Ingredients for a garden that will bear rewards

Gardens or garden beds can sit side by side but if they don’t have all the same elements and influences the plants will grow differently which in turn will influence the look of the garden.

Gardens or garden beds can sit side by side but if they don’t have all the same elements and influences the plants will grow differently which in turn will influence the look of the garden.

The only plants that are exactly the same are ones that are grown through division, cuttings or tissue culture. These plants will have exactly the same DNA.

In theory, the plants will be exact replicas of each other unless other factors such as: sunlight, water, care, nutrients and soil are different enough to influence the plants’ growth.

The amount of sunlight each plant receives helps determine the rate of growth, the shape and health of the plant.

Sun-loving plants that are placed in shade grow tall and spindly as they search for sunlight. When sun-loving plants are set into a shady area the plants will exist for a time but they will not flourish. Most plants will take a bit of extra sunlight or shade but for best results, plant according to their light requirements.

All living things need water to survive. Animals will choose how much water is needed. Plants must rely on Mother Nature or the gardener.

When there is too much or not enough water the plants become stressed. Once they are in survival mode they will drop bottom leaves and flower buds. Both effect the shape and look of the plant. Digging into the soil to check the moisture level is a great way to ensure the plants are watered at the correct time.

How a plant is cared for is influenced by the gardener’s knowledge, their habits and the time available.

Knowledge varies with interest and training.

Avid gardeners will learn from books and people around them. They tend to try new ideas, put in extra effort and decide what works for them. Non-gardeners, ones that want flowers without work, will follow instructions on the plant’s label or what was recommended by the greenhouse. As their knowledge grows there is always a chance of non-gardeners slipping into the gardening category.

The type of soil has a huge influence in the garden. The casual observer might think that soil just holds plants. It also holds all the nutrients and water that the plant needs.

If a soil becomes too hard and compacted, water will run off the surface and not penetrate the lower levels. Plant roots struggle to grow in hard soil which means that the roots will be close to the plant unable to access moisture further from the plant.

To create a great garden one must have a good soil. Its nutrients can’t become depleted by over use.

Add humus, compost or well-rotted manure to the soil each year. This can be done any time but it is done easiest in the early spring or late fall. Top dress by placing a thin layer of humus, compost or well-rotted manure, on top of existing soil. It can by worked into the soil manually or left for the worms. The soil will be soft and rich in nutrients.

Some people advocate adding sand to clay soils to improve the drainage. This works if the sand is sharp and has pointy corners. If the sand is round it will fill in the air holes on the clay to make an even harder soil.

Before adding sand, look at it through a good magnifying glass or microscope to ensure it is the correct type.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at

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