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Spring makes gardening seem easy. Everywhere you look, things seem to be blooming, sprouting, and putting out shoots and leaves. Unfortunately, this burst of energy won’t last forever. You're going to have to give your garden a hand if you want it to continue producing beautiful blooms and healthy plants this summer. Here are some tips on how to keep your plants looking their best throughout the entire growing season.

Prepare the Soil

prepared soil and seedling

Plant health starts and ends with soil. If you put a healthy plant in nutrient depleted soil with poor drainage, it won’t be long before pests and diseases destroy it. To keep your soil healthy, start the season off by adding lots of organic material, like composted manure, to your garden beds. Compost improves your soil’s tilth, drainage, aeration, water holding capacity, and fertility. Plus, you can make it yourself.

As you add compost, consider using a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote’s all-in-one solution, Osmocote Plus Outdoor and Indoor. Slow-release plant foods provide nutrition over the course of the entire growing season and can always be used to top off your plants if they're looking a little uninspired. Osmocote's unique release method also ensures that your plant food will never go to waste, as nutrients are only released into the soil as needed, not just whenever you water.

Protect Your Seedlings

Whether they sprouted from seeds you planted or are transplants purchased from a nursery, seedlings are extremely vulnerable. Luckily, there are quite a few things you can do to protect your young plants. Start by researching the pests in your area to determine the kind of protection you're going to need. For instance, if your yard is currently accessible to hungry deer, you may need to invest in a deer fence. Fencing can also keep out other large pests like rabbits, while buried fencing offers protection from burrowers like groundhogs and voles. To ward off insects, consider investing in a low-grade floating row cover to keep your plants hidden until they are big enough to resist attackers on their own.

Pests won't be your only concern when it comes to seedlings. You'll have to give your new plants some special care, too. Keep the soil around them evenly moist to prevent drying out or drowning. If your garden has a lot of standing water, you might want to consider building some raised beds next year and adding more compost, sand, or gravel to your soil to improve drainage. In the meantime, consider digging a small trench to divert some of the excess away from your seedlings.

Prune, Deadhead, and Harvest

Pruning is a time-sensitive project. While different plant species will have different needs, the best times to prune are typically early spring and fall. Determine the best time of year to prune your plants and create a schedule that you'll be able to follow.

Deadheading is a little different from pruning. As your flowers bloom and fade, you'll want to remove the dead flower heads, either by pinching them off with your fingers or with a pair of hand shears. This promotes new growth and will keep your flowers looking bright and healthy.

Harvesting fruits and vegetables serves a similar purpose to deadheading. You'll want to harvest your garden produce as soon as it ripens, especially in the case of plants that yield more than one crop, such as beans, peas, cutting lettuce, kale, and tomatoes. Harvesting will redirect these plants' energy into growing new fruit. Note that this rule doesn't typically apply to root vegetables and certain cole crops, like cabbages, which only produce one viable product.

Mulch for Moisture

straw mulch

Hot summers take their toll on greenery. Water loss, caused by evaporation and leaf respiration, makes it hard for plants to stay perky. Reduce the loss of ground moisture, and the amount of watering you'll have to do, by applying a layer of mulch to your soil. This will help your garden stay cool and moist in dry weather. Mulches made of organic material, like straw, can be worked into the soil at the end of the growing season to boost productivity for the following year. Straw mulch will also attract beneficial earthworms to your garden.

Support Your Stems

Longer, leggy plants like roses and tomatoes will often need to grow around trellises to maintain an upright position. Until they have developed strong root systems, some small plants like transplanted shrubs, saplings, and flowers will even require the support of a stake or twine. Trellising not only helps your plants but can also create some valuable garden space. Cucumber, squash, melon, tomato, bean, and pea plants can all be trained to grow vertically, saving room and making their produce easier to harvest.

Divide and Conquer

dividing overgrown shrubs

Perennials that are grown in rich, healthy soil and receive proper pruning and deadheading tend to thrive. For many gardeners, flourishing plant life ends up being a blessing and a curse. The larger a plant grows, the more space it takes up. Eventually, your flowers may outgrow their beds. When this happens, you'll want to start dividing your plants up. You'll then have more flowers to fill in the holes in your garden or to give to gardening friends and relatives. Gifting parts of your overgrown plants will free up garden space and give your remaining plants enough room to thrive.

Try these tips out, and you will keep your garden looking bright and healthy into the fall. And consider keeping some Osmocote Plus on hand even after the growing season to make sure your soil stays nutrient rich no matter the time of year.