Green County experts share gardening tips - Paycheck

Green County experts share gardening tips

For gardeners, spring is the busiest time of the year. As air and soil temperatures begin to warm up and seed catalogs arrive in mailboxes, the experts are sharing tips to make the art of gardening more efficient and enjoyable.

   “Sometimes patience is the key to gardening,” said Lynn Lokken of the Green County Master Gardeners. “It helps us relax, it teaches watchfulness, it helps us slow down.  Just take deep breaths and enjoy what mother nature gives to us because it's amazing.”

   Preparing a high quality soil bed is key, said Brodhead Community Gardens Coordinator Tiff Bates. Tilling provides loose soil for plant roots to dig in, and enriching the soil helps give plants the nutrients they need during the growing season. The City of Brodhead sells compost by the load.

   “Enrich the soil all year with things like manure and compost,” Bates said.

   Knowing the type of soil in the garden and what to add to enhance it is very important, said Linda Ahrens, who owns Ahrens Acres outside Brodhead with her husband Rich Ahrens. The type of soil makes a difference when considering what to plant and how well it might do in that location.

   “If something didn’t do well, sometimes the best thing to do is take a soil sample,” Ahrens said. “People don’t realize that sometimes the dirt wears out and it can use a boost of something.”

   Considering factors such as sunlight access, tiller availability, water sources and access and the type of garden desired can really improve success rates when gardening, Bates said. If the space is available, it’s nice to be able to run a tiller between rows in garden. If space isn’t available for a garden directly in the ground, he recommends considering container gardening, a popular trend.

   “I encourage people to plan their gardens rather than just throwing things in and hoping it all works,” Bates said. “With container gardening, you can grow a lot in a small area if you know what you’re doing and no tilling required there.”

   Gardeners can spend as much or as little money on seeds as they wish, he said. Hybrids and specialty seeds cost more, but there are ways to be economical about it.

   “In many cases, the packets that are 10 for a dollar are the same seeds as ones from the big box stores that cost like $2.89 per packet,” he said. “You don’t need to spend $80 on seeds if you don’t want to.”

   But getting seeds and young plants during a pandemic is tough, said Natalie Forrester of Ahrens Acres. Forrester is one of Linda and Rich Ahrens’ daughters working at the greenhouse. When she placed orders for small plants with vendors last fall, the vendors recommended planning for another big year, she said.

   “Just like last spring, people have the time to garden,” Forrester said. “And I think many are still afraid of potential food shortages so they just want to grow some of their own food.”

   Shopping early for any specific seeds or plants is crucial, said Ahrens’ other daughter Audra Kearns. Availability is very different these days than it has been in past years.

   “People get frustrated because it just gets earlier and earlier,” Kearns said. “Our customers realize the good stuff is here at the end of April and if they don’t get here, it’s going to be gone.”

Mary Hookham

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