What does “double digging” the soil mean?
Double digging is an old garden technique of amending the soil in a flower or vegetable garden that is still as effective today as it was back in medieval Europe.
But be forewarned: double digging is a lot of work. In fact, just thinking about it makes us break out in a sweat. The term comes from “double the depth” of a normal spade or shovel blade–hence double-digging. You will also be adding one third of the depth of your spade or shovel in soil amendment to the entire garden you are digging in.
To get started, dig out the topsoil to the depth of your spade or shovel in a trench one spade wide along one end of your bed and set aside in a wheelbarrow or on a tarp.
Turn, break and aerate the next spade depth and width. Work in one third by volume of soil amendment. Blend together with turned-over soil and fill in the first trench.
Now repeat the process with another trench. Blend that soil with more soil amendment, and transfer to the previous trench. At the end of the bed, place the topsoil from the wheelbarrow or tarp over the last section, add amendment, and mix it in.
Make sure to remove any rocks or old pieces of roots as you fill in each trench.
Now–if you haven’t collapsed yet–go ahead and plant your flowers. Better yet, plant a new crop of veggies. You’ll need the vitamins to help you recover from the exhaustion! More seriously–if you have poor soil, double-digging is one of the most effective ways to improve the soil to a good depth, one that will allow your plant roots plenty of room to grow. Rototilling and such can help too but it doesn’t improve much but the top layer of soil. Double-digging may be labor-intensive, but it works.
We love impatiens as much as the next person, but the proliferation of downy mildew has taken much of the joy out of growing them.
Signs that your plants are suffering from an infestation of downy mildew are:
• Light green, yellowing or stippling of the leaves
• The leaves curl down along the edges
• White, downy-like growth on the underside of leaves
• Stunted growth, leaf drop and flower drop
The disease spreads rapidly by spores transmitted by splashing irrigation water and/or air currents, and primarily infects Impatiens walleriana (common garden impatiens); those with single flowers and double flowers are equally affected.
Because of this ongoing problem, many growers are decreasing their production of Impatiens walleriana, some as much as 60%. For this reason, finding this type of impatiens at all might be difficult this year. If you have your heart set on growing them, look for New Guinea impatiens or some of the other strains that have a high resistance to the disease. The Sunpatiens, Fanfare, Divine, Celebration and Celebrette series of impatiens are all resistent.
While there are fungicides on the market that will control the disease, extreme vigilance (and frequent treatment) is required. Because of this, we feel that attempting to grow many varieties of impatiens will prove to be problematic for most people.
We think the time has come to explore other options for summer color. After all, growing plants is supposed to be pleasant, right? Here are ideas for some great floral alternatives:
Dragon wing, angel wing, Rieger, tuberous or fibrous–there’s a begonia that will appeal to just about anyone. Available in almost all the colors of the rainbow (except purple and blue), they will provide you with color throughout the summer.
For an edging plant or hanging basket candidate, lobelia can’t be beat. Available in all shades of blue to white, these can be combined with other plants to create the cool feeling that only blue can provide.
Great color can be achieved with striking foliage, too:
Also called sweet potato vine, this trailer with arrowhead-shaped leaves is a great way to add purple-black, chartreuse or variegated foliage to a hanging basket.
Red, purple, pink, chartreuse, green and white–they are all available in one of the varieties of coleus–sometimes all in the same leaf!
The most well-known is coral bells but there are many others. These plants provide an accent of chartreuse, orange, peach or purple to the garden. Some have several different colors in each leaf; some sport interesting veining.
William Cowper once wrote the now famous words, “Variety is the spice of life.” This couldn’t be truer in the garden. Nothing spices up a garden like plants with variegated foliage. Use too many and they’ll make you dizzy. But placed in the background or strategically planted in the midst of the garden, variegated foliage can bring out the best in all of your plants.
Variegated plants come in a myriad of shapes and shades. From bold to subtle, there’s something for every gardener’s personal tastes. If it’s a tree you’re looking for, nothing steals the show like the ‘Flamingo’ box elder. It can be the centerpiece to build your entire garden around.
Many variegated plants make excellent hedges. Instead of hiding in the background, they provide a great starting point to planning a garden. Consider variegated English boxwood, ‘Red Twig’ dogwood, ‘Gilt Edge’ silverberry, euonymus, variegated English holly, variegated kohuhu, variegated mock orange, dappled willow or weigela. Many of these plants also look wonderful when planted individually to bring out a corner or become a focal point on a mound or garden island.
If a hedge is not your cup of tea but you still want to hide some of your fence line, a variegated bower vine or variegated potato vine will do an excellent job. For bursts of color and interest throughout your garden, consider variegated varieties of abelias, daylilies, licorice plants, phlox, mock orange, sage, stonecrop, weigela, New Zealand flax and ornamental grasses.
If your garden has shaded areas, don’t worry. There are many great selections for areas with less sunlight. Many popular variegated plants prefer shade or partial shade.
No matter what your garden setting is, variegated plants not only look great but also add interest. We have a large selection of plants with unique foliage and variegated colors. Stop by soon and see the beauty of these plants in person. You wont be able to resist them!