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Smithsonian Horticulturist Provides Gardening Tips

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Jonathan Kavalier, chief horticulturist for the Smithsonian Gardens, provided some spring gardening tips.
Armando Trull
Jonathan Kavalier, chief horticulturist for the Smithsonian Gardens, provided some spring gardening tips.

The Smithsonian Gardens comprise 12 different locations that include classic American heirloom flowers, a butterfly garden, a greenhouse nursery and even a garden native to America prior to the arrival of Europeans. The gardens are among a select few accredited by the American Alliance of Museums because of the historical value of their plants and flowers.

Jonathan Kavalier, chief horticulturist for the Smithsonian Gardens, shared some of the insight he and more than two dozen of his colleagues have acquired while keeping their gardens beautiful.

It's important to thoroughly hand-weed your garden bed in the spring, prior to the weeds' germination, says Kavalier. Once that's done, adding a pesticide is very important — corn gluten is a good choice for those who prefer a chemical free and natural pesticide. He says the ground should be dug and thoroughly loosened as well.

It's also a good idea to plant flowers and perennials in spring because it gives them time to acclimate to their new surrounding prior to the heat of summer. Kavalier recommends gently breaking up the dirt around the roots of a potted plant or flower and spreading out the roots before placing the plant in the soil. This ensures that roots that may have grown in the shape of the pot will not continue to do so once they are in the ground.

Kavalier says while flowers can be planted fairly deep in the soil, he recommends leaving a portion of the ball root of shrubs and trees above the ground when planting because of the high clay content in our local soil.

He also warns that while mulch, especially wood-based mulch, is a great way to maintain the moisture level of flowers, shrubs,and trees, he warns that too much mulch is worse than none at all because mulch will act as a barrier to water.

Kavalier also advises to leave a bare spot around the trunk of your tree or shrub when placing mulch. A few inches of depth is sufficient.

Video: Pruning Tips

Video: Flower Planting Tips

Photos: Smithsonian Gardens

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