Every gardener plants with success in mind.  How to achieve optimum results with a bountiful vegetable crop and abundant flower blooms is what every gardener hopes for with each new gardening season.  Some things we have no control over.  Mother Nature may give us an unexpected frost at the beginning of the growing season as well as periods of either excessive rain or drought throughout the summer months.  But there are some factors that should be considered to help ensure a successful gardening season.

As you decide what to plant, keep in mind the needs of shade or sun for each species.  This can vary from full sun to deep shade.  I usually make this assessment each year as the landscape changes.  For example, removal of a tree or shrubs may create more sunny areas.  Also take note of shadows that may come off your house or other structures in your yard.  If a plant can tolerate part sun it is best to have it exposed to sunshine in the morning and early afternoon hours versus the hot afternoon sunshine that will come by midsummer.  Also remember during the spring season you are looking at trees and shrubs that have not yet leafed out, which ultimately will provide shade.

Another major determinate for gardening success is soil composition.  It would be ideal if we all had the wonderful loamy soil that is found naturally in our Wisconsin wooded areas. This provides optimum growing conditions for most plants.  Soil is classified by texture in the varying amounts of sand, silt, and clay that it contains.  Ideally there is a blend of all components.  It is not possible to change your basic soil characteristics, but you can improve soil structure by the addition of organic material, which is made up of dead and decaying leaves, roots, and other plant debris.  This is best done with compost, composted manure, or organic mulches such as cocoa bean hulls or shredded leaves.   This is something that needs to be done every year to help provide nutrients for a healthy soil.  Composted manure can be purchased at local gardening centers.  Do not use fresh manure as it will burn plant roots.  Compost is available each spring for Monroe City residents.  Compost can also be made in your own backyard, which I will discuss in a future article.

Organic matter is what gives life to the soil.  The right blend of particles in the soil enables it to hold air and water which makes for good soil structure.  By providing a healthy soil ecosystem you will have healthier and more productive plants.  Until next time…happy gardening!

Nina Binkley

UW Extension Master Gardener Volunteer