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Omaha Magazine

Getting to Bed

Feb 22, 2024 01:25PM ● By Claudia Moomey
Harvest march april 2024

Photo Provided.

Whether you’re striving to attain a flower bed that’s worthy of the neighbors’ envy or harvest fresh, home-grown vegetables for the summer, be sure to follow these guidelines for a healthy garden and a fruitful harvest this year.

Robert Kozol of Robert’s Nursery provided Omaha Home with his pro tips on the key aspects of making sure a garden is healthy and lasts through the season.

“The easiest, most common, and carefree vegetables to grow,” he said, “are tomatoes, peppers, and radishes; for flowers, I would say petunias, geraniums, and marigolds.” These are common plants that will be fairly easy to grow. But what do you need to know to be sure they have proper care?

“What you really need to look at is how much sun versus shade you’re going to have,” he emphasized. “Every vegetable or flower is going to require somewhat different conditions.”

When choosing plants to fill your garden bed, pay attention to the zone in which they can grow (Omaha sits in zone 5a of the USDA Hardiness scale). Also, take note of how much sunlight they will need to grow properly; determine if your gardening space is in direct sunlight all day, or if there is shade at certain times. According to popular planting website Gardening Know How, “Most crops depend on at least eight hours of full sun in order to grow properly and maintain overall health.”

“Another aspect to consider is time,” Kozol added. “Gardens need consistency—you need to visit it every day. If it’s really hot or the sun is intense, visit it two or three times a day.” Daily care includes ensuring plants are in the correct amount of sun or shade, leaves and flowers are intact and healthy, weeds are exiled, and, of course, that plants receive the necessary amount of water.

Often, an entire garden bed is too much, or plant enthusiasts simply do not have the time or resources to cultivate a healthy bed. If this is the case, or you do not have the greenest thumb, Kozol recommends perennials, which can last 15 to 20 years, as opposed to annuals, which, as their name suggests, grow for a season and cannot last outdoors through the winter months. 

“The most important thing is soil,” Kozol concluded. “You need to cultivate the soil and put in certain fertilizers and things that are unique to your plant.” There are many types of soil with varying amounts of chemicals and organic or synthetic matter. There are even “slow-release” formulas that will provide a certain amount of iron, calcium, and other nutrients over a period of time, usually about six months, which is the general timeline for vegetable plants. 

“Composting is a great way to add fertility to poor soil areas,” Gardening Know How notes. “Nearly any plant material can be composted and used in the garden. Kitchen waste such as fruits, vegetables, eggshells, or coffee grounds can be used as well as leaves, lawn clippings, and straw.”

When it comes to pest control, there are a variety of options. “Gardens attract raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, voles, and so on. There are both mechanical and chemical solutions to this problem,” Kozol explained. The scarecrow, of course, is a classic because it works. Pest control tactics are “mostly trial and error,” he continued. “You have to figure out what works best for your area and the pests that you have.”

You can also install motion-triggered sprinklers or lighting for nocturnal animals. If they try to interfere with your garden, a sudden shot of water or an unexpected bright light will scare them from your garden beds.

If you’re considering chemicals, just be certain there is nothing in the formula that will harm your plants. Kozol recommended a repellent called Repels-All. “It comes in liquid and granular forms, and it is very potent, which is good. Rain, heat, and other weather conditions lessen the potency of garden chemicals, so you can keep this stuff on all season and maybe have to reapply it once, if at all.” 

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This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Omaha Home magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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