Spring’s slowly arriving on Cape Cod, and it’s time to start planning and prepping the outdoors for gardening. Now’s the perfect time to trim back shrubs and bushes, rake up leaves for composting, and test and make any soil adjustments necessary. With the ground composition being tricky to downright difficult on the Cape, it’s a good idea to have your soil tested to understand what you’re working with.
If you’re feeling extra ambitious this year, try growing some of your plants from seed. The following equipment should get your started:
Use peat containers for any fragile plants, like poppies or sunflowers. These containers can go straight into the ground when ready to be planted outdoors. Fill your containers about ¾ full with a planting soil and plant food mix, then water the soil until it is very damp. Using a pencil, poke holes into the center of each container (check seed packet instructions for depth instructions). Drop the seeds into the holes, and loosely cover with soil. Tightly wrap the containers with saran wrap, and place them in an area where they will receive moderate sunlight and warmth. Check on the seed containers every few days, and start to remove the saran when you see the plants starting to pop out of the soil. Keep the soil damp by adding water directly to it as needed, and use the water mister to spray the plant leaves.
Composting is a great way to help reduce environmental waste, reuse biodegradeable materials, and infuse your garden with natural soil amendments. Composting is easy, requires little to no money to get started, and provides one of the best materials you can use to help sandy soil retain water. When you’re filling up your compost pile, alternate between layers of organic ground brown and green materials (leaves, wood chips, and grass clippings) and layers of food byproducts (eggshells, fruit and vegetable casings, and coffee grinds) to help create the most optimal environment for decaying matter. Things to avoid putting in your compost include: ashes, cat litter, dog and cat droppings, diseased plants, and food that will attract animals like fish or meat.
On a recent trip to St. Martin, we visited The Butterfly Farm there. At the farm, we learned about simple ways you can garden to attract butterflies. You’ll want to include plants in your garden that attract both butterflies and catepillars alike. Luckily, there are many plants to choose from, including dill, rosemary, parsley, sage, verbena, aster, poppy, anise and basil. Consider having an herb garden in your yard to attract butterflies.