Master Gardener gives advice for getting ready

Published 7:19 pm Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shelly Sorgen presented at a Master Gardener workshop at the Norfolk Suffolk Library this week. She explained how to prepare for spring gardens.

Looking for tips to begin your spring garden? Look no further than the Master Gardeners.

Master Gardeners volunteer their time to help the community through education. Master Gardener Shelly Sorgen recently gave a presentation on gardens at the North Suffolk Library. She offered tips on which plants grow best in this region, how to keep bugs away without using pesticides, how to divide plants, how to replant, how to make your practices more environmentally friendly, how to keep weeds down and temperatures around the roots consistent and more.

“I enjoyed it, and I’m glad I came,” said Sandy Muller, event participant. “I learned a lot and there’s always more I can learn. She had some good tips.”

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Muller said as a gardener she is always excited to learn more. Her favorite tip was working last year’s mulch into the soil.

“That’s a good tip. I’m looking forward to using it this year to keep my plants healthier with the water they need.”

As a Master Gardener, Sorgen teaches from research-based methods and horticultural training that she received through the Virginia Cooperative Extension program. After receiving this specialized training, Master Gardeners give back to the community through teaching what they learned.

Sorgen explained that there are some general major steps to having a productive spring garden.

4First of all, she advises, get your soil tested. You want to be sure that your soil is conducive to gardening. The cooperative extension can provide information on getting soil tested.

4Secondly, she said to clean up any debris and amend your soil. She advises that a good way to do this is to add cow manure to the soil. Cow manure is typically less than $3 a bag.

4She also suggests using compost to improve your soil. Be careful when using grass clippings, because they may clump.

4Next, prune your shrubs and trees. Not only does pruning make your garden look neater, it actually helps the shrubs to grow.

4Choose plants wisely and plant your garden correctly. Not all plants grow well in the same environment. Make sure to plant in the correct type of light and to know how much water your plant needs.

4Research the plants you are considering to make sure that you are placing them in the right type of environment. She suggests lavender, mums, phlox, iris, columbine, cast iron plant, ferns, hostas and more in the Hampton Roads area.

4It is important when you are planting something for the first time or replanting that you dig a hole that is twice the size of the plant, so that there is plenty of room for the roots to expand and grow.

4Sorgen also said to pay attention to color of the plants and the way the plants look with other items in your garden if you want to have an attractive garden.

It is important in Hampton Roads to use mulch.

“The soil bakes here,” she said. Using mulch helps to regulate the temperature of the plant. She uses a shredded hardwood in her garden. “You want something that will slowly decompose and break down in the soil,” she said.

She also made some suggestions for watering that save energy. She creates rain barrels to catch water when it rains and uses the rain from the barrels in her garden. A quarter-inch of rain will water a 10-by-10 foot vegetable garden for a month, she said.

To get rid of bugs, she suggests spraying the plant with alcohol.

“Be kind to bugs. Don’t use any pesticides,” she said.