"What can I do to improve my garden?" you ask.
Lets start with SOIL - Many gardeners add a combination of compost, manure, and peat moss to the garden, then top dress with mulch. It is not an exact science - its just what we've done. Soil testing is a helpful tool, indicating the level of nutrients present, the pH, and what you may need to add. For more info on nutrients and pH, click here. When soil testing, it is recommended that you take soil samples from different areas of your gardens. We tend to treat our vegetable gardens different from our beds and lawn.
Adding COMPOST is a good thing, but, as with all good things, too much can be damaging. It's purpose is to add organic material to the soil. Compost comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be as simple as coffee grounds and egg shells in a perennial bed, to truckloads dumped and tilled. Packaged compost is certainly the easiest to use, and provides a consistent level of nutrients. We carry several varieties ranging from earthworm casings, shrimp and seaweed compost, to composted manure.
TIP: When using manure in Spring, make sure it is composted manure, fresh manure can burn tender plants.
Peat Moss is often underutilized in gardens. It has the amazing quality of being able to hold up to 20 times its weight in water - that translates to less watering. It is effective in lowering the pH in a garden. It is beneficial to add to dry, compacted soils and sandy soils. To use, simply till into the garden. It is also useful in compost piles to enhance microbial activity. Peat Moss should be used sparingly in gardens that already retain water.
MULCH can be highly beneficial in the garden. It reduces weeds and reduces watering requirements. It creates a tidy background to spotlight your plants. But, once again, too much of a good thing can be damaging. Use mulch sparingly, do not smother plants with it, mound it on tree trunks, or pile it against the house, deck, or fence posts. Mulch is best applied after the soil has begun to warm - typically by mid to late Spring.
So, in answer to your question, the best way to improve your garden is to start with the soil. Continue to add organic material to the garden, test your soil, then add amendments if necessary.
We are happy to review your test results with you and recommend the proper amendments for your garden. For even more about soil, Click here.
Its still too cold to work outside, but there is at least one plant I'm going to make room for in my garden. First will be "Bloomerang Lilac", syringa x, a compact, reblooming lilac, flowering in Spring - to- Fall (takes a short break during the heat of the Summer).