Gardening outdoors provides an opportunity for fresh air and an activity with the family.

Even though the soil is too wet right now, redesigning an old flower garden or starting a new one on paper provides an opportunity to be ready to plant when the soil is ready to work. To make the garden easier to design and maintain, consider the following tips.

Start with selecting a location.

The flower garden or border planted along the edges of the yard provides for open spaces and allows for easier maintenance. Gardens near or next to a patio or deck bring flowers closer to living areas. To accent your garden, consider using existing or newly installed backgrounds such as a masonry wall, shrubs, picket fence, open fence, privacy fence, trellis with climbing vines, or evergreen shrubs.

Next, determine if the site is located in full sun, partial shade, or full shade.

Then consider how well the soil drains. The soil can remain moist for a period of time but not water-soaked for long periods. Water-soaked soils do not contain enough oxygen for the roots, and the roots rot. Well-drained soil is required for many plants. Making a raised bed of soil, with or without a border of bricks or landscape timbers, may be helpful when dealing with a poorly drained site.

To prepare the soil for the flower garden, add 2 inches of organic matter, such as compost. Organic matter improves the aeration and drainage of the soil. Work the organic matter 8 inches deep into the soil when the soil is dry enough. Otherwise, the soil becomes compacted, which reduces drainage and makes it hard for roots to grow.

Then test the soil, which can be accomplished through your local county Cooperative Extension Service Office. A soil test indicates the level of phosphorous and potassium in the soil and pH. Recommendations are provided if the nutrients are lacking and if lime to raise pH or sulfur to lower pH is needed. Right now, there are up to 10 free soil tests per household for Daviess County residents.

If a soil test is not conducted, then fertilize the planting site with 1 to 2 pounds of 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 per 100 square feet, and work it into the soil. The three numbers on a fertilizer bag, such as 5-10-5, refer to the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, always in this order, contained in the fertilizer. A 5-10-5 fertilizer contains 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorous, and 5% potassium. Remember, it is best to test the soil to apply only what is needed.

Do not over-fertilize the garden with nitrogen. Extra nitrogen stimulates lush leaf and stem growth at the expense of good plant form and flower production.

Next, select plants that prefer the growing conditions of the site. Consult horticulturists, nursery and garden center professionals, garden catalogs, books, reputable websites for this area, and Extension publications for a description of the preferred growing conditions and other characteristics of the plant.

Remember to choose plants that bloom at different times of the year, especially during summer and fall. Also, consider the texture and color of the foliage. Are the leaves small and fine-textured or large and coarse-textured? Texture adds interest to the garden.

When arranging the plants in the garden, usually the tallest ones are planted in the back and shorter ones near the front. Leave space in the back of the garden so it can be maintained without stepping on other plants.

Another garden location is an island bed, which allows you to view plants from all sides. Six-foot wide beds can be tended from one side or the other without stepping on plants. Most island beds are visually more pleasing if they are at least three times longer than they are wide. Place taller plants near the center of the island bed and shorter ones near the edge.

Finally, plan on paper where to plant the annual and perennial plants in order to have a planting guide and record. Grouping plants in three to five, or even more, of the same kind gives a dramatic effect. Repeating the groupings within the garden allows your eye to flow through the garden and give it unity. An individual plant or a grouping of plants that makes a visual impact provides a focal point in the garden just like a picture or piece of furniture makes a focal point in a room.

A flower garden does not have to be completed in one year. Start small and add new annuals and perennials as they catch your eye. For more information about flower gardening, contact the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service at 270-685-8480.

Annette’s Tips:

To make it easier to mow around flower garden areas or even vegetable garden areas, outline the edge of the garden with the lawnmower. This technique makes sure the curves and angles planned allow the mower to cut the grass in one pass.

Before digging in the landscape, have the utility lines marked by calling 811. This is a one-call processing center to have participating utilities mark underground lines within 2 to 10 days. For more information call 1-800-752-6007, or check the website at

It is time to cut back the foliage on ornamental grasses to about 4 to 6 inches because new growth is starting. Once the new growth starts, it is hard to remove the brown stems without cutting the new growth.


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