots of a water-hogging tree.
- If you want to support the wildlife in your backyard, you must go with native plants.
- Think about the future! When planting, keep in mind the size of the mature plant; novice gardeners and landscape contractors often plant too densely or too close to the house or power lines.
- Before out-of-place plants can mature, they probably will need to be cut down.
- In the spring, plant your woodies earlier than you might think (March) and your vegetables and flowers a bit later (May).
- Think about your landscape plan as if you were painting a picture; use the same elements of form, line, color, texture to achieve unity and interest.
- Consider opportunities to improve your soil organically.
- Don’t dig a deep hole for your plants. The hole should be no deeper than the root ball after you shake off excess potting medium and trim the encircling roots.
- Finally, and most importantly, learn to tolerate imperfection!
Tom wanted me to remind you that Master Gardeners don’t make house calls, but hopefully this will help you get your spring planting underway! You are always welcome to join us in our outdoor oasis as well.
Until next time … we invite you to come as guests and leave as friends.