Homes - Gardens

Gardening 101

By
Jasmine Miller

Garden expert Mark Cullen dishes the dirt on growing a thriving garden.

I'm a novice gardener. I'm not looking to grow prize-winning peonies on my porch or have rare orchids sprout from under my clothes' line. But I would like to have a garden, a real garden, not just a place behind my house where random green things pop up in the spring. Problem is, everything I buy from the nursery looks beautiful when I get it home, then wilts and dies under my watchful eye. Clearly I'm missing something. I asked Mark Cullen, spokesperson for Home Hardware and host of the Garden Show on CFRB, to answer a few questions and clear things up.

S@H: What are the biggest mistakes beginner gardeners tend to make?
Mark:
That's easy. They don't prepare soil properly or thoroughly enough. First determine what kind of soil you have. It's going to be between two extremes: solid clay and pure sand. In Ontario, the majority of people have clay-based soil. You don't want to plant your whole garden in that. Before planting a whole bed, dig out 16 inches (40 cm) deep and fill it in with “triple mix.”

Triple mix is a combination of top soil, compost and peet moss and it's the universally accepted soil mixture. Use it for ornamental gardens, fruit trees, roses, evergreens - anything. You can buy it at any garden centre. If you're just putting in one plant, remove the clay-based soil from the hole and fill that in with triple mix.

Once you have a good quality soil, 90 percent of your gardening success in ensured right there.

Now put the plant in the hole. The crown of plant (where stems meet the top of the pot) should stand 5 to 8 cm above the grade of the soil. Then mound soil up to the crown. You don't want water flowing down into the crown because then the water doesn't drain away and the plant will rot.

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