Living Columns & Blogs

Ask a Gardener: Want to start gardening next spring? Now is the time to prepare

Raised gardening beds are much easier to take care of, easier on your back and can produce an amazing amount of food in a smallish space.
Raised gardening beds are much easier to take care of, easier on your back and can produce an amazing amount of food in a smallish space. Marketwire

Question: So we’ve finally determined to start growing some of our food next year. What can we do over the fall/winter to get started?

Answer: I highly recommend you either build or buy raised beds. They’re much easier to take care of, and can produce an amazing amount of food in a smallish space. And a note here: I’ve been gardening for years in beds 8 inches high by four feet wide and 10 feet long, but this year doubled up a couple of beds so they are 16 inches tall. Much easier on backs!

Before you do anything, determine where in your yard you get the most sun exposure. You don’t need to worry about soil condition, but rather find good soil to fill your new bed.

You can buy bags, but it’s much less pricey to buy a half truck load or so, which you can either haul yourself or have delivered.

Before you fill your beds with soil, dig down and loosen the existing soil a spade’s depth, and then cover it with a layer of cardboard. This will inhibit deep roots from invading your bed.

If you, for whatever reason, don’t want to garden in raised beds, your preparation can consist of placing black plastic over the area in which you will do your spring planting. Over the winter it will kill the weeds, and you will be amazed what it will look like when you remove the plastic in the spring.

Whether you opt for raised beds or have a relatively weed-free area you intend to turn into a garden in the spring, a great thing to do in September is plant a cover crop. Here crimson clover or small-seeded fava are two of the most common. Turn these over into the soil in the spring, and you’ll improve your soil enormously.

Q: I have a problem with brown branches on my low-growing juniper. Any remedies you know of?

A: Junipers need airflow to grow and flourish, so provide them with this by thinning interior branches. In addition, you can treat your plants with copper spray to combat the fungus that well may be the problem.

If the drainage around the juniper is not good, your plant may develop root rot. If there is webbing on the branches you could have spider mites. Junipers also can become infested with aphids. Browning of branches or twigs may be the result of either twig borers or juniper blight. Both of these can be controlled with copper spray.

Hope something here helps.

Kathleen Bander of Bellingham is a lifelong gardener. Her column will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you'd like answered in the column, please email it to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com. For more gardening information online, go to whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg.html.

Size of Kathleen Bander’s garden corrected Sept. 29, 2016.

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