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Gardener: Form a plan to build garden suiting needs

POSTED: May 3, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Two top 2013 trends is a return to the basics and nesting at home, partly due to a tighter economy and to find balance in a busy, tech-filled world, according to Forbes.

Flower and vegetable gardening seem to fit the bill for both.

Hall County Master Gardener Hugo Kollmer recently gave a lecture on gardening at the Spouts Springs library.

“Some see it as a form of relaxation and some as therapy,” Kollmer said.

He said he was introduced to gardening at age 4 while assisting his father, a professional gardener, in Connecticut.

“Positioned next to him while standing on a crate at his potting bench, I was coached in the art of transplanting seedling vegetables and flowers into flats and pots,” Kollmer said. “As I matured and was deemed sufficiently skilled, I graduated to working in the flower and vegetable garden, preparing the soil, planting, sowing seed, pulling weeds and harvesting fruit and vegetables. Under dad’s tutelage, I also learned lawn mowing and hedge trimming.”

During adolescence, gardening became a chore to Kollmer.

“However, sometime during my teens, God revealed to me the beauty of his handiwork and I began to see gardening as stewardship of the land,” he said. “Thus, I developed a respect and fascination for nature and the great outdoors.”

Although South Hall County literally has its roots in the dirt with its rich agricultural history, many of the younger generation lost that connection as more industrialized times were embraced. Kollmer presented “Coping with Garden Challenges,” educating participants on the foundation of what makes a garden grow.

“It is important to have goals before beginning a garden,” Kollmer said. “Its success, or failure, is dependent upon the planning.”

He explained just popping some seeds into an empty patch in the yard won’t do. Like any endeavor, he said, gardeners must have goals to see those tomatoes and peppers flourish.

“What are you striving for?” he asked the half-dozen lecture attendees.

Question to consider: Are you planting for visual effect in the case of flowers? Do you want to attract wildlife or create a bountiful produce garden high on volume but low on maintenance?

“Select the plants that will achieve these,” he said. “Do some research before you pick out your plants.”

Kollmer explained four primary factors affect positive garden outcomes: Soil composition, drainage, amount of sun and shade, water availability and the land’s slope.

When it comes to vegetable gardens, sun is primary, Kollmer said. Gardens need a minimum of full-sun hours to produce at their peak, he said.

“I think eight hours of sun is mandatory unless you’re going to restrict your garden to leafy vegetables,” he said.

If living in a subdivision and your garden is nestled between you and your neighbor, Kollmer said to pay attention to how the sun moves to be aware of shade produced by surrounding homes or outbuildings.

“Survey your land ... See where you can acquire that sunlight,” he said. “After you decide where your garden is going to be. It’s very important to condition the soil.”

Kollmer said soil testing kits are available from the Hall County extension office, and it’s merely a matter of putting soil into the bag and leaving it to the professionals. Soil samples are sent to University of Georgia agriculture staff who will, for a minimal fee, return an analysis along with soil amendment recommendations.

Overcrowding is one of the most common causes of failure, Kollmer said, so it is better to plant less to reap more.

The master gardener also encourages people to research what plants are suitable for the area’s climate. Hall County can have some variability in its zones due to its proximity to Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River. Other areas, east of the lake, are lower in elevation and can be much warmer.

Zones are geographically and climate-determined boundaries set by the department of agriculture for best planting results.

“The sun down here can be pretty harsh,” he said.

Although plants sold at many of the big-box stores are labeled full-sun, part-sun etc. for their particular zone, the labels are sometimes misleading, Kollmer said. If the plants do not note a zone, they may be better suited somewhere else, he said.

Daryl Pulis, a green thumb celebrity in the South, explained clear zone determination has also been at issue as the agriculture department has undergone a number of zone map revisions.

Kollmer said for the South Hall area, he’s found plant selection for Zone 7B has been successful. Master gardeners like him often volunteer their time and knowledge at local garden festivals and talks.

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