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Snowy Day Leads to Great Garden Planning

By Terri Aufmuth, Owner of Cornerstone Landscaping

There is no better way to spend a snow day than trolling through seed catalogs and looking over what’s new and exciting for your 2014 garden. There are so many new options in flowers, vegetables and herbs.

The best way to begin is from the ground up, literally. Winter is a great time to work on your garden soil. I find the best method of gardening to be raised beds. Our Virginia soil tends to be compact clay and not well draining. With raised beds, you can dictate the soil type, bring the garden closer to you, and easily add your own recycled composted materials.

If planning on raised beds, be sure to remove the top layer of grass. Then consider “double-digging” or removing and setting aside the next 6-8” of topsoil, digging another 6” and loosing the soil, then returning the topsoil with compost or an organic soil mixture mixed together by hand or spade.  Raised beds should be 3-5’ across and wide for easy access. Materials that are commonly used to create the borders of raised beds include wood not subject to quick rot ( such as cedar), and brick or block. Raised bed borders can also be purchased from several garden supply catalogs or on-line sources. Just be careful not to use a chemically treated or preserved wood for the borders. Winter snows and rain, the heave-thaw cycle diligent turning of the soil will improve drainage in your raised garden as well as move nutrients to the root zone. Spending a couple hours outside in the soil in the off-season will yield great returns during the growing season. Add organic matter, till it into the soil lightly, ashes from the fireplace dispersed throughout will add potassium to the soil which will help neutralize the acidity in soil. Conversely, adding coffee grounds are beneficial to plants that are acid loving such as azaleas and blueberries to name a few. 

So What’s new for the garden for 2014? A lot of new plant varieties for gardens and landscapes. Here are a few to consider. These are varieties I will be trying for sure!

Cosmic Purple Carrots- these carrots are a bright purple on the outside and will grow to 6-7’ in length. They are a yellowish-orange on the inside and sure to be a favorite of children.

Korean Black Edamame are a black version of this popular bean. They are sweet and perfect in soups and stir-fry.

Lavender- mini blue- This dwarf compact lavender grows to 10-12” in height by 12-15” in width. With it’s strong stems and compact flowers this lavender is a repeat producer and will spread.

So what’s new with Tomatoes? I am definitely intrigued by the Black Cherry Tomato. These little guys are a black, purple or brownish color and will grow to 1” with an abundance of fruit that are reportedly sweet and will burst in your mouth with flavor. These will be a colorful addition to salsas.

And lastly for the landscape, consider a new introduction from Monrovia-  “enchantress hydrangea” which will provide strong blooms 7-9” across on a ruby colored stem. This hydrangea will produce bluer blooms in acid soil and pinker blooms in alkaline soil. This particular hydrangea will turn a cream to green as fading. The Enchantress Hydrangea is fantastic as a cut and dried flower.

So, start dreaming, look through those seed catalogs, research what plants are new and available for purchase in 2014. Don’t let the cold and mounds of snow get you down. Spring will be here before you know it. Will you and your soil be ready?

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